Robert Falconer and Repentance in Hell

Once more Falconer retired, but not to take his violin. He could play no more. Hope and love were swelling within him. He could not rest. Was it a sign from heaven that the hour for speech had arrived? He paced up and down the room. He kneeled and prayed for guidance and help. Something within urged him to try the rusted lock of his father’s heart. Without any formed resolution, without any conscious volition, he found himself again in his room. There the old man still sat, with his back to the door, and his gaze fixed on the fire, which had sunk low in the grate. Robert went round in front of him, kneeled on the rug before him, and said the one word,

’Father!’

Andrew started violently, raised his hand, which trembled as with a palsy, to his head, and stared wildly at Robert. But he did not speak. Robert repeated the one great word. Then Andrew spoke, and said in a trembling, hardly audible voice,

’Are you my son?–my boy Robert, sir?’

’I am. I am. Oh, father, I have longed for you by day, and dreamed about you by night, ever since I saw that other boys had fathers, and I had none. Years and years of my life–I hardly know how many–have been spent in searching for you. And now I have found you!’

The great tall man, in the prime of life and strength, laid his big head down on the old man’s knee, as if he had been a little child. His father said nothing, but laid his hand on the head. For some moments the two remained thus, motionless and silent. Andrew was the first to speak. And his words were the voice of the spirit that striveth with man.

’What am I to do, Robert?’

No other words, not even those of passionate sorrow, or overflowing affection, could have been half so precious in the ears of Robert. When a man once asks what he is to do, there is hope for him. Robert answered instantly,

’You must come home to your mother.’

’My mother!’ Andrew exclaimed. ’You don’t mean to say she’s alive?’

’I heard from her yesterday–in her own hand, too,’ said Robert.

’I daren’t. I daren’t,’ murmured Andrew.

’You must, father,’ returned Robert. ’It is a long way, but I will make the journey easy for you. She knows I have found you. She is waiting and longing for you. She has hardly thought of anything but you ever since she lost you. She is only waiting to see you, and then she will go home, she says. I wrote to her and said, “Grannie, I have found your Andrew.” And she wrote back to me and said, “God be praised. I shall die in peace.”’

A silence followed.

’Will she forgive me?’ said Andrew.

’She loves you more than her own soul,’ answered Robert. ’She loves you as much as I do. She loves you as God loves you.’

’God can’t love me,’ said Andrew, feebly. ’He would never have left me if he had loved me.’

’He has never left you from the very first. You would not take his way, father, and he just let you try your own. But long before that he had begun to get me ready to go after you. He put such love to you in my heart, and gave me such teaching and such training, that I have found you at last. And now I have found you, I will hold you. You cannot escape–you will not want to escape any more, father?’

Andrew made no reply to this appeal. It sounded like imprisonment for life, I suppose. But thought was moving in him. After a long pause, during which the son’s heart was hungering for a word whereon to hang a further hope, the old man spoke again, muttering as if he were only speaking his thoughts unconsciously.

’Where’s the use? There’s no forgiveness for me. My mother is going to heaven. I must go to hell. No. It’s no good. Better leave it as it is. I daren’t see her. It would kill me to see her.’

’It will kill her not to see you; and that will be one sin more on your conscience, father.’

Andrew got up and walked about the room. And Robert only then arose from his knees.

’And there’s my mother,’ he said.

Andrew did not reply; but Robert saw when he turned next towards the light, that the sweat was standing in beads on his forehead.

’Father,’ he said, going up to him.

The old man stopped in his walk, turned, and faced his son.

’Father,’ repeated Robert, ’you’ve go to repent; and God won’t let you off; and you needn’t think it. You’ll have to repent some day.’

’In hell, Robert,’ said Andrew, looking him full in the eyes, as he had never looked at him before. It seemed as if even so much acknowledgment of the truth had already made him bolder and honester.

’Yes. Either on earth or in hell. Would it not be better on earth?’

’But it will be no use in hell,’ he murmured.

In those few words lay the germ of the preference for hell of poor souls, enfeebled by wickedness. They will not have to do anything there–only to moan and cry and suffer for ever, they think. It is effort, the out-going of the living will that they dread. The sorrow, the remorse of repentance, they do not so much regard: it is the action it involves; it is the having to turn, be different, and do differently, that they shrink from; and they have been taught to believe that this will not be required of them there–in that awful refuge of the will-less. I do not say they think thus: I only say their dim, vague, feeble feelings are such as, if they grew into thought, would take this form. But tell them that the fire of God without and within them will compel them to bethink themselves; that the vision of an open door beyond the smoke and the flames will ever urge them to call up the ice-bound will, that it may obey; that the torturing spirit of God in them will keep their consciences awake, not to remind them of what they ought to have done, but to tell them what they must do now, and hell will no longer fascinate them. Tell them that there is no refuge from the compelling Love of God, save that Love itself–that He is in hell too, and that if they make their bed in hell they shall not escape him, and then, perhaps, they will have some true presentiment of the worm that dieth not and the fire that is not quenched.

’Father, it will be of use in hell,’ said Robert. ’God will give you no rest even there. You will have to repent some day, I do believe–if not now under the sunshine of heaven, then in the torture of the awful world where there is no light but that of the conscience. Would it not be better and easier to repent now, with your wife waiting for you in heaven, and your mother waiting for you on earth?’

Will it be credible to my reader, that Andrew interrupted his son with the words,

’Robert, it is dreadful to hear you talk like that. Why, you don’t believe in the Bible!’

His words will be startling to one who has never heard the lips of a hoary old sinner drivel out religion. To me they are not so startling as the words of Christian women and bishops of the Church of England, when they say that the doctrine of the everlasting happiness of the righteous stands or falls with the doctrine of the hopeless damnation of the wicked. Can it be that to such the word is everything, the spirit nothing? No. It is only that the devil is playing a very wicked prank, not with them, but in them: they are pluming themselves on being selfish after a godly sort.

’I do believe the Bible, father,’ returned Robert, ’and have ordered my life by it. If I had not believed the Bible, I fear I should never have looked for you. But I won’t dispute about it. I only say I believe that you will be compelled to repent some day, and that now is the best time. Then, you will not only have to repent, but to repent that you did not repent now. And I tell you, father, that you shall go to my grandmother.’

George MacDonald
Robert Falconer
Chapter 15

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9 Responses to Robert Falconer and Repentance in Hell

  1. I like this passage. I don’t think I have gotten to read Robert Falconer yet (I’ve read quite a number of George MacDonald’s novels, as I like so many of them – all of them so far), but did you post this passage on here before? It reads very familiarly to me.

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  2. johnnsw says:

    George MacDonald, who pointed me to the reality of God’s love, along with William Law, Julian of Norwich, and of course, the Lord Jesus, with His words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.

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  3. Wesley says:

    Long ago I commented on another post. This past year has been apocalyptic – revealing – and in that I have to admit I’m more convinced than ever in eternal hell as a moral absolute, and that there’s no reason to hope for repentance of all intelligent creatures. And do not buy into the concept McDonald has here at all.

    Hell is the necessity of creation, a byproduct of allowing people to make their own choices, and so inevitable that if it’s existence is immoral than creation was impossible.

    People being able to choose means people will choose to follow their selfish desires and scream for all eternity “I do what I want”. A vast group of people were not even able to wear masks during a pandemic. Obsessed with it being no more than a “personal choice” as if independent of action for the individual is the highest moral value they can conceive. Many were, in fact, even incapable of understanding doing so for others (and could only process it as an act to protect themselves at best) People, even after being informed and agreeing over the purpose of community protection, still in a few seconds defaulted to “but I do what I want” and “personal choice”.

    Intelligent creatures will have some who will eternally direct their will towards self and chafe at any restrictions or moral obligations. Judgment Day will see the same visceral reactions as we’ve seen in reality, and those reactions will be eternal. Hell is not a place created by God, but rather a spiritual prison and holding cell to protect others from people unwilling to live in the Kingdom. The torment is the creation of their own spiritual energies which create a dimension on the edges of New Creation, right near the limit of truth nothingness. A spiritual dimension of continual damage to the psyche of the soul as it is an endless void of chaos and swirling evil – not crafted by God, but rather the only result of the power of the spirits which will inhabit it. Unable to exist in any community at all, they become infinitly focused on the self; and from that focus the reality of the chaotic spiritual nether which is the void of hell warps into matching their internal desires. They get exactly what they want – as with most divine judgment when God becomes passive to us and lets us take the lead, getting what we want and not wanting what we get. Hell is when God lets intelligent creatures have full freedom, independence, autonomy, and to do what they want – and they will create hell if given the chance; then the human sunk cost fallacy will kick in and they will need to be right forever, and so cut themselves off from repentance.

    But hell must exist becasue it’s demanded by the creation of intelligent creatures – it was inevitable – and it will be eternal becasue there is absolutely no possibility that all would ever repent. God is under zero moral obligation to prevent people from creating their own hell when removed into the void. The spirits there would probably even stop at any time, but they will not. And the goodness of the rest of creation outweighs the chaff from creation which gets removed in the end, the byproduct of creation itself. The only saving grace would be annihilation, which is the only alternative I can conceive as possible.

    I think McDonald is naive and wishful thinking.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Fr Evans, I agree with you that this past pandemic year has been a depressing revelation of human nature, but given that I have never been an optimist about humanity, I am not surprised. You apparently believe more strongly than ever that the incorrigible selfishness (and stupidity) we have witnessed confirms the doctrine of eternal damnation, but in fact you cannot know this and for two reasons:

      (1) You are assuming a libertarian understanding of rational freedom and responsibility about which philosophers continue to debate. Not only do Christian and nonChristian philosophers disagree among themselves on the nature of free will, altogether apart from God; but Christian philosophers vigorously disagree on how we are to understand the relationship between divine agency and human freedom. Perhaps you have immersed yourself in the philosophical literature and after careful consideration have reached certain opinions about rational freedom and divine agency, but how confident are you in your certainty?

      (2) You apparently know that the Holy Spirit is incapable of converting the obdurate, presumably even in this life but certainly after death; but I respectfully suggest that you cannot and do not know this with any degree of certainty, nor have you provided any compelling reasons why such is the case. God is the transcendent cause and source of human willing. Why should anyone believe that he is somehow limited by it? He is not a finite being who stands over against and alongside his finite creatures.

      But if God is in fact limited and obstructed by human freedom and yet went ahead and created a universe in which he knew that a goodly portion of angels and human beings would definitively, irreversibly, and irredeemably rebel against him and “freely” condemn themselves to everlasting torment, then God is truly evil and unworthy of our adoration and service. You cannot absolve God of moral responsibility for hell, because he created the conditions that made it, as you put it, inevitable and necessary. God “births” unregenerate human beings into a fallen world knowing full well that only a portion will “survive” for heaven. The best analogy I can think of is the movie “Death Race.” All talk about freedom is vacuous. Nobody asked to join the race; nobody gave their permission. Yet here we are, doomed to play a game that is rigged from the start. Hopefully you will be one of the winners (and I pray that you will be), but what about the rest of us?

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    • Grant says:

      A couple of things in response to this, the first being in relation to your claim that infernalism (which is what you mean by hell) is a necessity of creation. You also seem to relate that if infernalism is immoral creation would be impossible (since you claim, unargued that infernalism is a necessity of creation), but what you would think as a denial of infernalism immorality (that creation exists, which you belief to be a infernalism one, so it’s not immoral) I would rather say is true in fact. That an infermalist creation founded on and called into being from nothing freely by God who is Love and Good itself would be impossible, and so since Christianity in all it’s forms proclaims this as such, then if creation is as Christianity claims it to be, then it cannot be an infernalist creation. That would indeed be impossible under such a view.

      You wish to relate the infernal torture chamber (and since it involves both physical, mental and spiritual torment, that is torture, forever it is indeed a torture chamber however concieved) to being not created God but as a prison to protect others from people unwilling to live in the Kingdom. That is a nonsciencial statement, that would be like saying, we don’t create prisons or execution rooms, their there to protect everyone else from those delcared as ‘threats’ to the rest of society. But quite obviously we do create and build those prisons etc, fund them, hire and train guards, wardens, all the needs a requirements, the police and so on to achieve this. Quite obviously we do build them, and so equally God does create the place and state of infernalism is it is reality and brings it into being. Even if you want to claim it’s necessity comes from our choices (more on that ahead) it’s still created by God with the intention of locking such people into an eternal and everlasting sentence of torment without remission, in which even after of trillions of years their sentence will never really have even begun.

      And onto the idea of trying to locate infernalism purely in secondary actions (that is our choices for example) that cannot be seperated and is reduciable down to the primary action of God’s creation which enfolds all secondary actions and consequences within it. This creation by God is freely taken under on complusion other than His own nature, and if creation is an infernalist one, this is something God intentionally creates into being. He choices to bring into being a creation in which intelligent concious agents can end up in eternal torment and torturous exists which follows an already painful, shadowy and tormented existed of vanishingly short breivity, He rised and accepted that gamble, made that a fundemental aspect of His creation. And since in creation it incorporates all secondary actions and choices He not wagers our lives to eternal torment for the result He wishes (under the infernalist view) but further willing sacrifices those who fall, knowingly to this fate. They are the human sacrifices to achieve the ends He wishes, He brings them into being and abandons them to their fate in order to achieve the ultimate purpose He wishes, their damnation is the axis on which creation turns, the essential driver to the Paradise the blessed will enjoy. This would be somewhat like a parent creating a deadly maze, throwing his children into it to aquire the ones that managed to find their way out while letting the others go to their doom, that the experience would somehow help those that survived. We would regard (if we had any sense of love and goodness, and certainly one commended through Christianity) such a parent as a complete abusive monster (and certainly not a loving parent), and so even more so with God. If any are lost forever to eternal suffering (or even annihilationism) then that is God’s pre-determined intention, no matter their secondary, conditional choices within the ‘maze’ of the world, He brought that reality into being and accepted and allowed for their sacrifice, even as a possibility (which in relation to God makes no sense in terms of creation, any that are actually lost God brought the reality into being in which they became lost, warped and tormented forever and accepts their lost) then He sacrifices them as part of His creation to His purposes. That is a immoral by any standard that dervives from Christianity and denies in fact that God is Love or Good, He is not what He reveals or commands, but something wholly different (and Christianity would be false). Ulitmate reality would be abusive evil and cold ruthlessness (ironically it would be many whom would be locked in that torture chamber who would be the best and most representive children of their Father).

      Also you make some major mistakes in my view in relation to considering free choice and will in a secondary, fallen and impaired context. The first is you take choices exactly made in a fallen and confused context, in which our minds, bodies, spirits and souls are both incomplete and warped, and our exact situations and therefore our facualities are condtioned by a complex web of so many intersecting conditions of biological, genetic, social, cultural, familial, personal and other conditions of our realised existence together with all other aspects of appitudes and such, that effect how much people see and understand, And you take choices made in this maelstorm of confusion to some be apocalyptic in the sense that it reveals how orientations will be eternally. That is a unjustified leap to me, how can decisions made in confusion, impairment and dislocation of a self, dislocated from full understanding of others and towards God, and within themselves, not having or knowing intellecutally, emotionally, physically, spiritual and this in union and not discord. Not having full understanding they make the choices entrapped to vary extents by passions and confusions. How does this relate to decisions made eternally with full awareness, it cannot as far I can see it, it only works if you say God leaves them trapped in confusions and passions, and actually locks them in that state, unable to escape. But then that makes that an act of object wickedness on God part, and shows He nether wants all saved nor that He loves all, nor that He is love but rather wants and desires eternal suffering (less a problem if you are a Calvinist, but then you’ve already rejected God is Love in any meaningful sense and thereby rejected what Christianity proclaims God to be).

      Secondly, looking at this pandemic shows much the opposite, there has often been in fact much conflicting information, coming in fact from experts themselves, disagreeing sharply or having other biases or agendas for example the long attempt to silence investigation into a lab origin, where an article in the Lancet was pushed by the very person funding the Wuhan lab, but declared it had no conflicts on interest when attempting to discredit the idea, and of virologists who have definite reasons to want to keep gain of function research ongoing despite many calls from related disciplines to this very danger. Only finally, and that thanks to persistant work of a jounralist publishing outside meanstream media (when they alligned, I assume partly because Trump mentioned the idea, so it became part of that US culture war) when would not publish anything relating to the idea, caught on across the internet and so many prominant figures speaking up in favour for it, that the media changed it’s tune and people are discussing it, Now mabye it’s not true, or mabye it is, but it’s both a viable theory that needs to be explored (and should have been from the beginning) and either way the trouble issues in gain of function research urgently considered. But my point is that many expects had conflicting ideas (and they still do), and the more this is know the more trust amonst the public falls. And so people then no longer necessarily will follow the agreed agenda if they don’t agree or see personally the reason for it. Also they are in this confusion and stress (again the result of a fallen world, confusion and other pressures, people aren’t making decisions and actions as clear, autonomous intellects with full compression of reality and no complusions acting upon them) they are weighing and relating different goods and diffrent pressures. The pressures for jobs, the pressures and desire for family, friends for some kind of intereaction while in lockdown, while suffering losses of income, houses, suffering from worsening mental health. All this creates various pressures that make such reactions, and also in some places, the US being on, it’s all become warped into political and cultural wars with people making decisions on this bases. And in all this people are making decisions upon what they percieve to be the Good, but they both and we all, in our fallen confused state, don’t see clearly in union what the Good in it’s compleness, even in relation to this issue is, and because we fallen are blind to see the link between personal goods, and other goods politically, social, economic and so on to their good. In fact for those fighting for their ‘personal choice’ for them it was a fight for personal liberity and expression, which was seen as a more important good for US society than the damage of an epidemic (and because of disagreement and disinformation and all other confusions many also didn’t believe masks would help). Think what you like of it (I certainly believe they wrong) but they were acting both towards what they think is the Good, and in response to other pressures upon them, and certainly weren’t knowing the good and just say f*** that. And even the few who were just doing it to be otherwise, were also acting to what they thought was their good (in a world in which selfishness has long been protrayed a virtue not a vice, this is even less surprising), again it’s out ignorance at a larger level that cannot see the Good clearly.

      And this brings the final point, decisions like this are not made freely, that is in true freedom. Christ Himself tells us what freedom is, to sin is to be slave to sin, but to know the Truth will set you free, and knowing here means more than intellecutally apprenhension, but a living open relationship and being spiritually, mentally, phyiscally in the truth and in union and harmony with it. And so, you are only free to the extent you know the truth in that way, and equally to the extent you and any of us are not, were are in shadow and ingorance and are slaves. Therefore, such a person who sins does not know the truth, is not living in the truth to that extent, and is not making the decisions freely, just a person with a strong mental health affliction suffering from sevre dellusions isn’t able to make or operate freely. And this is simply a more extreme aspect of the fallen condition we are in. To be free is to know Truth and Love and therefore the Good and their own personal good is, where it is found and how to achieve it, that is they can clearly see where their very desires are founded and directed towards and what will achieve them, and so would naturally in that knowledge act and live towards that fact (and if they did not, they would not know, or been mentally unhinged and so equally not free). The people you describe a ‘continual damage to the psyche of the soul as it is an endless void of chaos and swirling evil’ remebering evil has not positive existence, it’s just a warped ever decaying good and in this case a person. They are cut from repentance in your scheme by they decay of death upon them (so 1 Corinthians is wrong, death is not destroyed, but instead death and evil are as eternal as Paradise an eternal part of God’s creation undeafed only contained) so they arrived their from impaired ignorance, distortion, spiritual diseased and crippled and warped and they become and are let to be ever more so. They never make a free choice or action, but are instead trapped and enslaved and left to be ever more so.

      The free will defence fails and is found wanting at both the divine perspective of creation and on it’s own terms (particularly in light of freedom as defined by Christ), so any who end up their and stay trapped forever don’t do so out ‘free choices’ in the full meaning and sense that would give any justification for either infernalism or anihilationism. Instead, they are there in the infernalist view, because God choices it, and choices to leave them to their fate.

      And since infernalism is a required aspect of creation, it also means those that damned are the sacriices that brings the Kingdom into being, their the Christ that suffers for the blessed. They would be the ones that save others and bring Paradis into being, on their torture would eternal utopia be founded, and Christ suffereing and Cross as made a mockery of and shown as nothing before the eternal suffering of the damned for the saved.

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