From time to time I get notices in my Email box of papers that have been posted on the site Academia.edu. The greater majority of them are scholastic and well worth the read. Some of them, such as Dave Hunt’s excerpt from his book, A WOMAN RIDES THE BEAST, are just pure trash and not worth putting in the bottom of a parakeet cage.
While I enjoy reading them, finding them a great asset in my quest to learn and be informed, from time to time I will get one that pushes my buttons, necessitating a response. Such paper came to me this morning from a Rev. Lawrence Lew, O.P. entitled
THE PONTIFICAL FACULTY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AT THE DOMINICAN HOUSE OF STUDIES
Why Can We Not Repent After We Die? A TESINA Submitted in Partial Fulfillment For the Degree Licentiate in Sacred Theology
I don’t know why, but for some reason, papers like this, which take umbrage against the horrible idea that God is actually loving enough and wise enough to find a way to bring all His children home, seem to necessitate a response from me:
Your paper on the inability of man to repent after death is flawed from the very first sentence, in which you quote Matthew 25:41 as one of several “proof texts” by which the idea of eternal hell is supposedly proved. The Western (Latin) translations of the Holy Scriptures, beginning with Augustine’s wretched and bungling attempt, are horrendous in their errors, and Matthew chapter 25 is just one of many. Augustine openly acknowledged his contempt for the Greek language and his inability to understand it, yet in a monumental act of hubris, he went ahead and made a translation from the Greek text. From this buggering of the Greek we were given the faux idea of “Original Sin” (i.e. that we bear the guilt of Adam) and from there, the horrific idea that God sends newborn infants to hell. It took the Roman Catholic Church centuries to realize that this teaching was odious to anyone with any sense of justice, thereby causing them to create out of thin air the teaching of “Limbus Infantium.”
The translation of Matthew 25:41 should properly be “Depart from me, you cursed, into the age-lasting (aionios) fire! Greek scholars, including the formidable Dr. Ilaria Ramelli, have shown that aionios does not mean “eternal.” Your Latin translation, and all subsequent Western translations, have mangled this word
The idea of an eternal hell of torment is neither found in Scripture nor the writings of the Early Fathers. Most people are too lazy to do the necessary research to discover what was said. I shall give you a couple of examples of the problem with reading the Early Fathers.
For instance The Epistle of Barnabas (70 – 130 AD).
“The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death, with punishment.”
In what language was this epistle written? With a simple Google search I found the original writing in Greek. Let’s look at the Greek:
δὲ το μ λαος ὁδ ς ἐστιν σκολιὰ καὶ κατ ρας μεστ .ὁδὸς ἐστιν θάνατον αἰωνίου μετὰ τιμωρίας,
The Greek word here is aionios. Aionios, as the Greek linguist, Dr. Ilaria Ramelli, has noted, does not mean “eternal.” There is a specific word for eternal in Greek. The word is “adidios.” But when you have been taught to translate aionios as “eternal,” then you follow what you have been taught as a good member of the Church. It is also interesting to note the full quote in English translation uses the words “thou” and “thee,” which belong more to Medieval English than the Greek language. This distinctly points to a translation bias from translators who did not know Greek and were following the erroneous translation from Greek to Latin which started with Augustine. I discount the Epistle of Barnabas as being some sort of indelible proof of eternal hell.
I could give you more quotes showing this translation bias, but unless requested to do so, I defer. This one is proof of the inability of the Latin translators to correctly understand the word aionios. Augustine translated it “ignum aeternus” (eternal fire) and thus set the stage for the following centuries of mistranslation.
Secondly, don’t be cute with words when you write. Universal Salvation, or Apokatatstasis, did not “seem” to be taught by St. Gregory Nyssa and St. Isaac of Syria. Their teaching is bold and clear that God’s restoration of all things is His will and shall take place. (1 Timothy 2: 4). In addition, there were numerous other Fathers of the Church who taught it. Augustine admitted that there were “a great many” in his day who both taught and believed in this Good News of the Gospel, and he himself believed such until later in life when he came up with his bizarre anthropological and soteriological ideas.
“In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist, one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked. Other theological schools are mentioned as founded by Universalists, but their actual doctrine on this subject is not known.”
Unfortunately, the Holy Tradition of teaching the Good News of God’s universal salvific love was not much honored by the thug emperor Justinian, who was the major force responsible for attacking this teaching and closing down the schools who taught it.
You go on to quote the dishonest canons of Justinian, which your own Church has now disowned as being spurious. I challenge you to do your due diligence and read the original canons of Constantinople II, which are strictly against the Three Chapters. There is not one single mention of the word “Apokatastasis” in all of them. So why do people say Constantinople II anathematizes Apokatastasis when you cannot find it in the original canons? Because they have been taught for fifteen hundred years to regard this as truth. They are not aware of the entire history of this troubled council and the highly suspect manner in which it was run. And as Joseph Goebbels famously said, “Tell a lie big enough and long enough and it soon becomes truth.”
At this point, I’m sure someone is saying,“But look at the eleventh canon! It specifically condemns Origen’s writings.” This gets a little deeper into the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? In order to properly understand exactly what is being condemned, we should understand the fifteen additional canons – THE BOGUS AND NOT ACCEPTED CANONS – properly. Let’s look at them:
I. IF anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.
This first canon is most popularly quoted against Apokatastasis, yet it has nothing to do with it IF you read the canon properly. It is based on a premise and conclusion. Premise: there is a pre-existence of souls. Conclusion: there is a “monstrous restoration” which follows from the idea of souls pre-existing before being created here on earth. It doesn’t say “Apokatastasis” does it? It says “monstrous restoration,” and if you read what Origen wrote about this restoration, you will see why the Council opposed this – because the restoration that Origen believed in was not only not Apokatastasis, it was hideous. Restored bodies being spherical in shape.
What Origen taught regarding the pre-existence of souls is not a teaching which is in any way part of Apokatastasis. This is a bizarre theologumenon, Origen’s private theological opinion. You will not find this idea in any of the writings of the Early Fathers who taught Apokatastasis. Which leads to another point.
For the first five hundred years of the Church, Apokatastasis was taught alongside two other teachings – Eternal Torment, taught primarily in the Roman West, and Annihilation – without a single breath of the word “heresy” ever being uttered. Indeed, if it were the great heresy modern day hellists claim it to be, there would have been a council a long time before Constantinople II. It was simply not an issue. In the Roman Empire of the first five centuries of the Church, four of six theological schools in existence taught Apokatastasis:
They did not cease until Emperor Justinian closed them down because he despised the teaching. And he did so because the Origenists were causing divisions and trouble in the empire. Justinian associated with these troubles anything the Origenists were teaching, and thus closed off all communications associated with them – including the teaching of Apokatastasis – to try to quell the trouble and bring peace.
This is just another lie that the Roman Catholic Church has promoted in order to support an agenda. The agenda comes from the Schism of 1054 AD and the Papal Reformation which was taking place at that time. Surely you must know of the work of St. Peter Damian and Pope Leo IX, who were trying to reform a very corrupt Latin Church. There is no better way to get men to obey than to put a little fear in them – or in the case of both Justinian and Pope Leo IX, a LOT of fear! Here is what Justinian said about the teaching of Apokatastasis:
“It will render men slothful, and discourage them from keeping the commandments of God. It will encourage them to depart from the narrow way, leading them by deception into ways that are wide and easy. “
In other words, Justinian didn’t believe that just loving Christ for the beauty of His person and His incredible love as shown on the Cross and in the Scriptures, would be enough to turn men from sin. And this, I aver, is the same thinking of Peter Damian and Pope Leo IX. They had to come up with some way to make people obey the Church, and more especially, to not have any interest in the Eastern Church. Thus, the threat of hell and Pope Boniface’s declaration that absolute obedience and submission to the Roman Pontiff was necessary to escape the fires of hell.
The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable. It is a story used to point to a truth, such as in the parable of the Wicked Stewards in Matthew 21: 33-46. The Rich Man is national Israel and the poor man is the Gentile nations. It is not teaching eternal hell, it is teaching the corruption of national Israel and the taking of the Kingdom from them. It is doing this in the form of a parable.
I could go on and on here refuting the errors in your paper. I think it is probably an exercise in futility if you have read Bulgakov, Kant, et al who promote the teaching of Apokatastasis. Quite frankly, I am unimpressed with what I have read. It is easily refuted by truth rather than Roman theological mythologies used for centuries to scare children in to growing up good and obedient Roman Catholic laity. In closing, I will ask you a simple question: of what character is a God who, knowing the Fall shall take place and (in your eschatology) that the greater portion of mankind would suffer intolerably forever, would nonetheless go ahead and create these sentient beings? This means that His will from the beginning, being that eschatology defines protology, was to create a great mass of beings for the sole purpose of suffering the most horrible torments imaginable.
Is this really the God who is love? A God who from the beginning wills the utter destruction of that which He created?
You need to think about this, sir. A long, long time.”
Honestly, who in their right mind would want to be with such a God? Do these defenders of eternal conscious torment for the majority of mankind ever stop to think about the kind of God they are defending – a God who for no reason or need would create human beings for the sole goal of having the majority of them suffer? I can love a Father who is good, who does good, and who uses all His power to right a wrong and care lovingly for all His children, even the most sick, ill-tempered, and evil of them among us.
I cannot love nor have any confidence in the God of Roman Catholicism.