“Hell is other people” vs. Heaven is other people


In his play No Exit, existentialist thinker Jean Paul Sartre said and portrayed that “Hell is other people.”

In a post that deals with the question of eternal punishment and the alternative views of universalism and annihilationism that we have been talking about, Lutheran writer Nathan Rinne develops the idea that, no, Hell has to do with isolation from others, while Heaven is about eternal communion with them.

Photo of a scene from Sartre’s No Exit, by KsKal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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One of the best comments about Bernie Sanders’ opposition to a nominee’s confirmation because he didn’t believe Muslims are saved comes from Michael Gerson:  “It is apparently not enough for some of the liberal-minded to help those on Medicare and Social Security; now people must be guaranteed eligibility for heaven as well.”  See also Lutheran Satire’s Hans Fiene on the subject.

Far from being a fringe position, as Sanders’ assumes, the notion that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is a tenet of every branch of Christianity, except for liberals and a small number of universalists.  Even Catholics, who hold out the possibility of salvation for some non-Christians, do so because they see their good works as evidence that they have God’s grace, explaining it all so that it is Jesus who saves them even though they don’t know Him.

Most Muslims believe that non-Muslims do not go to paradise, though since salvation is based mostly on good works, there may be exceptions.

Sanders’ interrogation of Russell Vought has brought attention to the issue, with most observers–including liberals–defending the right of a Christian to hold public office, despite that religion’s “exclusionary” beliefs.

After the jump is an article on the number of people who believe in Hell.  It turns out that 58% of Americans believe in eternal punishment.

And yet, Hell isn’t talked about much these days, even in conservative churches.  I suppose it’s a difficult topic to preach about.  One can easily get it wrong, creating false impressions about God, Christ, sin, and salvation.

Dante helped me understand Hell.  His Inferno is an allegory in which the punishments symbolize the sin, as it completely takes over the life of the sinner.  Here the sinners freely embrace their sin and the torment that comes from rejecting God, just as they did on earth.  Another theme of his comes from St. Catherine of Sienna:  “The fire of Hell is the love of God as experienced by those who reject it.”  God continues to love these sinners by preserving their existence and letting them be what they have chosen.

You pastors, how do you teach about Hell?

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He descended into Hell

Great reflections on Hell and what it means that Jesus “descended into Hell,” from Dale M. Coulter:

In the Torgau sermon on Christ’s descent, Luther remarks that the paintings depicting this event “show well how powerful and useful this article is, why it took place, why it is to be preached and believed that Christ destroyed hell’s power and took all his power away from the devil. When I have that, then I have the true core and meaning of this article of faith.” Theological precision about the exact conditions under which it occurred, the mode of Christ’s presence, the composition of hell’s gates, etc., distract from the essential point, and to demythologize this part of the church’s teaching is a failure to see the crucial importance of Holy Saturday. [Read more…]

The nature of Hell

Something interesting I found exploring the Patheos neighborhoods:  A discussion from Ryan Adams (whom I assume is not the same person as the former lead singer of Whiskeytown) on the Eastern Orthodox understanding of Hell, which is defined as the suffering that comes from being loved by God and yet rejecting that love.  He talks about this notion in Dostoevsky and shows how that mysterious phrase of the Creed about Christ’s descent into Hell plays into this.  Read it all, but here is his conclusion: [Read more…]