Author Archives: pauldirks
The Attenuation of Traditional Doctrine, Paul & Linda Badham
Chapter in Immortality or Extinction. Merely skim-read the rest of the book. A few useful contrary illustrations.
As David Hume pointed out ‘heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad; but the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue. Were one to go round the world with an intention of giving a good supper to the righteous and a sound drubbing to the wicked, he would frequently be embarrassed in his choice, and would find the merits and demerits of most men and women scarcely amount to the value of either’.
Rudolf Hess as the Deputy Fuhrer of the Third Reich must be regarded as at leas partially responsible for the appalling crimes of that vile regime. Yet after he had served more than thirty years of his life-imprisonment the conscience of the western world began to clamour for his release: ‘Enough is enough; no purpose is served in continuing to incarcerate that frail old man for his crimes committed so long ago.’ Few civilised countries are prepared to regard a sentence of life imprisonment as binding upon the prison authorities. no matter how dreadful the offense a time will come when parole is considered and eventually release granted. Is God less merciful than we are?
I now turn to the most dreadful aberration of the Christian conscience, namely that the spectacle of the sufferings of the damned will provide one of the greatest joys of the saints in heaven.
Hell: The Logic of Damnation, Jerry Walls
Walls attempts to defend the traditional doctrine of hell against annihilationism and universalism from an Arminian perspective but gives too much away without deeply engaging with the Early Fathers, the Scholastics, or the Puritans. Philosophical, but not satisfying.
But if hell is not perceived to be a serious threat, it is hard to see how salvation can have the same meaning it used to. not surprisingly, salvation is is less and less conceived as a matter of eternal life, and more and more as a matter of personal fulfillment in this life.
The Calvinist cannot resist the conclusion that God intends some to be damned by appealing to the law of double effect, for presumably God could have chosen not to damn any persons.
Those who prefer hell to heaven have convinced themselves that it is better. In their desire to justify their choice of evil, the have persuaded themselves that whatever satisfaction they experience from evil is superior to the joy which God offers.
So in the end, universalist interpretation of scripture depends heavily on the philosophical case against the traditional doctrine of hell. I have tried to show that that case is yet to be made.
The Typography of Divine Love, Jeff Jordan
Useful journal article with some very interesting insights, albeit some unwarranted conclusions.
Perhaps it is true that God loves fully; nonetheless, there’s good reason to deny that God loves equally. Why? As we’ve seen, if God has deep attachments, it follows that God does not love equally. And being a perfect being, God would have loves of the deepest kind. Would moral perfection require maximal flatness of the divine love? More generally, does morality require impartiality in every case?
One loves his beloved more than others, and without that partiality an important intrinsic good is lost. In short, intimacy of a certain significant kind implies exclusion and inequality. So, wideness and flatness of human love would imply the loss of a great intrinsic good. Put simply, in its deepest forms and manifestations love precludes wideness and flatness.
Rahner also views hell as an obstinate self-enclosure. Created for communication with others, but freely contradicting the deepest demands of their social nature by immuring themselves in their own willful isolation, the damned suffer because they are eternally loved by the saints. As stated in 1 Corinthians 6:2, “the saints will judge the world.” The damned will be in the presence of the entire communion of saints who will love them throughout eternity—a love they will find horrific because of their willful obduracy. The saints will eternally love whatever God has created and loves, and this includes the damned. The lost ones will also suffer from their realization that many saints during their lifetime would have gladly suffered the pains of hell on earth, if they could eliminate a postmortem hell for others. Jean-Paul Sartre’s assertion that “hell is the other” is true for the damned. Catherine of Siena maintains that the eternally tormented rich man of Luke 16:19–31 begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers—not to do them a good deed, but to prevent his suffering even more at their hands, should they end up where he is.
Hell, Divine Love, and Divine Justice, Michael Stoeber
Interesting article on the role of compassion and love towards those in hell. Interacts with many church fathers, but ultimately misses much of the Bible’s teaching on wrath and God’s hatred.
I argue that a morally acceptable view of hell is not to be understood in terms of a hard-line scheme of retributive punishment. It should rather be conceived as the stark contrast to a vision of spiritual integration and fulfillment in love. Hell is the possibility of a permanent contraction or constriction from one’s spiritual expansion in love.
The sadistic tenor of this passage is remarkable. Notice how in Hugh’s view compassion is displaced by an attitude of self-righteous and self-oriented satifaction and even pleasure at the sight of the eternally damned. Augustine’s perspective is, perhaps, not quite as extreme. He insists on an awareness of the elect of “the eternal misery of the damned,”17 but only as part of a more general awareness of evil as a contrast to the good, and without suggesting that their suffering is specially designed to enhance the beatific vision. Still, he too suggests quite explicitly and adamantly that compassion is not an appropriate attitude toward the damned. He seems to tend more toward a stance of apathy.
The only appropriate stance towards the sufferer is the divine, compassionate love, within which one has identified and which one exudes.
The state of affairs is a negation of human potential. It is a lack of participation in divine Being — rather an inner emptiness than an externally imposed positive affliction, a denial of one’s spiritual potential and possibilities.
But with regard to the view of hell I am clarifying here, one can acknowledge in such extended soul-making contexts the sufferer’s own ultimate choice and responsibility for his or her existential condition, which, perhaps, he or she might choose to maintain indefinitely, eternally languishing in his or her own immersion in self-isolationism. That is the possibility of hell.
The Problem of Eternal Punishment, J. I. Packer
Packer draws from a deep well and there are some significant insights here but unfortunately he gets a few too many things wrong. This is especially fascinating in light of the many forewords and recommendations he has given to book on hell from a traditional perspective.
It rudely disrupts the sort of peace of mind that we in the Western world cultivate today – the peace of mind, that is, that is gained by constantly telling oneself that there is nothing to worry about, and everything will work out all right in the end. But since this complacency is part of our culture, and is sniffed like glue in the air we breathe, and does in fact operate as a deadening drug on the mind, it is a kind of knee-jerk reaction with us to resent having it disturbed, and hence to dismiss the doctrine of eternal punishment in all its forms as debased Christianity. We scoff at hell fire as a bad dream, the murky stamping-ground of redneck fundamentalists, backwoods preachers, and oldfashioned Roman Catholics. For ourselves, we write off the idea as a hangover from primitive ages now long past, and when we meet someone who still believes in eternal punishment we regard him as at least quaint, and perhaps weird; we certainly do not take him seriously.
Moreover, ‘endorse’ is hardly the right word; for in using these ideas Jesus and the apostles purged them of the overtones of gloating that they had often carried before and imparted to them a nuance, or temper, or feeling-tone of what I can only call traumatic awe: a passionate gladness that justice will be done for God’s glory, linked with an equally passionate sadness that fellow human beings, no matter how perverse, will thereby be ruined.
By the same token, I do not propose at any point to use the word ‘torment’, scriptural though it is (see the story of Dives and Lazarus: Lk. 16:23, 28) for describing the state of the ungodly beyond this world. Its vibrations, too, are bad: to the modern mind, it suggests sadism and cruelty and torture, and what we are talking about is none of these things, but the adorable justice of a holy Creator who deals righteously with people according to their works.
Second, it is said that everlasting retribution would be needless cruelty, since God’s justice does not appear to require it. Reverence, I think, will leave it to God to know that His justice requires a means to his own fullest glory; but I would point out that this argument, if it proves anything, proves too much. For if it is needlessly cruel for God to keep the lost in being after judgment, no reason can be given why it is not needlessly cruel for him to keep the lost in the conscious misery of the interim state (which Jesus’ story of Dives shows that he does, Lk. 16:23 ff.), and then to raise them bodily in what Jesus calls ‘the resurrection of judgment’ On. 5:28). What God ought to do, on conditionalist principles, is annihilate unbelievers at death – but, as biblical conditionalists confess, he does not do this. So the conditionalist argument, which sought to clear God of the suspicion of needless cruelty, actually puts him under it.
Fourth, it is said that the joy of heaven will be marred by knowledge that some continue under merited retribution. But this cannot be said of God, as if the expressing of his holiness in retribution hurts him more than it hurts the offenders; and since in heaven Christians will be like God in character, loving what he loves and taking joy in all his self manifestation, including his justice, there is no reason to think that their joy will be impaired in this way.
One final admonition. Do not speculate about the retributive process. Do not try to imagine what it is like to be in hell. The horrific imaginings of the past were hardly helpful, and often in fact proved a stumbling-block, as people equated the reality of hell with the lurid word-pictures drawn by Dante, or Edwards, or C. H. Spurgeon. Not that these men were wrong to draw their pictures, any more than Jesus was wrong to dwell on the fire and the worm; the mistake is to take such pictures as physical descriptions, when in fact they are imagery symbolizing realities of possible experience of which we can only say they are far, far worse than the symbols themselves.
Hell, Vagueness, and Justice: A Reply to Sider, Trent Dougherty & Ted Poston
Short, philosophical article that includes some rather interesting thought experiments against Sider’s vagueness argument against the traditional hell.
Ted Sider’s paper “Hell and Vagueness” challenges a certain conception of Hell by arguing that it is inconsistent with God’s justice. Sider’s inconsistency argument works only when supplemented by additional premises. Key to Sider’s case is a premise that the properties upon which eternal destinies supervene are “a smear,” i.e., they are distributed continuously among individuals in the world. We question this premise and provide reasons to doubt it.
Love Wins, Rob Bell
Intellectual pap. Poison masquerading as Christian insight. Nothing redeeming here. There are much better explanations or defenses of this unbiblical position out there, such as from Talbott.
A Treatise on Hells Terror, Christopher Love
A 17th Century Puritan, Love’s writing on hell is bold, biblical and Edwardsian. Hard-hitting, but very good. Co-authors are the McMahon's.
It would be well for the damned if the body and soul in that sense should be destroyed so as to be annihilated. And the reason why both body and soul are mentioned is because the body has been partner with the soul in sin and, therefore, it shall share with it in punishment.
If men knew that they who live and die unrepenting, who lie burning in their lusts, shall one day burn in fire. If they but knew that they who can swallow kegs of wine and drink to excess shall one day drink drafts of brimstone in hell. If men knew that they who grind their teeth through hatred and indignation against the godly here shall one day gnash their teeth in hell hereafter. If men knew that they who oppress the people of God by persecution and haul them into prison now shall one day be dragged into an everlasting prison and hauled by devils into hell.
Therefore it is clear to every eye that the gospel is more backed with terror, and with the doctrines of hell and damnation, than the law ever was.
Now, it is God’s will that you should more fear sin than hell. As Anselm well said, “If hell were on one side, and sin on the other, you should more fear going into sin than into hell.” If man should find this place and hear the shrieking of the damned, and see the torments prepared for sinners, they would be more fearful of the place than sin that leads there. Therefore God, to prevent this also, conceals it.
This use Chrysostom makes of this point: if a man’s house were on fire, he would not inquire how it started, but how to quench it.
First, the wicked in hell have this loss. They are deprived of and banished from the favorable presence of God. And here Chrysostom said, “If there were a thousand worlds, the loss of the favor of one God is more than a thousand worlds.” It is the greatest torment of a damned man that he is without God. The presence of God makes heaven to be heaven. The absence of God makes hell more hell than it is. “Depart from me, you cursed.” This is the great torment of the damned, that they must depart from God and Jesus Christ forever.
“Let us go down to hell while we are alive that we may not go down to hell when we are dead.”
Second, wicked men will sin to all eternity; therefore their torments must be eternal. As long as there is sin in a man, the Lord will torment that man; for sin and punishment cannot be severed. Sin is like oil and God’s wrath like fire. As long as you cast oil on the fire, the fire cannot cease burning. As long as sin is in a man’s nature, a man cannot be free from suffering.
I have read in Virgil, a heathen poet, that he speaks of one Tytius who had a vulture every day gnawing in his liver; and in the night it was repaired and made up again that the vulture might feed on the liver next day. And this they made a resemblance of hell and the gnawing of conscience there. This vulture, your conscience, shall eat out your peace and torment you with the thoughts of terror, and this you shall have until time is no more. Now, put all these together: the God, the prison, the fire, and the worm eternal.
You know when friends part, though it is but for awhile, their very parting provokes tears; but if they part never to see each other on earth, what floods of sorrow does their parting cause? When you are dying, you are departing not for a time but forever. You bid them farewell, never to see them anymore, never
You know in the same act, the punishment is greatened or lessened according to the person against whom the act is done. If you give a blow to an ordinary man, this may only amount to some petty suit and some small fine to be paid; but if you give a blow to a prince, you may endure the rack or imprisonment for life, because the person is eminent against whom you offend.
3. Should man live forever, he would sin forever. And therefore, God seeing this disposition in man. He may justly damn man forever, though he sins but for a time.
Last, wicked men by sinning have lost an infinite good and opposed an infinite good. Therefore they must endure an infinite evil. Because the wicked despise the infinite grace and infinite mercy of a God, and the infinite merits of Christ, and the infinite tenders of grace from God, therefore they are justly involved into infinite punishment.
When you see a man drawn on a hurdle to the gallows, you imagine that man no ordinary thief or murderer, but some abominable traitor to the state. By the greatness of the punishment, you may guess the greatness of the fault.
Pliny, in one of his writings, said that nothing in the world will so soon quench fire as salt and blood, and therefore, in many countries, where they can get plenty of blood they will use salt and blood rather than water to quench their fire. If you cast blood on it, it will dampen it in a moment. Beloved, I only mention this for this end, that though there is fire in hell, yet get Christ’s blood, and I can assure you that it shall never consume you!
I have read a story of a young virgin who, being tempted by a lustful young man to the act of uncleanness (he being very earnest with her to commit that foul act), she gave him this answer, “If you will grant me one thing I desire, I will then satisfy your demand.” He told her he would. “Then,” said she, “I desire you would put your finger for a whole hour to burn in this candle.” “O” said the man, “that is unreasonable what you ask of me!” “It is true,” said she, “it is; but you ask me a request more unreasonable, to satisfy you in a thing for which I shall not only burn an hour, but burn forever in the unquenchable fire of hell.”
Let the fire of hell consume the fire of sin, and let the fire of hell make you avoid the fire of sin, for (to end this with the speech of Bernard) fiery sins will bring you into fiery torments.