Author Topic: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis  (Read 542 times)

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Offline Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« on: April 21, 2018, 03:30:12 AM »
The Orthodox Church teaches that universal salvation is a legitimate Christian hope, but the Church condemns preaching it as a dogmatic certainty. I personally agree with those saints and Christian believers who expressed sound biblical reasons for the hope of the ultimate reconciliation of all created beings with their Creator. I personally believe that the victory of the Cross has atoned for all sins and conquered all evil. I believe with St. Paul that Christ has indeed reconciled all things to Himself (I Corinthians 1:19-20).

I also believe in hell. The scriptures speak of hell, and I believe hell is a serious reality. But I don’t believe that hell is a physical place of conscious eternal torment. For one thing, such a notion contradicts the theological truth that God is omniscient and that His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136). There is no place where God is not. And where God is, His love is also present. Therefore I agree with St. Isaac the Syrian who said, “The love of God is the fire of hell.” Those who reject God’s love in this temporal life will experience His love as agony in the next. Yet there is nothing in Holy Scripture to indicate that human free will is negated at death. The departed soul may perhaps still cry out to receive the eternal love of Christ. That’s one reason why we Orthodox offer prayers for the departed. God transcends time and space, and thus we offer our prayers for all souls with the conviction and hope that He hears and answers always.

As St. James the Apostle wrote:
“Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” [James 5:13-18]

So I believe both in the reality of hell and the reality of the Cross’s victory over hell. I believe in the glorious paradoxical mystery that God created human beings with the freedom to reject Him forever, and yet His love is so powerful and pure that all creatures with free will shall eventually and ultimately choose His love forever.

Our Lord said: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it." [St. Matthew 7:13-14] He also said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." [St. John 10:9]

The path to heaven is indeed a narrow path, and Christ alone is the door to salvation. But nowhere in Scripture do we find any indication that the door will be permanently closed or that the narrow path will be forever blocked.

St. Paul writes: “So when the corruptible shall has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?” [1 Corinthians 15:54-55]
 
And Our Lord declared: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth (Resurrected to heaven), I will draw all men unto me.” [St. John 12:32]

The Greek word “apocatastasis” (ἀποκατάστᾰσις) means restoration or re-establishment. The word is found in the New Testament in the Book of Acts: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution (ἀποκατάστᾰσις) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” [Acts 3:19-21]

Thus there is scriptural support for the belief that all of creation, and all created beings, will ultimately be divinely restored and eternally redeemed.

I maintain that if our theology leads us to renounce all violence, to hope in the universal redemption of all souls, all creatures, and all creation, and to emphasize the love of God to the exclusion of all hatred, fear, guilt, and shame, then we have truly understood the Gospel.

The King has prepared a banquet, and all are freely invited. Some receive the invitation with joy and immediately come running. But others say: "I don't need the King's food. In fact, I don't even believe the King exists. Enjoy your fictitious banquet; I will feed myself." But over time, these fools begin to starve. And the divine appetite with which they were originally imbued will inevitably override their recalcitrance and pride. The innate hunger for God shall prevail in their souls, and thus they too shall ultimately be found dining at Our Lord’s eternal feast.

But it is important for me to clarify that this is simply my own humble opinion. I am not a priest, a deacon, or an Orthodox theologian. I am just one sinner working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. But I find comfort in the words of scripture and the words of the saints that point to this glorious universal hope.

[The pictures and quotations here are not all from Orthodox saints. So please keep that in mind. But I am posting them because I happen to agree with them, and I don’t think they necessarily contradict Orthodox teaching. But as always, where I err, the Church does not. So please consult Orthodox Teaching and Tradition above all other biblical and theological interpretations, especially mine.] 

Selam,
+Gebre Menfes Kidus+

(Apologies for the large size of these images. I didn't know how to make them smaller. But I think if you click on the images you will be able to see them clearly in their entirety.)




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« Last Edit: April 21, 2018, 03:40:42 AM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
"Whether it’s the guillotine, the hangman’s noose, or reciprocal endeavors of militaristic horror, radical evil will never be recompensed with radical punishment. The only answer, the only remedy, and the only truly effective response to radical evil is radical love."
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Offline Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2018, 03:44:22 AM »
mistakenly double posted
« Last Edit: April 21, 2018, 03:46:13 AM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
"Whether it’s the guillotine, the hangman’s noose, or reciprocal endeavors of militaristic horror, radical evil will never be recompensed with radical punishment. The only answer, the only remedy, and the only truly effective response to radical evil is radical love."
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2018, 04:36:49 AM »
So, how would you answer the argument that Universalism serves only to encourage sloth in this life and quench the desire to save the lost?
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Offline Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2018, 05:44:02 AM »
So, how would you answer the argument that Universalism serves only to encourage sloth in this life and quench the desire to save the lost?

To begin with, I would reiterate that I do believe in hell. And while I don’t believe that hell is a physical place of literal fire where human flesh is tortured forever, I do believe that hell is real and awful and perhaps worse than we can even imagine. We should be frightened of hell, and yet I don’t think that true salvation ever comes about as a result of fear. The idea of God compelling us to love Him by threatening us with hell seems downright blasphemous to me. We must choose to love God freely, and fear is a coercive motivation that I believe ultimately undermines free will.

I would also say that those who reject God in this life are not truly happy people. If their only concern is not to go to hell when they die, and they thus live a life of sin and rebellion against God because they believe they have a free pass to do so, then they will suffer from their separation from God. No material or carnal pleasures can fill the void in the soul that only Christ can fill.

Salvation is about our experience of and relationship with the Creator in whose image we have been divinely fashioned. In preaching the Gospel we should convey the good news that God loves humanity and that through the Cross and the Resurrection all things shall be restored. Why wait to live and bathe in that restoration? Why suffer from separation from God when we don’t have to?

Those are just a few thoughts on your question.

Selam
"Whether it’s the guillotine, the hangman’s noose, or reciprocal endeavors of militaristic horror, radical evil will never be recompensed with radical punishment. The only answer, the only remedy, and the only truly effective response to radical evil is radical love."
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2018, 06:39:38 PM »
So, how would you answer the argument that Universalism serves only to encourage sloth in this life and quench the desire to save the lost?

To begin with, I would reiterate that I do believe in hell. And while I don’t believe that hell is a physical place of literal fire where human flesh is tortured forever, I do believe that hell is real and awful and perhaps worse than we can even imagine. We should be frightened of hell, and yet I don’t think that true salvation ever comes about as a result of fear. The idea of God compelling us to love Him by threatening us with hell seems downright blasphemous to me. We must choose to love God freely, and fear is a coercive motivation that I believe ultimately undermines free will.

I would also say that those who reject God in this life are not truly happy people. If their only concern is not to go to hell when they die, and they thus live a life of sin and rebellion against God because they believe they have a free pass to do so, then they will suffer from their separation from God. No material or carnal pleasures can fill the void in the soul that only Christ can fill.

Salvation is about our experience of and relationship with the Creator in whose image we have been divinely fashioned. In preaching the Gospel we should convey the good news that God loves humanity and that through the Cross and the Resurrection all things shall be restored. Why wait to live and bathe in that restoration? Why suffer from separation from God when we don’t have to?

Those are just a few thoughts on your question.

Selam

Interesting. I'm sympathetic to universalism because who wouldn't be, and those are some good things to consider. Thanks.
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Offline ttcmacro

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2018, 08:50:53 PM »
Some good quotes here, thanks for providing them.

Offline Avdima

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2018, 08:27:59 AM »
It is impossible that wood, grass, and straw disappear in such a way as to not exist any more, but they [viz., sinners] will disappear insofar as they are grass and so on. Indeed, this fire of the corrective punishment is not active against the substance, but against the habits and qualities. For this fire consumes, not creatures, but certain conditions and certain habits. (Didymus, Comm. In Ps. 20-21 col. 21.15)”

― Didymus the Blind

Offline Agabus

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2018, 10:13:36 AM »
I hold out the hope that Hell as a place/state of being/whatever is essentially permeable and leaks souls as people truly understand the depths of their sins and repent.
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2018, 10:19:19 AM »
So, how would you answer the argument that Universalism serves only to encourage sloth in this life and quench the desire to save the lost?

It's interesting how these things can play out--for me, it's not the sin/virtue thing that becomes the potential stumbling block with universalism, but rather allegiance to a particular group and the obligations included with that. If a doctrine of universalism includes some kind of cleansing, correction, punishment, or whatever, then you would still need to live a good life. In real life, if they used to chop off your hand for theft, but now they give you 5 years in a labor camp--well, the overwhelming incentive to not steal remains, even if the punishment isn't quite as harsh or permanent; either way you're a fool for stealing, except in the direst of circumstances. The same with the spiritual life. But that involves the conscience, and things almost all religions and philosophies agree on--don't steal, don't rape, don't murder, etc. But as for particular groups? Let's face it, anything humans are involved with comes damaged before we even get there, and we only contribute to that when we throw our hat in. But if you don't need to be in this one group, as some kind of sole/unique source of salvation... that can readily lead to thoughts along the lines of, "Do I really need to worry so much about that part?" or "Could God really be all that harsh in judgment, just because I couldn't sort out the mess of which was the right place to be?"

Offline Volnutt

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2018, 02:58:30 PM »
So, how would you answer the argument that Universalism serves only to encourage sloth in this life and quench the desire to save the lost?

It's interesting how these things can play out--for me, it's not the sin/virtue thing that becomes the potential stumbling block with universalism, but rather allegiance to a particular group and the obligations included with that. If a doctrine of universalism includes some kind of cleansing, correction, punishment, or whatever, then you would still need to live a good life. In real life, if they used to chop off your hand for theft, but now they give you 5 years in a labor camp--well, the overwhelming incentive to not steal remains, even if the punishment isn't quite as harsh or permanent; either way you're a fool for stealing, except in the direst of circumstances. The same with the spiritual life. But that involves the conscience, and things almost all religions and philosophies agree on--don't steal, don't rape, don't murder, etc. But as for particular groups?

I know what you mean, yeah, especially when we're talking about Orthodox fasting, etc.

Let's face it, anything humans are involved with comes damaged before we even get there, and we only contribute to that when we throw our hat in. But if you don't need to be in this one group, as some kind of sole/unique source of salvation... that can readily lead to thoughts along the lines of, "Do I really need to worry so much about that part?" or "Could God really be all that harsh in judgment, just because I couldn't sort out the mess of which was the right place to be?"

True, but I can have thoughts like that with or without universalism lol.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Hell, Universalism, and Apocatastasis
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2018, 02:59:36 PM »
I hold out the hope that Hell as a place/state of being/whatever is essentially permeable and leaks souls as people truly understand the depths of their sins and repent.

Me too. I'm not sure how much possible support it has, especially in terms of the dead being able to repent, but yeah.
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