Purgatory

Will everybody reach heaven? Are fights over hell about to grab some more headlines?

Will everybody reach heaven? Are fights over hell about to grab some more headlines?

Chances are churches frequented by your readers and listeners rarely if ever offer sermons about hell and damnation these days. And yet this rather unpleasant topic is eternally (so to speak) fascinating, and may be about to grab some headlines. That’s due to Eastern Orthodox lay theologian David Bentley Hart's acerbic Sep. 24 release from Yale University Press “That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, & Universal Salvation.”

Sample sentences: “No one, logically speaking, could merit eternal punishment.”

Also this: “If Christianity is in any way true, Christians dare not doubt the salvation of all,”

Yes, Hart is a Hitler-in-heaven sort of guy (see page 38), and your sources will have interesting responses. Lest Hart seem a rank heretic, the Very Rev. John Behr of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary blurbs that this book presents “the promise that, in the end, all will indeed be saved, and exposing the inadequacy — above all moral — of claims to the contrary.”

Heretofore Hart was better known for ridiculing non-belief, as in “Atheist Delusions.” The prolific author has held a succession of university appointments, most recently as a University of Notre Dame fellow. Catholic theologian Paul Griffiths (in the news when he resigned over Duke University’s “diversity” policy) proclaims Hart “the most eminent” theologian in the English-speaking world.

Terms Hart applies to centuries of traditional orthodox and Orthodox doctrines on hell and damnation include “absurd,” “ludicrous,” “nonsensical,” “incoherent,” “horrid,” “degrading,” “loathsome,” “diseased,” “perverse,” “cruel,” “wicked” and “morally repugnant.” He is mainly offended by the idea that punishment is everlasting, on grounds that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Hart is open to some sort of cleansing to make sorry souls fit for heaven, but doesn’t spell out any version of Western Catholicism’s Purgatory.

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The big question: What does Christianity say happens to believers after death?

The big question: What does Christianity say happens to believers after death?

PAULA’S QUESTION:

When people say their loved one went to heaven, why doesn’t the preacher tell them that no-one goes straight to heaven? If they did, what would be the reason for the resurrection?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Christian doctrine says that after death a believer’s soul enters the presence of God in the blessedness of heaven, and then in the end times will be reunited with a transformed body. Christianity contrasts with Eastern religions’ belief in reincarnation, a long series of rebirths into varied conditions and biological species based upon performance in the prior life.

With typical Presbyterian precision, the Christian teaching is spelled out in the 17th Century Westminster Confession, accompanied by citations of 14 Bible texts:

“The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption, but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.” Then at “the last day ... all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.”

The modern-day Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the same: “In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection” at “the end of the world” when Christ returns.

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Mel Gibson and his 2016 multi-media tour: Can this fallen star ever repent enough?

Mel Gibson and his 2016 multi-media tour: Can this fallen star ever repent enough?

Mel Gibson, for years one of the most despised men in Hollywood, appears to be back on top with the release of a new film “Hacksaw Ridge.” This has brought together a delightful brew of movie reviews, Gibson gossip fests and interminable articles on how this industry pariah and renegade Catholic is trying to redeem himself, through a marathon of interviews in news and entertainment media.

There is valid religion-beat news here. It’s impossible to sidestep the faith factor in the story of how the maker of“The Passion of the Christ” has now come out with a movie about a Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector who survives one of World War II’s bloodiest battles without so much as a gun by his side.

In one of those journalistic mixes of opinion and fact that are all too common in newspapers these days, the Los Angeles Times expounds on all this.

 At the recent Academy premiere of "Hacksaw Ridge," there was a 10-minute standing ovation.
Not terribly surprising, except it was for Mel Gibson.
Ten years ago, Gibson was the most hated man in Hollywood. First, during a DUI arrest,  he verbally assaulted police officers using anti-Semitic and sexist language. Then he was caught on audiotape threatening his then-girlfriend with rape and other physical abuse as well as dropping the N-word.
Forget standing ovations; many believed he would never work again.
But forgiveness, like everything else, has always followed a hierarchy in Hollywood. The elite — those who've won awards, broken box office records, sold successful franchises — are often welcomed back even as newbies like Nate Parker or middlings like Lindsay Lohan are cut loose. 

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