Saturday, March 18, 2017

Can the Doctrine of Hell ever be reconciled to the Doctrine of the Love of God?

I think that the doctrine of hell can only be understood by having the doctrine of love.  There is a story that is circulating the internet that claims that Albert Einstein once argued that evil was not something that was created, but that it was the lack of something else.   Just as a shadow was not actually something of it’s own, but a lack of the light that was blocked by some object or person.   Evil then would be the absence of good, or the absence of God.   We see that in action a lot with our own spiritual walks in that usually when we something we have done is not good, it’s not because God didn’t will the good, but it’s because we got in the way with our own wills and cast a shadow as it were on the world.

With that understanding it’s easy to see where the ideas of eternal pain and torment come into play.  If God is all that is good, and all good comes from God, then everything that is not good would be present with the absence of God.   Those people who willingly chose to not be with God would then find themselves in a very horrible position indeed.   God who is everywhere, all places and all times would be ever present but they would not benefit from it.  Rather they would experience what cutting of God does.  The opposite of love is hate.   The opposite of light is darkness.  The opposite of pleasure is pain.  The opposite of contentment is discontent.   An eternity consisting of all things negative and unpleasant, no wonder there would be ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

This is what makes the image of the demonic banquet at the end of the Screwtape Letters so powerful and apropos.  God is a creator by nature.  He makes something out of nothing.   The devil is a consumer by nature and takes that which is something and devours it until it is nothing.  Whereas God continually feeds us with his love and relationship, the demons must destroy relationships and consume hatred to sustain themselves.  

There is another image which I have been meditating on as of last.  That is the image of “God’s love is an all consuming fire.”   That which is sinful is combustible and cannot remain in the presence of God.  That is why not only heaven and hell make sense, but so does purgatory.  For those who have no sin left, God’s love washes over them like a wave of goodness, filling them with all contentment and joy.   For those who still have some attachment to sin but have chosen to be with God for eternity, purgatory consists of those sins being ‘burnt’ out of them.  God’s love then burns in the sense that it is purifying as a silversmith his ore.  They eventually let go of the sin and can enter the presence of God fully and freely.   For those who die completely attached to sin, they refuse to let go of it.   Choosing instead to continue to be burnt by their own stubbornness to let go.   Since they receive no good graces and only that which is found outside of God, they can never let go and for eternity feel the pain of that which continues to burn.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."