Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A little Mark Shea on Hell

Are many saved or are few saved? Both, I guess.
Now another aspect of Catholic tradition that has plagued simplifiers down through the ages is the question of hell: Will many (or all) be saved or few? And there have always been Catholics who emphasize either the fewness or the manyness of the saved—and who cite various authorities in the Tradition itself as backup for their views. That’s not hard to do since the Tradition has, in fact, two irreconcilable (for human intellect) strains of teaching, both originating in Jesus himself and both faithfully transmitted by the apostles.
And he quotes a little B16 in Spe Salvi, who notes something that I like to note:
Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation.
Which is what I always say to people who ask me how I could reconcile the idea of God's love with sending people to Hell. I don't think God "sends" anyone to Hell, per se. But they, through their free will, choose to experience this love as pain, and since free will is real, no one does anything to stop them, once they've made their decision. It's a bit harder to paint God as a monster from this perspective. IMHO, of course.

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