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Author Topic: What is "Hell" and is it Eternal/Forever?  (Read 3968 times) Average Rating: 0
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GabrieltheCelt
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« on: November 14, 2007, 08:14:27 PM »

First, I'd like to offer my apologies if this question 1) seems polemical and/or 2) has been discussed already.  My purpose in asking this question is not to hash out something that's already been addressed by Holy Orthodoxy centuries ago (assuming it has), but learning exactly what the Church says.  If our more learned members can point me to some Patristic interpretations/explanations of Biblical passages that deal with Hell, I'd be most appreciative.

The primary reason for this question in the first place is so that I can address my Religion professors' assertion that 'an eternal place of torment is anti-thetical to the notion of a loving Creator'.  He's made some fairly persuasive arguments, but I'd like to be able to, not argue with him, but at least give him a well-reasoned response from Orthodoxy.

 Thanks in advance,

 Gabriel
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2007, 08:39:33 PM »

There's lots of debates about this topic on this board already, believe me.  Wink  Just do a search and see what you come up with.   Who knows, if you post something on one of those threads, you might revive a moribund debate that someone is simply dying to rehash.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 09:35:12 PM »

In fact, the seventh most popular threat (by replies) on this forum related to this very matter:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8657.0.html
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« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2007, 12:48:47 AM »

In fact, the seventh most popular threat (by replies) on this forum related to this very matter:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8657.0.html
If anyone should know about such things, it's our own GiC, since the subject of apokatastasis (universalism) is one of his favorite topics. Wink  (IOW, Jib, you just reopened a big can of worms. Cool)
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« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2007, 01:20:22 AM »

If anyone should know about such things, it's our own GiC, since the subject of apokatastasis (universalism) is one of his favorite topics. Wink  (IOW, Jib, you just reopened a big can of worms. Cool)
Well, it's not my intention to resuscitate a dead horse, but here's a point my professor brought up the other day (one that I've seen before):

'Imagine a child who's disobeyed her parents.  Now, her parents don't like the thought of punishing their child, but they know that a lax behavior will prove problematic to her (and them) in later life so they give her a spanking. So far, most of us will recognize that these parents  really love their child and have her best interests in mind (though we may have differing ideas re: spanking). Now, let's say that 30 years have passed on and the little girl is now a married woman.  What would we say about the parents if, everytime the woman visited them, they spanked her for what she did 30 years ago?'

I have some ideas about this but would appreciate y'alls input.
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« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2007, 02:20:55 AM »

Jibrail Almuhajir, this depends on whether you mean the traditional English meaning or the popular understanding.

Traditional English Meaning of Hell
In short, hell means hades.
That is, 'waiting room' where the souls of all departed in OT times went. This place is divided in two as we see from the story the Lord related about Dives and Lazarus. One part is a place of pain and a great gulf separates it from the place known as Abraham's Bosom or Paradise below (I'm not sure if the latter term is used in Orthodoxy).
When Christ "descended into hell" and preached to the souls in chains, He liberated the souls in Abraham's Bosom and took them to Paradise above where they remain before the Throne of God in peace awaiting the Day of Judgment.
Hence, now only the unsaved souls enter hell.

The word "hell" as described above is the meaning intended when it is used in both the Authorised King James Version and the Douay-Rhemes Bible. The latter even has certain notes to this affect in the OT.

Popular Misunderstanding of Hell
Many people think that hell is the Lake of Fire.
Obviously this is wrong because in The Revelation of St. John the Divine we see Hell cast into the Lake of Fire. Assumably you can't put a place into itself Roll Eyes, hence anyone who reads the Holy Bible should understand that the English word "hell" refers to "hades" not the Lake of Fire.

Solution to your problem: read classical English liturature including the Church Fathers in English. You should soon come to understand that "hell" simply means "hades".

Thank you and pray for me please.
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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2007, 02:25:25 AM »

Jibrail Almuhajir, this depends on whether you mean the traditional English meaning or the popular understanding.

Traditional English Meaning of Hell
In short, hell means hades.
That is, 'waiting room' where the souls of all departed in OT times went. This place is divided in two as we see from the story the Lord related about Dives and Lazarus. One part is a place of pain and a great gulf separates it from the place known as Abraham's Bosom or Paradise below (I'm not sure if the latter term is used in Orthodoxy).
When Christ "descended into hell" and preached to the souls in chains, He liberated the souls in Abraham's Bosom and took them to Paradise above where they remain before the Throne of God in peace awaiting the Day of Judgment.
Hence, now only the unsaved souls enter hell.

The word "hell" as described above is the meaning intended when it is used in both the Authorised King James Version and the Douay-Rhemes Bible. The latter even has certain notes to this affect in the OT.

Popular Misunderstanding of Hell
Many people think that hell is the Lake of Fire.
Obviously this is wrong because in The Revelation of St. John the Divine we see Hell cast into the Lake of Fire. Assumably you can't put a place into itself Roll Eyes, hence anyone who reads the Holy Bible should understand that the English word "hell" refers to "hades" not the Lake of Fire.

Solution to your problem: read classical English liturature including the Church Fathers in English. You should soon come to understand that "hell" simply means "hades".

Thank you and pray for me please.
I understand what you're saying about hades/sheol, but what have you to say about the Jewish concept of gehenna (the Lake of Fire), since the English word hell often refers to this, as well?  You say that hell cannot be thrown into itself, but what of hades being cast into gehenna, since hell can refer to either?
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2007, 02:47:05 AM »

I understand what you're saying about hades/sheol, but what have you to say about the Jewish concept of gehenna (the Lake of Fire), since the English word hell often refers to this, as well?  You say that hell cannot be thrown into itself, but what of hades being cast into gehenna, since hell can refer to either?

Hades is to be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Sheol (in Hebrew) refers to hell (or the grave but that is besides the topic here) however the word Gehenna (in Hebrew) has also been translated as hell (at least in the AV).

Hence, hell/hades/sheol (all the same 'waiting room') will be cast into the Lake of Fire (which the Jews call Gehenna). Perhaps this is why some people have become confused about the meaning of hell in English (due to two words being translated as 'hell' when only one has the same meaning).

That being said, have you ever heard somebody say, "Go to Gehenna"?
People who understand hell to be the Lake of Fire have some reasoning in their thoughts. After all, these days anyone going to Hell will unfortunatley end up in the Lake of Fire anyway so the distinction has become less important.

Perhaps for a fuller understaning a study in the original tongue would be best?

Else, the English word "Hell" usually refers to the waiting place of the souls of the dead (Hades/Sheol) but it can also refer to the final place of the lost souls (Lake of Fire/Gehenna. Make sense?
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2007, 09:39:01 AM »

Well, it's not my intention to resuscitate a dead horse, but here's a point my professor brought up the other day (one that I've seen before):

'Imagine a child who's disobeyed her parents.  Now, her parents don't like the thought of punishing their child, but they know that a lax behavior will prove problematic to her (and them) in later life so they give her a spanking. So far, most of us will recognize that these parents  really love their child and have her best interests in mind (though we may have differing ideas re: spanking). Now, let's say that 30 years have passed on and the little girl is now a married woman.  What would we say about the parents if, everytime the woman visited them, they spanked her for what she did 30 years ago?'

I have some ideas about this but would appreciate y'alls input.

I would like to change your example slightly.  Lets say that the little girl gets spanked, because it's good for her.  But, because of her pride and ego she gets angry at her parents and doesn't understand that what they did was for her own good.  So, she never learns from the experience and never grows (up).  So, when she comes back 30 years, she is still mad at her parents, never getting over the fact that "she got spanked for something she never did" even though she was in the wrong, she never repented.  The love of her parents both when she was a child and when she is an adult will be like a "hell" for her, because she is not willing to accept it. 

What do you think of this? 
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2007, 09:55:36 AM »

I would like to change your example slightly.  Lets say that the little girl gets spanked, because it's good for her.  But, because of her pride and ego she gets angry at her parents and doesn't understand that what they did was for her own good.  So, she never learns from the experience and never grows (up).  So, when she comes back 30 years, she is still mad at her parents, never getting over the fact that "she got spanked for something she never did" even though she was in the wrong, she never repented.  The love of her parents both when she was a child and when she is an adult will be like a "hell" for her, because she is not willing to accept it. 

What do you think of this? 

Would you as a parent be content in heaven seeing your child suffer?
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2007, 10:30:53 AM »

  Forgive me.  Could someone who knows Greek and a little Hebrew please come to the rescue here.  I'm afraid that definitions of various states of the afterlife being given here are not really accurate.
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2007, 10:37:39 AM »

I'm not real excited with myself today (because of my miserable record in struggling against sin) so I doubt I'm going to be real upbeat in this post but I felt I should contribute even if I am a total loser...   Undecided

I know this subject comes up often on forums all over the net. Somehow we have, to our great neglect, found solace in the possibility of suffering 'for a time' than for 'eternity'. Personally, I'm not a great sufferer. Sticking my hand in a fire for ten seconds is not something I would 'willing' do. I honestly can't even grasp sticking my hand in a fire 'for eternity' but that still shouldn't distract us from the fact that sticking our hands in a fire for even ten seconds is against our very nature (which in a since is actually very promising because we haven't forgotten we're meant for eternity) but the point is we shouldn't see any solace if we believe we are 'off the mark'. Let's try to seek the Kingdom! If I burn for a day, a year or for eternity it's really not going to make a difference 'in the moment'. Ten seconds, Ten minutes, Ten years... their all going to 'feel' like an eternity if we experience them. I honestly don't like being a sinner and yet I sin... If I'm not going to burn, it's going to truly be a time for celebration 'for me' because I honestly don't want to encounter anything like what Jesus warned us about. However we interpret it, it's not an encounter I would 'willing' do. Perhaps that the point... If we really thought about it, maybe no matter how long it 'might' be would be 'too long' and we'd be at the business of 'seeking the narrow path'.

My thoughts....  Embarrassed
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2007, 11:05:37 AM »

  Forgive me.  Could someone who knows Greek and a little Hebrew please come to the rescue here.  I'm afraid that definitions of various states of the afterlife being given here are not really accurate.


Dr. Clark Carlton did a fascinating and very informative podcast in his Faith and Philosophy series (availabe via iTunes) entitled "Hell: A Modest Proposal" (dated 5/23/07).  I highly reccommend it.
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2007, 05:29:41 PM »

Would you as a parent be content in heaven seeing your child suffer?

Well, first of all, I'm not a parent, so therefore COMPLETELY unqualified to answer this question. 

If you question still stands, then I would say that it's the kid's fault, you can't FORCE them to be good, can you?  they have to chose it for themselves.  You can point out all the pluses and minuses, but they have to chose themselves. 

I'm sure I wouldn't be content, and God wasn't either, that's why He sent us His Son, because he wasn't content with our salvation prospectives.  But the Kingdom is alive and working right now as we speak...its up to us to do something about it, no matter how much God loves us. 
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2007, 12:55:36 AM »

Dr. Clark Carlton did a fascinating and very informative podcast in his Faith and Philosophy series (availabe via iTunes) entitled "Hell: A Modest Proposal" (dated 5/23/07).  I highly reccommend it.

Hmmm.  Thanks.  I'll have to track that down sometime.
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« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2007, 01:15:21 AM »

Dr. Clark Carlton did a fascinating and very informative podcast in his Faith and Philosophy series (availabe via iTunes) entitled "Hell: A Modest Proposal" (dated 5/23/07).  I highly reccommend it.

Found it, downloaded it, burned it to a cd.  From what I heard (sorry, I was studying at the same time), it sounded very informative.  I'll have some free time this weekend to 'dive' in fully.
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2007, 07:39:24 PM »


I've searched the Scriptures for the "foreverness" of hell and this is what I came up with:

"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?"
Matt 23:33



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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2007, 09:37:02 PM »

I've searched the Scriptures for the "foreverness" of hell and this is what I came up with:

"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?"
Matt 23:33
Are you familiar with Matthew 25?  Verse 46:  "And these will go into everlasting punishment..."

I encourage you to read the whole chapter for the proper context of this verse.
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« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2007, 10:20:49 PM »

Hell is apparently in New York, as it's Kitchen is somewhere in Brooklyn. Cheesy
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2007, 10:26:11 PM »

Hell is apparently in New York, as it's Kitchen is somewhere in Brooklyn. Cheesy
Hasn't somebody already warned you about eating that d***d Yankee food? Wink
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« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2007, 10:34:55 PM »

Quote
Hasn't somebody already warned you about eating that d***d Yankee food?

I swear it only happeden once!  I was up north in Maryland and I couldn't find a decent BBQ place in site!  I was young and desperate! Grin
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« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2007, 07:03:39 AM »

Kalomiros' The River of Fire essay is not universally accepted in Holy Orthodoxy as whole truth, but it is, legitimately, one person's opinion. One can read the entire essay at:

http://www.philthompson.net/pages/library/riveroffire.html

Any reading of the River of Fire essay should also be accompanied by a reading of the essay
"Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife, According to the Bible" at:

http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html


The opening paragraphs state: "The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown in the early church. While Heaven and Hell are decidedly real, they are experiential conditions rather than physical places, and both exist in the presence of God. In fact, nothing exists outside the presence of God.

This essay has the endorsement of one of the OCA's premier living theologians, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, dean emeritus, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CeltList/message/78160


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« Reply #22 on: November 19, 2007, 01:39:11 PM »

Kalomiros' The River of Fire essay is not universally accepted in Holy Orthodoxy as whole truth, but it is, legitimately, one person's opinion. One can read the entire essay at:

http://www.philthompson.net/pages/library/riveroffire.html

Any reading of the River of Fire essay should also be accompanied by a reading of the essay
"Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife, According to the Bible" at:

http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html


The opening paragraphs state: "The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown in the early church. While Heaven and Hell are decidedly real, they are experiential conditions rather than physical places, and both exist in the presence of God. In fact, nothing exists outside the presence of God.

This essay has the endorsement of one of the OCA's premier living theologians, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, dean emeritus, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CeltList/message/78160


Father Bless,

Is there any other dogmatic teaching concerning Heaven and Hell?
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« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2007, 04:54:48 PM »

Well, first of all, I'm not a parent, so therefore COMPLETELY unqualified to answer this question. 

If you question still stands, then I would say that it's the kid's fault, you can't FORCE them to be good, can you?  they have to chose it for themselves.  You can point out all the pluses and minuses, but they have to chose themselves. 

I'm sure I wouldn't be content, and God wasn't either, that's why He sent us His Son, because he wasn't content with our salvation prospectives.  But the Kingdom is alive and working right now as we speak...its up to us to do something about it, no matter how much God loves us. 

Your right. You can't force anybody to be good. The problem I see with your analogy is that you are creating a hell for the child's Parents. The whole family is now in torment. Than who is saved?
Personally, the whole concept of hell comes from humans that wish god to revenge what they themselves can't do. Because of there own fear of hell. It's a vicious cycle. It really doesn't help the soul at all. Wink
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« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2007, 07:22:22 PM »

Your right. You can't force anybody to be good. The problem I see with your analogy is that you are creating a hell for the child's Parents. The whole family is now in torment. Than who is saved?


I am not CREATING a hell, i'm pretty sure...

Maximos the Confessor tells us that being in hell is like being as far away from God as possible.  Other fathers describe it as God's love, but you spent your whole life away from it, so not only is it foreign to you, but it actually burns you b/c you were astranged to it your whole life. 

So who is creating the hell here, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, how do we breach the gap? 

The questions of salvation is a seperate one, and has been handled in other threads. 

Quote
Personally, the whole concept of hell comes from humans that wish god to revenge what they themselves can't do. Because of there own fear of hell. It's a vicious cycle. It really doesn't help the soul at all. Wink


Please forgive me, I really do NOT understand at all what you are trying to say above. 

p.s.  I would love to hear your comments on the latter portion of what I had to say: 

Quote
I'm sure I wouldn't be content, and God wasn't either, that's why He sent us His Son, because he wasn't content with our salvation prospectives.  But the Kingdom is alive and working right now as we speak...its up to us to do something about it, no matter how much God loves us.

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« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2007, 07:36:20 PM »

Please forgive me, I really do NOT understand at all what you are trying to say above. 

p.s.  I would love to hear your comments on the latter portion of what I had to say: 

What's he's saying is pretty straight forward, if a single person is in 'hell' and in suffering then not only the entire human race (or at least all humans who care for their fellow humans), but also God himself would be in 'hell'. The suffering of one creates the suffering of many (or all?). He is presenting a rather rational attack against the very concept of an eternal hell, this is but one of many arguments which demonstrate its absurdity.
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« Reply #26 on: November 20, 2007, 12:31:08 AM »

Are you familiar with Matthew 25?  Verse 46:  "And these will go into everlasting punishment..."

I encourage you to read the whole chapter for the proper context of this verse.


I didnt imply that this was the ONLY verse in the bible supporting the everlasting fire.

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« Reply #27 on: November 20, 2007, 03:40:09 PM »

I am not CREATING a hell, i'm pretty sure...

Maximos the Confessor tells us that being in hell is like being as far away from God as possible.  Other fathers describe it as God's love, but you spent your whole life away from it, so not only is it foreign to you, but it actually burns you b/c you were astranged to it your whole life. 

The condition of hell that the fathers tell us about is about the current state of the living that are in hell. Unless they repent from there sins they continue to be in hell. Hell is not a condition of the after life.

Quote
So who is creating the hell here, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, how do we breach the gap?
 

As long as we understand that hell is felt and lived in this age than why speculate as to what is to come in the final age. There is no dogma on the afterlife. There is a reason for that. The reason is because no one has ever come back to tell us what it's like. It's not clear. Christ was in hell and came out of it. For all we know all could be saved from it already. In Greek hell is a place that your glued to. In other words your stuck there. If all people get to see the after life than more than likely they will change when they get there. The problem I see is getting to the after life. There is only one place you can be glued to and it's not your Sofa.

 
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« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2010, 11:45:12 AM »

In its original Germanic meaning, "hell" is the abode of those who have died. Thus, "hell" is synonymous with the Greek "hades" and the Hebrew "sheol".

I will use "hell" only with that meaning.

"Gehenna", then, would the eternal lake of fire that appears after the Last Judgement.

Thus, "hell" is temporary, because the inhabitants will eventually end up either in Gehenna (or, following the essay by Kalomiros, in God's Negative Presence) or in  Heaven (or in God's Glorious Presence).

Thus, "hell" is temporary, and Gehenna does not yet exist.
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« Reply #29 on: April 21, 2010, 01:00:58 PM »

Kalomiros' The River of Fire essay is not universally accepted in Holy Orthodoxy as whole truth, but it is, legitimately, one person's opinion. One can read the entire essay at:

http://www.philthompson.net/pages/library/riveroffire.html

Any reading of the River of Fire essay should also be accompanied by a reading of the essay
"Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife, According to the Bible" at:

http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html


The opening paragraphs state: "The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown in the early church. While Heaven and Hell are decidedly real, they are experiential conditions rather than physical places, and both exist in the presence of God. In fact, nothing exists outside the presence of God.

This essay has the endorsement of one of the OCA's premier living theologians, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, dean emeritus, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CeltList/message/78160


Father Bless,

Is there any other dogmatic teaching concerning Heaven and Hell?

I know this is an old thread that just got bumped, but if anyone knows the answer regarding dogmatic teaching of the Church regarding heaven and hell that would be helpful.
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« Reply #30 on: April 21, 2010, 01:52:20 PM »

St. John Chrysostom:

"We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ: and the devil and his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and the impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not material fire(6) like our fire, but such fire as God would know. But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages(7). Amen."
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« Reply #31 on: April 30, 2010, 07:27:43 AM »

First, I'd like to offer my apologies if this question 1) seems polemical and/or 2) has been discussed already.  My purpose in asking this question is not to hash out something that's already been addressed by Holy Orthodoxy centuries ago (assuming it has), but learning exactly what the Church says.  If our more learned members can point me to some Patristic interpretations/explanations of Biblical passages that deal with Hell, I'd be most appreciative.

The primary reason for this question in the first place is so that I can address my Religion professors' assertion that 'an eternal place of torment is anti-thetical to the notion of a loving Creator'.  He's made some fairly persuasive arguments, but I'd like to be able to, not argue with him, but at least give him a well-reasoned response from Orthodoxy.

 Thanks in advance,

 Gabriel
Your religious professor is thinking of the western version of Hell as separation from God's love, and not of the Orthodox, hades and Gehenna, where sinners experience God's love as fire, and the righteous as light.
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« Reply #32 on: April 30, 2010, 07:43:47 AM »

[
I know this is an old thread that just got bumped, but if anyone knows the answer regarding dogmatic teaching of the Church regarding heaven and hell that would be helpful.
Christ is Risen!

I don't know if you will find any definitive dogmatic teaching.  It seems to be only in the last few decades that people have become concerned to tack down teachings on the afterlife with any precision.   Before that the faithful were content with rather amorphous teaching.

Here is something modern on the site of a Goarch parish in New York

"Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife"
http://stjohn.ny.goarch.org/
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« Reply #33 on: April 30, 2010, 10:28:50 AM »

Hell's Kitchen is in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.

Just sayin'.  Smiley
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« Reply #34 on: April 30, 2010, 10:31:39 AM »

?
There's lots of debates about this topic on this board already, believe me.  Wink  Just do a search and see what you come up with.   Who knows, if you post something on one of those threads, you might revive a moribund debate that someone is simply dying to rehash.  Roll Eyes

This is such a tempting topic wherein most can be said when less is being said....

Wrench back, twist neck and straighten up...

Behold, I see Him who makes straight the ways of men...

See, it is He,

I hear the sound of still waters...

be troubled not my heart...

For it is He who surrounds you when your soul-full thoughts depart...

Hell is a shadow, a dream of soul-full regret,

To be dogmatic about Hell or Eternity is to pluck dogmatics out of poetry,
   and that is dogmatically being said....

All that the Fathers saw or said with none will I disagree...

I will leave the problems of Hell and Heaven to Him who set captivity free...

Christ is Risen!

John



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