Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hell No!

I had a meeting with a priest the other day. We discussed many things, but two things in particular caught my intellectual eye. The first concerned the topic of indulgences, which I had questions about. Typically, they are "granted" only after one has confessed & repented. If one completes the requirements of their penance successfully, they are then granted indulgence(s) to help alleviate their suffering in purgatory. At least this has been my understanding. In short, the more indulgences you gain, the less you suffer. The priest told me this had faded in modern belief, that it was a medieval practice & that no one really believes in that anymore. He compared it to the state of "limbo" (where babies go when they die) & how it was recently taken out of the theology of Catholicism. In the same way, he said, indulgences are on their way out.
Another belief he said was fading (& this is my second point), was the idea of hell. I swear I felt the color run out of my face. "WHAT?!" I looked him in the eye & tried not to let my shock reveal itself. He said that God is good & because of this fact, he couldn't believe that God would or could send anyone to hell. He brought up the story of the adulterous woman & how the people wanted to stone her. Jesus piped up & said "He who is without sin, cast the first stone..." He was the only one who met that requirement, but He refrained in spite of the fact that He would have been justified in His actions. I guess the priest assumes since Jesus came on the scene & saved the adulterous woman, He will also save us- all of us- in the end.
I can digest the Catholic belief that we are essentially good with the stain of sin & propensity toward evil (as opposed to the Protestant view that we are born evil & depraved through & through), but the idea that God will save everyone just because He is a good God? That one I can't swallow. Incidentally, I don't know that all priests or Catholics think this way. But if no one is really destined for hell, why bother with references in the Bible? Why require a sacrifice to atone for sin? How can sin be sin without the threat of punishment? Even in our own society, a law is essentially worthless unless there are consequences for breaking it. If there is no hell, how is the good news "good"?! Hell is something I just can't evict from my belief system...

No comments:

Post a Comment