Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Is hell eternal in duration?

C. S. Lewis thinks this is not clear. 

“I notice that Our Lord, while stressing the terror of hell with unsparing severity, usually emphasises the idea, not of duration, but of finality. Consignment to the destroying fire is usually treated as the end of the story—not as the beginning of a new story. That the lost soul is eternally fixed in its diabolical attitude we cannot doubt: but whether this eternal fixity implies endless duration—or duration at all—we cannot say” (PofP, chap. 8, par. 10). 

8 comments:

unkleE said...

In Hebrew thought, and in Greek language, I understand that "eternal" is not a duration at all, but a quality relating to the life to come in the new age, the "aion". The duration word is "everlasting", and that is sometimes used in English translations, but according to Greek experts, the word used doesn't mean that, except by inference.

Here's a quote from the impeccably evangelical but old now "Tyndale Commentary on Matthew" by R V G Tasker MA DD, then Professor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis in the University of London (p240, commenting on Matthew 25:41-46):

"In this verse, the same Greek word aionios is rendered everlasting before punishment and eternal before life; and the reader might draw the erroneous inference that while the punishment of the wicked will last forever, the life which the blessed are to enjoy will not! In fact, however, aionios is a qualitative rather than a quantitative word. Eternal life is the life characteristic of the age (aion) to come, which is in every way superior to the present, evil age. Similarly, 'eternal punishment' in this context indicates that lack of charity and of loving-kindness, though it may escape punishment in the present age, must and will be punished in the age to come. There is, however, no indication as to how long that punishment will last. The metaphor of 'eternal fire' wrongly rendered everlasting fire in verse 41 is meant, we may reasonably presume, to indicate final destruction. It would certainly be difficult to exaggerate the harmful effect of this unfortunate mistranslation, particularly when fire is understood in a literal rather than a metaphorical sense."

Gyan said...

Does eternity have duration?

It would be a mistake to conceive of eternity as just ordinary time multiplied by infinity. Eternity must be qualitatively different.

Joe Hinman said...

Why I don't elieve in eternal conscious torment

Mortal said...

"And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)

We ought to pay attention to the final chapter of Lewis' Great Divorce, in which he cautions us against speculating about eternity while we still live in time.

As Our Lord Himself tells us, if you want to know anything about eternal life, look at Him.

Bilbo said...

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that open theism is correct, and that God does not know the future. Suppose further that after death souls still retain the ability to repent. Hell would be the residing place of unrepentant souls. Yet souls in hell would still have the ability to repent. Since under open theism God would not know if and when the souls in hell might repent, God would continue to keep souls in hell in existence, hoping that some day they would repent. Is there any reason, under this scenario, that the souls in hell could not continue to refuse to repent forever, and therefore remain in hell forever?

oozzielionel said...

Lewis is most theologically creative when he imagines heaven and hell. It is fun to think about but strays away from the biblical descriptions.

Victor Reppert said...

But the hell chapter talks about the biblical descriptions in some detail.

Mortal said...

"Is hell eternal in duration?"

No, it's only 4 years long.. or even sooner if we can somehow rid ourselves of the nincompoop currently occupying the White House before then. (Impeachment, 25th Amendment, resignation)