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Purgatory


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#21 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 07:01 PM

Here I think is the fundamental misunderstanding that has to be addressed. The fundamental orientation of a person does not change after death. This is what it means that there is no repentance (ie change of heart) after death. It is set at the moment of separation of the soul from the body.


This, of course, is the majority report within both Eastern and Western Christianity. But there is also a minority report, represented by such Church Fathers as St Gregory Nyssen and St Isaac of Ninevah, as well as by contemporary figures such as Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, Met. Kallistos Ware, and Met. Hilarion Alfeyev.

If personal re-orientation is impossible after death, does this mean that the damned have lost their free will?

#22 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 06:24 PM

Hi Fr Aiden,

I'll start with the caveat that St Gregory of Nyssa is one of my most beloved theologians. But when this issue has been brought up before, I've been admonished that the church does indeed teach the possibility of eternal hell for some. The question then is how can this be. I am not offering answers, just some thoughts on how there can possibly be an eternal hell without violating our free will.

The first thing that I find happening really commonly in discussing this is that people take their own physical experience of what happens in the midst of pain - (ie we react strongly against this due to the will to live that is part of our nature) and then we project this into our imagining of eternal hell. Thus if the instinctive reaction to pain is to free ourselves from it, then under this way of looking at things, something must be holding the person unwillingly in hell for them to stay there in the midst of that pain. But we can't start theology on the grounds of our current experience so it is best to lay this aside.

We see when we look at the soul that its reaction to pain is much more variable. We know that someone can hold on to a state of misery and suffering caused by their own bitterness and anger simply out of stubborn pride. For them the misery is worth it and may even feed their pride. So here we get at least a small hint that a soul can freely choose suffering. Bitterness can certainly be an undying worm.

Another problem we run into though is that the Fathers teach that freed from all alien influences, the spirit of man naturally moves toward God. How then can man freely live in a state of rejecting God which is what we see hell as having to consist of.

Obviously we cannot postulate that God somehow retributively holds man in hell against the impulse of the very nature He created him with.

I cannot see how man can send himself to hell, because what alien influence can he impose on himself?

But at the fall man sold himself to Satan. We know that God created man to be a servant. It is not in our nature to be autonomous, for autonomy brings fragmentation and death. Can some people ultimately so confirm the choice made by Eve and Adam to listen to the voice of Satan that they permanently give him authority such that the spirit has completely died and the whole impulse of a man and all the faculties of his soul freely incline toward the demonic powers? Logically as far as I understand things this possibility does not contradict what the Fathers teach about the nature of man, although there is obviously a lot I still have to learn and maybe this isn't the possibility I think it is.

A third point is that when we talk about God as a consuming fire I think that we have to limit this language exclusively to those repentant sinners who are still undergoing purification. Hell is something different altogether and I have consistently seen the conversation bog down in inconsistencies and problems when these two are confuted. What hell is, I don't know. Maybe some things are simply left a mystery.

#23 Simon R

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 06:54 PM

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

It appears that many topics concerning the condition of man after passing from this world are arising on the forums. I hope that we can all learn alongside one another the True Teaching of the Orthodox Church on this, that we may all progress in our struggle for purification of the soul, illumination of the nous, and deification. In the book "Life after Death" by the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, the topic of purgatory is covered sufficiently. St. Mark Eugenicus is quoted in the book, a Father of the Church who represented the Orthodox viewpoint in talks with the Catholic Church some centuries ago, and who addressed the issue of purgatory and the "purifying fire" at that point. I have added the link below, and hope that we can all learn from this great contemporary Metropolitan.

http://www.pelagia.o...eath.05.htm#pu2

Pray for my weakness,
Simon R

#24 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:46 PM

Anna Stickles wrote:

We know that God created man to be a servant. It is not in our nature to be autonomous, for autonomy brings fragmentation and death. Can some people ultimately so confirm the choice made by Eve and Adam to listen to the voice of Satan that they permanently give him authority such that the spirit has completely died and the whole impulse of a man and all the faculties of his soul freely incline toward the demonic powers?



What you wrote does sound like an apt definition of hell: autonomy freely chosen and clung to.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#25 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:49 PM

A very nice way of dealing with purgatory and also a very nice theory of art for a Christian. By Tolkien.

#26 Anna Stickles

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 09:59 AM

What you wrote does sound like an apt definition of hell: autonomy freely chosen and clung to.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


We talk about eternal hell as some state of suffering, and yet at least in our current existence it seems that those most fully in hell are those who are also most completely unaware that they are suffering, while those currently in "purgatory" are those who are very aware of their fragmentation and sickness and their own state of suffering.

#27 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 12:53 PM

In our current existence it seems that those most fully in hell are those who are also most completely unaware that they are suffering, while those currently in "purgatory" are those who are very aware of their fragmentation and sickness and their own state of suffering.


This seems a kind of Truth that we can all confirm. As Paul C. said here and now.

It also seems to me whatever Eternity is or even whatever 'flow of time while existing in this present, fallen Earthly reality' is, in essence, no one really understands. Perhaps not even the Saints while they were alive. And so to create a literalist explanation of Heaven or Hell, will, in my mind at least, never quite be able to fully explain some reality of Eternity that our mind cannot really grasp.

I have personally chosen, for the time being, at my own risk, to adopt the eshatological doctrines only as teaching tools, and decided to steer clear of this topic and dilemma as much as possible, because otherwise, I too fall into the same troubling questions mentioned in this thread.




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