More on Hell and Judgement

A comment on my last post questions my words, Indeed, I wonder if it is really up to God as well. Yes, being the all powerful one, and the Almighty judge, he is the one who consigns souls to hell, but it is also true that we choose Hell.‘ The reader is concerned that I’ve taken things out of God’s hands too much, and am too close to a God who is uninvolved in our world. He asks me to explain further.

The analogy of an earthly judge will do. An earthly judge is the authority that sends a criminal to jail, but who really sent that person to jail? Who really made the decision that put the person behind bars? The criminal did when he chose to break the law. Sure, the judge sends him there. That’s his job; but the criminal is the one who made the really crucial choice. The judge simply confirmed his choice by making sure it received the correct and just response.

Similar with Judge Jesus. The Scriptures tell us he is the fearful judge, but what is he judging? He’s judging our human choices. We’re the ones therefore who choose heaven or hell. He simply sorts through the evidence, the motives and the circumstances like any good judge does, and then confirms our choice with total justice and total mercy combined.

Does this take control from God too much? I don’t think so because I believe in free will. Maybe my view on this is too speculative, but I have always understood free will to be a little smidgen of his omnipotence that God gives each one of us when he creates us in his image. We really can do what we want. We really can choose against God, against good, against beauty, against Wisdom, against Love. God really will not force us to love Him. He will not force us to live in beauty and Truth. He really will not force us into heaven, but if we will not go to heaven, then there is only one other place to go: the place where there is no goodness, no Truth, no beauty,no Love.

Does God really give us a portion of his omnipotence in this thing called Free Will? I believe so because of what we did with his Son Jesus Christ. When God took human form and came to save us I believe things were open ended. We might have repented and accepted him as King and savior and then he would have redeemed us a different way. As it was, we chose to use that omnipotence God gave us and we killed the Lord of Glory.

Then God’s omnipotence is proved by the fact that by this most terrible crime we were redeemed. When you think about it, what is omnipotence if it is exercised by force all the time? God’s omnipotence is proven in that he gives it away in the form of free will, and still his Will is done and his Divine Providence is completed.

But what do I know about it? I’m the theological equivalent of a poet-taster, a dilettante, an ecclesiastical jack of all trades and master of none.

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  • Anonymous

    Father Dwight, Thank you for taking the time to elaborate further. Your anonymous old friend

  • Tim

    Father Dwight:This is not related directly to this post, but an earlier one where you ask whether you should continue blogging.As a father of seven children. I enjoy entering discussions on blog sites, and think yours is one of the better ones in cyberspace. But I also know it can be somewhat addictive, and I could imagine with your very large demands from family, school and parish that daily posts are just too much. I know that it can be somewhat distracting from the “bigger” things in my own life.How about a once/week post or a few times/week, instead of the daily “fix”? You could tell your readers when you will post, so that they know when to visit, but I can understand the pressure to keep up a daily post. Keep up the good work, however often you write. Tim (a former Anglican, now RC reader in Ottawa)

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Longenecker,I have enjoyed your last few posts on Hell. I also like your further elaboration on why it is OUR choice to go to Hell. I think that this is a point that is lost on too many people. There is this popular notion of Jesus as a big teddy bear who wants us all to go to Heaven. While He does desire us all to go to Heaven, He will not violate our free will and take us there against our will. Hell is a choice as committing sins is a choice, and the consequence of our sins.I have always liked Jesus’ lament in Mathew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not? Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate.” I think it is a good illustration of God’s acceptance of our self-destruction despite His desire for us.I would like to see more people talking about Hell. It invites sober reflection to realize that there is a good possibility that many (if not most) of the people we know, including ourselves and those we care about most, have a high likelihood of ending up outside the banquet wailing and gnashing our teeth. It’s another reminder to heed the call to repent and reform our lives, and to pray for others.James G

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Longenecker,If I may be so bold to make a suggestion… In your last post you mention C. S. Lewis as being good on the subject of choosing Hell; a reference to The Great Divorce. I must be honest and say that while I enjoyed the book I did not really like Lewis’ take. Chalk it up to differences in taste. I think a good post to continue this series would be to compare/contrast various portrayals of Hell in books (i.e. Dante, Lewis) and movies (i.e. What Dreams May Come).James G

  • When my second daughter was a wayward teen, my husband remarked that her friends were a bad influence on her. No, I said, she is the problem–you choose your friends. If you don’t like someone you usually don’t choose to hang with them.Same with Jesus, if you don’t like Him you won’t be attracted to Him or want to join Him in Heaven. Hell is a free choice of ours–God does not send us, we send ourselves.

  • Careful Father, my blog was rated at R18+ largely because I had some many references to “hell”.I don’t know, these priests and their internet sites… tch tch;)

  • I may be a little late to this table. This topic has morphed from a diatribe against Universalism to a discourse on Hell. Earlier on you mention: ‘In Luke 13:23 someone asks “Lord will many people be saved?” He replies, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, for many will try to enter and not be strong enough.” He then goes on to tell a parable about the master who knocks the door and refuses to recognize those who claim to have a right of entry to the master’s house.”‘ When asked how universal salvation is, Jesus here and elsewhere says humbly pay attention to where your own soul is going (and by implication don’t be distracted from that by judging another’s) – not to be confused with self-righteousness. For the most part Jesus paints a pretty bleak picture that too many seem content to inhabit until the conventional chapter’s end. At that point many who have not seen Jesus will say, ‘”‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”‘ It is this communion with God that matters, not where we can say we come from (vv. 25-27).Maybe this is to be not just the experience of the self-righteous of Jesus’ day. Maybe this vision and proclamation is to be the universal experience of all self-righteous humankind in the face of a God who loves us so much that He allows us to stand outside the door if we so choose. Maybe this means the Roman Catholics are right and the rest of us are wrong☺ Maybe the door seems narrower now than when one has the prospect of an eternity to experience being on the outside – at which point one proclaims “Blessed . . .” Maybe it’s a mystery.Jesus is coming. In the midst of looking busy, look up to bless and be blessed.