“We must accept hell and we must accept that many go there,” declares Fr Dwight Longenecker.
When I first read Fr Longenecker’s two blog articles I was focusing on his pessimism and its relationship to the Latin teaching on efficacious grace. But a few moments ago I re-read the above words, and my heart cried out, NO! We must never accept hell! We must never accept the eternal destruction and punishment of our fellow human beings. NO!
Perhaps Roman Catholics ultimately need to accept this. Given magisterial teaching that the eternal destiny of the soul is established at the moment of death, it’s difficult to entertain the possibility of universal salvation. Wickedness and unbelief seem to reign in the world, as observed by Fr Longenecker. Surely damnation is the just reward for most of us.
But as an Orthodox Christian, I do not accept an eternal hell, will not accept an eternal hell. Every fibre in my being cries out against perdition. The God of Pascha will not allow hell to stand everlastingly. God will be all in all.
Why do Christians so easily accept hell? Why do we need hell? Is it a concern for orthodoxy or spiritual disease that drives us? We read the New Testament, and we are so damned sure we know what the words mean, must mean. How can we believe the gospel if we do not also believe in an eternal hell? How can we preach the gospel, if we do not also preach an eternal hell?
Have you ever loved another? Can you accept the possibility that that person may be condemned to eternal torment and suffering? If you can, then I humbly suggest that you do not yet love as God loves. Olivier Clement once asked Elder Sophrony what would happen if a person does not agree to open his or her heart and accept the love of God. Sophrony replied, “You may be certain that as long as someone is in hell, Christ will remain there with him.”
St Catherine of Siena prayed to her Bridegroom: “How could I ever reconcile myself, Lord, to the prospect that a single one of those whom, like me, you have created in your image and likeness should become lost and slip from your hand.”
The Lord replied: “Love cannot be contained in hell; it would totally annihilate hell; one could more easily do away with hell than allow love to reside in it.”
St Catherine then responded: “If only your truth and your justice were to reveal themselves, then I would desire that there no longer be a hell, or at least that no soul would go there. If I could remain united with you in love while, at the same time, placing myself before the entrance to hell and blocking it off in such a way that no one could enter again, then that would be the greatest of joys for me, for all those whom I love would then be saved.”