Sunday, April 10, 2011
Death, Hell and Stuff
I don't know about demons with red-hot pokers, it would seem terrible enough to be separated from God for all eternity without the addition of the imagery of a medieval torture chamber. In fact that imagery I think only makes the doctrine more difficult for the doubters and believers too. Christ speaks of weeping and teeth gnashing but no pokers, pincers or tubs of boiling oil. Pain comes from the absence of God, "My heart is restless until it rests in thee" eternal restlessness, that is the torture but it comes from within, rather than from another source.
Since the fall separation from God and restlessness is the the default position for mankind, we dwell amongst the dead. Without Christ all we can long for is oblivion.
The modern mantra: we have to believe hell exists but we don't have to believe anyone is there, doesn't ring true with Jesus' own words about the "narrow way", many being called yet few being chosen or about the imagery he uses of dividing sheep and goats or even wise and foolish virgins.
In his new book the Pope reminds us that the early Christians called themselves "Those who are alive", or simply "the Alive", to distinguish themselves from those who did not know Christ, the Resurrection and the Life and therefore remained dead.
Though we cannot limit God's mercy to the Church, the Sacraments or even to direct knowledge of Christ; for the New Testament Salvation, knowing Christ, comes with membership of the Church through baptism. It does not come from moral goodness but from God's free gift, and man's free choice to accept it or not.
Acceptance, and therefore the willingness to conform ones life to Christ brings Life, rejection, merely leaves us where the rest of mankindness is, amongst the Dead.
The continual choice placed before us is Life or Death, the continual call and prayer of Christ is, "Come forth", come out of the grave, out of the company of the Dead, out of the place of decay and corruption.
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