Monday, October 23, 2006

hell via 4th century church fathers

Here's an exerpt from the book Early Christian Doctrines about fourth century views of hell.
As regards the fate of the wicked..., the general view was that their punishment would be eternal, without any possibility of remission. As Basil put it, in hell the sinful soul is completely cut off from the Holy Spirit, and is therefore incapable of repentance; while Chrysostom pointed out that neither the bodies of the damned, which will be immortal, nor their souls will know any end of their sufferings. Neither time nor friendship nor hope nor the expectation of death, not even the spectacle of other unhappy souls sharing their lot, will alleviate their pains. Yet Basil has to confess that most ordinary Christians have been beguiled by the Devil into believing, against the manifest evidence of Scripture, that there will be a time-limit. Among these must be included Gregory of Nazianzus, who on occasion seems to wonder whether eternal punishment is altogether worthy of God, and Gregory of Nyssa, who sometimes mentions eternal pains, but whose real teaching envisages the eventual purification of the wicked, the conquest and disappearance of evil, and the final restoration of all things, the Devil himself included. The influence of Origen is clearly visible here, but by the fifth century the stern doctrine that sinners have no second chance after this life and that the fire which will devour them will never be extinguished was everywhere paramount. (483-484)

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