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« Lenten Questions, No. 9: on the usefulness of the Cross | Main | Lenten Questions, No. 11: on the City »


Frs Jonathan and Gregory, Mr Robinson:
Thanks for your comments and helpful guidance.


Yes, I believe this, simply because "God is willing that no man may perish," and "I was in hell, and Thou wert there."

But the "there" is the place of God's grace, and it is the rejection of the Trinity, and its revelation by the Christ, that makes the experience of grace "everlasting fire."

It seems that if we can move from "glory to glory" eternally toward God as an ever receding horizon as St. Gregory says, then we can move from perdition to perdition in a bottomless pit of darker darkness "away" from God. However, the Hound of Heaven pursues us still into that darkness.

Another Byzantine priest, Fr. Stephen Freeman of the OCA, has a new post on hell:


Hell is a condition that begins at the Last Day. Certain Fathers of the Eastern Church teach that hell and heaven are the experience of the Uncreated Light, but the person's repentance, or belief and desire for God's presence, determine whether that Grace is deifying light or corrosive fire.

Location is a conundrum. Since the resurrection of all takes place on the Last Day, it is fair to ask where, since physicality makes location meaningful. It seems that the everlasting fire prepared for the devil, his angels, and those who insist on accompanying them might be located in an endlessly shrinking cynosure that approaches, but never arrives, at nothingness. It is precisely the condition of rejecting God's presence that is desired by the unrepentant: a condition that must corrode, diminish and shrink, and must always decay and dissemble, but cannot reach nothingness because, after all, the unrepentant -- even the devil -- are created by God, and made immortal by grace.

I continue to ponder the insights in Dorothy Sayers's essay "The Other Six Deadly Sins." Regarding the saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" she notes that the surface meaning (people who intend to do good often end up in hell -- literal or figurative -- because their sloth keeps them from carrying out their intentions) hides a deeper, more terrifying one (the man convinced that he knows how to establish paradise on earth -- the idealogue -- of necessity imposes hell on earth whereever he has the resources and force of will to impose his convictions on others). I believe the context suggests she had particularly in mind the work of the Nazis and Marxists in the first half of the twentieth century, but she clearly intended it as a broader principle.

Thank you for the warning that the most dangerous such "good intentions" are my own, that they are seldom anything more exalted than my own opinions, and they seldom possess any more authority than my pride ascribes to them on the mere basis of having thought them up myself. Or as s-p put it above "Heresy begins with choosing our own opinion above the consensus of those much smarter and more spiritual than we."

Fr Jonathan: Oh dear.

Samn!: Thanks much for articulating the problem with "Inshallah" more clearly than I did.

Fr Jonathan,
I was interested in your comments on hell. Is hell, properly speaking, a place of non-existence, since for something to be good it must exist? Is it even a place, since even that implies spatial existence? What does Tradition say?


Thank you. I stand corrected.

Father, I believe you more mean 'mashallah', which means 'whatever God wills' and is said about things that just happened, good or bad, rather than inshallah, which means 'if God wills' and is used when talking about future events. On trucks in the middle east you frequently see 'mashallah' written on trucks and taxis. Then, you also say it when paying or responding to a compliment.....

The "inshallah" reference was used as an intentional cliche -- a common one in conversation where a tragedy or disaster is ascribed directly to Divine action, without any discernment of the mediating agency of sin, evil or unnatural distortion in the created order. I used "inshallah" because that is frequently stated precisely as a statement of forlorn surrender to reality, or history, as a direct and simple revelation of God's Will. In Christianity, this is decisively not the case.

With respect to your second assertion, human speech is quite regularly blasphemous, and far more frequently and intensively so than what we would like to think. Our Lord and the Apostles warned us frequently about this sort of unthinking cursing speech in which spiritual realities and God's character are impugned -- probably unintentionally done, but still done with painful culpability. We err by assuming that blasphemy is confined to the obviously diabolical speech of satanists, atheists and reprobates. The really damaging blasphemy is done in unconscious empty conversation and sloppy undisciplined thinking, which often seethes with stronger faith in cold determinism and materialistic probability than Christian faith.

You probably meant that the declaration of other humans' speech is judgmental. I would disagree, of course, but that is probably what you meant.

Good ones, for the most part, Fr Jonathan. Thanks!

However, "God really messed up. This is God's fault. Inshallah." makes no sense. "Inshallah" means "if it be God's will," or "God willing." Its usage there directly contradicts "This is God's fault," etc., so it renders that example gobbledygook.

Also, humans declaring other humans' speech blasphemous should probably be on the list too. :-)

Just yesterday I had a visitor in my office declaiming the very remark: "I'm not religious," she said, put off by the seeming hyper-religiosity of her childhood church she was visiting for the first time in decades: "But I am spiritual."

Of course, "spiritual" is usually said in a somewhat defensive manner, and it turns out that she doesn't go anywhere to church, which raises the issue whether the "spiritual" is adopted before or after her non-church-going position.

I suggested to her that Christianity is supremely religious, and that true spirituality must draw her into Orthodoxy. She didn't look convinced when she left. It was hard for her to imagine that the Jesus of liberation and occasional ecstasy might be the One Who calls for yoke, burden and Cross.

Thank you for the kind note. And you're right. "I am not religious but spiritual" belongs at the top of the list.

Father Bless!
I know I am guilty of a few of these, mostly the "It is what it is" comment.
Would the "I am not religious but spiritual" comment fall into these?
Thank you for pointing out some hard truths.

Well said, as usual. Reminds me of GK's comment on the admiration of those who "speak their own minds": We may as well say with hushed awe, "He blows his own nose!" Heresy begins with choosing our own opinion above the consensus of those much smarter and more spiritual than we. Thanks for this series.

Thank you for this information. "Same species" is equivalent to saying that divine and human nature are of like substance, and this should put to rest any doubts that Mormonism is far outside the precincts of apostolic Christianity.

Begin with Smith's "King Follett Discourse":

Also, here is an "unoffical" Mormon site in which the phrase is used:

Check out "Claim"/Question #5:

"That is, we are the same spiritual species as God."

Thanks, Fr. Greg, for this. Could you provide the reference for this unbelievably damning quote?

Here's another one, courtesy of Joseph Smith, Jr.:

"God and man are the same species."

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