Front Row Seats in Hell

Heaven and Hell religion Theology / Biblical Studies

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The greatest show in eternity is going to be one hell of an act, theologians have told us throughout history. Tertullian was the first to say so:

What there excites my admiration? what my derision? Which sight gives me joy? which rouses me to exultation?—as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exultation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those with which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ. What world’s wise men besides, the very philosophers, in fact, who taught their followers that God had no concern in aught that is sublunary, and were wont to assure them that either they had no souls, or that they would never return to the bodies which at death they had left, now covered with shame before the poor deluded ones, as one fire consumes them! Poets also, trembling not before the judgment-seat of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the unexpected Christ! I shall have a better opportunity then of hearing the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; of viewing the play-actors, much more “dissolute” in the dissolving flame; of looking upon the charioteer, all glowing in his chariot of fire; of beholding the wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows; unless even then I shall not care to attend to such ministers of sin, in my eager wish rather to fix a gaze insatiable on those whose fury vented itself against the Lord. “This,” I shall say, “this is that carpenter’s or hireling’s son, that Sabbath-breaker, that Samaritan and devil-possessed! This is He whom you purchased from Judas! This is He whom you struck with reed and fist, whom you contemptuously spat upon, to whom you gave gall and vinegar to drink! This is He whom His disciples secretly stole away, that it might be said He had risen again, or the gardener abstracted, that his lettuces might come to no harm from the crowds of visitants!” What quæstor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favour of seeing and exulting in such things as these? And yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.

Read through it a few times. Soak it in. According to Tertullian, his admiration, his derision, his joy at the sight, and his exultation, will be roused by the visible sight of those who did not believe in Jesus, groaning, living in flames, tossing in flaming billows. He looked forward to hearing those who took part in plays, although with much louder voices as they scream because of their torture in hell. He longed to fix his gaze on those who were actors as they suffer in agony before his eyes. Surely, he marvels, no human priest or quæstor (a Roman official governing financial affairs) can provide you with any favour as great as watching and enjoying all this! But God will. It’s a pity that we can’t see it now, but, Tertullian encourages us, as we look around even now at those who are still alive and reject Christ, we can imagine all this happening to them. By faith, thank God, we can picture it right now.

Thomas Aquinas shares this belief:

In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned … So that they may be urged the more to praise God … The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens … to the damned.1

Like Tertullian before him, Aquinas was no less clear that watching the suffering of the lost will bring us great happiness.

Protestants can’t wipe their hands here. Isaac Watts is purported to have put his famous hymn writing skills to work thus: “What bliss will fill the ransomed souls, when they in glory dwell, to see the sinner as he rolls, in quenchless flames of hell.”2 Jonathan Edwards agreed: “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.”3 Just in case there was any doubt about watching your own children being tortured in fire forever might not fill you with pleasure and joy, Jonathan Edwards assures you: It will.

But modern believers in eternal torment wouldn’t endorse this, would they? Would they actually endorse a theology of hell in which we sit and watch millions of people, including our lost children and friends, actually being tortured in fire – and would they agree that we will gain happiness and pleasure from the sight? In fact they so just that. In the book Two Views of Hell, Robert Peterson defends his view of hell by, among other things, pointing out that some of the most famous theologians in church history have held it. On that list are Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards. Far from complaining about their view, he names them and aligns himself with their views.

Feel free to abandon the traditional, mainstream historical Christian view if you like – or hold it, heck, don’t let me tell you what to think or anything. But let’s all be honest about whether or not we really hold it the traditional Christian view, OK?

Regards,
Your friendly neighbourhood annihilationist

Glenn Peoples

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  1. Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question XCIV, “Of the Relations of the Saints Towards the Damned,” First Article. []
  2. I say “purported” because although this quote is widely used, I cannot find the source []
  3. “The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739. []
{ 73 comments… add one }
  • ZenTiger January 11, 2010, 6:19 pm

    they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned … So that they may be urged the more to praise God …

    said Aquinas, but that does not imply happiness at another’s misery in any way whatsoever.

    The suffering of the damned occurs because of a refusal to praise God; they suffer for the knowledge of their rejection and yet cannot reject their own sins.

    This is like treating the word “fear” as in “fear of God” as a negative instead of the positive sense the word is meant.

  • Glenn January 11, 2010, 6:23 pm

    “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them” – does it strike you that this is about obtaining greater happiness?

    I’m not using words in any negative way. Happiness is a positive word, and Aquinas believed that the saints would get more of it, and also that they would give thanks to God for this happiness, on account of witnessing the torture of the lost in hell.

    Aquinas was surely aware of what Tertullian said, and it’s hard not to see him echoing his sentiment.

  • Dave January 11, 2010, 6:29 pm

    It’s worth pointing out that Isaac Watts, later in life, apparently came to an annihilationist understanding in hell. I think Fudge mentions this briefly in his book.

  • Glenn January 11, 2010, 6:39 pm

    I wasn’t aware of that Dave, I must look that up. I did read about Spurgeon changing his mind though.

  • Lucia Maria January 11, 2010, 6:49 pm

    I have a Fatima understanding of Hell.

    Mary opened her hands and rays of light from them seemed to penetrate the earth so that they saw a terrifying vision of hell, full of demons and lost souls amidst indescribable horrors.

    This vision of hell was the first part of the “secret” of Fatima, and was not revealed until much later. The children looked up to the sad face of the Blessed Virgin, who spoke to them kindly:

    “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

    “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

    In other words, on this side of Heaven, we must do all in our power to help people not end up in Hell. But, knowing that God is good, and that those who end up in Hell do so through their own choice, but that God mitigates their suffering, I have no problem with the idea that I (if I get there, and I pray that I do) will understand fully the justice and the mercy of God in allowing Hell to exist. Until that time, I will continue to try and help people avoid the choice to go to Hell.

  • Glenn January 11, 2010, 9:58 pm

    So Lucia, does that mean that you don’t now share Tertullian’s hope for the pure exultation and joy of watching people suffering in flames? Or does it mean that you do, but would rather describe it in other ways?

    I really want believers in the traditional doctrine of eternal torment to lay their cards on the table with this one.

  • Andrei January 11, 2010, 10:21 pm

    I think that Hell is the separation from God – the damned may not even know they are in hell, may not even know what they have been denied, or rather perhaps have denied themselves.

  • ZenTiger January 11, 2010, 10:38 pm

    Glenn, I’m suggesting that some-one else’s suffering is not the thing directly making the saints happier, but rather, their understanding of their place in heaven, as revealed by understanding the sinners place in hell. There is a subtle difference I think.

    One could watch the act of some-one deny God, and the subsequent suffering caused by that act, and then be enlightened (and made happy) by the understanding of what they have gained by understanding God and God’s mercy. How could they then blame God for some-one else’s suffering caused by that person’s rejection of God? Why should that understanding not cause happiness, as distinct from having delight at seeing suffering?

    Also, in the case of purgatory, one understands suffering as a purging experience. Again, something the sufferers rejoice in because they know it is the process that allows them to finally approach God.

  • Glenn January 11, 2010, 10:43 pm

    Zen, the trouble is, do you really think that all that is what the theologians that I have quoted are actually saying? They surely could easily have said that. Read through Tertullian’s lurid details. It really sounds to me like he thought that he would delight in watching the suffering of the damned in the flames of hell.

    What’s more, I hardly think that a wonderful place like the eternal presence of God really needs a ghoulish reminder that things could have turned out worse!

  • ZenTiger January 11, 2010, 10:50 pm

    What’s more, I hardly think that a wonderful place like the eternal presence of God really needs a ghoulish reminder that things could have turned out worse!

    Exactly, so you are misunderstanding (misinterpreting) the motives of Aquinas, which I think I have explained reasonably well.

    I haven’t read enough of Tertullian to comment.

    do you really think that all that is what the theologians that I have quoted are actually saying?

    What do you mean “that is all they are saying”? What I think they are saying is therefore quite profound rather than the more mundane assumption that a saint would delight in viewing the torment of others.

  • Glenn January 11, 2010, 10:57 pm

    Exactly? I continue to take issue with what Aquinas said, and you say exactly? OK, so exactly, I continue, for the same reasons, to think that Aquinas’s position is wrong.

    What I meant is – do you really think that the theologians are limiting their claims about any positive feelings the saints will receive to a mental appreciation fo what they have in heaven? If that really is what they meant, then why did they not merit say so? Tertullian, for example, has a drawn out and ghastly way of stating short simple facts if you are correct.

    I see the position you’re explaining as one that is a little embarrassd by what theologians have actually said, and tries to tone it down. But even saying that, the position you’re trying to reduce these theologians’ position to is hardly (morally) plausible: It’s as though God entertains them with the sight of the most horrific tortures imaginable for eternity so that they can look, anjoy and be filled with happiness at the sight on the grounds that “we’re safe, at least. Isn’t God kind?” That you have to make a position sound tamer by making it sound like that should set alarm bells ringing.

  • Man of Spin January 11, 2010, 11:47 pm

    Hey Glenn,

    When you mentioned Spurgeon my eye-balls were nearly dislocated with surprise!

    Can you please point me to the source that affirms Spurgeon’s change of mind.

    Cheers

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 12:04 am

    Man of Spin, I’ll get back to you within the next couple of days with a source. In brief, Spurgeon stated expressly that he no longer took issue with the doctrine of conditional immortality (the common name at that time for annihilationism).

  • Gene January 12, 2010, 1:29 am

    Glenn,
    Perhaps both Aquinas and Tertullian forgot that many who thought they would be in heaven will be the ones burning in hell and the ones who never figured they were serving the Lord will be in heaven.

  • semmie January 12, 2010, 7:19 am

    Glenn,

    Thanks for posting this! I was in a Christian Chat room several days ago and was appalled when I saw one of the Christians telling one of the Atheists how he looked forward to watching him burn and squirm in Hell, knowing full well how he deserved to suffer for rejecting Christ.

    This idea has always shocked me. Even when I adhered to the “traditional Christian view” of Hell. I couldn’t grasp why Christians would delight in watching men suffer. And I couldn’t grasp why–in the great, glorious presence of our King–we would have any inclination to think towards those who denied Him?!

    Would we rejoice if those people suffering torment in Hell before our very eyes were our loved ones? Our children? Can one honestly hold to this notion of delighting in the torture of souls in Hell, while simultaneously holding the view that God will wipe every tear from his eye?

    I can’t buy it.

    Pax Christi!

  • Lucia Maria January 12, 2010, 9:16 am

    Glenn,

    So Lucia, does that mean that you don’t now share Tertullian’s hope for the pure exultation and joy of watching people suffering in flames? Or does it mean that you do, but would rather describe it in other ways?

    I do not share Tertullian’s view. However, I do not condemn his view either. He was converted by seeing the suffering of Christians as they were ripped apart in the arena, and was therefore alive at a time where it was physically dangerous to be Christian. Therefore, his point of view deserves more than just dismissal if it’s not understood.

  • Ilíon January 12, 2010, 11:16 am

    What does “unending torment” even *mean* in the context of eternity?

    What does annihilation even *mean* in the context of eternity?

  • Ilíon January 12, 2010, 11:18 am

    Can that which God calls into being even cease to exist?

  • Kristian Joensen January 12, 2010, 11:45 am

    “Can that which God calls into being even cease to exist?”

    Why not? God can cease upholding it. Surely God can destroy anything he has created if he chooses to, right?

  • Ilíon January 12, 2010, 4:19 pm

    Why not? God can cease upholding it. Surely God can destroy anything he has created if he chooses to, right?

    Can he? Assuming that he can does not address, much less answer, the question.

    God *is* Truth; God cannot contradict himself. (If God could and did contradict himself, then he and all other things would cease to exist).

    There is a difference, is there not, between “upholding” the passing existence of mere things, mere passing conglomerations of atoms and molecules, and “upholding” the existence of persons?

    If God says, “Kristian Joensen exists,” how can he also say, “Kristian Joensen exists not?” Is not the very statement, all by itself (even without considering the first), a self-contradiction?

    So, again, I ask, “Can that which God calls into being even cease to exist?”

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 5:34 pm

    Lucia, your comment suggests that you think I am not correctly representing Tertullian. Is that right?

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 5:37 pm

    Ilion: In the context of eternity, eternal torment means torment that never ends. Int he context of eternity, annihilation means coming to an end and not enduring for eternity.

    Lastly, yes, that which God brings into existence can cease to exist. Is there a reason to suppose otherwise?

  • Wintery Knight January 12, 2010, 7:03 pm

    Just weighing in to affirm that I do indeed hold to the traditional view of Hell.

    I won’t be debating this here, but you can e-mail me if you want to talk about it.

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 8:06 pm

    Wintery, do you share the stance of Tertullian on Aquinas as noted in the blog post? Calling your view the traditional one gives the impression that you do.

  • Lucia Maria January 12, 2010, 10:28 pm

    Glenn,

    Not quite right.

    I think you don’t understand how he could think the way he does, therefore you don’t think too kindly of him for his apparent glee at the suffering of the damned.

    Yet, if you were to consider it, if God allows it, shouldn’t it be right and proper that the damned do suffer, and given that those who are in Heaven understand more than we do here in the Church Militant, maybe the whole thing makes sense? I don’t know, I’m not anywhere near being able to totally understand it, but I won’t write it off just because it offends my sensibilities.

    What I love about my Faith is the Mystery, it just gets better and better. Apparent contradictions and all.

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 10:42 pm

    Lucia, at least we do in fact agree on what tertullian said! I don’t think it will do to call his glee “apparent.” He seemed rather certain about it.

    I suppose in the end I have to simply leave it to the reader to decide which has more going for it: We will rightly take delight and find a cause for joy in watching people be burned alive forever, or else something other than the doctrine of eternal torment is true.

  • Glenn January 12, 2010, 11:21 pm

    Man of Spin, here’s a source on Spurgeon.

    Leroy Edwin Froom, in The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers vol. 2 p. 797 quotes Spurgeon stating: “I have no quarrel with the conditional immortality doctrine.”

    The quote is taken from a pamphlet by Avary H. Forbes called “The Last Enemy” from 1936, but I cannot for the life of me obtain a copy. I do note, however, that Graham Scroggie, a member of Spurgeon’s congregation, embraced annihilationism too, so Spurgeon’s influence may have been at work there.

  • mike January 13, 2010, 3:21 am

    I can’t imagine being happy about such suffering and prior to now have never heard of even the implication of rejoicing over such.

    But whatever…

    In any case, Isaiah does address the subject in the context of the news heavens and the new earth.

    Isaiah 66:22-24

    “22 For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make shall remain before Me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.

    23 And it shall be that from one New Moon to another New Moon and from one Sabbath to another Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the Lord.

    24 And they shall go forth and gaze upon the dead bodies of the [rebellious] men who have stepped over against Me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

  • Dave January 13, 2010, 3:51 am

    Mike,

    Your objection has been addressed numerous times. What is described in Isaiah is a pile of corpses (that is what the Hebrew word means, no getting around it) burning and being devoured by a skolex, which is a type of worm that eats dead flesh.

    And, the sight is an “abhorrence” to mankind. This is hardly the same as saying it’s a cause for celebration.

    Regarding Ilion’s comment, it amuses me when theologians come up with flashy philosophical arguments that supposedly demonstrate how annihilationism is an absurdity.

    God can say “Kristian Johansen exists not” if He destroys Kristian Johansen. It’s not really that complex.

  • mike January 13, 2010, 7:13 am

    Objection?

    I wasn’t objecting to anything. Just trying to mention something I thought related that I didn’t see in previous comments. Sorry if was old hat to you. I had never heard of anyone rejoicing in this context before.

    And I certainly did not and do not advocate celebrating anything of the sort. If you read what I wrote I said just the opposite.

    Why so touchy?

    Like is so often the case on these stupid blogs attempts at comments is just not worth the trouble.

  • Dave January 13, 2010, 8:15 am

    Mike,

    There was no intended “touchiness” in my response to your comments. There is no hostility in the words, mere argumentation.

  • Lucia Maria January 13, 2010, 5:58 pm

    Glenn,

    I was going to ask you where you stood on this subject, guessing that the concept of eternal torment disturbs you so much that you choose not to believe it. So, I looked up annihilationist and found this from Wikipedia:

    Annihilationism is the minority Christian doctrine that sinners are destroyed rather than tormented forever in “hell” or the lake of fire. It is directly related to the doctrine of conditional immortality, the idea that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life. Annihilationism asserts that God will eventually destroy or annihilate the wicked, leaving only the righteous to live on in immortality. Some annihilationists believe the wicked will be punished for their sins in the lake of fire before being annihilated, others that hell is a false doctrine of pagan origin.

    Are you in the camp that doesn’t believe in Hell at all?

  • Glenn January 13, 2010, 6:03 pm

    Lucia: “I was going to ask you where you stood on this subject, guessing that the concept of eternal torment disturbs you so much that you choose not to believe it.”

    Then you’d be completely wrong. The statement on motive is wrong, and with respect, inappropriate, perhaps even morally so. I think you are also expressing a very strange view of epistemology where people can literally decide what to believe.

    Once I became aware that the Bible does not teach the dotrine of eternal torment and that it teaches annihilationism instead, my views on Scripture led me to embrace that view.

    “Are you in the camp that doesn’t believe in Hell at all?”

    No. What I have is a theology of hell, not a denial of it.

  • Lucia Maria January 13, 2010, 6:55 pm

    People deciding what to believe is very common today. Not really knowing where you were coming from on this one, and being aware that the belief of one Protestant is quite often very different from the belief of another, I needed to ask the question. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone if you don’t know where they stand, and the impression I get from your post and your comments is that you really don’t like the idea of those in Heaven gaining any sort of joy in the suffering of those in Hell.

  • Glenn January 13, 2010, 7:16 pm

    Well Lucia, rest assured: Your analysis of my motives was not correct. I did not reject the doctrine of eternal torment because it disturbs me, and it’s generally better to ask than to assume that this is the case. 🙂

    And I daresay that literally deciding to believe something and then do it is not usually how it works. Conditioning yourself to beliefs takes time.

    The point of this specific blog entry was to show people who affirm the “traditional” view because of the rhetorical power that comes with claiming to be on the side of the majority that in fact they do not stand with tradition at all.

    As for my actual motives for rejecting the doctrine of eternal torment, I do so because I become convinced that the Bible teaches annihilationism more clearly than it teaches many other true things (like the virgin birth or the ascension of Christ). I detail this view in a three part podcast series. Part one is here.

  • ZenTiger January 13, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Glenn said: “I see the position you’re explaining as one that is a little embarrassed by what theologians have actually said, and tries to tone it down. “

    Not at all. I get a different understanding of Aquinas, from what Aquinas has said in totality (ie his definition of Hell, his definition of happiness and then finally, his comment here in that context.

    I will answer this far more completely when I have a bit more time to put into it.

    I also note I have not commented on anything about Tertullian because I haven’t read enough of him to offer an opinion, so my embarrassment if it existed would be confined to what Aquinas has said, not “theologians”.

    But even saying that, the position you’re trying to reduce these theologians’ position to is hardly (morally) plausible: It’s as though God entertains them with the sight of the most horrific tortures imaginable for eternity so that they can look, anjoy and be filled with happiness at the sight on the grounds that “we’re safe, at least. Isn’t God kind?”

    That’s NOT what I have said at all, and I think you have failed to understand my argument completely if this is the case.

    I will again consider the example of “fear” and how that word may be understood in the context of God:

    Firstly, many people (notably atheists selectively quoting the bible, wonder why people fall in fear at the sight of God, and suggest that a God of love would not be a God of fear.

    Imagine a child who has deliberately disobeyed the instruction of his father. They approach in fear over their guilt and shame in the transgression they fully understand is their fault, and their fault alone.

    They are paradoxically greeted with love and forgiveness, as usual, and yet they still approached in fear. Who caused that fear? The parent, or the child?

    I’ll continue my argument later when I have some time, but perhaps recognition (or disagreement if you will) of this first point would be useful.

  • Glenn January 13, 2010, 8:25 pm

    Zentiger, you think I have misunderstood you “completely” if I say that you are talking about how we will gain joy because of the good that we have by observing the maximum torture received by others.

    You did say “Glenn, I’m suggesting that some-one else’s suffering is not the thing directly making the saints happier, but rather, their understanding of their place in heaven, as revealed by understanding the sinners place in hell.” So it really is something you have said.

    You seem to be wanting to talk, not about the happiness and pleasure that observing torture might (or might not) give, but rather about fear.

    You say that you’re going to continue an argument, but what you’ve given me is a question. You ask who causes the fear in the case of the child. My answer is that the father and the child cause that fear. I do not see how this is going to connect to the question of how much (if any) happiness and enjoyment watching the torments of hell will bring, but I guess I’ll find out!

  • ZenTiger January 13, 2010, 8:54 pm

    It connects because your definition of “happiness” is not how St Thomas used (defined) the word; just as some people think the concept of “fear of God” is about God deliberately putting fear into people, rather than people becoming fearful of God when they understand how their sin is a rejection of God, and an act against his will.

  • Glenn January 13, 2010, 11:08 pm

    OK, well I have told you who causes the fear: the child and the father.

  • KevinH January 14, 2010, 3:57 am

    FWIW, I just blogged on this very topic (www.ablogogetics.blogspot.com).

    I find common versions of hell unbiblical and hillbilly theology. Yet, it is difficult to deny, biblically, that hell is both conscious and eternal.

  • Glenn January 14, 2010, 8:12 am

    “Yet, it is difficult to deny, biblically, that hell is both conscious and eternal.”

    I find it pretty easy actually. 🙂

  • Lucia Maria January 14, 2010, 10:02 am

    Oh, ok, I’ll listen to the podcast! I normally don’t, as I read much faster than I listen.

  • Lucia Maria January 14, 2010, 11:54 am

    Well, so far, the argument on immortality is interesting, but not enough to convince me. It would be useful to have that argument written somewhere, as I keep forgetting what it actually is. I thought that there could be a problem with a good definition of immortality and eternal life, and found this.

    Part Two deals with the theology of death and the various notions of human immortality that have existed from Jewish antiquity up through our own day. Ratzinger points out that the Jewish understanding of Sheol, where the shades of the dead lingered, was sim­ilar to the opinions of neighboring cultures. The idea of bodily resurrection was an innovation over and against the common human expectation of a bodiless afterlife, and resurrection was itself the natural outgrowth of the Hebrew concept of man as a creature made body and soul in the image of God. Death of the body was shown in Genesis 1-3 to be a punishment for breaking fellowship with God and not the natural end of a life. Salvation from sin and death, therefore, was salvation of man from his alienation from God. The healing of that rift of necessity meant the restoration of man to bodily immortality. The intermediate state of the soul after death, therefore, was a result of the sinfulness of man, and it was natural that some elements of purgation would be associated with it in preparation for the restoration of man to bodily life in resurrection.

    With this in mind, Ratzinger reviews the teaching of the Church on human immortality. There was no clear guidance from patristic sources on what human immortality — especially in the intermediate state, but also in a resurrected body — actually meant. There was a strain of thought in the patristic period strongly influenced by Platonism in which the soul was treated almost like a “ghost in a machine” with a strong sense of the body/soul dichotomy. This Hellenistic attitude based immortality of the soul on something innate to the human person and separate from the “mortal” body. Ratzinger points out several theological problems with this and shows how they could be circumvented by St. Thomas Aqui­nas’s brilliant solution to the question based on Ar­istot­le’s notion of eternal forms as being preserved within real objects and not as members of an unchanging alternate realm. St. Thomas’s new anthropology could be summed up as anima unica forma corpus (i.e., the soul is the unifying principle of the body), and did justice to the original Hebrew understanding of man as an irreducible and integral whole.

    Looks like I’m going to have to get this book!

  • Lucia Maria January 14, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Here’s the Amazon link. Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life.

    According to the review, it’s internationally recognised as the leading text on last things – heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul.

  • Andrew Thomson January 14, 2010, 4:10 pm

    Lucia Maria,

    If you are interested in studying the subject of “hell” in the bible I suggest you get hold of a copy of Edward W. Fudge’s book: “The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment”. If you are in NZ, you may be able to purchase a copy from http://www.afterlife.co.nz

  • Glenn January 14, 2010, 5:45 pm

    Lucia, no disrespect intended, as I understand that what is written by Ratzinger will be held in high esteem largely because of who he is, but I’m not even aware of this text in spite of my keen interest in scholarship int his area. It might be good, but it’s unlikely to be the leading text, let alone internationally recognised as being such.

  • Lucia Maria January 14, 2010, 7:40 pm

    Glenn,

    I understand that no disrespect is intended. We do tend to stick to our own faith communities in regards to the scholarship that is out there.

    Have you considered that not only is what Ratzinger held in high esteem because of who he is, but that he became who he is because of what he’s written? His deep understanding of our Faith? His book Jesus of Nazareth certainly shows that.

    From what it says at Amazon, this book is the result of 20 years of research. It may answer all the criticisms you have of the traditional view of Hell. It certainly looks like it will to me. I’ll read it and find out anyway, since, according to the review, it is the apologetics book to read.

  • Andrew Thomson January 14, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Lucia Maria,

    If George Nathan’s review on Amazon is anything to go by, Ratzinger’s book is based on ideas that have evolved over time; i.e. extra-biblical revelation. According to the review, Ratzinger appears to believe that heaven and hell are not real places. In other words, one is at liberty to invent ones own ideas about their beliefs. I prefer to base mine on the written inspired word of God as revealed in the Bible. It doesn’t matter how many years study you put in, if you look in the wrong places, you won’t find the answer. Take a risk, get a copy of Edward Fudge’s book.

  • Ilíon January 15, 2010, 3:47 am

    Ilíon:What does “unending torment” even *mean* in the context of eternity? What does annihilation even *mean* in the context of eternity?

    Glenn Peoples:Ilion: In the context of eternity, eternal torment means torment that never ends. Int he context of eternity, annihilation means coming to an end and not enduring for eternity.

    This says nothing, really, to address the questions I asked; it conflates time-bound existence for eternal (timeless) existence.

    ‘Eternity’ does not mean “a really, really, really, really, really long time,” it refers to a state of timeless existence; so, to speak of duration in the context of eternity is to speak non-sense.

    Time is an aspect of God’s creation; God created time as he created space and matter — God is not “in” time; there is no yesterday nor tomorrow for God.

    Ilíon:Can that which God calls into being even cease to exist?

    Glenn Peoples:Lastly, yes, that which God brings into existence can cease to exist. Is there a reason to suppose otherwise?

    Well! You’ve certainly made an assertion; haven’t addressed the question, though. In my response to Kristian Joensen, I’ve given a good reason to suspect that the assertion — and supposition — you are making may not actually be true. I’ve shown that it *is* a supposition, not a conclusion.

    And, rather than examine the supposition to see if it can be supported as a conclusion, you merely reassert it.

  • Ilíon January 15, 2010, 4:10 am

    Lucia Maria:I think you don’t understand how he could think the way he does, therefore you don’t think too kindly of him for his apparent glee at the suffering of the damned.
    .
    Yet, if you were to consider it, if God allows it, shouldn’t it be right and proper that the damned do suffer, and given that those who are in Heaven understand more than we do here in the Church Militant, maybe the whole thing makes sense? …

    The example I’m using is USA-specific. But then, I’m an American, so my experiences and knowledge will naturally be centered on life in America.

    Everyone knows that O J Simpson murdered two persons — and got away with it. That is, he got away with respect to human attempts at justice; whether he’s “right with God” is a different matter. And, to make matters worse, the way he got away with it — his lawyers turned his trial for murder into a trial of America for some nebulous “racism” — really sticks in the craw.

    No sane person, no moral person, can rejoice as the verdict of Mr Simpson’s murder trial, for the verdict was unjust to the two murdered persons, and to all of society, and it was a lie. Had he been convicted and sentenced for the crime which everyone knows he did, then sane and moral persons woud have rejoiced, for justice and truth had been upheld.

    Similarly, there is not discongruity between the redeemed rejoicing in the damnation of the damned. All deserve damnation; all are offered escape from damnation; some refuse the offer of escape from damnation.

    God offers us all mercy in place of justice; some spurn the mercy, and so must have justice. Will not sane and moral persons rejoice that all person shall get what they choose?

  • Ilíon January 15, 2010, 4:24 am

    Ilíon:If God says, “Kristian Joensen exists,” how can he also say, “Kristian Joensen exists not?” Is not the very statement, all by itself (even without considering the first), a self-contradiction?

    Dave:Regarding Ilion’s comment, it amuses me when theologians come up with flashy philosophical arguments that supposedly demonstrate how annihilationism is an absurdity.

    God can say “Kristian Johansen exists not” if He destroys Kristian Johansen. It’s not really that complex.

    Have you really thought about this before asserting it?

    God calls into being by speaking (that’s an anthropomorphism, of course, but it’s about the best we can do in attempting to understand God).

    In God’s very act of saying the name of “Kristian Joensen,” God says “Kristian Joensen exists.” For God to say “Kristian Joensen exists not” it were as though God says, “Kristian Joensen both exists and exists not” — and that is a contradiction, which is impossible for God.

    As a wise man once said, it’s really not that complex.

  • Ilíon January 15, 2010, 4:32 am

    Glenn Peoples (to Lucia Maria):…The statement on motive is wrong, and with respect, inappropriate, perhaps even morally so. I think you are also expressing a very strange view of epistemology where people can literally decide what to believe.

    1) Yes, “motive mongering” is generally inappropriate, frequently anti-logical, and is sometimes immoral.

    2) Dude! Everyone chooses, literally, what to believe. Whether the choice is made rationally and logically, is a differnent matter. Whether the content of the belief is true, is a different matter.

    Belief isn’t something which “just happens” to us.

  • Ilíon January 15, 2010, 4:40 am

    Lucia Maria:Oh, ok, I’ll listen to the podcast! I normally don’t, as I read much faster than I listen.

    I almost never listen to anyone’s podcasts (*) and other media … put it in writing so that I can analyze it; don’t waste my time with ephemeral sounds.

    (*) I have listened to some of Mr Peoples’ podcasts, and I’ve enjoyed some of them, to a point … but I haven’t got much out of them, or at least not nearly as much as I might from reading it, because they’re verbal; here and gone even as one hears it.

  • Dave January 15, 2010, 8:31 am

    Ilion,

    ‘For God to say the name “Kristian Johansen” is to say ‘Kristian Johansen exists not.'”

    So, we have to assume that WHENEVER God utters something, it automatically comes into existence? So before the creation of the universe, when God said, “Kristian Johansen will exist” then he was simultaneously saying “Kristian Johansen will exist but already exists.”

    Your “logic” would also lead one to conclude that God could never really destroy anything. Could he destroy the world? Well, then if he said “The world exists not” he would simultaneously be saying “The world exists but exists not.”

    Of course, you could argue that he wouldn’t actually destroy the basic material of the world, just change its form. But then the annihilationist could say the same thing about a human being.

    In short, your logic is garbage.

  • Geoff January 15, 2010, 9:24 am

    I have to agree with Dave, Biblically, there is a “construct” God uses to “call things into existence”, just saying a name does not make it exist.

    Also, perhaps you are confusing “THE Word” with language.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 11:40 am

    Illion, there’s no reason to think that something lasting eternally has anything to do with being “timeless,” so my answers seem fine.

    Secondly, I don’t think you’ve actually given any good reason to suppose that nothing created by God can cease to exist, anmd there seems to me to be nothing wrong with answering the question in the affirmative.

    What you said was: “If God says, “Kristian Joensen exists,” how can he also say, “Kristian Joensen exists not?” Is not the very statement, all by itself (even without considering the first), a self-contradiction?”

    Now of course that’s a cotnradiction, but it doesn’t address the issue of whether Kristian Joensen (for example) will always exists. All you’ve pointed out is that it would be a contradiction for a thing to exist and not exist at the same time. However, I happen to know that some trees have ceased to exist. I used them as firewood.

    Why then should it be impossible for a person to cease to exist? It’s no good stating that God cannot do something unless there’s a good reason why he cannot do it.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Andrew,

    Thanks, but no thanks. I’m done picking and choosing what I’m going to believe. I lived for 20 years like that. Now I’m happy just believing what the Church tells me to believe, and, strangely enough, what she tells me to believe weaves together into a wonderful, cohesive tapestry.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 3:04 pm

    llion,

    Thanks for the comments, you have a clear way of explaining things. Even the American example of Homer Simpson.

    Glenn,

    I think it’s impossible for a person to cease to exist because every person is made in the image of God. Just like with the Trinity, being made of 3 persons, both the Holy Spirit and Jesus originating from the Father, but always having been in existence. We are, in some way, a tangible though of God that can’t be unmade because we have happened. He thought of us and can’t unthink the thought. It’s not the same with the rest of creation, because the rest of creation isn’t made in His image.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 3:35 pm

    Lucia, I really don’t know that being made in God’s image is going to do what you want it to here. It’s far from obvious what that phrase even means, and what’s more, if Athanasias is right, being cut off from God and finally divorced from His purpose for us is to lose that very image.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 3:37 pm

    Lucia: “I’m done picking and choosing what I’m going to believe. I lived for 20 years like that.”

    I find it truly amazing that a person who seeks to take an evidence based approach is accused of literally picking and choosing his beliefs! It’s about as fair as saying that you yourself pick and choose on the grounds that you picked the Catholic church! Being asked to examine some evidence to see if you find it compelling is not at all the same as selecting beliefs. This sort of cheap, graceless rhetorical unfairness is the bane of online discussions and I want to play my part in stamping it out. I think Christians should keep themselves above that sort of thing.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 3:54 pm

    Glenn,

    I find it truly amazing that a person who seeks to take an evidence based approach is accused of literally picking and choosing his beliefs!

    Are you talking about yourself being accused, or Andrew? Because if you are, I was talking about myself.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 3:56 pm

    And no, the image of God is not enough. But, if you link it to what God did to the very first human when He created him (breathed into him), clearly something of Himself went into His creation.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 3:57 pm

    Lucia, I was talking about Andrew. Your suggestion was that to do what he did – namely to take a book that presents a case, examine that case and weigh up how good it is, would mean that you would be picking and choosing your beliefs.

    By your reasoning, a jury just picks and chooses whether or not the defendant is guilty!

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 4:01 pm

    Lucia, regarding God creating humans by breathing the breath of life into him, you’ll be aware that the Old Testament also says that the animals have the breath of life from God as well. If you think that proves immortality for humans, it proves immortality for sheep as well.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 4:13 pm

    you’ll be aware that the Old Testament also says that the animals have the breath of life from God as well.

    Really? I missed that in the Creation story.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 4:21 pm

    Lucia, I didn’t say it was in the creation story. It doesn’t have to be in Genesis 1-2 in order to be biblical.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 4:21 pm

    Lucia, I was talking about Andrew. Your suggestion was that to do what he did – namely to take a book that presents a case, examine that case and weigh up how good it is, would mean that you would be picking and choosing your beliefs.

    By your reasoning, a jury just picks and chooses whether or not the defendant is guilty!

    Ah. Here’s the thing. If a book is Catholic and orthodox, I will read it because I can trust it. If a book is Catholic and not orthodox, then I’d better have a good reason to read it, because to deliberately read something I know to be partly false for no good reason is to put my own faith in danger. Likewise with Protestant books. I no longer have to work out what to believe based on evidence. I believe on faith. How I came to this point is a very long story, but having been what I’ve been through and knowing what I know now, I will not jeopardise that faith.

    And yes, I do see Protestand and non-orthodox Catholic as picking and choosing (but in that comment I was talking about myself). How could it not be? Basing it on “evidence” is putting the Lord God to the test. Not something I want to be doing.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 4:23 pm

    Lucia, to read the evidence about what God teaches is not to put God to the test.

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 4:35 pm

    Lucia, I didn’t say it was in the creation story. It doesn’t have to be in Genesis 1-2 in order to be biblical.

    True, but the Creation story, by virtue of it being the Creation story, tells us alot about what we are and what went wrong. If God breathed only into Adam, and not into the animals when they were created – surely that means something?

    So, where is the reference to the breath of God in sheep in the OT?

  • Geoff January 15, 2010, 5:03 pm

    In regards to timelessness..

    If being eternal means that one has to be removed from creation in order to cease experiencing “durations”, then why on earth did God put us here and promise us eternal life?
    We, by nature of being human, experience durations (time), and will continue to do so even when we are “recreated for eternal life”.

  • Glenn January 15, 2010, 5:15 pm

    Lucia, I don’t know what to do. I know where the evidence is about the breath of life is in the Bible, but here’s the thing: I’m not Catholic. You’ve already told me that “I no longer have to work out what to believe based on evidence. I believe on faith.” You wouldn’t read things that would endanger your existing beliefs, so you say. This means that if your existing theology contains errors, you don’t want to find out about them.

    Should I proceed with evidence or not? And if I should, would you read a book written by a Protestant on hell?

  • Lucia Maria January 15, 2010, 5:22 pm

    LOL! Touche.

    I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do.

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