Having, as it turns out, given this matter of suffering and punishment no small degree of thought in my years and having been concerned in those years over its regard in the venerable tradition of my beloved Orthodox Church, I confess in this sequel to the previous post on Lasseter's Lost Reef that commenting like this on the blogs of others on the World Wide Computernet vexes me a bit. There are, you see, a great many more things I would say if I were writing about this independently here on Lasseter's Lost Reef rather than merely commenting in reply to this or that on some blog in the blogosphere, as indeed I am again below. Some of us leave comments from time to time. An inscrutable recreation, I suppose.
In any event, and concerning the work criticized below, I surely have no truck with any kind of "touchy-feely" view of God that is entirely opposed to reality, and I think that trembling before the possibility of condemnation is a healthy thing, but I surely too cannot defend some of the "fundamentalist" nonsense about hell that I have witnessed. I suppose to at least some pitiable degree Benjamin Corey and others who are "Formerly Fundie" are just reacting to nonsense that was instilled in them earlier in life. Shame how they react, but count it as among the evils of such churches as they likely grew up in: these parishes either convince their members that the folly they teach is true or drive those members to leave the first folly and subscribe to a second that, while opposed to the first, is equally false.
Well, anyway, my commentary on Dr. Corey's blog a couple of days ago (The Balm for Job's Wounds, http://lostreef2.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-balm-for-jobs-wounds.html) generated an interesting but misguided reply from one Phil Ledgerwood, who, the Disqus comment platform informs us, is a Patheos moderator (but of course not the author of that blog). I heartily recommend that you go over there and read the post and Mr. Ledgerwood's reply to me. Here is my evening's contribution to it:
Forgive me for the delay. I was quite ill yesterday and not up to commenting on the "social media." Let me offer a brief reply now.Comment by your humble author on: Benjamin L. Corey, Would A Righteous God Torment People In Hell For Eternity? 14 September 2016, accessed 16 September 2016, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/would-a-righteous-god-torment-people-in-hell-for-eternity/.
What the Apostle John intended in his "God is love" discourse can be discerned from the architecture of it. At the start he writes, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another," and at the end: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." The statement "God is love" is not a definition whereby we constrain or define God: it is, rather, one by which we are told how we should be in this world based on the love that God has revealed to us and permitted us to comprehend. If we understand this as any kind of analogy, the analogy is one that instructs our behavior in the temporal world, not one that reveals any aspect of God's love that He has not revealed to us. To think that we can take our earthly experience of love and thus ascribe a limitation of God's eternal nature or deeds is to interpret the Beloved Disciple's commentary in the reverse of its actual direction.
Consider this central paragraph from Dr. Corey's essay:
When we correctly view love as being the core essence of God’s identity, holding to a traditional view of hell becomes difficult to do unless one radically redefines love. One would have to explain why perfect love would create a hell in the first place, why perfect love would make it a place of punitive torment instead of loving restoration, and why perfect love would subject that vast majority of people who have ever lived to such unimaginable, unending torture. Most of all, one would have to explain how being tormented in flames for all of eternity is actually loving for the individuals being tormented.Why, one wonders in this analysis, even bother reaching the unseen matter of hell? If we view love as we are able in our mortal minds to understand and exercise it, one has just as hard a time explaining a hurricane, the suffering of animals, violent crime, cancer in an infant, and so forth. God has ordained a great many sufferings that no human being, acting in love, would himself ordain. Again, the "God is love" discourse is not instruction on understanding God's love any further than it has been revealed to us: it is instruction on how we must love, and that instruction is plainly stated as keeping God's commandments.
It is worth noting too that in the Gospel according to the very same St. John the Theologian cited above Christ Himself says that, while He has not come to condemn anyone, those who reject Christ (which, as the Apostle John notes earlier in his first epistle, means to reject God's commandments) are condemned already. John 3:18. Condemned, that is, by themselves. It is perfectly righteous to hope for the salvation of all. I commend anyone who does. But to state that we must by reason and our mundane understanding of love conclude that God must save everyone (that is, to suggest or state outright that it should be doctrine) cannot be answered by mere reference to love as we are able to know it.
I shall simply iterate once more, what mortal human being would allow the vast pain that there is in this world? And yet our God, Who is Love, does precisely that. And we do not understand why, just as we cannot constraint the nature or duration of hell by reasoning from an experience and understanding of love that cannot explain such things.
This weekend, health permitting, you may expect, by the way, a publication of the promised discussion of No Country for Old Men's villain, a sequel to Τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια; (http://lostreef.blogspot.com/2013/12/blog-post.html). In fact, it shall be two posts: one on Lasseter's Lost Reef Αʹ and one here. I sometimes wonder, indeed, how many of you know there are two companion journals here. (It is not good for the journal to be alone, you know, so each has a helper suitable to it.) Anyway, stay tuned.