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Author Topic: Augustine and Hellfire Burning Immaterial Angels  (Read 1848 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: December 30, 2006, 12:03:09 AM »

In City of God Augustine tried to answer how immaterial Angels (and we might also add immaterial human souls/minds)* could suffer from physical fire in hell. He said:

Quote
"Therefore, though the devils have no bodies, yet their  spirits, that is, the devils themselves, shall be brought into  thorough contact with the material fires, to be tormented by them; not  that the fires themselves with which they are brought into contact shall be animated by their connection with these spirits, and become animals composed of body and spirit, but, as I said, this junction will be effected in a wonderful and ineffable way, so that they shall receive pain from the fires, but give no life to them." - Augustine, City of God, 21, 10

In support of this Augustine brings up the story of Lazarus, where we read: "Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’" (Lk. 16:24)

This brings up a few questions in my mind, if I am understanding this teaching correctly. First, I know that the passage about Lazarus was brought up at the Council of Ferrara-Florence when discussing purgatory, but did they also bring up this issue of how physical flames could hurt an immaterial nature? Second, has anyone (e.g., Aquinas) since Augustine attempted to further develop how exactly fire could effect immaterial beings? And third, do Catholics presently hold to the idea that there will be fire as a physical part of an actual physical place, or do they consider hellfire to be a non-physical aspect of a state of being?

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* Actually I think that they are only immaterial in comparison to the rest of creation, and are to some extent material in comparison to God, and Augustine essentially accepts this idea himself (Epistle 166), but that isn't really relevant in this post as Augustine assumes immateriality in trying to answer this problem.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 12:04:00 AM by Asteriktos » Logged

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lubeltri
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2006, 12:22:22 AM »

You'll find a good summary of the Catholic conception of heaven, hell, and purgatory here:

http://ewtn.com.au/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2006, 12:37:43 AM »

You'll find a good summary of the Catholic conception of heaven, hell, and purgatory here:

http://ewtn.com.au/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

I have spoken to some Catholics who actually do not accept the above from the Holy Father, but I would say this is surely indicative of standard thought.  Though, I don't know of anything definitive anywhere beyond the existence of hell, the eternity of it, and the pain of it.  The Catechism, though not exhaustive I am sure, seems to have nothing to say about the nature of the fire itself, and only proclaims that it exists.

Patrick
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2006, 12:39:16 AM »

Thank you Smiley I am somewhat confused by it, though.

The article says: "At the General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999, the Holy Father reflected on hell as the definitive rejection of God... 'than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy'." (this part about it not being a place is later repeated)

However, a footnote to this says: "This suggests correctly that although hell is not essentially 'a place,' rather the definitive loss of God,  confinement is included. Thus, after the general resurrection the bodies of the damned, being bodies not spirits, must be in 'some place,' in which they will receive the punishment of fire." The article also says that the NT passages about hell are "images" and use "figurative" language.

So is hell a place or not, and is the stuff about fire literal or figurative? Unless I am misunderstanding, it seems that it is being claimed that it is simultaneously neither and yet both?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 12:41:04 AM by Asteriktos » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2006, 12:48:23 AM »

In nomine Iesu, I offer you all peace,

It is unfortunate that Christianity is peppered with so many paradoxes.

All I can say is that everything I have learned about Heaven, Purgatory and Hell... I learned from Dante's Divine Comedy.  Grin

Pax Vobiscum
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2006, 01:59:45 AM »

Asterikos:

Well, that is a paradox found in heaven as well. Perhaps now, heaven and hell are states, not places. But when the general resurrection occurs, when we get our bodies back, we must be in a "place," though the nature of that place may not resemble a place as we understand it on Earth. But then, how about the Theotokos and Elijah? Well, perhaps heaven is a place that allows both spirits and bodies (angels, after all, do not have bodies). And perhaps hell is in the same place as heaven, but it is experienced as hell for the damned. That might make more sense, if it seems doubtful that God would create a hell.

What Cothrige says is right, though. Little is defined---everything else is theological opinion. What I linked to is the most common and accepted opinion today.

I really don't know---it's a mystery I will entrust to God.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 02:00:25 AM by lubeltri » Logged
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