Jesus in Hell

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38 Responses to Jesus in Hell

  1. Robert Fortuin says:

    How can he know this, to be so certain? I thought we could not go beyond being hopeful….

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Is that a thick, big tongue I see in your cheek, Robert? 😜

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      • Robert Fortuin says:

        Yes. We can put St Sophrony in the “hope-just-ain’t-cutting-it” group.

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        • Actually you can’t, as St. Sophrpny explicitly condemned universalism as “Origenism” in his book on the life of St. Silouan:

          “The Lord said, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth’ (that is ‘crucified on the cross’) ‘will draw all men unto me’. (cf. John 12:32) Thus Christ’s love hopes to draw all men to Him, and so reaches out to the last hell. There may be some – whether many or few, we do not know – who will meet even this perfect love, this perfect sacrifice, with a rejection, even on the eternal level, and declare, ‘I want no part in it’. (It was this recognition of this abyss of freedom which prompted the Fathers of the Church to repudiate the determinist theories of the Origenists. Belief in Apocatastasis, understood as universal salvation predestined in the divine purpose, would certainly rule out the sort of prayer that we see in the Staretz [Silouan].)

          What was made known to the Staretz in his vision of Christ outweighed all doubt and hesitation. He knew that it was the Almighty God that had appeared to him. He was sure that the humility of Christ which he had come to know, and the love which filled him to the limits of his strength, were the action of God the Holy Spirit. He knew in the Holy Spirit that God is boundless love and mercy, yet knowledge of this truth did not lead him to conclude that ‘anyway, we shall all be saved’. Awareness of the possibility of eternal damnation remained deeply engrained in his spirit.” (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 109)

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            OK, we will put Sophrony and Jesus back where they belong. At least some things we can know for sure, like the hell that knows no end and the provisional victory of pascha. Spraznikom!

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            My conjecture, and it’s only a conjecture, is that St Sophrony felt bound (as I’m sure all the monks of Mt Athos do) to what he believed to be the dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            I take it to be a profound misunderstanding of what universalism truly is. It’s a strawman, a caricature that is denounced. Universalism is most certainly is not that, “‘anyway, we shall all be saved’” It’s not “anyway” – which I take it to mean that it really doesn’t matter what one does, there are no consequences, no need for the fallen soul to repent for God will just wave His wand and voila! human intentions and desires will have been overwritten by the stroke of the divine pen. Who believes this non-sense?

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          • Not just him, but literally every canonized saint of the second millennium. Almost like it IS actually dogmatic 🤔

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            It all depends on what constitutes infallible dogma, and since no specific theory of infallible dogma has been dogmatically defined by the Orthodox Church, there are lots of opinions out there pretending to be infallible.

            Of course, if one is Roman Catholic, then all bets are off. They have Vatican I.

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          • Alura says:

            This implicit rendition of consensus patrum strikes me as very Catholic. How consensus patrum works and when it is proper to invoke it is very much up for grabs in Orthodoxy, or so it seems to me. The only agreed upon standard by all parties is that the various fathers ought to be accorded a certain level of respect.

            If I may ask, considering many of the Latin Fathers and saints were predestinarians post-500, would you contend that such might become dogmatic too?

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          • Alura says:

            Bleh my comment was prematurely submitted. Scratch the question. I suppose what I am aiming to say Justineaus is that this fixation on authority without giving equal weight to the coherency of any given doctrine strikes me as something usually found in either Catholicism or Protestant fundamentalism. The ecumenical councils decided things based upon deep rational arguments in terms of theology. To fixate on authority at the near exclusion of rational argument strikes me as perhaps a nice place to start one’s faith, but it is not an end in and of itself.

            Also, phone keyboards are the worst.

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          • The concept of “consensus patrum” seems to have been understood very well by pretty much all Orthodox Christians prior to the 20th century, I recommend just reading any of our saints’ commentary on it or see what the councils say about it.

            As for predestination, this matter was settled at the Council of Jerusalem +1672, so no, the false belief of “double predestination” will never “become” dogmatic. And if there’s any doubt about this, consider that the Council of Crete +2016 (ratified by the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, and Slovakia) hailed this Council as “Holy and Great” and stated that it possess “universal authority.” So the dogmatic nature of Jerusalem +1672 is not some fringe internet opinion, rather it’s the normative belief of the canonical Church.

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          • Alura says:

            Justinianeus, consensus patrum and its inner workings strikes me as somewhat of a mystery in Orthodox tradition. Sure you have plenty of instances of its invocation in history, but how, when, and why does not seem so straight forward. Furthermore, many fathers have been proposed to have said the same thing, when really there is more nuance and tension among many of them. The only thing certain to me is that the fathers should be read and weighed.

            Not sure why you chose the 20th century as your cut off. Can you go deeper into that?

            As for the predestination question, the question was part of a draft and unfinished thought. I will not follow up as I did not wish to ask it.

            Lastly, your position on faith and reason? What is it all to you? Do you view the two as different? If so then how do you avoid fideism? Or do you embrace that label?

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          • Sorry, but this just sounds like an attempt at obfuscation. St. Vincent of Lerins laid out very clear criteria for what constitutes a consensus, and I recommend reading Fr. Geroge Maximov’s article “The Principle of Consensus Patrum and Modern Attacks Against It” for a detailed exploration of this issue. It’s often remarked by liberal scholars at how “little the fathers agree,” but from my own study I’m taken aback by how much they actually seem to agree on. Obviously different patristic statements need to be searched out and weighed, nobody disputes this; rather what we do dispute is using this fact to practically just say there’s no such thing as a consensus of the fathers, and that we can just believe whatever we want, so long as at least one or two fathers endorsed said belief. Such an idea is completely foreign to Orthodoxy, and a pure innovation.

            Why did I choose the 20th century as a “cut off”? Because I’m aware of no Orthodox Christian writer prior to this point in time who seriously questioned the consensus of the fathers. Such “patristic criticism” arose out of Protestantism’s reaction against Roman Catholicism, and while the Church refuted such errors in the councils of the 17th century, no one actually started taking these beliefs seriously until the 20th century it seems, when liberal “scholarship” began to creep into Orthodox circles.

            As for my position on reason and faith, it sort of depends on what you mean by this. There are many ways I could answer this, i.e. what compelled me to become Orthodox, what still compels me to remain Orthodox, etc. Both of these have to do with reason. Reason tells me that Orthodoxy is the one correct way to view the world; and because of this, even if I don’t understand something from reason (we can’t all be scholars on every single topic), I do take some things on faith, with confidence that understanding will come in time. To the specific issue of hell, I actually have no qualms about its eternity from the standpoint of reason, however even if I did, I would not abandon my belief in it, because the reliability and truthfulness of the Orthodox has be shown to me to be so profound, that it would deserve my intellectual submission even in areas where I’m philosophically uncertain. I take this same approach to alleged “contradictions” in portions of Scripture, etc.

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          • Alura says:

            Justinianeus, I can assure you it was not an attempt of obfuscation, but of honest inquiry. This is likely my final comment here on this post.

            I’ve read the article that you recommended. There is much to agree with and some to disagree with. I will start with what I agree with. First, I agree that the fathers are venerable and should be given weight. I also agree that they should be consulted on doctrinal matters deemed “necessary for salvation” – though I would note, and I do not accuse the article’s author of stating this; I only say it to be more precise – that Christianity is not merely a set of intellectual axioms but also a way of living. These are my broad agreements summed up in short.

            Now for the disagreements, starting with the minor. Who is doubting the existence of a patristic consensus? Certainly not George Demacopoulos, who is referenced as the only example. His position was actually quite modest, from what I can tell from his own very brief posting that is quoted – that not all of the fathers agreed on all theological or ethical matters and that those who believe to the contrary often place strains at the parish level on many who are “forced” to choose between a strict and narrow understanding of the faith or no faith at all. That’s what he actually said, in a nutshell. Maybe it is disagreeable, maybe it is not. I am not going to say one way or another here. But I will say that it is most certainly not a denial of consensus patrum. Strangely, Demacopoulos and Fr. Maximov both explicitly acknowledge that the fathers did not agree on all doctrinal matters and point to the fact that such a problem made the ecumenical councils necessary, so it is strange that Maximov mischaracterizes him so when there is so much agreement. Thus again, I ask, why the cut off at the 20th century. I am not too familiar with the historiography of theological studies, as I am not trained in theology. What happened in the 20th century? Which scholars or theologians changed that landscape in a way that you object to? Demacopoulos doesn’t really seem to fit the bill, not to mention he is the 21st century and is a historian. I would like to more fully understand where you are coming from here.

            Now for the more substantial disagreements. First, while I agree with Fr. Maximov on the consultation of the fathers, I am actually perplexed by the specificities of when and also how he thinks it should be invoked to close the door on any given subject under the penalty of accusations of heresy. Let’s start with the latter, the how. Maximov proposes that it operates on majority rule. Okay, that’s a fine principle to test. Let’s take the Council of Jerusalem (1672) – which I do not place as highly as you do – and look at what it says. Jerusalem, as you say, rejects twin predestinarianism, but also let’s note that it proclaims the belief that unbaptized infants who die burn in hell forever (Decree 16). This position, though ancient – even in the cases of those who opposed predestinarianism (see St. Prosper’s descriptions in his letter to St. Augustine, Ep. 225), for predestinarians trumpeted this idea as the best argument for predestinariansim – is not clearly the majority position. The Greek Fathers, as I understand, tend to profess the matter as either a mystery or a much more nuanced position. Yet Jerusalem runs roughshod over these many voices and traditions within Orthodoxy that do not agree with what was proclaimed at this very synod – such as St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, etc. Is there any record in the minutes of Jerusalem that the venerable bishops there sat down and tallied 1600 years of saints on an abacus to see which school of thought came out as the majority? There is no record. And I honestly doubt any school of thought would reach simple majority status on that given issue, for the simple fact that there are like 3-5 different major schools of thought on the subject. And yet, Jerusalem saw fit to “close the matter”, if your view of Jerusalem is upheld. This view that consensus patrum operates on majority rule strikes me as having very little historical basis.

            Which then leads me to the next contention on the how. All sides, on many points of contention, invoke the fathers. St. Augustine invoked St. Ambrose in favor of predestinarianism, even though St. Ambrose was a universalist. Both the Donatists and the Orthodox invoked St. Cyprian for their cause. John Scottus invoked the fathers as much as those who condemned him at various councils. Ratramnus of Corbie invoked the fathers as much as his opponent St. Paschasius Radbertus on the precise details of the Eucharist (both believed in general that it was the body and blood of Christ). And most controversially, both sides of the filioque debate have invoked the fathers. In all of these cases, there is no tallying up as though there was a majoritarian principle at play, only blanket invocations of the fathers with some quotations for substantiation. Now, you might say that many of these invocations are fallacious. You may point to Blachernae (1285) for the filioque, or Jerusalem (1672) which I addressed above, etc. All well and good. But then at this point, you’ve switched from one mode of authority, consensus patrum, to another mode of authority, conciliar consensus. And if that’s the case, then is consensus patrum really as clear as so many make it sound, if it must have the backing of conciliar authority to arbitrate the conflicting invocations of the fathers on all sides of any given issue? I am skeptical to say the least.

            And now finally, I address the former substantial disagreement, the when. Fr. Maximov states that consensus patrum is invoked on matters necessary for salvation. I have said above that I agree with it. But then, I ask, how does this work in practice? Let’s take the bull by the horns here. Many infernalists invoke it against universalism. Yet, not one infernalist has yet to explain to me how infernalism is a doctrine necessary for my salvation and union with God. They thus put it on the same doctrinal level as the divinity of Christ, the existence of original/ancestral sin, etc. These latter examples can be explained very simply in how they make salvation of humanity possible and so on. Though in some of these cases, it took centuries to hammer out all the precise details, terms, and niceties, one can still go back and explain why these matters make Christ’s redemption both necessary and possible. This feature is simply not present when infernalists claim that universalism is a damnable heresy. There is no equivalent maxim to say St. Athanasius’ saying “What is not assumed is not redeemed.” Maximov references universalism negatively in his article and presumes that consensus patrum precludes it as a permissible idea. However, I think he would fail to meet his own criteria for invoking consensus patrum that he sets out for himself – that infernalism is a crucial for salvation.

            Another issue that can be raised concerning the when, is why is it that eternal hell is the position that is deemed necessary for so many infernalists, but the precise understandings of hell not deemed so? For example, some like St. Prosper thought that hell was but an ignorant bliss, not a realm of conscious suffering. Others like Tertullian thought it entailed unspeakable suffering. Why stop short? What’s at stake for salvation on the question of universalism that is not also in play when it comes to the various infernalists positions on what hell precisely is?

            At best, I could imagine the argument that without the fear of an eternal hell, many would go out and do willy nilly for evil ends. But then, that is not quite at the same level as say Arianism vs. Orthodoxy. It is actually more at the level, arguably, of St. Paul’s belief that eating food at public pagan sacrifices is okay for a Christian, though they should be conscientious of those with a weaker faith (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

            This brings me to my final point, Justinianeus. You invoke the principle of “I believe so that I might understand” and confess that there are many things you take on authority because you can’t be a well-informed expert on all things. Well-said. By the same token, you have spent a considerable amount of time and ink on the subject of universalism and why you think infernalism is philosophically justifiable. I disagree with you on these points, but I want to skip past them here to get to another point, the one I just finished harping on about – that infernalists deem infernalism as crucial to the integrity of Christianity, but all too often do not explain why it is so crucial. Perhaps you may invoke the principle of your own ignorance and that you will rely on authority on such a matter, because again, you can’t be an expert at everything. Fair enough. But let me just say that I think that is a strange thing to do, considering the fact that you’ve spent so much time and effort on this very subject of infernalism vs. universalism. When will you begin to explain why infernalism is crucial to Christianity? And if you never do, then how will you ever be able to claim that the matter of universalism vs. infernalism falls under the juridical jurisdiction of consensus patrum?

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          • There is much I take issue with in this statement, but it would take up much too much space and time to address everything. I’d love to discuss these matters with you though! If you’re interested in a continued charitable discussion, please send me an email: benbollinger271@yahoo.com

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          • Yeah, I’m not sure exactly from where Sophrony drew his understanding of dogma. He was taught by Bulgakov but also by Siloan. His theology is definitely a blend of both of them, but I am curious what he would have made of Bulgakov’s take on the question of the dogmatic status of universalism.

            Also, Fr Behr’s brother is an Athos monk. Perhaps new scholarship can make some headway even there. 🙂

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          • Iain Lovejoy says:

            “May” be: we can put St Sophrony down as a “hopeful” universalist – the bracketed part I take it is you, not him. I would also be interested to know the context of that passage.

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  2. Randy says:

    1st, Hell is not a created place. 2nd, God in Christ does not know how to be absent since He is forever present maintaining all things which exist as their only ground of being. 3rd, Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So wherever He is He is seeking and desiring to save all people at all times until that glorious and beyond all human understanding He has presented All to His Father and God will be”All in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 ft.

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  3. Thankyou! Thankyou Jesus. That you do not do separation only reconciliation. What an amazing Saviour we have.

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  4. Iain Lovejoy says:

    On the subject of dogma, which has been raised by Codex Justinianeus, and since I am a damnable heretic and ignorant of the matter, is it Orthodoxy that if a sufficiently high percentage of the church mistakenly believe something has been declared dogma it becomes dogma by default? If so, what is the required percentage, and over what period, and who decides on this, and, in the absence of, I don’t know, some kind of Council or decision-making body being convened (I feel sure that the church used to have them for this sort of thing?), how is the percentage of believing this determined, and by whom?

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  5. Owen-Maximus says:

    I admit I have softened much in the last year concerning my stance against universalism. The “hopeful” position has become much more tenable to me. Indeed, the beautiful quotation above by St Sophrony seems to give a glimmer of insight in that direction. At least, initially.

    I wonder about the context of the quote. Apart form one’s opinion of the teaching, is the quote merely teaching the River of Fire doctrine? It seems we should admit that as a possible reading. In fact, the passage quoted above by Codex Justinianeus pulls one in that direction.

    Did Sophrony pen this passage (quoted by Codex) simply out of obligation to a binding dogmatic sensibility, while remaining universalist in his secret heart, or did he truly share his mentor’s “deeply engrained awareness of the possibility of eternal damnation”? I don’t know. But the universalist case is strengthened, from my vantage, when those who disagree with it are read plainly and represented contextually. Admittedly, these are difficult tasks.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Regarding context, the statement by Sophrony was a response to a question put to him by Olivier Clement: What if a person does not agree to open his or her heart and accept the love of God?

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      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        It sounds to me like a refusal to rule out eternal damnation, rather than any endorsement of it.

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      • Owen-Maximus says:

        Thanks, Father A. I mentioned a softening on my part regarding my former trenchant stance against apocatastasis. Through a number of twists and turns in my theological and spiritual life, the doctrine has become an appealing alternative to the traditional eschatology. Just this morning, I watched again DBH’s talk, “Is Everyone Saved? Universalism and the Nature of Persons.” Basically a recounting of St Gregory’s understanding, following by the Hartian ramifications. It’s a stunning lecture. I want to believe.

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      • From what I remember from reading I Love Therefore I Am, Sophrony largely accepted Bulgakov’s understanding that only all of humanity can constitute the one Adam. From everything I know of Sophrony, his theology definitely points towards universalism, though unlike Maximus, I think he resisted going all the way, though he clearly was very very hopeful. He clearly understood his prayers and those of Siloan to be able to effect all of humanity, dead or alive, and I don’t think it does justice to their view to say that their prayers for those in hell were simply for a temporary respite from suffering. Their prayer was for their salvation.

        I think Soph/Sil separated the intermediate state from the final judgment which they saw as sealing the destiny of each individual.

        I’m not sure how that belief became so engrained because in the early church, it seemed to be the opposite case: the intermediate state wasn’t really the time of restoration. The judgment was when the the fire came to burn out all the evil and enabled salvation for the damned.

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  6. Question for Fr Al and the faithful readers here:
    This quote is spot on, but what does in imply in light of “take up your cross and follow me,” theosis, and the desencus ad inferos?

    Like, lets just go full chalcedon/nicaea and emrace a “Jesus = God, God = Jesus” christology. In that case, theosis – aka participating in God – is the same as imitating Christ and conforming to his life. How far do we take that? Does it imply that we must also atone for the sins of the world with our own passions and crucifixions? Does it imply that we participate in the descent to Hell on Holy saturday (whether that be a classical triumphant descent or a balthasarian suffering one)?

    Personally, I see a link to the bodhisattvas here

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  7. Andrew says:

    It might be helpful to remember in this discussion that Codex Justinianeus’s quote from St Silouan the Athonite was probably written in the late 1940s. The book published in 1991 as St Silouan the Athonite was, I believe, simply the English translation of the large work that was first published in Russian in 1948 then again in the early 1950s. The bulk of the first part, the part St Sophrony wrote about Silouan and the part which contains the quote about ‘Origenism’, was written soon after Sophrony left Mt Athos. According to the opinion of those who have studied his life, Sophrony felt the need to defend St Silouan’s life and teachings and Athonite way of life in the milieu where he again found after an absence of twenty years. There was also something of a slight political edge to the inspiration behind this defense as he was at the time loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. This put him at odds with most of the Russians in Paris (and many Russians on Mt Athos). This is the context of the quote.

    St Sophrony’s work on Staretz SIlouan was only partially published in English in the late 1950s. The Undistorted Image as it was called contained portions from each of the two parts of the original work published a decade earlier in Russian. The first part of The Undistorted Image was substantially revised and published again in the 1970s as The Monk of Mount Athos. This revision reflects not necessarily a fundamental change in Sophrony’s traditional Athonite or Orthodox convictions but a development of his understanding of “Persona”, the most profound aspect of his teachings and I would say the one which really has little precedent in Orthodox literature or the history of the Church even. You can read Nicholas Sakharov’s study to verify all of this. Sophrony frequently mentions in his writings the spiritual phenomenon of time elapsing between a profound experience and the development of a “dogmatic consciousness” of that experience. I would guess that the quote above from the conversation between St Sophrony and Olivier Clement occurred in the late 70s or 80s. I have no doubt that it reflects a “development of dogmatic consciousness” of Staretz Silouan’s experience of Christ-the one which led him to say things like “love could not bear that…”.

    For me personally, the wonder of Sts Silouan and Sophrony is that “universalism” in its essence is subsumed into the very fabric of their experience and their writings even if Sophrony denied a caricature of it and even if the whole theological outline of this genuine universalism couldn’t exactly be articulated. Maybe he was right to deny “Origenism”, maybe there is a false universalism and true universalism. That’s a whole different discussion. (There is a Schmemann quote about a “unity from above” vs a “unity from below” which is pertinent here but I can’t remember the source).

    In my opinion there is just no question that the hell which Silouan claimed to have actually experienced in the most vivid and convincing way bears little to no resemblance to the endless torment threatened by the majority of the ascetic fathers. You might say St Silouan swam across the river which for centuries saints had been saying would drown anyone who set foot in it. And he did so because Christ assured him he would reach the shore of the promised land. St Silouan was not your “ordinary” saint. He was like a forerunner of something new that God has in store for the world. I see no other way to understand the gulf that separates yet somehow unites him with the rest of Orthodox tradition, ascetical or otherwise. This is both deeply comforting but also I think should be deeply unsettling to the one who holds that the “dogmatic consciousness” of the Church regarding hell was settled long ago.

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  8. Geoffrey McKinney says:

    I recognize the Greek liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church to be the authentic locus of the Church’s teachings. I can’t imagine saying, “Well, yeah, such-and-so is in the liturgy, but that is [i]not[/i] a teaching of the Church.” If the Church isn’t proclaiming the Gospel in the liturgy, then what is she doing in the liturgy?

    All other writings (including those of glorified saints, including the Church Fathers themselves) are a collection of A) truth, B) theologoumena, and C) error. One can most certainly not simply quote a Church Father (or any number of Church Fathers) and say, “See? That’s the teaching of the Church.” The saints are sons of the Church. They are not the Church herself. She speaks in the liturgy, and I think it instructive that liturgical passages that unambiguously teach eternal conscious torment are (as far as I’m aware) nonexistent.

    It would have been a simple matter for the Church to have filled her liturgies with proclamations of eternal torment. She has had two millennia in which to do so, but has not. It almost makes one suspect that maybe such a notion is not part of the Gospel.

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  9. JBG says:

    Taking the church’s conviction on hell together with Sophrony’s statement, one is left with the absurd tragedy of Christ eternally damning himself via the creation of the world. Utterly strange, to say the least. I suppose it’s a consolation to have a little divine masochism thrown in with the sadism.

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  10. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Within the context of the conversation between Olivier Clement and St Sophrony, the latter clearly intended to speak words of hope; otherwise, Christ’s abiding presence with the damned serves no redemptive purpose. Consider, for example, the alternative Orthodox “river of fire” interpretation: Christ’s abiding presence only brings suffering and torment to the damned. In this scenario, Sophrony’s promise that Christ will always be with the damned is not reassuring good news at all–quite the contrary.

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Yes, maybe Jesus is like the angels in Eden! With the notable difference that unlike those angels guarding paradise against Adam and Eve’s reentry into paradise, Jesus is making sure the fallen remain in Hell, forever! Surely St Sophrony couldn’t have meant that, no way.

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  11. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I am not surprised that the question of infallible dogma and the consensus patrum has been raised. The invocation of “patristic consensus” has some practical benefits, particularly when it comes, say, to parochial catechesis; but I reject the argument that by itself it establishes–or even can establish– infallible, irreformable dogma. Dogma is not established by conducting a plebiscite and asking for a raise of hands. In any case, Orthodoxy has never dogmatically defined the consensus patrum as the ground of infallible dogma. It is an opinion, a theologoumenon and therefore debatable. Orthodoxy has never had a Vatican I, nor have Orthodox theologians devoted themselves in depth to the question of doctrinal infallibility. They have danced around the topic, and I think for good reasons. As soon as one accepts the notion of infallibility, then theological reflection typically degenerates into debate on the criteria of infallibility and whether such-and-such teaching has fulfilled that criteria. No longer do we believe ____ because we have apprehended its intrinsic truth; we believe because we believe ____ has fulfilled the external (noninfallible) criteria of infallible dogma. This is the death of both theology and faith. Florovsky and Bulgakov saw this clearly almost a century ago.

    But rather than repeating what I have already written, I refer the brethren to my article “Orthodoxy, Dogma, and the Neuralgic Question of Doctrinal Development.” There is, of course, a lot more to be said. Hopefully my theological betters will take up that task. But let me say this: Dogma is not the gospel. Its purpose is to protect the right preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why it can never be sufficient to reply to the assertion of apokatastasis by declaring in a loud voice “That’s heresy!” Gospel always trumps the dogmatic formulations of the past. If you believe apokatastasis to be false, then engage directly the arguments advanced on its behalf and demonstrate why they fail. But if they do not fail, then this only means that the popular, longstanding teaching of eternal damnation was never a true dogma to begin with.

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    • TJF says:

      Ever since I read George Salmon’s critique of infallibility, I don’t think I can ever support the idea either. As you say, any affirmation of infallibility must end up being turtles all the way down. I don’t think reason can reconcile this.

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  12. Myshkin says:

    To some degree his explicit universalism is neither here nor there. The phrase above demands nothing short of a hell transformed to heaven. For where Christ is there is beatitude. Only love is infinite; my obstinence is always based on ignorance (to know the good is to desire it insatiably . .) and it is NOT infinite, but Christ’s love is, and He calls my name wooing me over eons of hell till finally I see for Whom I was made and where my heart shall find peace. Tell me who can escape the love of Jesus.
    Also this saying gives a wonderful perspective on John 11 and the raising of Lazarus. Jesus wept even whilst being fully aware of Lazarus’ upcoming resurrection. See now the souls struggling in the flames of God’s love, Jesus in solidarity weeping over Adam’s lament, but still forever will he call the dead forth and He will keep calling til the last one come forth.

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  13. Robert Fortuin says:

    Amen and amen.

    What you are describing Myshkin is an unconditional Paschal triumph, and it must be so if God is God, the unending love, boundless mercy, He who is the abundance of life and beauty and joy, and to whom in comparison our infinitely finite intentions and desires will always fall short and thus can only come to rest in Him. To give obstinate Hell the final and everlasting triumph in its resistance to life and love is not only exceedingly ludicrous, but is very offensive as it tramples the Holy of Holies underfoot with the profane imaginations of worldly wisdom. Only the father of lies could come up with such a wicked twist on the “good” news

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  14. Dee of St Hermans says:

    I’m compelled to suggest caution with regard to bringing St Silouan’s words into a philosophical discussion on Universalism vs eternal infernalism.

    pg 111: (St Silouan the Athonite) Scientists and philosophers not infrequently look upon Christians as unsound daydreamers, whereas they themselves stand on firm ground and so label themselves positivists. In a curious way they do not realize that all the negativeness of truth is a WHAT. They do not understand that authentic Truth, absolute Truth, can only be “WHO”, never “WHAT”, since Truth is not some abstract formula, some abstract idea but life itself.

    Codex left out the last sentence in the passage he quoted. I don’t think it is a trivial point so I’ll complete the passage by adding it here:

    This is because when the soul is in a state of grace the measure of man’s freedom is disclosed to her.

    This speaks of a particular condition of the soul and the subsequent paragraph describes a particular temptation of self idolatry related to this condition of soul (when it has been in a state of grace)..

    pg 110 Complete freedom is the freedom of God–man does not have it.

    pg 352 “…For them more than for himself, he prays day and night, that all may repent and know the Lord.”

    When St Silouan was struggling with demons he was told by the Lord, (page 430) “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not”.

    Pg 431:

    “Since then I have stayed my mind in hell and I burn in somber fire, yearning after the Lord and seeking Him in tears and saying:
    “Soon I shall die and take up my abode in the dark prison of hell. And alone shall I burn there, and long for the Lord, and lament. ‘Where is my Lord, Whom my soul knoweth?’
    And I had great profit from these thoughts: my mind was cleansed and my soul found rest.

    O wonder! The Lord bade me stay my mind in hell and not despair. So close is He to us: ‘Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’, and ‘I will deliver thee; and thou shalt glorify me”

    And finally I’ll add this last passage: pg 461

    My soul knows the mercy of the Lord towards sinful man, and very truth do I write before the face of God when I tell you that all sinners shall be saved, and not a single soul perish provided we repent, for the nature of the Lord is goodness that no words describe.”

    Randy, thank you for your quote on July 22.

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