Author Topic: Specific question about hell according to St. Thodora's after-death journey  (Read 2281 times)

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Offline searn77

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I have a question about hell and life after death. First of all, I got this translation of the story from orthodoxinfo.com. When I was reading this, I found something that seemed contradictory and I was wondering how everyone else that believes or doesn't believe in the toll-house concept interprets this. And I'm not asking about the validity of the toll houses concept, I'm just wondering how my question can be answered in view of the toll house concept. Here's a quote orthodoxinfo.com:

"Here I dared to ask my angel leaders: 'Tell me how can these terrible rulers of the air know in such detail all the evil deeds of men, and not only the open ones but even those that are secret?' The angels replied: 'Every Christian, as soon as he is baptized, receives from God an appointed guardian angel who guards him invisibly and inspires him night and day to every kind of good deed; he also records all his good deeds, for which that man later can hope to receive from the Lord grace and eternal recompense in the Heavenly Kingdom. The prince of darkness, who desires to draw into his own destruction the whole race of men as well, also appoints one of his evil spirits to walk in the man's steps and record all his evil deeds. It is his duty to inspire man to such deeds by any vile trickery in his power; and when he succeeds in his designs, he records all the wickedness of which the man has made himself guilty. Such an evil spirit spreads the report of every man's sins to all the stations of torment, and this is how the sins become known to the princes of the air. When the soul parts from its body and desires to go to its Creator in heaven, the evil spirits prevent the soul and show to it its sins. If the soul has done more good deeds than evil, they cannot keep it; but if the sins outweigh the good deeds, they keep the soul for some time, shut it up in the prison where it cannot know God, and torment it as much as God's power allows them, until that soul, by means of prayers of the Church and good deeds done for its sake by those who are still on earth, should be granted forgiveness."

So by reading this quote, it seems that an Orthodox Christian who can't pass a toll house will be tormented but eventually forgiven and saved.(And as a side-question, does this mean that everyone that has a Guardian Angel also has a personal demon that follows them around too?) But then later on it read:

"The holy angels said to me: 'You have seen, Theodora, the frightening and disgusting torments of fornication! Know then that few are the souls that pass them without stopping and paying their ransom; for the whole world lies immersed in the evils of seductive foulness, and all mankind is sensuous. Few guard against the impurities of fornication and deaden the desire of their own flesh. And this is the reason why few pass here freely; many come as far as this place but perish here. The rulers of the torments of fornication boast that they more than any of the others fill the fiery abyss of hell with the souls of men. But you, Theodora, must thank God that you have already passed the torments of fornication by the prayers of the holy man Basil, your father. Now you will no longer fear.'"

So by reading this quote from the same article, it would seem that if an Orthodox Christian can't pass a toll house, they are sent to hell where they will not be forgiven or saved.

If I'm understanding the whole toll house concept correctly, if someone is not Orthodox Christian and leads an evil life, they won't go to the toll houses but go straight to hell. If someone is an Orthodox Christian and led a really good life, confessing all of their sins and receiving the Eucharist as many times as possible, they will pass the toll houses like a breeze and go to heaven. But for those people who were still Orthodox Christian but didn't confess everything, didn't receive the Eucharist as much as they should have been able too, and didn't live the Christian life to the best of their ability, they will have more trouble passing through the toll houses. But what I don't understand is for this particular Orthodox Christian, since they are going through the toll houses, does this mean that they will definitely get to heaven, even if they get stuck at a toll house and are tormented for a little bit? Or is there a chance that when they get stuck at a toll house, they may go straight to hell without any chance of reaching Heaven? I'm not really sure because the way I'm understanding this translation, it seems contradictory but I know I can't be understanding this right. And I don't really want to bring up the topic of "what about Christians who aren't Orthodox Christians." Right now I'm just talking about Orthodox Christians and people who aren't Christian at all.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 08:36:20 PM by searn77 »
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Offline Douglas

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The vision is an allegory. It's not meant to be taken literally. Most Orthodox simply dismiss it. Whether this person is a recognized saint of the Church is questionable.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 10:28:43 PM by Douglas »
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Offline searn77

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The vision is an allegory. It's not meant to be taken literally. Most Orthodox simply dismiss it.
I know there are a variety of views on this topic but my question isn't about the different views. I have a different question.

Whether this person is a recognized saint of the Church is questionable.
Who are you talking about? What person? St. Theodora?
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Offline Douglas

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The Theodora who had this so-called vision is the saint in question. Read Abp Lazar's comments on the entire thing. You will find a much more sound version of hell from this site: http://orthodoxy21.blogspot.com/
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Offline searn77

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The Theodora who had this so-called vision is the saint in question. Read Abp Lazar's comments on the entire thing. You will find a much more sound version of hell from this site: http://orthodoxy21.blogspot.com/
Thanks. I'll have to check it out.

But still, I'm curious on my question stated in the OP. Any thoughts?
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Offline recent convert

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Toll houses are a speculation & not a heresy as some opinions may hold. It is, thankfully in my opinion, a doctrine that can be easily discarded but should not be considered heretical according to the general Orthodox consensus I have seen. If one gets a Bible concordance, "toll" is not even listed in any form. I have only seen the concept fully stated in a gnostic document called the apocalypse of Paul which also contains some distorted concept of heaven called an ogdoad (whatever that is) which I know was clearly condemned by blessed St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century. I avoid it, am skeptical of it but try not to render an opinion of it.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2009, 08:58:30 AM by recent convert »
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Offline cholmes

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The Theodora who had this so-called vision is the saint in question. Read Abp Lazar's comments on the entire thing. You will find a much more sound version of hell from this site: http://orthodoxy21.blogspot.com/
Thanks. I'll have to check it out.

But still, I'm curious on my question stated in the OP. Any thoughts?

You may have a difficult time getting full answers to your questions, just due to the fact that toll houses are not an official teaching of the Church and so discussion or dissemination of them is not as widespread as, say, the nature of Christ or the Trinity.  Have you read Fr. Seraphim Rose's book on the matter?  It's been many years since I have, but you may find your answers there.

Offline orthodoxlurker

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I have a question ...

If I'm understanding the whole toll house concept correctly...

I am afraid there is nobody that can authoritatively affirm if your understanding of the concept is correct.

While I haven't heard doubts about St. Theodora's sanctity, there oldest dated letter about the a.m. vision are dated in 9th century, some 2-3 centuries after her death, and, AFAIK, is considered being of doubtful authenticity by Greeks, among whom they appeared for the first time.

Apart from the link above, you may find an excellent debate about the toll houses at indiana orthodox list.
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Offline searn77

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Okay. Well after reading some more articles on the subject I think I get the gist of this so if someone can tell me if I'm right or wrong, that would be much appreciated: Some Orthodox don't believe in toll houses at all. Others do. For the Orthodox that do, some believe that if the Orthodox's sins outweigh his good works and he gets stuck at a toll house, the demon will drag him to hell where he will never be saved. Others believe that the demons will take him somewhere and punish him as much as they can but he will eventually be saved, through prayers, intercession, repentance, etc. And still others believe that maybe he will be saved and maybe he won't, depending on the sins that were committed, if there's any intercessory for him by others, if he is repentant, etc.

Is this correct? Sorry for bringing this topic up as I know that this has been discussed a lot before, it's just that I'm not that familiar with the topic and I was confused a bit by the article.

And I'll see if they have Seraphim Rose's book on the subject of life after death at the library or book store, as I would like to hear his explanation on the subject (I know he believes in it but like I stated above in this post, if I'm understanding correctly, the Orthodox Christians who believe in this have varied views about it.)
Let us the faithful now come together to praise our father, protector and teacher the pillar of the Orthodox faith and firm defender of piety even the wondrous hierarch Philaret and let us glorify our Saviour Who has granted us his incorrupt relics as a manifest sign of his sanctity.