Taking the Bus Back to Hell

[This article has been revised and republished under the same title on 4 December 2021]

based-on-great-divorce-lewis.jpg~original.jpegOne by one the lost souls step off the bus to enjoy a Great Divorce holiday in Heaven, and one by one they realize they prefer living in that other place. The choice is theirs. They are welcome to stay, but to remain requires the surrender of that which they “prefer to joy.” They are not prepared to make that sacrifice. Call it self-exclusion, self-alienation, self-damnation—the essential element of the libertarian model of hell is the creature’s free rejection of the divine gift of eternal life. The damned would rather endure the dreariness and boredom of the grey town than suffer the love of the Father. The bus runs every day. The ride is free. The residents may avail themselves of the holiday as many times as they wish. But repeatedly, perpetually, everlastingly, they decline the invitation to move to the realm of Joy.

“But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?”

“Everyone who wishes it does,” replies the imaginary George MacDonald. “Never fear.”

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.

So far the libertarian and universalist are in full agreement. But a question remains: If rejection of God brings ever-increasing diminishment of being (symbolized by Lewis as insubstantiality)—and therefore ever-increasing suffering (for suffering there must be the further one distances oneself from the source of happiness)—how can anyone sustain perpetual resistance to the offer of Joy? Will not everyone eventually break? Jerry Walls acknowledges this point in Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: “We can only absorb so much pain, so if hell forcibly imposes ever-greater suffering, no one could resist forever” (p. 78).

One solution is to minimize the horror amd privations of hell. Lewis’s grey town hardly resembles the inferno of Dante. The lost do not appear to be desperately unhappy. We might even imagine damnation as providing its own perverse pleasures and satisfactions, thus rendering the unbearable bearable (see “Is Hell a Place You’d Ever Want to Visit?“).

Several months ago an Orthodox priest emailed me and suggested that I had misunderstood the nature of damnation. It’s not all or nothing, he maintained. We should think of damnation as a continuum. When an unrighteous person dies, he is permanently established in his character. Some are very wicked, some moderately wicked, some mildly wicked. Did not Jesus tell us that his Father’s house has many mansions (John 14:2)? We may suppose that the very wicked will experience a torment far more intense than the mildly wicked. The torment, of course, is not externally imposed but is rather the subjective response to the divine presence. As Alexandre Kalomiros writes:

God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love; and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision. He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward this unceasing grace and love is the difference between paradise and hell. Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God.

Hell is Heaven experienced differently, and at least according to the continuum model, this experience will vary from person to person in relative degrees. The proposal enjoys an initial plausibility, as it accords with our experience of personal relationships; but it seems to have little support either in Scripture or the liturgical hymnody of the Last Judgment, both of which present eschatological reprobation as the greatest tragedy imaginable for the human being. Instead of being condemned to experience the full consequences of their rejection of God, the damned are merely confirmed in the degree of blindness, selfishness, and malice in which they died. We might even imagine many of the lost remarking, “I suppose this hell could be a lot worse. Certainly it’s better than having to attend the opera.”

We come back to our initial question: if God eternally offers forgiveness and salvation, how do we explain the obduracy of the damned? Lewis offers this explanation:

For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or they eyes to see.

Here is the conclusion of the perditional process: in their irrevocable rejection of Love, the damned have become incapable of even the tiniest degree of repentance. They have lost their desire for the Good. They have lost all freedom. They have become their sin. God, we may postulate, continues to desire their salvation, yet his desire must remain eternally unfulfilled. Fr Lawrence Farley elaborates:

Smuggled unnoticed into this picture of the penitent person in hell crying for mercy is the unexamined assumption that the people in hell remain more or less as we knew them in this life. … We think of people we have known who were not really religious, but who were not openly evil either. We remember their good points, their virtues, perhaps their sense of humour. We remember their smiles as well as their frowns, and above all the times that they were good, and the times they admitted that they were wrong. It is this person, intact, as remembered, that we imagine enduring the pains of hell, and it is this which tears at our heart. Certainly love could not bear that. But I would suggest alternative picture of the lost.

We see this alternative described by C.S. Lewis in his chapter on Hell already mentioned [The Problem of Pain], and portrayed dramatically in his book The Great Divorce. There those in hell were literally shadows of their former selves. All that identified them as the persons that others knew or even as human had been burned away by the sin lurking and growing inside them. Or, to vary the metaphor, the cancer of sin and self-will had eaten away all their humanity, including their free will. All that was left was sin—the hideous lust, the unrelenting rage, the suicidal self-pity. If we could look down from paradise into the place of punishment … we would not see a human being, much less the human being we knew. … All the created humanity of the person with its potential for love, knowledge, self-transcendence, joy, and especially repentance, had long since eroded away to nothing.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis offers us an example of this horrible transmutation in an old lady, soaked in self-pity, perpetually grumbling and whining. Her damnation consisted of the fact that she was no longer simply a grumbler, but only a grumble. As Lewis’ guide and theologian puts it:

“The whole difficult of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But ye’ll have had experiences…It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticising it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticise the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine.”

The besetting sin or the interior spiritual cancer may not be grumbling or self-pity. It may be lust or anger or pride or a thousand other sins which smother the soul and erode its capacity for joy and repentance. But the final result is the same. Sin ultimately destroys the human soul, as fire destroys wood and reduces it to ashes. Looking at the pile of ash after a conflagration, one would never guess that it had once been a beautiful wooden statue. It is the same with the damned: to quote Lewis again (from his The Problem of Pain), “What is cast into hell is not a man: it is ‘remains’.”

In essence, the damned have ceased to be human at all.


It’s a profound, terrifying vision of eternal damnation. But is it metaphysically possible, given the eternal act of creation? God is not just an Other. He is the ontological ground and source of all being, more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. As the psalmist asks, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps 139:7). There is no space that we can create that excludes the divine presence; no wall we can build that omnipotent Love cannot pierce. Human beings can no more deafen themselves to the voice of the Savior than they can unilaterally unmake themselves.

In George MacDonald’s great fantasy novel Lilith, we are presented with the story of the ultimate redemption of the queen of hell. The lesson she must learn is that she did not create herself and cannot decreate herself. As long as Lilith continues in the delusion that she is an autonomous, independent, self-sufficient being, she remains a slave to the Shadow. As God seeps into her soul, her anguish grows. She cries out for annihilation. “Unmake yourself, then,” she is told. “Alas, I cannot!” she replies. “You know it, and mock me! How often have I not agonised to cease, but the tyrant keeps me being! I curse him!–Now let him kill me!” Lilith has been forced to acknowledge a fundamental truth of her existence: she is not her own Creator. This truth is agony to her, but it is also the doorway for her repentance.

Lewis’s vision requires us to believe that human beings can undo their creation as images of God, that they can alter who and what God made them to be. MacDonald saw the matter more truly, I believe. Sinners may dream of autonomy, may fantasize of being their own Creator and de-Creator, but this is no more than delusion. And every delusion can be shattered.

In my previous article I asked the reader, Can you imagine yourself as choosing, definitively and irrevocably, absolute misery over infinite happiness? I reiterate the question. Can you really? But perhaps you still can. Perhaps you do not find my arguments compelling. Then let me rephrase the question: Can you imagine God ever abandoning you to the absolute misery you have chosen? If you cannot, not really, then there is the blossoming of the universalist hope! It is a hope grounded not in metaphysical schemes but in the God who died on the Cross for the salvation of all. “This hope, amounting to a conviction,” writes Fr Andrew Louth, “that there is nothing beyond the infinite love of God, that there is no limit to our hope in the power of his love” (Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 159).

(Return to first article)


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15 Responses to Taking the Bus Back to Hell

  1. brian says:

    Pavel Florensky understands the separation of sheep and goats as an intrapersonal judgment. Likewise, the eschatological separation of wheat and tares could be interpreted in such a manner. In that case, the tares are “false selvings” in which one has departed from the being God has uniquely called one to be. These might amount to Lewis’ reduction to a grumble, but they would not annihilate the original gift of being, as Lilith discovers. And if one understands God’s agapeic giving as undeterred by human rejection, there is no basis for assuming a revocation of the original gift. In this regards, I will repeat what I have said elsewhere, the Last Judgement should be understood as an unveiling of the original gift. In grasping one’s unique name, the irreplaceable gift of being God has reserved for each person, one also sees the degree to which one has missed the mark (hamartia). But why should one conclude with apodeictic certitude that this equates to the common view that death obliterates further dramatic possibility? That is, as Father’s priestly correspondent asserted, “When an unrighteous person dies, he is permanently established in his character.” Such a perspective subtly adopts a metaphysical dualism in which the privation of the good has equal standing to the being of the good. Is this so? Do we know this or do we feel compelled to accept it because of the way we interpret scripture and because of a long-standing interpretive tradition? If the latter, there are perhaps other, better interpretations and plurivocity within tradition that asks for discernment and care to discover where the Gospel is most profoundly elicited. Perhaps it is life that is stubborn and sin that is weak. Perhaps the dynamism of life is more like that envisioned by Gregory of Nyssa: an eternal growing from life to life, an ever increasing discovery of God’s inexhaustible delight and dramatic plenitude.

    Further, just as a master artist does not imagine or create a detail apart from the whole, one should not suppose that God in creating has a vague notion of the entire creation, as if some creatures were superfluous, as if the creation would be equally pleasing with or without that sparrow, that blade of grass, that person brought from nothing with an eternal name. If one stretches even beyond that, and sees Triune God as the archetype of personal being, one should begin to understand that one’s relations with the other are not reducible to elective affinity. It is a serious misconception that is implicitly accepted by every eschatology that refuses the universalist hope. Only an atomized self can believe that the fate of another person has no bearing on his or her own ultimate flourishing. As Hart has noted, if one takes away the unique, historical moments of interaction that form our memories, character, understanding, hope, action, compassion, joy — and yes, our enmities and chagrin — take away all that and one is left with an abstraction, not a person. The old infernalist triumphalism is just bad metaphysics. We are all diminished by the prospect of another lost to damnation or virtual annihilation. It is a failure of imagination and of the mind to think through the rational implications of what the gospel reveals about the nature of God and creation. It is a refusal of the infinite reach of love’s passion, to think one can or should believe anyone or anything is dispensable to one’s joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike H says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful and challenging series of posts. I hope to comment further when I have some time to do so.

    A few brief thoughts on this post:

    1 – The Great Divorce (and the free will defense in general) is absolutely ripe with philosophical thought (as is Fr Lawrence’s thought as you’ve carefully established). This in and of itself is good and necessary. I have absolutely no problem with it, and it might as well be identified as such.

    2 – Much of what I see going on philosophically is a matter of connecting the various assumptions (hell and universal salvific will are assumed) like an equation (though I’ll openly confess that I lack the ability to look at this as mere math). It’s certainly true that the (unstated) assumptions might reveal bad philosophy/reasoning and one must rework the connections leaving the assumptions alone. But the reverse is also true. Sometimes, when one sees what’s necessary to hold things together, what must be sacrificed, things fall apart.

    The “Age of Accountability”, for example, is a philosophical assumption that’s derived naturally and inexorably from the underlying system (unless you’re a Calvinist). And yet it is so staggeringly ridiculous and destructive that it should call into question any system that necessitates it.

    I see some of that type of thing going on here, but of course others may disagree.

    3 – The creative license taken with the “George MacDonald guide” in The Great Divorce drives me a little crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Mike, could you elaborate please on the ridiculousness of accountability.


      • Mike H says:

        Well, I don’t wish to say a whole lot on the Calvinist (double) predestination scheme in regards to the age of accountability.

        A few months ago I started writing a satirical piece framed as an interview with a “guardian” angel divinely chosen to “guard” a child divinely “elected to perdition for the glory of God” & chosen for lifelong illness and a painful death at the age of 3. As the story goes, this angel (always present before the Lord per Matthew 18:10) was also present both at the moment of the child’s conception and at the moment that the child entered the world and fell into the loving arms of her parents. “A thousand kisses wasted” – words of reflection that I placed in the mouth of this guardian angel in observation of that scene. That line haunted me and I ultimately lost the ability to continue writing.

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      • Mike H says:

        Sticking with the free will model of perdition (and it’s pillars of both universal divine love and irrevocable eternal torment), I’ve observed that many of the most ardent infernalists believe in (and actually have a soft spot for) an age of accountability whereby babies and other young children who die young enough are sort of automatically given eternal life (though I’m assured that the appearances of it being “automatic” or a “loophole” are false).

        But whether one believes in it or not, I’d argue that the very question of an “age of accountability” is a necessity and an inevitability arising inexorably from an underlying hermeneutic of perdition.

        And the implications of an “age of accountability” are so clear, so problematic (I think) and so inextricably tied to the assumptions that generate it in the first place that I think there is no choice but to examine the assumptions themselves – either divine love and pascha and/or irrevocable torment. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t (pun intended).

        I think the starkness of this particular item (and I think a few of your more pressing challenges from the original post are of this same variety) creates theological problems with enough clarity that they can’t be so easily dismissed as “philosophical speculations” or the “faulty reasoning of men”.


        • Mike H says:

          Without this “age”, hell is thoroughly populated with babies but “a span long” (Calvin). No doctrine of love as divine attribute can tolerate this, not without rendering “love” as virtually meaningless.

          So suppose there IS an age of accountability. What are the implications? That would require a book I suppose.

          William Lane Craig has stated in regards to OT genocide, for example:

          “If we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.”

          You die young, you go to heaven. Period. I wonder why there haven’t been more “crusaders” like Andrea Yates, determined to save children from the flames. Thank God there haven’t been.

          Again, please understand how much I dislike talking about this.

          I don’t have the nerve to say much because the implications are so dark. But essentially, from the moment of birth, each subsequent moment of existence is characterized by infinite eschatological risk with no additional reward. Lower mortality rates, better health care, etc, have a negative correlation to “going to heaven”.

          Furthermore, an earthly “free-will” choice (it’s lack of development being the whole reason for this so-called age of accountability in the first place) apparently ceases to be a metaphysically inviolable obstacle for God in redeeming people if they’re young enough.

          Perhaps one can reason through this on paper or in a classroom. But start looking at actual babies or children (whom the Lord calls us to become like) or the mentally disabled (and incidentally I have a 2.5 year old daughter and a brother with Down syndrome), and one realizes that this isn’t an abstract theological problem to be solved. Rather, It shines a light on a system that necessitates it. We need not look any closer at the explanation, but rather the cause.

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          • brian says:

            Mike H,

            The abortionists are securing the heavenly destiny of millions by this perverse sort of twisted logic. Living a substantial life at all in this fallen earth becomes a case of misfortune where risk of the most appalling kind is incurred. God’s great mercy would be demonstrated in the child who does not live, etc. It clearly invites nihilism into theological discourse. A Goodness like that . . . !


  3. bradjersak says:

    What an interesting comparison of Lewis with his master, MacDonald!
    What CS Lewis’ account seems to lack (dare I say so of this masterpiece?) is on two fronts:

    1. The obduracy of the wicked in his account assumes that their desire for the good remains dysfunctional (resistant) even upon beholding the slain Lamb in his glory, as if that vision would have no further effect that my rather lame attempts at sharing the gospel do in this life. How is this possible? For Maximos, it is not possible. But for Lewis in ‘The Great Divorce,’ it works because the damned don’t behold Christ until AFTER they make their way to the horizon. That is, the story omits the ‘coming again in glory’ part of this judgement, mainly so that Lewis can make his point about the process of letting go which creates the torment. That point which does need making (Macrina does it well), but the cost seems too high if Christ is nowhere seen.

    2. The obduracy of the wicked in his account allows for complete dehumanization such that nothing of the hypostasis remains. Wright uses this same approach in this annihilationism, but I think the Eastern Fathers are clear: the divine spark and image of God can never be utterly and entirely extinguished. The diamond of the image remains even when the likeness is marred, but the Refiner’s Fire is able to restore that which can be buried but not eradicated, since it was donated by God in the first place.

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      “What an interesting comparison of Lewis with his master, MacDonald!”

      I’ve been rereading (around in) The Great Divorce a lot, this past year or so – and probably should do it, some more!

      How much does Lewis’s fictional dream-vision MacDonald certainly differ from the MacDonald witnessed by his writings (which I have probably not been rereading enough)?

      My synthetic memory of MacDonald (I think largely from sermons) is of hell as purgatorial until no more purgation is needed, yet this as including degrees and distinctions: notably, of an outer darkness, into which one will go, and which one will undergo, if nothing less extreme will suffice.

      What if the passage quoted above – ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell’ – has, in its use of “Hell”, this particular MacDonaldian distinction in mind, rather than any other sense of ‘hell’? (And “in the end” as indicating the most extreme point of persistence in sin and so requiring the most radical of Divine purgatorial remedies?)

      The Great Divorce has a lot of what seems eschatological imagery – of a full dawning in Heaven and a full darkening in the hellish gray city. But, again, could that be rather imagery of extreme conditions – of outer darkness as most horrifically purgatorial, and full dawn as searingly purgatorial for those not yet ready to go from light to light?

      The Great Divorce seems a book of urgency, of ‘now is the acceptable hour’, but no fullness of hope in MacDonald diminishes the urgency of turning from, and submitting to refining from, evil, in his work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. danaames says:

    Even though Kalomiros sees the inner torment of someone who has not loved God going on forever, The River of Fire gave me all kinds of relief when I found it – it was such a step upward from the retributive model which was all I had previously known. There was actually another way to interpret scripture that did not posit God as the source of evil or eternal torture. This, and some other sources, made be want to investigate Orthodoxy more, whereas before that I had not had that much interest in it.



  5. The answer seems simple to me. The damned have trained themselves not to see God, nor to see the offer of love. That’s the irony of our world. God is not hidden; He is revealed everywhere, and in every thing. It is we who block Him out. And those who have spent their entire lifetimes blocking Him out cannot any longer see, hear, or know in their souls the presence of God. And thus they are consigned forever to self-inflicted misery, imagining themselves to be alone with their sin while they exist in the very presence of God–a presence that they have trained themselves to ignore.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      But is it really so simple, Phil? The question is not whether human beings can attempt to close themselves off totally to God–clearly we do–but whether we can do so in a way that renders God impotent. I find that implausible because of the creatio ex nihilo. It’s like asking, Can God create a rock too heavy for him to lift? Can God create a rational being who can generate a delusion that even God cannot dispel?

      The key here, I think, is to remember the radicality of the divine immanence. God is not just outside us. He is the ground and source of all human consciousness. Lewis’s (and Fr Lawrence’s) free-will version of damnation requires the possibility of the creator achieving an ontological autonomy that cannot be, given our creaturehood. (I think.)


  6. brian says:


    I think you have attributed simplicity to what is existentially complex. Unfortunately, it is difficult to address these matters briefly. God is both radically transcendent and present as the intimate source of all being (as Father notes above.) You appear to assert a self-evidence to God’s presence that is not universally the case. Indeed, it is rarely the case. No doubt, poets and saints have had this experience. They have experienced the world as God-drenched. And many people have had moments of epiphany, and many more respond to works of art and acts of love that bespeak the presence of God. Yet none of this equates to an immediate certitude about God’s presence or deep awareness of His nature. One may understand something like Aquinas’ proofs for God’s existence as merely philosophical or as something superseded by religious experience, but at minimum they testify to the widespread awareness that God is not simply a self-evident datum of human experience. One may further assert that this is a function of culpable sin, though that is not itself indisputable. It may also be merely a function of human finitude.

    Regardless, I would agree if one were to assert that growth in wisdom allows for a greater perception of being; that the trace of divinity in creatures is perceptible to mind the more one puts aside ideological blinders and sleepy habits that take for granted the gift of being. Somnolent modes of seeing and living include a utilitarian penchant to approach life as a series of problems in need of solution, to seek mastery of nature, and to focus on individual achievement and the acquisition of wealth and human honor as primary interests. All these constitute forms of living that obscure the manner in which all creation bears witness to God’s radiance. Nonetheless, our metaphysical condition is surely ambiguous. We come from nothing. That nothingness presses upon us from within. Even if one understands God as the most intimate Source, a Love that gifts being, it is still true that death haunts us not simply as exterior threat, but as an ingredient of our finitude that renders our temporal journeys intrinsically parlous.

    Doubtless, as Blake points out in Songs of Innocence, there is an elemental joy in being, but the world we enter is deeply equivocal. It is false to suggest that cruelty and malice, accident, disease, loneliness, despair, and disappointment is merely “self-inflicted misery.” The historical exigencies that allow a person to have greater or lesser openness to God are not vanquished simply by invoking libertarian freedom. There is a kind of “fate” that only Christ can overcome — and that overcoming includes the harrowing of Hell, the most intimate journeying with the beloved that may include precisely the kind of separations you imply are fully determinative of eschatological destiny.

    In any event, even a child-like wonder and elemental sense of porosity to God is challenged by the inevitable chiaroscuro of life in this world. Perplexity is part of our journey and it is also why faith is both a gift of grace and a genuine feat. Daring and courage are needed, because God’s presence is not always clear. Indeed, the typical experience of the mystics is one in which they are often “abandoned,” so that a consoling emotional awareness or aesthetic perception of God’s grandeur is withdrawn. We cannot know why God approaches some with delight and beauty and for others, the path is frequently desert. Too easily, one could start keeping company with Job’s counselors if one moralizes perception, though I would be the first to exclaim the holiness of creation and the authenticity of God’s presence, even in places that we find repulsive and monstrous.

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  7. JackH says:

    One of the things that sustains my universalist faith is the passage from The Great Divorce where Lewis has MacDonald say “if there is a real woman – even a trace of one – still there inside her, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under the ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear”.

    Of course, Lewis then has him say that there might not be such a spark – which I find absurd, implying as (I think) it does that God would sustain in being something that owes nothing to Him and does not participate in His Goodness.

    Always reminds me of the Valley of Dry Bones passage in Ezekiel.

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    • This particular passage that you mention has always been the line in The Great Divorce that struck me most deeply, and one which I have often contemplated and meditated on ever since I first read it. It is, I think, the heart and soul of the argument for apokatastasis (or the universalist hope, or the Catholic mystery [as Fr. Robert Capon called it], or whatever terminology you care to use).

      What Dr. David Hart, Dr. Jersak, and Fr. Kimel – following St. Gregory of Nyssa, Origen the Confessor, Isaac or Nineveh, St. George the Theologian, etc. – are saying is that there will ALWAYS be a real human person – even if only a trace of one – still there inside even the blackest soul, which can be brought to life again; there is ALWAYS “one wee spark under the ashes,” no matter how much of an eschatological ash we’ve made of ourselves, and the crucified and risen Jesus will “blow it till the whole pile is red and clear,” brilliant with the Light of his glory.

      It reminds me somewhat of the story “Mother of God, Do Not Abandon Them!” in the book *Father Arseny* (http://www.roca.org/OA/140/140h.htm).

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