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January 01, 2009



This post (especially the last two sentences) reminded me of the book _The Great Divorce_ by CS Lewis. Although it is probably more of a philosophical / psychological approach to addressing the same point. It was one of the best books I've ever read.

Out of curiousity, is Rorh coming from more of a theological or historical approach?

Derek Rishmawy

1. Yeah, its interesting, I’ve seen a lot of the same thought in Luther, Edwards, and Lewis. Lewis’ chapter on Hell in The Problem of Pain, as well as The Great Divorce point to the same truth. Hell and Heaven are the end results and continuations of the life we live now.

Edwards has this killer quote, “Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul: it is destructive in its nature, and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is a thing that is immoderate and boundless in its fury…it is like a fire pent up by God’s restraints…if sin is not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.”

Basically, he talks about how sin and the life that is alienated from God just is hell. God wouldn’t have to do anything else besides remove the restraint that he graciously gives in everyone’s life. Lewis and Luther both point out that death basically removes the restraint and we are just left with our sin-destroyed souls. So, the issue matters now because of the agony of separation from God now. But, it also matters because of later. Especially because the “later” part lasts.

2. That being said, I think that there is some discussion of rewards and punishments in the Scriptures. Its never about earning salvation or damnation or stuff like that, but there does seem to be some place for an appropriate discussion of these things. Yes, vice and virtue are their own rewards, but there seems to be something beyond that in the discussion of this kind of thing in Scripture and I think Rohr kinda flattens out the different dimensions of God’s activity in reward and punishment by saying it all works out on this principle of “you get what you want.” I think that’s an element of it, but it seems that there is more to it than that.

3. On Transformation through fear: I agree, yes, true transformation does not come through the simple carrot and stick method. Hellfire ultimately does not deliver righteousness. That being said, I think holiness has sometimes started out with a healthy fear of the Lord and a knowledge of judgment to come. Augustine discussed the validity of different reasons for loving God, the chief of which is simply for who he is. He pointed out that becoming a Christian and avoiding sin simply to avoid hell and punishment is not enough and kind of low. But, he did say that its okay to start out there and move on. I agree with him. Sometimes holiness begins with a holy fear, or even a selfish one. There are times when you can start out doing the right thing for the wrong or a low reason and end up doing it for the right one. You can start out studying for a course simply to avoid a crappy grade and then, because the fear drove you to work at it, begin to like the studies for themselves and not just the grade. Fear can’t be the only motivating factor. That being said, occasionally, its something that gets the process started.

Overall, not all that controversial, it just needs some qualifiers.


I was thinking about whether fear can be a healthy motivation to follow Jesus and I go back and forth. On the one hand, I don't think I should fear anything since an all-good God loves His people. (That and the church often has reduced Jesus' message to an only "Keep your butt out of Hell" Gospel.) On the other hand, I do fear habitually doing the wrong thing when tempted because it will make me not the type of soul I should be and desire to be. In that sense, isn't that a (qualified "healthy") fear of Hell (or technically, a fear of entering a Hellish state)?


And oh yes ... just for the record publically, I recognize that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

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