Saturday, February 07, 2009

Interesting church history factoid on Hell (Tradition or not Tradition?)

"A number of early theologians taught the saints in heaven could see the torments of the damned. The sight of their suffering increased the pleasure of those saints because they could see divine justice in operation, making their own bliss all the sweeter by contrast" [Four views of Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996),p.47].

I briefly looked through the Catholic Catechism to see if this factoid made it in, unless I missed something, I didn't find it. I was curious if this was part of "Tradition." Perhaps one of my Roman Catholic readers can help me out on this.

Cited as holding this are Augustine and Aquinas.

Augustine:

But in what way shall the good go out to see the punishment of the wicked? Are they to leave their happy abodes by a bodily movement, and proceed to the places of punishment, so as to witness the torments of the wicked in their bodily presence? Certainly not; but they shall go out by knowledge. For this expression, go out, signifies that those who shall be punished shall be without. And thus the Lord also calls these places the outer darkness, Matthew 25:30 to which is opposed that entrance concerning which it is said to the good servant, Enter into the joy of your Lord, that it may not be supposed that the wicked can enter thither and be known, but rather that the good by their knowledge go out to them, because the good are to know that which is without. For those who shall be in torment shall not know what is going on within in the joy of the Lord; but they who shall enter into that joy shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. Therefore it is said, They shall go out, because they shall know what is done by those who are without. For if the prophets were able to know things that had not yet happened, by means of that indwelling of God in their minds, limited though it was, shall not the immortal saints know things that have already happened, when God shall be all in all? 1 Corinthians 15:28 The seed, then, and the name of the saints shall remain in that blessedness,— the seed, to wit, of which John says, And his seed remains in him; 1 John 3:9 and the name, of which it was said through Isaiah himself, I will give them an everlasting name. Isaiah 56:5 And there shall be to them month after month, and Sabbath after Sabbath, as if it were said, Moon after moon, and rest upon rest, both of which they shall themselves be when they shall pass from the old shadows of time into the new lights of eternity. The worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched, which constitute the punishment of the wicked, are differently interpreted by different people. For some refer both to the body, others refer both to the soul; while others again refer the fire literally to the body, and the worm figuratively to the soul, which seems the more credible idea. But the present is not the time to discuss this difference, for we have undertaken to occupy this book with the last judgment, in which the good and the bad are separated: their rewards and punishments we shall more carefully discuss elsewhere.


Aquinas:

...Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

6 comments:

Stacey said...

That's strange, and I've never heard it before. What I have heard is that we will come to all knowledge (though admittedly, I'm not sure where this comes from, Corinthians maybe?). So the question is: If we know these things, should they be allowed to rob our joy in Christ or should they add to our joy somehow?

Lvka said...

The Apocalypse of Peter.

Lvka said...

(...which also taught Origenism).

BillyHW said...

So what's the problem, exactly? These appear to be perfectly acceptable theological speculations. If knowledge of the suffering of the damned doesn't somehow diminish God's beatitude, it doesn't have to diminish those with the beatific vision in heaven.

Ben Douglass said...

I believe that this doctrine is part of "Tradition." Cf. Psalm 52:6-7; 58:10. Nevertheless, my judgment is fallible and subject to correction.

BillZuck said...

Mr. Swan,
Please note that the doctrine simply reflected what they read in Scripture. The last three verses of Isaiah seem to state it very clearly.

"...All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD.

And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
Is. 66:22-24

Bill Zuck