Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Orthodox View on the Afterlife

What I have read on the Eastern Orthodox view on the afterlife is different than most Protestants. The Orthodox Church has a different view of hell.

9 comments:

Adam Roe said...

This one has been hugely eye opening for me, and one that is of much comfort. Before embracing Orthodoxy, I understood hell to be a place where God casts people into a pit, far away from His presence. It was illuminating to realize that hell is understood in Orthodoxy is an experiential condition; not a location apart from God. The presence of God for people who have hated and defied Him will be positively awful. That just makes a lot more sense to me than to say that God is love but He will choose to make people suffer for all eternity. There's an excellent web article on this at:

http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html

Athanasios Boeker said...

Adam,

Excellent point that you make.

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", Father Zossima says, "I ponder "What is hell" I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love...They talk of hell fire in a material sense. I don't go into that mystery and I shun it. But I think if there were fire in a material sense, they would be glad of it, for, I imagine, that in material agony, their still greater spiritual agony would be forgotten for a moment.Moreover, that spiritual agony cannot be taken from them, for that suffering is not external but within them."

However, We should not be overly subjective in our perception of the mystery of hell, after all at, and after the Last Judgement we will all stand before the radiance of God's uncreated Glory, and that Glory will be percieved by both body and soul. As St. Barsanuphius of Optina said, "Even the bodies of sinners will experience torment. The fire will be material; there will not only be pangs of conscience, and so forth. No, this will really be perceptible fire. Both the one and the other will be real. Only, just like the body, the fire will be far more subtle, and everything will bear only a certain resemblance to earthly things." -Afanasiev, op.cit,pp.735-736.

Athanasios

DEP said...

I view Hell as the impossibility of reason. When there is no reason there is torment. Where there is torment there is suffering. It is, to me, knowing God loves you yet the torment is you will not be able to feel it.

Athanasios Boeker said...

Dep,

yes, because deep down the damned one does not want to feel it. Reminds me of a quote I heard once, I believe it was from C.S.Lewis," The Doors of hell are locked from the inside."

Athanasios

DEP said...

Athanasios,

Thank you for understanding what I am saying. Whenever I explain to anyone who asks me what I think "Hell" is I say to them what I wrote. No one ever understands what I am saying. Everyone seems to think in terms of only fire and brimstone.

Athanasios Boeker said...

Dep,

Your welcome my friend.

Some Orthodox theologians speculate that the fire and brimstone, cosmic torture chamber view of hell, is one of the greatest causes of Atheism.

Athanasios

Ignatius said...

From Father Thomas Hopko's Book, Spirituality

"For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death. The reality for both the saved and the damned will be exactly the same when Christ "comes in glory, and all angels with Him," so that "God may be all in all." (I Corinthians 15-28) Those who have God as their "all" within this life will finally have divine fulfillment and life. For those whose "all" is themselves and this world, the "all" of God will be their torture, their punishment and their death. And theirs will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:21, et al.)
The Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:41-43)
According to the saints, the "fire" that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same "fire" that will shine with splendor in the saints. It is the "fire" of God's love; the "fire" of God Himself who is Love. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) who "dwells in unapproachable light." (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the "consuming fire" of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same 66consuming fire" will be the cause of their "weeping" and their "gnashing of teeth."

Thus it is the Church's spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God's splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light.
... those who find themselves in hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo no greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God ... But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed! (St. Isaac of Syria, Mystic Treatises)"

DEP said...

I grew up Pentecostal! I rarely ever heard anyone talk about God's love. However, I heard a lot about Hell. Too much, in fact. Hell was presented as a place where everyone goes who are not "in tune" with God the moment the "Rapture" takes place. I spent my teenage years living like monk for fear of sinning at the wrong moment. I was so scared of Hell I did nothing to advance the Kingdom of God. I cannot count the number of people who came to Christ because of the fear of Hell who now no longer attend any church. Most left once the immediate consequence of a fiery grave appeared remote. The fear of Hell became a tool to control behavior. All it accomplished was to leave the detritus of broken lives in its wake. Sad.

DEP

Athanasios Boeker said...

I remember when I first became Orthodox, the priest I had at the time told me that God so desired our salvation that He would do anything possible to save us. He illustrated the point by telling me a story about a woman who was so stingy that she had done nothing good for anyone, not one good deed. She would have certainly gone into the darkest depths of Sheol upon death, had it not been for an incident that happened shortly before she died. One night a hungry peasent broke into the bakery she owned, and attempted to steal some bread to feed his family. The stingy woman caught the peasent thief before he was able to steal. He took off running out the door, but before he made his escape the stingy woman, in a fit of rage, hurled a old stale loaf of bread at the peasent. The peasent grabbed the old loaf and took off. Later when the woman died and the demons came to take her soul away, her Guardian Angel appeared and stopped them saying, "why do you come for this woman?" The demons responded by saying, "this woman has done no charitable act her entire life." The Angel responed by saying, "not so, this woman once gave to a peasent a loaf of bread, and here it is." The Angel then presented the stale loaf of bread to the demons, and they swiftly left her alone, with the Angel, who took her into Paradise.

Athanasios