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Abandon hope all who enter here?




CS Lewis described hell, "I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved” (C S Lewis, The Problem of Pain). In other words, those in Hell would rather be there then in glory. I like the concept, but I'm not sure about it. Is hell a place where people are running further and further into God-forsakenness, or is hell a place where people are beating on the door of Heaven agonizing over their God-forsakenness? It's not a moot question: Do we present the gospel as a 'last chance' before eternal regret? Or is an unbeliever's rejection of the gospel a magnifying glass on the state of damnation of a soul which desires nothing else?

Comments

Tom said…
Rick, I love the way you succinctly put the question. I recently read Randy Alcorn's two novels "Deadline" and "Dominion". If I read him right, he seemed to side more with Lewis. On the one hand, those in hell do hate God and want nothing to do with him. On the other hand, they are utterly regretful of being there. They want the loveliness of heaven, but despise it just the same.

The first passage to come to mind is Luke 16 (isn't that where the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is?). He seems to want to be in heaven because he doesn't want his brothers to come there.

But I don't agree with Lewis about those damned "enjoying" their self-enslavement. The passages on hell I think of all say they don't want to be there and wish out. It is indeed a punishment, with no joy there. It seems to me that since we can indeed have conflicted emotions here, we could also have it in hell - not wanting to be there, and yet hating the thought of what it would take to be out of there. And on top of that, knowing its impossible to get out, hating the God who is rightly done this to me.
Professor D2 said…
Considering the penalty for sin is the Second Death... this whole "hell" discussion is a moot point to me ;-)
Rick said…
Thanks for your comments friends. A couple of thoughts. First to Josh, to continue an ongoing discussion, first you would admit that 'the second death' is not the only description of Hell or final judgement. There are others 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', 'no rest day or night' 'the worm does not die' etc. Even still, the question is 'What is the definition of second death?' If death can only be defined as annhilation or obliteration than your argument is solid. However, the Bible uses death metaphorically all over the place. The widow who 'though dead she lives', 'the smell of death', 'the sleep of death' etc. Strictly speaking, if death equals annhilation how can you have a second death? How do we obliterate that which has been obliterated?

Tom, I like your way of bringing the two together. Lewis' description doesn't seem to do justice with the concept of punishment. Yet, a being utterly repulsed and terrified by God could never want His presence. In fact that would be what they would hate most and want least. Perhaps what we are left with is a place where those present agonize over nothing more than their God forsakenness, except the thought of having God himself. A bit paradoxical, hm?

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Pastor Rick Amendola, New Life Christian Assembly of God.
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The Reverend Canon Brian Bethke, the Anglican Diocese in New England.
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