Tuesday, January 8, 2013
What I Think Hell Is - Some Reflections on a Difficult Subject
It is a complicated issue, this notion of Hell. I have often wondered many days and nights why on earth a loving God would send anyone to Hell. I cannot approach the issue as a theologian might, nor can I speak with any kind of authority on the issue - I can only say what I think on it all. Here is my opinion on the subject, for better or worse.
Hell is the ultimate rejection of love, for God is love. If we have truly rejected God, then we have truly rejected the source of all love, life, and the rest. In my opinion, we send ourselves to Hell through our constant rejection of love - yes, the Scriptures say that God commands us to depart into the fire, but it is we ourselves who have already chosen it by our rejection of love, and love itself is to be found in God. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes, "Christ is the judge; and yet, from another point of view, it is we who pronounce judgment on ourselves. If anyone is in hell, it is not because God has imprisoned him there, but because that is where he himself has chosen to be"1. In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, we find it written that "they make their way to hell"2.
There is some truth in the words of those who say that "hell would be hanging out with a bunch of boring church-goers" - sarcasm aside, it's kind of true. I don't think those in Hell would ever want to be in heaven.
Dostoevsky writes that Hell is "The suffering of no longer being able to love"3. I think he is correct. Forget the costumed devils and flames - Hell is something far deeper, far worse, far more awful than simply some imagined image of a devilish figure poking someone with a pitchfork. It is an existence separated from God, who is the source of all love. Imagine an existence where love is non-existent in any sense, and I think we can come up with a notion of what Hell really is. Where there is no love, there can only be hate.
1 - The Orthodox Way, epilogue
2 - The Dialogue, 48
3 - The Brothers Karamazov, II:3