Thursday, December 08, 2016


Again, I have been very heartened by the scholarly debate about the Other Place, given that it is such an emotive topic. I am gratified to have enjoyed talking about this and listening to the wisdom of Archbishop Lloyd and Fr Chadwick and Fr Wassen who writes here.

I think I first need to address a point that Fr Wassen makes about my argument about Matthew xxv:46 in which I compare  κόλασιν αἰώνιον and ζωὴν αἰώνιον (zOen) and say that the senses of αἰώνιον must be the same. The good question that Fr Wassen raises is the nature of κόλασις that it has the idea of activity. How can an activity which is time-bound therefore be Eternal? I've thought about this below as a mathematical activity, and cannot say that my thoughts are completely coherent. The trouble is that of Time and Time seems to be something that, with St Augustine of Hippo, we know but can't say much about.

Yet, this word κόλασις is a noun, and not a participle. It has the sense of pruning, but also that of mutilation. It is related to κολαφίζω (kolaphIzo) which means "I buffet" or "I strike" and is directly linked to punishment. Pruning involves cutting off, and perhaps we see precisely what Our Lord is saying in His words in this verse if we translate κόλασις as a cutting off, a separation, a pruning from the True Vine. This makes sense in Our Lord's further references to Hell being a separation, a gulf, outer darkness. It is we who cut ourselves off!

However, I do stress that, in the light of the Primitive Church, the whole business of the Eternity of Hell is not cut and dried (no κόλασις here!). It is in Western thought with those who follow St Augustine and the Scholastics, but not in the Primitive Church. Origen, St Gregory Nazianzus, and St Gregory of Nyssa all share the belief that Hell is not an absolute. In this case, it seems they equate Hell with Purgatory. There is something comforting about that, but the only trouble is what happens to the Devil and the Fallen Ones? Will even they be reconciled with God?

It is for this reason, that I do respect Fr Wassen and Fr Chadwick in their holding of a different opinion from me. As Fr Chadwick says, I am rooted in mathematics, logic, scholasticism, and largely Western ways of thinking. I am not a Romantic, but more of an Idealist. Yet all of us Christians live in the hope for union with Christ rather than separation. That is without question. I still believe that Holy Scripture and the Fathers support the idea of Eternal Damnation: those who side with the Devil must expect to receive the same punishment as he. However, perhaps the debate on Hell must be set aside here in favour of thoughts on the nature of Eternity itself.

We might not be able to fathom Eternity, but is there anything we can say about it?

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