As I looked at Deborah Gyapong’s article of yesterday – So, who is following this Michael Voris, Fr. Robert Barron controversy over hell?, this prompted me to look at an old article I had written on this subject. Hell and Salvation. It turns out that my article of last year was published on today’s date, the 5th of November. I assure you that Guy Fawkes had nothing to do with it, since I am an Old Peterite and we don’t burn old boys, even those who conspired to commit High Treason. He was not burned at the stake but hanged drawn and quartered, also a nasty way to go!
We can argue about this subject, and no one alive really knows. Speculations about an empty hell – well, maybe… I have the idea that it is more likely that hell is really a kind of “purgatory” in degrees, and no soul in it is totally without any hope of passing from there to the light. The idea that hell is eternal and therefore uncreated would seem to attribute a shadow side to God himself. Ultimately, it is a mystery. The Gnostics had another way of explaining it all, above all the origin of evil. Orthodox Christianity another still.
Like Deborah, “I have no doubt about the existence of hell, or of demonic powers, or of the bondage of sin and death“. These are all facts within the scope of our earthly experience. However, eternity is not, except by way of image and analogy. Like Origen and St Gregory of Nyssa, I prefer to believe that even the unhappiest soul is not without hope, that even the Devil himself, for all the evil and sin he has committed, may in the end find forgiveness and redemption through Christ.
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Just one final reflection:
I am certainly criticised for questioning the eternity of hell or the absolute impossibility of the conversion of a soul who has already passed over. I have no claim to any special insight into this mystery that escapes us all. I would add the reflection that the doctrine of hell is the one factor that has justified pogroms, ethnic cleansing and the Inquisition in history. The idea is saving people from hell is the one thing that has given a reason behind the use of torture and barbaric methods of execution.
Doctrinal debates are possible on this subject, but they are all ultimately vain and pointless.