As for questions about eternal damnation. I think we have to recognize that we truly are capable of choosing a state of permanent darkness and separation from God. We cannot fool ourselves - and we should fear this about ourselves - not in a way that makes us panic and hide, but in a way that turns us continuously towards God recognizing our need for His saving mercy. This recognition about ourselves is effective and good in the context of having faith in how God is providing every possible means of salvation for us.
Also, the universal Patristic witness as far as I understand it is that we cannot unilaterally send ourselves to hell. Our synergy with God is such that God is always cooperating with our own freedom. So while we have to reject formulations that see God as unilaterally sending people to a permanent state of hell as a punishment, and also reject formulations that see God holding men in hell against their own will, we also have to reject formulations that see God's love in sentimental terms such that He has no active part in sending us to hell.
As for the rest - some quotes from the thread I linked above that bear keeping in mind.
One of the most beautiful things of life, and especially of the Christian life, is that decisions even though they are of importance and they have their effects on the rest of life, can be transformed and transfigured over time. Therefore I'm not sure what 'the final acceptance and rejection of human decisions' means in a more final sense, since it will be with the transformation of these decisions and the intent behind them, that we ultimately appear before Christ.
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Thank you for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I think your comments, and your questions, give evidence of your struggling with the very tension that abides in the mystery of true freedom, which itself has given rise to the mystery of evil and suffering. We all too often forget, in contemporary discussions on such matters (which generally strive to be as analytically consistent and rationally concrete as possible) that human freedom, as fundamentally part of man's bearing the image of God, is a mystery. Freedom is not a purely rationalistic enterprise of unrestrained choices; nor are its dimensions or consequences susceptible to the almost mathematical analysis by which we often try to comprehend them. Human freedom is something that has its origin in the nature of God, and included in that mystery of God's nature are the intermingling of eternity and time, change and consistency, which apart from abiding in God's nature would be otherwise distinct and even opposing categories.
The interweaving of such things is what makes definitive 'proclamations' on these matters dangerous -- which is why several of the Fathers warn so strongly against them, why others approach cautiously; and why some in the history of the Church, in attempting to approach them too forcefully and definitively, have found themselves in error that has required correction.
What do we know of the mystery of freedom as it relates to evil and repentance? We know that the time of the this life is the principal venue which the Lord has provided for freedom to embrace repentance. We know that beyond this life, much of the exercise of that freedom is hampered or lost. Yet we also know that the limit of this life (death) is not the absolute or full limit of the ability of God's mercy to care for the salvation of the person -- hence our practice of prayer for the dead, our proclamation of Christ minsitering to those in Hades, etc.
We know that all repentance is and must be an act of freedom; it cannot be forced. Yet we also know that our ability to discern the heart, and its enslaved or unbound freedom, is quite limited.
We know that chastisement awaits sin and rebellion; we also know that chastisement always aims at correction -- that only at the eschaton, at the dread and final judgement, does chastisement become punishment through the abiding free determination of the person, judged and responded to by Christ.
These are not analytical 'data sets' that can be fed neatly into an equation that will provide a neat, tidy result. These are dimensions of a great mystery in which the person finds himself in this life. And it is these dimensions which shape how we live an act within this life: they demand the work of repentance now, 'while it is still day'; but they demand similarly the prayer of intercession for the forgiveness of thsoe who have reposed. They demand our understanding of sin and its consequences; but they demand similarly the petitions of mercy and the usage of chastisement to convert the heart.
INXC, Fr Irenei
This question has often bothered me - how can anyone in heaven be happy if all are not saved? How can God's love be satisfied if all are not saved? (Maybe this is a better question then asking how God's justice can be satisfied.)
But we know that Jesus at the cross took upon Himself the whole burden of suffering humanity - the suffering of all men for all time and eternity - for the cross was an eternal event, and this reality is not erased, I think, by the resurrection. We partake of the suffering and risen Lord, not just the risen Lord, when we partake of His Body and Blood. And I suppose that even for the incorrigible sinner that cannot be saved, Christ's sacrifice at the cross and descent into hell teaches us that He does not ask anyone to suffer what He Himself has not already suffered and to a greater degree. Such is His love.