What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks?!? Pt. 5: Hell in Eastern Orthodoxy

“The Ladder of Paradise” by John Climacus

Bishop Ware (of no relation) writes (The Orthodox Church. New Edition. London: Penguin Books, 1997),

While it is true that God loves us with an infinite love, it is also true that He has given us free will; and since we have free will, it is possible for us to reject God. Since free will exists, hell exists; for hell is nothing else than the rejection of God. If we deny hell, we deny free will… God will not force us to love him, for love is no longer love if it is not free; how then can God reconcile to Himself those who refuse all reconciliation?…

There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God. Orthodox Christians do not cringe before him in abject fear, but think of him as philanthropos, the ‘lover of humankind’. Yet they keep in mind that Christ at his Second Coming will come as judge.

Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons humans, as a place where humans, by misusing their free will, choose to imprison themselves. And even in hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy.

This is an interesting counter to the “hell as separation from God” take on Hell, which is something I’ve been unable to wrap my head around. How can one be totally separated from an omnipresent God? And why would a Holy God allow sin to continue to exist (as set apart from the rest of creation as it may be in Hell) in the New Creation, which is supposed to set right? If sinners remain imprisoned in Hell, then sin remains as part of God’s creation. Either God is not omnipresent or Hell is not so much a “place”. But here, we see that although the unrepentant may not experience the bliss of being reconciled to God, they are not absent from God, but instead experience the torment of being unreconciled. It still leaves the question of conscious existence, and how unatoned sin can remain as part of creation. However, I think there is considerable strength in this view, as it makes clear that Hell is not retribution inflicted by a God who has no qualms with inflicting eternal torment on his creation.

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1 Response to What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks?!? Pt. 5: Hell in Eastern Orthodoxy

  1. Ken Feiler says:

    A few questions are in order…
    If there is an eternal hell with a whole hell of a lotta people in it… Then one must also consider that in that premise…man is eternal…as well as God, and that even if man there has a beginning, he now has no end…. (all contrary to the Word of God)
    And then how does one define death ? Was that not one of the things the serpent said in the garden…? Thou shalt not die.. Was the serpent correct ? No…
    And what then is the second death ? If there is an eternal hell then there is no second death.
    The plan of salvation provided a sin bearer, Jesus Christ, the lamb, slain from the foundation of the world… at the inception of sin here there was provision made which included recourse and remedy…Justification and sanctification….an imputed righteousness, and then a progressive imparted righteousness…both by faith.
    Time is an artificial dimension created by God with a beginning and an end… In it sin exists. When there shall be time no more, we will see the heavens roll apart as a scroll, and we will be face to face with eternity once more….the natural state of the universe. Time, as we presently know it will have ceased to exist. At that time those that are not Christ`s will in essence have their sins return upon them and they will pass into non existence…and be as if they had never been. There will not be some out of the way place of eternal torment where former sinners of earth are in anguish for millennia, while those that are saved live in eternal bliss. This is contrary to the character and nature of God.
    And what sinner who has developed a character devoid of God`s eternal love would want to live in an environment where everything is centered around selfless love. They would find no peace there, no joy, no happiness, no fulfillment or rest…only despair and unease. They would rather not be present…therefore God allows them to pass into “non-existence” and they shall “be as if they had never been”…

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