9 Comments

This is such an important topic. My only nudge would be to check out The Gospel Coalition before taking them as a source for citation: they're an evangelical group and not one that I'd cite on Catholic teaching. To be honest, I was taught that Jesus preached more about the kingdom of God/heaven than anything else (people often debate whether he preached more about hell or money, and it's slippery to try and grab statistics because much depends on translation or interpretation). The CCC on hell is really interesting to check out too. I'm just a huge fan of talking more about hell, heaven, eternal life, all of it, because I couldn't agree more with you that when we shy away from these subjects, we lose so much and people are left with tons of questions.

Expand full comment
author

I'm familiar with TGC, but I didn't really quote anything they said about church teaching--it's a list of linked bible verses. So I felt fine with it! :) I will definitely check out what the Catechism says. I feel like at the end of the day it's not even about what's talked about "more", y'know? He said it so it must be important. I just find it so interesting how many people that are passionately for his very important "love-thy-neighbor" teachings are so willing to eschew something that he clearly spoke about quite a bit.

Expand full comment
Mar 21, 2022Liked by Claire Swinarski

Beautifully written, Claire. I'm not a fan of the "fire and brimstone" preachers that you so often find in Evangelical circles, but often Catholics skate too quickly past the topic of Hell.

I think about purgatory a lot. I feel so grateful for the concept of purgatory, because I think it gives me a sense of justice and hope. But it also sends me down a rabbit hole of worry. Is depending on the idea of a "safety net" from Hell essentially the same as confessing with the intent to sin again? Is it just an out so that I feel I don't need to evangelize to my non-believer friends who I believe are good people? At the end of the day, I believe in a just God. I believe that no one's salvation is automatically secured. And I believe that my goal should not only be heaven for myself, but for as many people around me as possible. That weight just seems like a lot, sometimes.

Expand full comment

Hell terrifies me. Not because I’m afraid of going there, but for those who end up there. And because of guilt. I wasn’t born with a mental illness that made me like Hitler. I wasn’t born in a gang infested tenement where I had to do evil things to survive. I wasn’t born in a non-Christian country. I was born in a nice suburb with parents who raised me catholic. Easy. Ok, easy is overly simplified but you know what I mean. And what about my uncle, who I loved so much and was one of the greatest humans I know, but was atheist? Is he gnashing his teeth right now because he couldn’t wrap his head around the concept of God? Then why didn’t God knock harder for him? The questions go round and round. I try not to think about it too much to be honest. Thanks for the great article, very thought provoking.

Expand full comment
author

I've gone through seasons where I felt super similarly. I worry so much about family members. And then I feel like...am I being condescending? Maybe I should be more worried about myself?! Ahhh. It's tricky. And very "round and round", sometimes.

Expand full comment

I’m sorry, but not having a hell would make all our moral decisions and suffering meaningless- isn’t this exactly what a death-bed conversion does? On the other hand, if all our actions are taking us just a little bit closer to either heaven or hell, where is the cut-off point? As Tim Keller says, what about the poor sod who gets 3.99 when they needed a 4 to get in? You don’t need the concept of hell to make this life matter, you just need a concept of a hierarchy of reward. Possibly a hierachy of punishment too. But the idea of condemning anyone to endless torment for any finite action (let alone for simply not being baptised or not saying a certain prayer or whatever) is revolting. I suggest reading up on the christian universalist arguments. It was certainly a great relief to me to discover that the original greek of the passages you quote Jesus as saying denote a limited timespan, not infinite time as the latin and now our english translations often imply. Then there are all the passages that indicate an eventual reconciliation of all of creation to the Father eg Col 1:20

Expand full comment

Just finished The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis and this newsletter so perfectly complements it! Certainly lots to ponder.

Expand full comment

Best piece yet. Loved it.

Expand full comment
author

Oh, wow—thank you!

Expand full comment