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Unread 28th March 2012, 03:07 PM
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Questions Answered: Does Hell Exist? And, Civil Law vs. Moral Law

Question: I heard that, recently, some Christian theologians are denying the existence of hell? Can you tell me if we must believe in hell?

Answer:The existence of hell is de fide from the Athanasian Creed, which teaches: “But those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.” This is fully ratified in the Dogmatic Constitution, Benedictus Deus. In this document, Benedict XII meant to resolve eschatological issues: “According to God’s general ordinance, the souls of those who die in a personal grievous sin, descend immediately into hell, where they will be tormented by the pains of hell.”

Engraving by Gustave Doré, for Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri.

This problem of the denial of hell is related to a more general one, which is the malaise in contemporary theology, caused by certain theologians of the nouvelle theologie in Europe, who deny the transcendent in religion. Benedict XVI discussed this problem in an address he gave to European theologians in 1989: “In the first place, we have to point out the almost complete disappearance of the doctrine of creation from theology […] the demise of metaphysics goes hand in hand with the displacement of the teaching on creation. […] The decline of the doctrine of creation includes the decline of metaphysics, man’s imprisonment in the empirical.” (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, Difficulties confronting the faith in Europe Today, July, 24, 1989). This has led to a complete denial of the afterlife. “Belief in eternal life has hardly any role to play in preaching today.” (Ibid.)

There has been a general tendency to implode nature and grace into one entity, with everything created becoming God. Though this implosion really destroys nature as an objective reality—a fruit of the denial of metaphysics. If there is nothing to distinguish from grace, then the world becomes God. Books, like Theology of the World by Johannes Metz, popularized this tendency in the 1970s and 80s.

Modern theology is also characterized by a tendency, derived from Immanuel Kant, which reduces the criterion for metaphysical realities, from the objective order of real beings outside the subject, to a projection of something which can fulfill my needs. God exists because man needs him. Human need creates God, which also determines God’s nature, changing as human need changes. The study of God is actually the study of man. As Ratzinger observed in 1989: “The ‘Kingdom of God’ has been almost completely substituted, in the general awareness, […] by the utopia of a better future world, for which we labor, and which becomes the true reference point of morality—a morality which thus blends again with a philosophy of evolution and history, and creates norms for itself by calculating what can offer the better conditions of life.” Against this reduction of “morality” to “progress” and God to “the world,” any doctrine of the afterlife seems incoherent and probably irrelevant.

The Catholic Church has always supported an understanding of the world, based on Christ’s teaching and authentic philosophy, which is just the opposite of this subjective theory of moral relativism, which gives birth to the theology of a better world. Instead, each person, because he has an intellect and will, is individually challenged to realize an objective destiny, which can be nothing less than the vision of God. This experience, alone, can fulfill the intellect’s desire to know the truth.

The love of the will must be involved in this in order to attain it. Choices in the will are either for acts, which can arrive at God’s vision, or not. Christ confirmed this in Matthew 25, “As long as you did this to the least of my brothers, you did it to me” (v.40). This is the standard for realizing our destiny in the other world to which nature is drawn.

As to hell, it is merely the condition of those who die, unrepentant, in which nature (God’s vision required by the intellect), and freedom (man’s choices in the will) disagree. They disagree eternally, with no remedy, leading to the total frustration of a spiritual nature: the primary punishment of hell. As to the fire, there are various interpretations of this, but all express this primary punishment. No one knows how many human beings may be in hell, or who they may be, but the existence of hell is de fide because the devil, and fallen angels, are certainly there.

Question:
Do all crimes contrary to the civil law constitute a sin against the moral law?
Continued- Questions Answered: Does Hell Exist? And, Civil Law vs. Moral Law – Homiletic & Pastoral Review
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The more I follow the online discussions ... the more I follow the debates and disagreements in the Church about administrative unity, or the concerns expressed about the moral or personal or administrative or leadership failings of the bishops or the clergy, the more I become convinced that whatever might be the truth of these concerns, ALL of this is simply a distraction. No, it’s more than that. It’s a justification, an excuse, for not helping each other and those outside the Church fall in love with Jesus Christ. How easy it is to talk about everything, but about Jesus hardly at all.


- Fr. Gregory Jensen
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