A Question About Hell

| | Comments (4)

For those who understand better what the Church means by her various pronouncements.

In a comment to Alicia:

Now, someday, I will request that the learned focus their attention on the "eternity" of hell and give that some attention. Because that "eternity" seems quite a bit different than the eternity of the reign of God. But I'm very ignorant in these matters. (My chief problem is that if Hell were eternal, then it would have to be coterminous with God Himself who is the only thing that is Eternal. Angels, Demons, people, and places all have a beginning. They are not thus "eternal" in "always" existent.) If we switch to the other definition of eternal--endless in time, aren't we told that there is a point at which time itself ends?

Anathema was pronounced on those who say that the torments of Hell have an end or that Hell is not eternal. Now, perhaps it really is a technical difference in the meaning of eternity and eternal, but if so can someone explain it. I was under the impression that at the end those who are rejected will ultimately succumb to death--in a sense they would be annihilated. If so, then Hell must have an End. If not, then scripture must mean something else by the passages that state this.

Looking for any input that might clarify the question of what Eternal means here. Do we really mean to say that Hell and God existed if that's the right term outside of creation--because that is Eternity or Eternal, or does the Church mean to say that Hell came into being with the fall of the Angels and exists forevermore from that time forward?

I don't suppose it much matters, but it has been a matter of some considerable confusion to me.

Bookmark and Share


St. Thomas teaches that, "The fire of hell is called eternal, only because it never ends," but since there is change there, "in hell true eternity does not exist, but rather time."

And what of the blessed? They share in eternity insofar as they contemplate God, in Whom alone is eternity "truly and properly so called."

Dear Tom,

Thank you. So, Hell is eternal not in the way God is eternal, changeless and without beginning or end, but it is eternal in the sense of endless.

What then does it mean when Paul says ,"The wages of sin is death?" It would seem that Paul implies that there comes a time of annihilation and nonexistence. Or does he mean by this something else?



Maimonides, a Jewish theologian, maintained that the immortality of the soul is determined by how much truth we learn during our lifetimes as a result of intellectual contemplation. It followed from this that the wicked were prevented from engaging in the contemplation of God and truths and could not be immortal. In other words, their evil souls perished with their bodies. Their eternal damnation is their nonexistence after death. St. Thomas Aquinas was also influenced by Aristotle, although Aristotle may not have believed in the immortality of the soul. Of course, the fact that the souls of the wicked would not experience any suffering after death didn't fly with other theologians. Evil souls perishing after death kinda makes sense though when one ponders on "the wages of sin is death."

What then does it mean when Paul says ,"The wages of sin is death?"

God is life. Sin is separation from God, therefore sin is separation from life, therefore sin is death.

Obviously, there's more to it than that, but I'd say there's enough there to spin out a full sermon.

The human soul is by nature immortal, in the sense that, unlike most of the rest of creation, it doesn't cease to exist. It has no parts to wear out or fall off, it has nothing to change into. It can only always exist, unless God annihilates it.

But again: God is life. God is Father and Creator, not Annihilator. He doesn't change His mind and uncreate His creation.

Some people say, "Wouldn't it be more loving of God to annihilate a soul than to let it spend 'eternity' in hell?" But to do that would be to deny Himself, and denying Love is not a loving act.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 14, 2005 4:59 PM.

Why Do I Fail to Be Surprised at This? was the previous entry in this blog.

Seek and Ye Shall Find is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll