Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #188

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for their prayers for my wife in regard to her surgery and recovery. She is recovering slowly, but surely. It will still be a few more weeks before she is back to 100%, but she is headed in the right direction. So, again, my profound thanks for all of the prayers and well wishes.

Second of all, BIG NEWS – I am very excited to be able to offer all of you, beginning today, 5 new CDs through the Bible Christian Society. They are:

1) Priestly Celibacy, This is from one of the “Bible Christian Hour” programs I had on Evangelical radio a number of years ago. Fr. Ray Ryland, a married priest, was my guest to talk about priestly celibacy (ironic, eh?). Father gives very strong evidence that celibacy for the priests has been the norm in the Church since the very beginning. If you’ve ever been told that the Church didn’t require celibacy until around 1000 A.D., or other such things, you need to get this CD. (Note: a strange thing happens to my voice a few minutes into the program – it gets sped up a little bit. But, your ears adjust to it quickly, and there isn’t the same problem with Fr. Ryland’s voice, and he does most of the talking.)

2) A Teaching Mass – Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile. Archbishop Rodi gives a general introductory talk explaining the Mass right before a Mass he celebrated on a men’s retreat weekend, and then gives a short explanation to each part of the Mass as it was celebrated. Excellent introduction to the meaning of the Mass for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This CD can be a big help if you’ve ever wanted to invite a non-Catholic to Mass, but didn’t, because you didn’t really know how to explain what was taking place.

3) Faith, Family, and Football – Philip Rivers. Philip Rivers, the outstanding quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, talks about the things that matter most in his life. You quite often hear athletes spoken of in the context of having committed some crime, doing drugs, or some other immoral behavior. It is very refreshing to hear an elite athlete like this talking about his faith and his family and the importance of putting things in their proper perspective.

4) You Can’t Love Jesus If You Don’t Love the Church – Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household. The only man in the world who is allowed to preach to the Pope, talks about the relationship between Jesus and the Church. This guy is good! Have you ever heard folks say they don’t need the church as long as they have Jesus? Here’s your answer. Some Q&A at the end of the talk.

5) A Conversion Story: Pentecostal Pastor to Catholic Deacon – Deacon Alex Jones. Deacon Jones’ journey from Pentecostal minister to Catholic deacon. A wonderful account of his path to conversion.

All of these can be ordered, right now, through the “Free CD’s” page on our website (www.biblechristiansociety.com/products/audio). I very much enjoyed hearing all of these talks, I hope you do, too. I will eventually have them available as mp3 downloads, but for right now I only have them on CD.

Also, I have two more talks that I am going to let you know about next week – as good as these 5 talks are, those other two are even better, so stay tuned!

One last thing: Do any of you who live in or around Kyle, Texas, know of a good orthodox parish in the area? I have some friends who have recently moved there and the first parish they went to had no homily from the priest, but a “reflection” at the end of Mass from a parishioner, wearing an alb, who stood up in the middle of the congregation and addressed every one. Needless to say, they would like to find a faithful parish with a faithful pastor. Let me know…


This week, I’m going to talk about Hell. I received a question from someone about Hell that I thought would make for a good Q&A in the newsletter, so here it is along with my answer.



Why would a loving God say he gives you free choice to love him, and then if you did not , send you to a place of eternal torment?  I have heard of others who believe that hell is not a place of eternal torment, but rather a spiritual death, a doing away with, or as the second death and perishing forever.  That seems more realistic.  But I would like for you to explain to me the logic of the doctrine of eternal torment of hell.

My Response:

Even were I as brilliant a theologian as a St. Thomas Aquinas or a St. Augustine, which I decidedly am not – neither brilliant, nor a theologian – I have a sneaking suspicion that you would not find my answer satisfactory.  I say that because it seems to me you are basing your question not on logic, but rather on feelings.  Feelings that are perfectly natural, and feelings that I can actually relate to (although my kids would tell you that Dad has no feelings), but feelings, nonetheless.

No one likes the thought of someone suffering, even if just for a little while.  The suffering of others, especially of those we love, can be gut wrenching to us. The idea of someone suffering for all of eternity, then, is something that just doesn’t sit well with most of us.  It just doesn’t “feel” right.  But, we need to recognize that it is just that…a feeling.  And when it comes to matters of faith, feelings, no matter how sincere they are, can lead us down the wrong path.  Our Catholic Faith is a faith that is built on reason, or logic, and not on emotion, or feelings.  Now, we need a faith with emotion, but our faith cannot be built on emotion.  

Okay, on to the “logic” of eternal torment in Hell.  The logic is really quite simple: God gives you a choice to love Him or to reject Him.  If you reject Him, then you have chosen not to be with Him in Heaven.  Remember, you have rejected Him, He has not rejected you.  You have lived your life with the attitude, “God, my will be done, not Thine,” so God simply allows your will to be done for all of eternity.  You wanted to live for yourself in this lifetime, God lets you live for yourself in the next.  Hell is simply the farthest place you can be away from the God you have rejected.  

And the fact is, if you have rejected God in this lifetime, then after you die, the last place you want to be is face to face with God.  Have you ever, for example, lied about someone and they found out about it and you knew that they knew you had lied about them?  Who is the last person on earth you want to be around under those circumstances?  The person you lied about.  You don’t want to be around them.  You might spend a lot of time hiding out at home because you don’t want to go out and take the chance of them even seeing you.  And if you were to see them, it would be a very painful thing for you to endure.

What did Adam and Eve do when they sinned against God?  They hid from Him.  They did not want to even be seen by Him.  They did not want to be in His presence.  And when God did see them, what happened?  It was an experience that caused them a great deal of pain – pain that they had to endure for the rest of their lives.  So, if a soul has rejected God in this lifetime, contrary to what one might think, it would not be a very pleasant thing for that soul to be in Heaven in the presence of God.  

Think again about the pain one would experience if they had to be in the presence of someone they had lied about.  Now, take that pain, and when it comes to being in the presence of the Living God that one has utterly rejected, multiply that pain by a million to the millionth power, and you’re still not coming close to the pain the soul would feel.  That soul has rejected Love itself.  That soul has rejected Eternal Goodness.  That soul has rejected the very thing that it was created for – to love God.  Were the damned to behold the face of God, it would be so painful for them that they would long to be back in Hell.    

So, the logic of eternal torment in Hell, is that the soul has freely rejected that for which it was made.  As St. Augustine says, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”  The soul cannot find rest in God because it has rejected God.  That is the essence of the punishment of Hell.  It is called the “poena damni,” or pain of loss.  The soul cannot be what it was destined to be.  The soul has lost itself in itself.  And since what the soul has rejected is Eternal Good…Eternal Love…then the soul’s suffering is eternal…without end.  That is logical.  It may not make us feel good, but it is logical.

But, does it really have to be “eternal” torment? There are those who say that it makes more sense to them that a merciful God would not allow anyone to suffer for all of eternity.  So these folks put forward the notion that either souls can repent after spending some sufficient amount of time in Hell as punishment for their sins – which means they eventually wind up in Heaven – or that God simply annihilates the souls of those who die in a state or mortal sin…simply wipes them out of existence…either after some period of punishment in Hell, or they say there is no Hell at all and the souls of the evil are annihilated immediately upon physical death.

I have to be honest here and say that I would like the latter to be true.  I wish that instead of spending an eternity suffering in Hell, that the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin would simply be annihilated.  That way they don’t have to suffer.  I’ve often thought that if I made it to Heaven, but, for example, one of my children wound up in Hell, then how could I ever be happy in Heaven knowing that one of my children was suffering in Hell for all of eternity?  It just doesn’t feel right.

But, even though that’s the way I “feel,” I have absolutely no evidence that my “feelings” bear any resemblance to the reality of Heaven and Hell.  And that same goes for all those who “feel” that no one suffers for all eternity and so they simply dismiss the teaching of the Church on this matter, in favor of their feelings.  There are some who even go so far as to say that not only is there no Hell, but that God does not annihilate the souls of the evil.  Instead, they say, everyone, good or evil, ends up in Heaven.  We refer to this belief as universal salvation. 

Again, though, all of these beliefs are dependent upon feelings, not logic or reason.  According to the Church Fathers and to many theologians throughout the ages, reason tells us that there can be no repentance after death. A number of different explanations are advanced for why this is so, but, essentially, the reason is that the soul that has rejected God is incapable of repentance, because the soul that has rejected God doesn’t blame itself for its situation – it blames God.

Back to the Garden.  When God catches Adam and Eve in their sin, what do they do?  Do they fess up, repent of their sin, and beg forgiveness?  No!  Adam first blames Eve and then blames God, “The woman You gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree…” (Gen 3:12).  And then Eve turns around and blames Satan.  Neither one of them takes responsibility for their actions.  Neither one of them blames themselves and says to God, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” Just so the soul in Hell. So, there will be no repentance in Hell because the soul does not blame itself for its situation, it blames God.   

Now, to those who say that since God is Mercy, there cannot be any such place as Hell, the Church Fathers and theologians answer that God is also Justice.  His justice and His mercy are two sides of the same coin.  And, a just punishment for someone who sins against the Eternal Good, and never repents, is a punishment of an eternal nature.  Also, if there is no Hell – whether the souls of the evil are annihilated or universal salvation is true and all souls go to Heaven – then what restraint is there on the behavior of man?  While we should do good out of a motive of love for God, it is, nevertheless, true that the fear of Hell does indeed act as a restraint upon the actions of men.  But, if there were no Hell, than that restraint would be lifted and all hell would break loose. 

Finally, there is one more reason why we should believe in Hell, and in an everlasting punishment of those who die in a state of mortal sin: The Church tells us so.  Now, there will be those who read those words and a shudder will run down their spine, because to them, accepting something because the Church says it is so, amounts to blind obedience to a power hungry, aged, all-male hierarchy that lost touch with the world decades, if not centuries, ago.

Well, it is obedience, but not blind obedience.  As I have already mentioned, the reasons for not believing in Hell, for not believing the damned are eternally tormented in Hell, are based on feelings…on emotions…not on logic and reason.  Do we want a faith based on emotion?  That would be blind obedience, blind obedience to our feelings.  On the contrary, there is sound reason and logic to believe in the doctrine of eternal torment of the damned in Hell, as we have already discussed.  Furthermore, to believe in something because the Church teaches it to be true, is actually quite reasonable.  In fact, it makes no sense for someone who calls themself, Christian, and particularly for someone who calls themself, Catholic, to do otherwise. 

Think about it.  Why does a Christian believe in the Trinity?  Is that something we know by instinct?  No.  We believe it because the Church tells us there is a Trinity.  Why does a Christian believe that Jesus is God?  Is that knowledge infused in us at birth?  No.  We believe Jesus is God because the Church tells us Jesus is God.  Why does a Christian believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God?  Is it because every single time we read the Bible our hearts and minds are so inflamed that we can’t believe it is anything but the inspired, inerrant Word of God?  No.  We believe it because the Church tells us it is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  Why does a Christian believe bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ?  Is it because we see the flesh and taste the blood?  No, we believe it because the Church tells us bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. 

So, if we believe all of these things, and many more, because the Church tells us so…if we  accept the teaching authority of the Church in all of these matters and many more…then why does it all of a sudden not make sense to accept the teaching authority of the Church when it comes to the existence of Hell and the eternal torment of the damned in Hell?  If we believe Doctrine A based on the authority of the Church, then why do we reject Doctrine B when it is taught by the same Church with the same authority?  That makes no sense whatsoever.

Either you believe the Church was founded by Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and for that reason accept her teachings as true, or you don’t.  If you don’t, then why would you want to be a member of the Church?  If you do, then why would you doubt the Church when it teaches about Hell and eternal punishment, or anything else for that matter?  Or, maybe you believe the Church was founded by Jesus Christ, but that the power of the Holy Spirit no longer guides the Church?  If so, then again, why would you want to be in this Church?  And, if you believe the Church is not guided by the Holy Spirit, and thus you believe the Church is wrong in its teachings on Hell and eternal punishment, then what reason do you have for believing the Church is right on anything?  On the Trinity?  On Jesus?  On the Sacraments?  On Salvation?

I can honestly say that if I thought the Church was wrong, on any single one of its doctrines and dogmas, or moral teachings – Hell, salvation, the Trinity, the Sacraments, abortion, contraception, Purgatory, homosexuality, women priests, divorce and remarriage, or any other one – then I would no longer be Catholic.  Because if the Church can be wrong in any one of its teachings on faith and morals, then it could be wrong on every one of its teachings on faith and morals, and it could not be the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and it would make no sense to remain.  I could not, in good conscience, remain.  So, even though I may "feel" one way about eternal punishment in Hell, I still have to trust, I still have to have faith, that God gave me a way of knowing what is true in this regard.  And that way is His Church.  And I have to trust in Him that He knows best, and that no matter what happens in the end, justice and mercy will both be done. 

Finally, if you doubt the Church when it comes to its teachings on Hell, then why would you believe the Church when it tells you there is a Heaven?  After all, where did you learn your belief about Heaven?  From the Church.  Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to not believe the Church on  Hell, but then to turn around and believe the Church on Heaven?  Ask yourself if you want a faith built on reason, and logic, and the authority of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, or if you want one built on blind obedience to your emotions.

The road is wide and easy…

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a very happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.

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Apologetics for the Masses