Originally posted by checkbaiter
In a sense the person you met is partly correct in my estimation. It is separation from God in the sense you will cease to exist. Hell is a real place, but just like anything else, you will burn up and turn to ashes. I also do not believe God torments souls forever. It does not fit His character. But the choice is yours in the end.....
Hi CB! Glad to see your still kickin’! Hope all is well with you and yours.
This post is addressed to PinkFloyd’s comment as well; it is really just a set of jigsaw-puzzle pieces for reflection—
(1) How can anyone/anything be eternally separated from God if God “will be all in all”—rather than just, “all that remains”, or “all in all for all that remains”?
(2) Translations like “eternal”, “everlasting”, “forever” depend on how one reads various cognates of the Greek word aion
: “age”. In some contexts, the translation could be “ages”, that is, to some unknown, unspecified period of time; in others, to some state that simply transcends our normal notions of time and temporality. How to read and understand these words has been an open theological question from the earliest days of the post-apostolic church, and translation often implies theological considerations.
(3) The parable of the wheat and the tares pretty clearly cannot be referring to persons
—unless one wants to assign to the “evil one” the ability to create/sow actual persons. Rather, following St. Gregory of Nyssa, I think it makes much more sense to see them as metaphors for characteristics and tendencies of persons. It is these that are “burned up.” If one takes this parable as setting a kind of context, that understanding of the metaphors can be extended to other parables as well—such as that of the sheep and the goats.
Such an interpretation has a long standing in the church, but is more predominant in the Eastern Orthodox churches.
(4) The root meaning of the Greek word soterias
—generally translated as salvation—is to heal, to cure, to preserve, to make whole or well (from the verb form soza
). Thus, that is what salvation really means—not simply pardon as opposed to punishment or condemnation.
Again, the Orthodox (capital “O” ) churches have a much stronger stream of a soteriology of healing, rather than the juridical model more prominent in the West.
NOTE to PinkFloyd from an ex-Lutheran: a number of years ago a group of Finnish Lutheran theologians were investigating never-published (or translated) works from Luther’s corpus, where they found aspects of a doctrine of sanctification in Luther that was similar to the Orthodox view. Their hypothesis, if I recall correctly, was that Luther died before he had the chance to flesh that out in the same way as his doctrine of justification. I don’t know if I still have the book I read; if I find it, I’ll pass on the citation.
(5) Nyssa’s notion of apokatastasis
—ultimate recapitulation/reconciliation—of everything in God has never been condemned as heresy by the church (as was Origen’s, or at least that of some of Origen’s followers, for other reasons). Nor did it become dogma.
(6) For Nyssa and others, “hell” is a state of purging (metaphorically, burning away) the remaining “tares”—rather analogous to chemotherapy, perhaps—for the spiritual healing of those persons. It is neither everlasting, nor does it end in any final destruction of the person, nor everlasting separation from God.
(7) In the end, God either—
(a) Saves (everyone);
(b) Fails to save (at least some); or
(c) Chooses not to save (at least some).
One must choose one of those three before defending one’s choice, from either scripture or tradition or both. (c) contradicts statements that God wills (or wishes or desires; Greek: thelema
) to save everyone. (b) implies that God is somehow defeated, either by Satan or by human wickedness. (a) is simply not as problematic under a soteriology of healing (literally, a soteriology of soterias
) as it seems to be for a juridical model of soteriology.
I will quote St. Isaac of Nineveh here: “As a copious spring could not be stopped up with a handful of dust, so the Creator’s compassion cannot be conquered by the wickedness of creatures.” (Isaac of Nineveh; 7th century)
(8) A soteriology of healing seems far more in accord with a God who is agape
. The author of the First Epistle of John, saying “this God is agape” (ho theos agape estin
, 1st John 4:8 & 16), has theos
both in the nominative case, which can indicate a relationship of identity. The only other cases that I am aware of that this construction is used vis-à-vis God is “the Logos was God” (John 1:1) and “God is spirit” (pneuma ho theos
, John 4:24).
—The same nominative-case noun-noun construction is also in Hebrews 12:29: “Our God is a consuming fire” (ho theos hemon pyr katanaliskon
). I would argue that that pyr katanaliskon is agape
—As you note, CB, everlasting torment does not seem to be in keeping with a God who is
I am not saying that a juridical model of soteriology cannot be read out of the texts. I am saying that a soteriology of healing/sanctification can also, and quite consistently, be read out of the texts—and has been.
Of course, one exegete’s text is another’s con-text (there’s a pun in that hyphen). Epiphenehas and I argued pretty much all the relevant NT texts on this issue some time ago (or at least I think we came pretty close). The argument ended in a friendly impasse. I am not prepared to repeat the process—hence, my note that the above points are offered for reflection.