Jesus’s Sacrifice

Please listen to this sermon by Fr Robert Barron in preparation for Corpus Christi:

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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63 Responses to Jesus’s Sacrifice

  1. For me, the problem with this sermon is that Fr. Robert Barron is famous for his belief that “we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved.” If he really believes that – and apparently he does – then what’s the point of sacrifice? What’s the point of the mass or confession or any of the sacraments? What’s the point of the Church itself? Why bother with anything if we’re all saved in the end?

    Many believe that this idea – “we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved” – is why large numbers of people have seen the Church as unnecessary and simply left it.

    The idea of “sacrifice” is one of those concepts that has been almost completely de-emphasized and minimized by “the spirit of the Council” in the rush to convince everyone that there is only “joy” in the Church, only “positive” aspects.

    Those supposedly “positive” aspects don’t involve anything difficult or hard or painful. They don’t involve anything resembling the Cross. And they certainly don’t involve anything like “sacrifice.”

    Perhaps Archbishop Cupich and Fr. Barron now see a problem with the constantly bubbling, almost obsessive “joy” in what Michael Voris calls “the Church of Nice.” If so, after fifty years of the wrongheaded “spirit of the Council” – which really has had nothing at all to do with Vatican II – it may take another fifty years to teach people the truth.

    And what is this truth?

    It’s what the saints have always known: suffering and the Cross – sacrifice – can be the source of tremendous joy, because we are suffering for Christ and with Christ and out of love for Christ.

    For many priests and bishops, though, especially for those with an utterly false idea of “mercy,” that kind of thinking must seem – to adopt a modern turn of phrase – “so very thirteenth century.”

  2. mkenny114 says:

    Robert,

    I know what you mean re the question of what the point of the sacraments and the sacrifices required of the individual in order to live a Christian life is if we are all to be saved in the end, but I think it is also important to emphasise that, based on what I’ve seen and read by Fr. Barron, he is wholeheartedly supportive of all the Church’s moral teachings, and repeatedly calls for the need for sacrifice and holiness for all the baptised in his work. I’m not saying that you’re saying he doesn’t, but I thought it important to note this. He also has some very good videos on his youtube channel on Vatican II (contra its popularly invoked ‘spirit’).

    As to how Fr. Barron and others reconciles this insistence on moral and spiritual renewal and the need for sacrifice in discipleship with their universalism, I think it probably differs from person to person. Firstly, there is on the one hand a universalism which imagines that there is some sort of post-mortem purging of all our selfishness and sinful desires, a process wherein we, having finally encountered God, find it progressively impossible to hold on to our sins in the face of His overwhelming majesty, holiness and love – this is, I think, the sort of universalism Fr. Barron holds to, and he would probably say that this post-mortem process is a continuation of the conversion we go through in this life, so that the sacrifices we make here and now (and the grace given to us to do this via the sacraments) can still be seen as meaningful and contributing towards our salvation overall. I don’t buy this myself, and in particular wonder why the need for this life if we are to be overwhelmed in the next, but I think this (or something like it) is the argument that might be given.

    Another kind of universalism is the one that has infected the preaching and catechesis of many churches, particularly in the West, which doesn’t seem to see the need for any real conversion at all, and simply presumes upon the love of God (which is of course seen as something permissive and indulgent of our sins, rather than holy and purifying of our sins). For this type of universalism, which seems to be something assumed rather than ever properly thought out or declared in any clear way, the Sacrifice of Christ and its representation in the Sacrifice of the Mass might, I suppose, be seen as the means by which this fuzzy love is made available to us, but in a Protestant ‘one off event’ sort of a way, so that the door is opened for us and all we need do now is bask in the love of a tolerant, permissive, all-inclusive God.

    So, I think there is a real difference between what Fr. Barron and others advocate, which is at least still rooted in a robust doctrine of God’s holiness and the need for our ongoing conversion, and what we see in so much bad preaching and catechesis, defended under the ‘spirit of the Council’. Ultimately though I agree – if everyone is saved in the end, I am not sure what the point of any of the sacrifices we make in this life are, nor really of much else; furthermore, whichever sort of universalism is advocated, the net effect is that most people will simply walk away, convinced that a.) they’re basically a ‘good person’ and b.) they’ll be alright in the end anyway. For that reason alone, promoting this idea is a grave error and a huge misuse of the responsibility entrusted to those called to teach the faithful.

  3. Brother Burrito says:

    RJB, it sounds as if the Fr Barron brand has been sullied for you. (Was Michael Voris responsible?)

    “A reasonable hope of being saved” is not a certainty, by a long chalk. The Gospel wouldn’t be such very good news, would it, if it didn’t give us such a reasonable hope.

    A mental reservation may be in order for all of us:

    There IS a reasonable hope of being saved,

    but we must all act as if we don’t know about it!

  4. mkenny114 says:

    BB, do you mean there is a reasonable hope of being saved for each one of us, or a reasonable hope of all being saved? Because Robert was referring to the second option; I certainly agree that if there were no reasonable hope of each one of us being saved, then things would look pretty bleak indeed!

  5. Thank you for your detailed explanation! Yes, I’ve seen the video series on Catholicism that Father Barron produced. It’s very impressive.

  6. toadspittle says:

    Robert John,
    Doesn’t the idea that finite human beings might be punished for a time (maybe a long one) for their sins, and then, when purged, be admitted to Paradise – cut any ice with you?
    What sin could be so grave that it will merit never being forgiven? Maybe you, or someone, can enlighten me. Missing Mass deliberately on Sunday, maybe?
    .

  7. toadspittle says:

    “Why bother with anything if we’re all saved in the end?”
    Barron doesn’t say we will all be saved in the end. He says we all have a hope of it. – Not the same thing at all.
    Some people (not Robert John, I’m sure) seem to think that, if we all knew for certain we weren’t going to Hell for eternity, we’d all go around behaving like raving, homicidal, maniacs – and that it’s only fear of Hell that stops us from doing so.
    Some people do go around constantly in fear that they might die suddenly unshriven – and be endlessly and painfully punished by a loving God. I have known some.
    …Still, takes all sorts, dunnit?

  8. mkenny114 says:

    Barron doesn’t say we will all be saved in the end. He says we all have a hope of it. – Not the same thing at all.

    It’s not the same thing exactly no, but it’s tantamount to being the same thing is it not? At the end of the day, either everyone will be reconciled to God or they won’t, and saying that we have a reasonable hope that will seems to me to at undermine the Church’s teaching that at least some people will refuse the offer of that forgiveness and reconciliation. If it does turn out that there is a universal reconciliation of all people to God, then that is certainly not without the realms of possibiity and I can see how it would be both achievable and consistent with much of what we know of the essence of God’s nature as revealed in Christ, but here and now, given what we know (and – an important point – a good deal of what we know here has been conveyed to us by the Church, which is God’s chosen organ of delivering His will to us), promoting this as a ‘reasonable’ hope would seem to contradict the plain sense of Catholic teaching on the subject.

    Some people (not Robert John, I’m sure) seem to think that, if we all knew for certain we weren’t going to Hell for eternity, we’d all go around behaving like raving, homicidal, maniacs – and that it’s only fear of Hell that stops us from doing so.

    This is a gross misrepresentation of what Robert actually wrote. His point seems to me to be that without the possibility of finally losing one’s relationship with God, or ever even establishing it, that our decisions in this life are rendered insignificant, even pointless, and that it is the possibility of choosing wrongly that gives the decisions we make dignity (as well as a sense of drama – it is not accidental that the literary genre of the Romance, and eventually the modern novel, was born in the Christian world, where the importance of free will and its consequences have been held to be so important). This does not mean that without hell we will just do whatever we like, sliding swiftly into (amongst other things) homicidal behaviour; it does mean that our actions will not be conducted in the light of a sense of permanent consequence, and thus will lose significance, leading us into apathy, indolence and the crippling self-protective and spiritually deaf condition of sloth, which can ultimately lead to an inability to hear God’s voice or know His love.

  9. mkenny114 says:

    What sin could be so grave that it will merit never being forgiven?

    ‘Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.’ (Matthew 12:31)

  10. Brother Burrito says:

    For each one of us.

  11. toadspittle says:

    It wasn’t intended to be a representation of Robert John’s words. That’s why I put in the disclaimer.

    “…it is not accidental that the literary genre of the Romance, and eventually the modern novel, was born in the Christian world,”
    A very good point. Novels still cause Muslims a huge amount of trouble.

  12. toadspittle says:

    Can you explain what “blasphemy against the Spirit, “ means, or entails, Michael? And what the correct punishment for it ought to be?

  13. Tom Fisher says:

    This has come up a few times before; suffice to say that Fr Barron is basing his view on Balthasar. and Balthasar explored the topic in some depth in this book, which I have read and found fascinating:

    http://www.ignatius.com/Products/DWH-P/dare-we-hope.aspx

  14. toadspittle says:

    Shouldn’t we at least fervently desire that every human being might be saved from eternal damnation?
    Decidedly unchristian not to, it seems to me.
    Some people seem to love the idea of sinners roasting for ever and ever. Look forward quite keenly to the prospect.

  15. Tom Fisher says:

    I don’t think many people actually love the idea of sinners roasting, but poor old Balthasar does seem to be endlessly misunderstood on this point. His argument is quite sophisticated, but his conclusion — that the Christian should adopt a position of hope without certainty, — should be accessible to anyone. Unfortunately in the popular mind he is sometimes thought to argue that everyone is guaranteed to go to heaven. — He argues no such thing, ever. But that’s the common misunderstanding

  16. mkenny114 says:

    Oops. Yep, that was pretty stupid of me, sorry – especially as I included the disclaimer in the part of your comment that I quoted from! Nevertheless, I still think the idea that people argue for the existence of hell because if it didn’t exist we’d all immediately start commiting murders and things like that to be just a bit of an exaggeration…

  17. mkenny114 says:

    Can you explain what “blasphemy against the Spirit, “ means, or entails, Michael? And what the correct punishment for it ought to be?

    Yes – the traditional interpretation of this verse is that the sin against the Holy Spirit is the making oneself unable to distinguish between the works of God and those of the devil (if you read the verses that come before this one, the Pharisees have just accused Jesus of obtaining His power from ‘Beelzebul’), and in particular not being able to recognise His offer of forgiveness, of believing that God cannot forgive sins.

    If one ends life in this way, unable to accept God’s offer of forgiveness, and reluctant to, as it were, let God in, there is nothing God can do, as He will not override our freedom, even the freedom to choose to shut Him out. Thus the essence of the sin against the Holy Spirit is the essence of hell itself – a rejection of the love of God – and is its own punishment. For someone to reach the state where they shut themselves off like this requires a great deal of selfishness and willfulness, so it is quite a difficult condition to reach – nevertheless, some do. However, if one ever worries they have committed this sin, then the worrying is itself proof that one is not guilty of it – the worrying means one is still open to God’s grace and has not shut Him out.

  18. mkenny114 says:

    I think we should desire for the salvation of all people in the particular yes, in fact I would agree that it would be unChristian not to. But when considering the human race in general, belief that everyone will be saved seems to go against the plain sense of Scripture, the witness of Tradition, and the clear teaching of the Magisterium. I don’t think there are really many people who actually love the idea of others being hell though – I think most people who defend its existence are just keen that they not go against the teaching of the Church and that others are not misled.

  19. Tom Fisher says:

    belief that everyone will be saved seems to go against the plain sense of Scripture, the witness of Tradition, and the clear teaching of the Magisterium.

    Yes; between doubt, hope, fear, and certainty, there is much to reflect on. I know I’m a bit of a stuck record, but I’d urge you to read Balthasar himself, I think you will find that he doesn’t hold the position that his detractors sometimes think he does, and that he is well within the authentic tradition in terms of what he actually does argue. He certainly doesn’t argue for the ‘belief’ that all will be saved

  20. mkenny114 says:

    I’d urge you to read Balthasar himself, I think you will find that he doesn’t hold the position that his detractors sometimes think he does, and that he is well within the authentic tradition in terms of what he actually does argue. He certainly doesn’t argue for the ‘belief’ that all will be saved

    I agree, and wasn’t referring to von Balthasar but universalism in general. I’ve read ‘Love Alone’, which is very good, and a few passages from his universalist stuff, but will check out the whole text at some point. Whilst on the topic though, I do find it difficult to distinguish between the ‘reasonable hope’ that all will be saved, and the belief – is the ‘reasonable hope’ argument that what the Church teaches is clear, but that God might surprise us at the end?

    I can sort of see that, but otherwise it really does seem to be the case that either at least some people will go to hell, or that the Church has been misleading us – if the former then I don’t see how we can ‘reasonably’ hope, aside from maybe wishful thinking; if the latter, I guess you could argue that the magisterial teaching could be reinterpreted to fit universalism in there, but you’d need to jump through a lot of hoops to do it.

  21. Tom Fisher says:

    Hi Mkenny,

    Balthasar certainly rejected universalism (in the sense of certain belief). And strictly speaking his position is consistent with an “Augustinian” pessimistic scenario.
    He was particularly concerned with two questions; what is the appropriate stance of the Christian in the face of uncertainty? And what is the deepest significance of the ‘descent into Hell’ for Christian theology. — He devoted his life to those questions, and did so within authentic Catholic theology. Joseph Ratzinger delivered his eulogy (text online) it is quite moving.

    Balthasar wasn’t a universalist, he was altogether more interesting

  22. mkenny114 says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for the lowdown, but I wasn’t asking about von Balthasar’s pedigree or what his work was principally concerned with – both of which are already fairly well established. My question was, how do we distinguish between ‘reasonable hope’ and the belief in universalism? Either hell exists or it doesn’t.

  23. Tom Fisher says:

    how do we distinguish between ‘reasonable hope’ and the belief in universalism? Either hell exists or it doesn’t.

    I would say that the distinction is very similar to that between a man who spends up large as if his ship had already come back to port, and a man who knows it could be lost on a great ocean, but trusts the captain and crew. A reasonable hope is NOT universalism, it is a practical expression of the Christian duty to trust in the goodness of God, without diminishing personal responsibility.

  24. Tom Fisher says:

    I wasn’t asking about von Balthasar’s pedigree

    Granted, but I’m acutely aware that I am in no way able to argue his case adequately, and also that he has sometimes been misrepresented as “beyond the Pale” — so please indulge me when I mention his pedigree🙂

  25. mkenny114 says:

    A reasonable hope is NOT universalism, it is a practical expression of the Christian duty to trust in the goodness of God, without diminishing personal responsibility.

    Hmm. I’m just not sure that in practice this distinction doesn’t make much difference. As I said, either hell exists or it doesn’t, and if we can even reasonably hope that it doesn’t (or that noone will end up there) then this would flatly contradict the clear teaching of the Church. The universalist straight out says that the Church is wrong; it seems that the one who reasonably hopes for a universal reconciliation is also suggesting that this might be the case. So I see the distinction, but it seems the difference is only of how confidently one asserts that the Church has been misleading us all this time.

  26. mkenny114 says:

    Haha – fair enough, and indulgence granted!🙂

  27. Tom Fisher says:

    Hi Mk, I will reply! but it will be posted as a new comment below not a direct reply — the format is almost down to one word a line!

  28. Tom Fisher says:

    I see the distinction, but it seems the difference is only of how confidently one asserts that the Church has been misleading us all this time.

    It is certainly not possible to argue that the “Church has been misleading us” and remain Catholic — and it is (as we know) possible to twist Church teachings in dishonest ways. But I think (and I might be wrong) that Balthasar’s (uncertain) hope was born from his belief that in plumbing the bottom of Hell, Christ had achieved something no human can know the limit of.

    You know the lines from Blake: A Robin Redbreast in a Cage, Puts all Heaven in a Rage There is a moral seriousness to that; the damnation of one soul would perhaps signify something to us all.

  29. mkenny114 says:

    I think (and I might be wrong) that Balthasar’s (uncertain) hope was born from his belief that in plumbing the bottom of Hell, Christ had achieved something no human can know the limit of.

    Thanks Tom. Yes, that’s the impression I have from the smatterings of von Balthasar’s writings on the topic that I have actually read. I am just not sure how, if this were the case, it can be reconciled with the pretty consistent teaching of the Church that there is a hell and at least some people will end up there. If hell had been so thoroughly harrowed by Our Lord that ultimately noone will remain there, then it would have been a bit misleading of the Church to teach otherwise for all this time.

    As to the question of how the damnation of even one soul would affect the blessed in Heaven, it is indeed a very good question and a point of great moral seriousness, but given that life in Heaven will be in many ways far beyond our imagining, I don’t find it that difficult to accept that the existence of the damned can be reconciled with the intense joy that will characterise the life of those in Heaven. Again, I agree that this is a very serious point, and not to be discounted lightly, but I think it would be remiss of us to try and answer the question when we don’t have access to all the necessary data.

  30. toadspittle says:

    “…but I think it would be remiss of us to try and answer the question when we don’t have access to all the necessary data.”
    Some might say we don’t have the necessary data to answer any metaphysical question.
    In fact, I suspect I’m such a one. Worth trying though, surely?

  31. Tom Fisher says:

    I don’t find it that difficult to accept that the existence of the damned can be reconciled with the intense joy that will characterise the life of those in Heaven.

    I have to admit that I do find it difficult; after many years of Christianity it can still trouble me.

  32. Tom Fisher says:

    You have the occasional flashes of wisdom. but that wasn’t really one of them now was it?

  33. mkenny114 says:

    I have to admit that I do find it difficult; after many years of Christianity it can still trouble me.

    I don’t mean that I don’t find it difficult in the sense that I don’t find it troubling – I mean that, given how much there is we don’t know about Heaven, I don’t find it difficult to see how there can be a resolution of the difficulty.

  34. mkenny114 says:

    Worth trying though, surely?

    Of course it’s worth trying, and worth thinking about issues such as the one Tom raised, but in some cases we have to accept that there is so much we don’t know that we’re better off sticking with what we do know.

  35. toadspittle says:

    “…given that life in Heaven will be in many ways far beyond our imagining, I don’t find it that difficult to accept that the existence of the damned can be reconciled with the intense joy that will characterise the life of those in Heaven.”
    Really Michael? I do. Suppose I’m just an old softie.
    But then, I fainted when one of my dogs was getting a few stitches. So if someone, even Hitler, is screaming in eternal agony “down there,” I fear it might temper my “intense joy” the merest trifle.
    But we never know, do we? I might grow to enjoy the sight.
    Mysterious, all of it.
    (Not to say that the chances of me ever being “up there,” are very great in the first place.)

  36. toadspittle says:

    Nobody’s perfect, Tom

  37. mkenny114 says:

    Toad,

    See my most recent reply to Tom above.

  38. kathleen says:

    I have read all the comments here, and just thought I’d add my two pence worth!

    Hell exists. It is cruel and indeed wrong to underestimate or minimise the danger: that Men, through their own choices and consent, could end up there. Hell is unimaginable suffering because the soul in Hell has lost God forever. But to all those who either deny the existence of Hell, or promulgate the false hope that Hell could be ’empty’, are also saying something paramount to the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ being ‘over the top’, or an exaggeration, or (worst of all) untrue!! What an affront to the Son of God Who came to save us from our sins – those very sins that would have lead us to Hell!

    We have Our Blessed Lord’s clear teaching in umpteen Gospel passages warning His beloved ‘children’ that an Eternity in Hell is a very real possibility for those who die in unrepentant mortal sin. Our Lord’s words are not to scare us into ‘behaving’, as though we were naughty schoolchildren threatened with detention, but to reveal to us that our Free Will, has consequences. We were “beautifully made”, only “a little lower than the angels” (as the psalmist tells us), in God’s very own “Image and Likeness”, made for a loving relationship with Our Creator with Whom we can communicate, adore, thank and beg forgiveness. No other creature can do that. We were brought into being so that we should learn during our exile on Earth “to love, honour and obey God” for then “to be happy with Him forever in the next”. Our restless hearts yearn constantly for this “union” with the Beloved, though our inherent concupiscence means we often trip up and search for happiness in all the wrong places. God’s Mercy is always there for us again and again each time we fall, but we must make our own ‘sacrifices’ to keep on the right path and not succumb to the Devil’s snares.
    Heaven is a gift offered to us, not forced upon us. We have to want it, to accept it. This great gift given only to Man and the Angels (and not to the animals) is a fragile yet beautiful gift; we are given the choice to “pick up our daily cross” and follow Our Saviour, or to smash the gift on the ground mimicking the fallen angels: “I will not serve”.

    Through Our Saviour’s Sacrifice on the Cross our many sins have been “paid for”. This, and our very lives were given to us without our asking… because He Who is Love wants to share His Goodness and Joy with us. What unsurpassable love God has shown Mankind! Our final destiny, on the other hand, we have to ‘ask for’ ourselves.

  39. Tom Fisher says:

    I was just teasing, I really should have included a smiley face or something. Sorry!

  40. All I can say, Kathleen, is that your comment is absolutely outstanding and true. Kudos.

  41. And I’d also like to add that I wish comments on this blog were moderated for appropriateness, the same way they are moderated on all the best blogs and websites.

  42. toadspittle says:

    How would you define “appropriate,”Robert John?

  43. toadspittle says:

    Someone else can judge the appropriateness of the following. It’s by Miguel Unamuno,* and I was gratified to come across it the other day as it puts forward – far more coherently, forcefully and bluntly than I could – an opinion we clearly share.
    Don’t know about Balthazar. Must read him.

    “When our Catholic theologians seek to justify rationally – or in other words, ethically – the dogma of the pains of hell, they put forward reasons so specious, ridiculous, and childish, that it would appear impossible that they should ever have obtained currency. For to assert that since God is infinite, an offence committed against Him is infinite also and therefore demands an eternal punishment is, apart from the inconceivability of an infinite offence, to be unaware that, if not in the human police system, the the gravity of the offence is measured not by the dignity of the injured person, but by the intention of the injurer, and to speak of an infinite culpable intention is sheer nonsense, and nothing else. “

    (it goes on, but that will do for starters. My ‘bold’ emphasis, therein.)
    * “The Tragic Sense Of Life.” Snappy title.

  44. Tom Fisher says:

    Perhaps if you were to cut and paste the last 10 comments that you think were so inappropriate that they should not be shown, we would all have a chance to discuss them, and help the moderators develop a new code of conduct. Yesterday I had a constructive discussion with Mkeeny; Kathleen provided an excellent closing statement. Isn’t that exactly how a blog should work?

  45. Thank you for your response, Tom. I had no specific comments in mind.

  46. Tom Fisher says:

    I do respect your concern, but I don’t agree with your remedy. When people are disrespectful, offensive, or even downright blasphemous, other commentators normally call them up on it. And so in that sense the system is self-correcting. Just my “two cents”

  47. mkenny114 says:

    Interesting quote Toad, but I’m not sure what it really tells us. He is only critiquing one argument in defence of hell, and doesn’t address the issue Kathleen raised above, which is that of our freedom to reject God. When seen in that light, the ‘infinite offence’ that is committed by us is an eternal reluctance to let go of our self-love and accept the offer of true freedom in concert with Love. As I mentioned re the sin against the Holy Spirit above, it is the nature of the sin itself (the sin of inordinate self-love) that is itself also the punishment,

  48. Tom Fisher says:

    Although: Mkenny, if the choice is between accepting the offer, or experiencing eternal suffering, one might argue that it’s not really a choice at all. And one might also argue that it is a false antithesis to say that rejecting the offer (and incurring the damnation) is necessarily a reflection of ‘self-love’. And to create a creature which is free to only either love you or suffer for eternity — doesn’t necessarily sound like an act of goodness. These are three issues I think C.S. Lewis had a crack at, but failed to get a grip on, I’d be interested in your perspective.

  49. mkenny114 says:

    Yes Tom, I certainly see the sense of this counter-argument (although I’m not sure why rejecting God’s love is not necessarily a reflection of self-love; I’m not sure what else it could be).

    But, when you say ‘to create a creature which is free to only either love you or suffer for eternity — doesn’t necessarily sound like an act of goodness‘ I don’t really see how, once one accepts our having free will, we can escape this dilemma. One could argue of course that eventually, when we come face to face with God in all His glory, and see the foolishness of our selfishness in the light of His love, but if we accept that there is at least the possibility of clinging on to ourselves, to that spirit of ‘I will not serve’, then loving God and experiencing damnation are the only two outcomes.

    Furthermore, our being either overwhelmed by God’s steadfast love in the hereafter, or being gradually purified of our desire to be our own lord and master and have happiness on our own terms* raises the question of why we were allowed to experience all the trials and misteps that come from our having free will in this life, why all the drama of rejecting or accepting grace, of faith and hope in the face of struggling with a ‘hidden God’, if at the end of the day all this will be resolved?

    *It could be argued that, in a perverse sense, the suffering of the damned is, to them, a kind of relative happiness. We see even in this life that people would rather hold on to some pet sin or other, despite it causing them misery, than accept the offer of true happiness, as the latter involves relinquishing the sense that they are in control, not God.

  50. Tom Fisher says:

    I don’t really see how, once one accepts our having free will, we can escape this dilemma

    Surely the most straightforward solution is oblivion. Loss of consciousness, death in the basic sense of the word. There would – on this account – seem to be no particular reason to maintain the existence of the damned at all.

    when we come face to face with God in all His glory, and see the foolishness of our selfishness in the light of His love, but if we accept that there is at least the possibility of clinging on to ourselves, to that spirit of ‘I will not serve’, then loving God and experiencing damnation are the only two outcomes.

    I really do think that you need to make the case that there is any such dichotomy. If you frame the choice as between ‘God’ and ‘selfishness’ .. well, who’s in favour of selfishness? But why should it be framed in those terms? You could argue that if you’re offered the choice between “serving” and hell, it would be immoral to accept such an awful bargain!

    Your last paragraph is largely a restatement of the thesis of <i.The Great Divorce and only works if you accept the ‘selfishness’ thesis.

  51. mkenny114 says:

    Surely the most straightforward solution is oblivion.

    Okay, fair point. But a follow-up question would have to be, is it not Catholic dogma that the soul is created eternal and either cannot or will not be destroyed? I’m not sure myself, and I know it is perfectly possible for God to destroy a soul if He wishes, but would be interesting to know how ‘allowable’ annihilationism is. Also, there is the issue of how much God values our freedom to choose, and that if we prefer some other fate, where we are ‘in charge’ rather than God, He will continue to respect that, existence being a good in itself.

    If you frame the choice as between ‘God’ and ‘selfishness’ .. well, who’s in favour of selfishness? But why should it be framed in those terms? You could argue that if you’re offered the choice between “serving” and hell, it would be immoral to accept such an awful bargain!

    Who’s in favour of selfishness? Noone is, I think, explicitly ‘in favour’ of it, but we routinely choose it all the time. The reason the choice should be framed in terms of a choice between self and God is because this is what it ultimately comes down to – why do we so often choose some lesser good, or even an evil, instead of what we know is right and/or good for us? Because I want to, and I love to satisfy the desires of the self instead of taking the right path. All sin is the result of loving the self, and what the self wants, over God and what He wants for us. One can argue that it would be foolish to continue to choose self in certain circumstances (like when meeting God in the hereafter for instance), but the choice is surely still between those two is it not? It would help if you could suggest what other factors you think might, in the final analysis, be at play here…

    Also, what is your response to the question of why we need experience all the struggles of maintaining faith in God and persisting in the often difficult struggles to choose the good (struggles which are born of God’s respect for our freedom to choose, and grow into relationship with Him) if eventually we will be brought into relationship with God without any of that difficulty later on?

  52. Tom Fisher says:

    is it not Catholic dogma that the soul is created eternal and either cannot or will not be destroyed?

    Well, ok, grant then let’s grant that premise. It remains the case that in our mortal state a decent thump on the head, or a general anesthetic will make short shrift of our capacity to experience So oblivion is certainly a possible state.

    there is the issue of how much God values our freedom to choose, and that if we prefer some other fate, where we are ‘in charge’ rather than God, He will continue to respect that,

    Two points*: 1.) If the choice is between option ‘A’ and eternal hell — then there simply is no choice. It’s a simple misnomer to call that a ‘choice’ in any meaningful sense. And 2.) Option ‘B’ – Hell – is by definition a state of such utter irredeemable misery that no mortal can comprehend it. And therefore they can hardly be said to either choose it or deserve it.

    *Setting aside the framing in terms of selfishness, which you restate, but haven’t yet argued for.

  53. mkenny114 says:

    Setting aside the framing in terms of selfishness, which you restate, but haven’t yet argued for.

    Come on Tom – you may not agree with what I wrote, but to say I haven’t even argued for this is not true. The whole second paragraph of my previous reply was an attempt, regardless of whether or not you found it convincing, to argue for the debate to be framed in terms of selfishness. Again, it might help if you said either why you don’t find this convincing, or what other factors should be taken into consideration in our choice other than God and self.

    Similarly, to say that a choice between God and eternal hell is not a choice in any meaningful sense is to underestimate the extent to which we, all the time in this life, choose things that make us less happy and worse off, purely because our desire for serving ourself and our own desires is greater than any desire to avoid the misery that comes with those choices. It is not like, after death, we are simply presented with two options ‘you can go to hell, or you can follow Me’ – the damned choose hell not viewing it as one of two clear and objective options and then make an impartial choice between them; hell is the state wherein someone continues to choose self over and against God, because they have so turned in on themselves during this life that any other option is hateful to them.

    Any thoughts on my concluding question by the way?

  54. Tom Fisher says:

    …to argue for the debate to be framed in terms of selfishness. Again, it might help if you said either why you don’t find this convincing…

    If someone says love me or suffer eternal hell then surely a sense of basic morality would be sufficient to make even the most selfless person reject such an awful offer? Why would rejecting such an offer be selfish? If the choice were between loving the agent offering you the choice, or eternal damnation, then the love you could offer would hardly be freely given. And so in effect what you end up with is compulsory love which is a parody of the real thing.

    So no, I don’t think that it would be an expression of selfishness at all. C.S. Lewis tended to see the Cosmos as a scaled up version of an English Public School. And from that viewpoint there might be something churlish about not being a ‘good egg’, but I think the moral case is still ahead of you.

    what is your response to the question of why we need experience all the struggles of maintaining faith in God and persisting in the often difficult struggles to choose the good (struggles which are born of God’s respect for our freedom to choose, and grow into relationship with Him) if eventually we will be brought into relationship with God without any of that difficulty later on?

    I’m in two minds about how to respond to that. On the one hand, damnation does nothing to alleviate that mystery. In fact it aggravates it. But the answer to your question is that I take my cue from St Paul; these are the birth pangs of a new world. Everything will one day be shown to have a purpose

  55. toadspittle says:

    “Interesting quote Toad, but I’m not sure what it really tells us. He is only critiquing one argument in defence of hell,”
    Nobody suggested Unamuno was doing anything else, Michael – As far as I can see.
    Isn’t that enough to be getting on with for the minute? I think it tells us exactly what it says. You disagree. OK. Nothing much to be done about that.

  56. mkenny114 says:

    Nobody suggested Unamuno was doing anything else, Michael – As far as I can see.

    Okay, fair enough Toad. It seemed to me as if you were putting forward Unamuno’s argument as some sort of knock-down critique of hell in general, or as if his statement summed it all up somehow, but clearly that wasn’t your intention. My asking what this tells us was based on that misapprehension, as I’m not sure what one man’s opinion about one aspect of the hell ‘debate’ really says in the way of resolving it. But yes, apologies for getting the wrong end of the stick there.

  57. mkenny114 says:

    If someone says love me or suffer eternal hell then surely a sense of basic morality would be sufficient to make even the most selfless person reject such an awful offer? Why would rejecting such an offer be selfish? If the choice were between loving the agent offering you the choice, or eternal damnation, then the love you could offer would hardly be freely given. And so in effect what you end up with is compulsory love which is a parody of the real thing.

    Rejecting such an offer wouldn’t be selfish no, but as I wrote earlier, it is not as if we end this life and are then simply asked ‘would you prefer to love me or go to hell’ is it? The point of the focus on self-love here is that it is the inordinate degree of self-love which makes one unable to accept the offer of God’s love, preferring instead to have things one’s own way. The idea that we are simply asked to decide between Heaven and hell on the basis of which we might prefer, having objectively weighed up their pros and cons, is a little bizarre I think.

    C.S. Lewis tended to see the Cosmos as a scaled up version of an English Public School. And from that viewpoint there might be something churlish about not being a ‘good egg’, but I think the moral case is still ahead of you.

    Hmm, personally I find that to be a huge misrepresentation of Lewis’ theology, and given that the way you seem to be understanding the whole selfishness issue seems to be based on a misconception of the sort of post-mortem decision that would actually be involved, I can’t help but wonder if you might have misread him slightly. Perhaps a couple of examples of this ‘Public School Cosmos’ thinking might help make this clearer though.

    I’m in two minds about how to respond to that. On the one hand, damnation does nothing to alleviate that mystery. In fact it aggravates it. But the answer to your question is that I take my cue from St Paul; these are the birth pangs of a new world. Everything will one day be shown to have a purpose

    1. How does damnation aggravate the mystery?
    2. Yes, everything will one day be shown to have a purpose – that goes without saying. My question was how this would make sense within the schema you are advocating.

  58. toadspittle says:

    “I’m not sure what one man’s opinion about one aspect of the hell ‘debate’ really says in the way of resolving it.”
    Neither am I, Michael.
    It’s just Unamuno’s opinion.
    Maybe it requires a committee to resolve it?

  59. toadspittle says:

    “Yes, everything will one day be shown to have a purpose – that goes without saying.”
    No it doesn’t.
    There is no possible way of knowing that.

  60. mkenny114 says:

    It’s just Unamuno’s opinion.
    Maybe it requires a committee to resolve it?

    Yes I know, and as I have been assured that all you were doing was presenting that one man’s opinion on one aspect of the debate about the existence of hell, I realise my earlier comment was unnecessary. Incidentally though, as this was all you were doing, what was the point you were trying to make – simply that Unamuno shares your opinion about this particular aspect of the debate?

    I don’t think the issue requires a committe to resolve it no, but if it were ever to be resolved, one would need to assess all of the major arguments, pro and con, rather than just one of them – that was my point (albeit in response to a point you weren’t actually making).

  61. mkenny114 says:

    Toad,

    I meant it goes without saying insofar as the assumptions Tom and myself were already making, and without which the prior discussions could not really get off the ground – i.e.; God exists, there is a purpose to life, etc. Sorry, I should have been more specific.

  62. toadspittle says:

    No need to be sorry, Michael – and there’s no real point in pursuing that issue, which I was ill-advised to bring up.

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