February 15, 12
John Paul II
- 1) G-d is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man,
called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject
his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself
for ever from joyful communication with him. It is precisely this
tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of
eternal damnation or hell. It is not punishment imposed
externally by G-d but a development of premises already set by
people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this
obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light
of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is
commonly said, make life “hell”. – Broke with historical tradition
(hell and the devil)
- …The state of those who definitively reject the Father’s mercy, even
at the last moment of their life. – definition of hell
- 2. To describe this reality Sacred Scripture uses a symbolic
language which will gradually be explained. In the Old Testament
the condition of the dead had not yet been fully disclosed by
Revelation. Moreover it was thought that the dead were amassed in
Sheol, a land of darkness, a pit from which one cannot reascend, a
place in which it is impossible to praise G-d. – Neutral death idea.
- The New Testament sheds new light on the condition of the dead,
proclaiming above all that Christ by his Resurrection conquered
death and extended his liberating power to the kingdom of death.
- Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is
up to people to accept freely. This is why they will all be judged “by
what they have done”. – Presents the place destined or evildoers as
a fiery furnace, where people will “weep and gnash their teeth”-
- “pool of fire” – Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is
therefore preparing for “eternal destruction and exclusion from the
presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”.
- 3. The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be
correctly interprested. They show the complete frustration and
emptiness to life without G-d. Rather than a place, hell indicated
the state of those who freely and definitively…
- 4. People who go against G-d are demons.
- Eternal damnation remains a real possibility. The thought of hell –
and even less the improper use of biblical images – must not
- Concludes – Hell is a place of eternal torment – in the Pope’s view –
people who do not follow, they chosen to separate from G-d – the
separation is the hell – not the pictures – the pictures are symbolic
Notes on the Social Genesis of Hell and Heaven
The Appeals of Heaven
- An ideological stabilization mechanism? All is made right in the
afterlife, thus tolerating what is wrong in this life?
- To offer consolation for suffering, with the promise of amends or
justice in the life to come.
- Afterlife beliefs are regulative for worldly existence: endure
poverty, oppression, injustice, inequality, persecution, ascetic
- Heaven holds the promise that justice will be done.
- ^Heaven is a stabilization mechanism
- popular views Theological/philosophical view.
- Axial Age (c. 800 BCE-200BCE) – Karl Jasper’s concept
(Achsenzeit) for the evolutionary period in religious-cultural history
in the civilization seed-beds of the orient and Occident – a
millennium of creative thought during which “the spiritual
foundations of humanity were laid simultaneously and
independently… and these are the foundations upon which we
continue to live.”
- Greek Philosophy – Plato, Aristotle.
- Zoroastrianism and cosmic dualism
- Jewish Monotheism – the prophets
- Hinudism – Upanishads
- Buddhism and Jainism
- Daoism and Confucianism
- Religions of Salvation – Jaspers – Holding out the possibility of
liberation from suffering to their followers:
- 1) Mystical (re)union with the divine or transcendent
- 2) Attainment of nirvana/moksha (or higher rebirths with the
transmigration of souls)
- 3) Heaven/paradise (temporary or eternal, following a Day or
Moment of Judgement)
- What endures? What is saved or liberated? Soul Body
- Salvific beleifs introduce “Tensions with the World” (Weber), as the
world-to-come or the transcendence of this world gains primacy.
- The traditional polytheisms were basically world-
accommodating, or affirming, and the blessings or rewards were
correspondingly this-worldly: longevity, progeny, wealth, health,
victory and conquest, pleasures, etc.
- With Salvation religions, notions of “saved”/”isolated” and
“damned”/”lost” are introduced.
- From the Persian pairidaeza – garden, walled enclosure.
- Sociological implication: From c.2500BCE down through hthe
Bronze Age, who lived the most pleasurable modes of existence?
- The earliest story of paradise is Dilmun (Natural place of beauty –
Sumerian) and the Garden of Eden – The depictions of paradise
becomes increasingly filled with royal symbolism – and even the
gods are depicted upon thrones in palaces, in splendid cities with
cultivated gardens and parks.
- A mutually reinforcing representation: King on earth King in
Theocentric models of the afterlife
- ^These are the two broad recurring tendencies of afterlife
- Theocentric – Divine at the center and humans around. Tend to be
the product of intellectuals and religious elites. The afterlife is
beyond human comprehension – as a result they tend to be
comfortable with the description that being in heaven is being in the
presence of the divine. Gender differences leave – just pure spirits.
Intellectual’s alienation from the social and biological finds
- Anthropocentric – Emphasis of humans – humans at the center –
Reunions with family, friends, etc.. – super vacation/resort
- Pope JP II
- Heaven is Fullness of Communion of G-d
- 1) When the form of this world has passed away – those who have
welcomed g-d… blah blah blah…. Fullness or communication with G-
- Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human
longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.
- Heaven is the transcendent dwelling-place of the living G-d
- Metaphorically speaking heaven is understood as the dwelling place.
- After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete
intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into
Jesus’s paschal mystery.
- The “rapture” beliefs of contemporary evangelicals.
- Sacramental life is anticipation of heaven
- Heaven or happiness is neither an abstraction nor a physical place
in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy
- Today, personalist language is better suited to describe the state of
happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with