Thinking about Hell

One of the questions within Christian theology is how many people (i.e. human beings) will end up in hell? There is no definitive answer. While there are people the Church knows to be in heaven (canonized saints), there are no people which the church definitively knows to be in hell. As such, it’s theoretically possible that the answer to the question of how many people wind up in hell is zero.

Theoretically possible, but not very likely. A bit of experience with humanity suggests that the number is definitely higher than zero. And our Lord Himself spoke rather more often about the narrowness of the gate to heaven than about anything which can be taken to be about universal salvation. Which is why many pre-modern scholars such as Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine held that most people would be damned.

There’s a lot one can say on this subject, but it’s not really what I want to talk about now. Instead, the thing I want to talk about is how poorly suited to this subject human reason is. And the problem is that, as far as nature goes, we should all go to hell. That heaven is not devoid of human beings is super-natural. It is mercy surpassing justice.

And because it is not a natural state, but a super-natural state, which we are in, our intuition is pretty much useless on the subject.

3 thoughts on “Thinking about Hell

  1. Isn’t it fair to say that (1) hell is european pre-christian, not only in etymology but also in concept; and that (2) a fair summary of the bible’s judgement, as it were, on your bit of experience with humanity is, “the wages of sin is death”?

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    1. The Christian concept of hell comes primarily from what Christ himself said about resurrection and judgment. I’m not sure what you mean by (2). If you mean that turning away from the source of life leads to death, then yes.

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