Munging Hell – Part 2

In his book Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Second Edition, Joseph Ratzinger dispenses with Hell in a mere three and a half pages, during which he manages to confuse Hell with Hades, the Abyss, and Sheol, and confesses that “Hell” has taken on a completely new meaning and form (pp. 215-218).

Catholic theologian Hans Kung writes:

Some theologians when asked directly about hell tend to give confused, evasive answers on the subject: they say that it is ‘no longer on the agenda.’ They hardly dare to repeat the old mythological notions, but they avoid giving a clear new answer – that is an easy way of making oneself unpopular in one’s own church. That is true not only for the Catholic Church, in which up to the Second Vatican Council the allegedly infallible doctrine of the Council of Florence was put forward, according to which anyone ‘outside the Catholic church … will incur the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels’. It also applies to the Lutheran Church, in which Luther’s belief in the devil and anxiety about hell has played a major role right down to the twentieth century, as for example in the widely-noted dispute over hell in the Norwegian church in the 1950s.

Credo: The Apostles’ Creed Explained for Today

Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:

Be warned, dear reader, that this concerns a theologians’ quarrel! And yet is it one whose nature will hardly leave any Christian cold. My little book Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? was cut to pieces … before me lies a related heap of angry letters, entreaties to return to the truth Faith and so on. What is this all about? About the duty to have hope for all men. The opposing side holds: No, our hope for ultimate salvation is limited, since we know, indeed, it is dogma, that a number of men languish in eternal hell. Consequently, I am a heretic for refusing to accept a church doctrine.

Dare We Hope

Is it any wonder Catholics are confused?

But back to Ratzinger.

1. HELL

No quibbling helps here: the idea of eternal damnation, which had taken ever clearer shape in the Judaism of the century or two before Christ, has a firm place in the teaching of of Jesus, as well as the apostolic writings. Dogma takes its stand on solid ground when it speaks of the existence of Hell, and of the eternity of its punishments.

In support of the claim that the doctrine of Hell “has a firm place in the teaching of … the apostolic writings” he offers a number of Scriptural passages, the first of which is 2 Thessalonians 1:9:

MOUNCE: They will experience the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power

ASV: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

YLT: who shall suffer justice — destruction age-during — from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength

here

There’s no mention of Hell here. Gehenna, Hades, Sheol, Tartarus, the lake of fire …

Will they suffer eternal punishment, or will the punishment consist of eternal destruction?

Who is the author speaking of? Who will experience this punishment?

2 Thessalonians 1:6

For it is a righteous thing for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you

First century audience. First century punishment.

When will the punishment occur?

2 Thessalonians 1:7

and to give relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when · the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels

Affliction in the first century. Punishment in the first century. Relief in the first century.

Matthew 16:27-28:

For, the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father, with his messengers [angels], and then he will reward each, according to his work. Verily I say to you, there are certain of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they may see the Son of Man coming in his reign.

First century judgment. It took place in AD 70.

17 thoughts on “Munging Hell – Part 2

  1. Hi Alan,

    I tend to lean as far from hell as I can get!

    If you can set forth the various “versions of hell” that you are aware of you’ll have surpassed (by far) the feeble attempt of keiths. I’d be happy to say where I think my beliefs about hell fit with those versions.

    I set forth my initial position here.

  2. 5. Do we believe in the devil?

    It is above all to the credit of of the Catholic theologian Herbert Haag that – of course without denying the power of evil in the world – he has clearly dismissed this kind of personified evil, belief in the devil, which has done incalculable harm. And it would be foolish indeed to accept that dualistic schematism which unthinkingly presupposes that since one believes in a personal God one must also believe in a personal devil; since there is a heaven there must be a hell; and since there is eternal life there must also be eternal suffering. As if because there is something, there must also be a nothing which goes with it; because there is love there is also also hate! No, God does not need an anti-God to be God. So rightly there is no mention of the devil in the Apostles’ Creed.

    – Hans Kung. Creedo: The Apostles’ Creed Explained for Today. p. 171

  3. Any means seemed justified to save themselves and others – especially Jews, heretics, unbelievers, witches – from hell

    – Hans Kung

  4. Christians believe ‘in’ the merciful God as he has been shown through Jesus Christ and become active in the Holy Spirit. But they don’t believe in hell. Hell is rightly absent from the Creed.

    – Hans Kung

  5. Mung: I tend to lean as far from hell as I can get!

    🙂

    If you can set forth the various “versions of hell” that you are aware of you’ll have surpassed (by far) the feeble attempt of keiths.

    (I’ve related this before.) The only one I recall being concerned about was the version presented to me by my mother that did not pass the reality test.

    But remember I’m an atheist, not an antitheist. I don’t object to anyone having whatever private beliefs they find themselves comfortable (or, equally, uncomfortable) with. I seem to lack the desire for a religious aspect to my life but I’m also unconvinced that non-testable religious ideas are other than poetry to use KN’s word, which I think is quite apt.

    A couple of ideas about Hell come to mind.

    In the Cathar religion, as far as can be stated from what little remains of its theology, this world is hell, too evil to have been created by a perfect god, and in (Cathar) fact created by the devil. We can escape to god’s world by approaching his perfection, or we reincarnate again in hell.

    I’ve also heard talk of hell as exclusion from heaven, rather than a place of literal flame and pitchforks.

    John-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people”?

    I’d be happy to say where I think my beliefs about hell fit with those versions.

    I set forth my initial position here.

    RL calls!

  6. Mung: If you can set forth the various “versions of hell” that you are aware of you’ll have surpassed (by far) the feeble attempt of keiths.

    I’d say you are already in hell, it obviously troubles you greatly that keiths ‘feeble attempts’ nonetheless defeated you.

    Enjoy.

  7. It’s all twaddle. Scare stories. Marketing. It amazes me that grown men waste their time on the subject.

    I use “men” advisedly. Most women are not stupid enough to wallow in torture theology. Apologies to any who are.

  8. The link is to a book that examines the case for hell & what it would entail.
    I liked the VERY FIRST LINE of the forward that stresses that there is no agreement on this subject. It delicately suggests ‘the fellowship of patient bible study’.

    Why is it that the creator of the universe couldnt get his message across ? Why is it that after 2000 years the xtians are still arguing about it ?

    I would have thought that if one really believed that after a few score years on earth, that one risked an eternity of torment, that it would rather concentrate the mind.

  9. There are vastly more words written about the meaning of the Bible than there are words in the Bible itself. For a book that is supposed to enlighten us, it surely has confused us mightily.

    fG

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