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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Who created Hell?

In Genesis it states that God created everything and “it was good.” If God created everything good – who created Hell?

     The first answer to this question is the dispelling of the misconception that heaven and hell are “places” as we think of Duluth as a place. While we might acknowledge the sense of a “spatial” character in eternity, if for no other reason that we believe in the resurrection of the body, heaven and hell are both more properly understood as states of being, either in perfect union with God or in total separation from God, respectively.

     Therefore, the plain answer to “who” created hell is that hell is not created, as it is not a place but a state of being. Hell became real insofar as sin entered into what God created. Sin, as an offense against God and violation of His will, separates us from God. In God’s presence, there can be nothing sinful (and hence there is the logical need for the purification of souls before entering in the fullness of the life of heaven, also known as “purgatory”). Hell was not (is not) willed by God; it is the consequence of a choice for separation from God and His will through sin. No soul is willed for hell; however, we must acknowledge the
possibility of souls who are eternally separated from God (and thus, in hell) due to their rejection of God’s love through sin and their subsequent unrepentance from sin prior to and/or at the time of death – consigning them to the eternity of hell.

     One might want to say (in the interest of recognizing God’s love for us) that God would never allow one to suffer hell as He is always forgiving. One might also speculate that if God does not forgive such souls, then He must not really be a loving God. The problem with this opposing of God’s love and the state of souls who are unrepentant is that it does not account for our capacity to love and the free will that makes it possible for us to love. God’s love for us is always offered and never forced upon us. Our right response to His love (as humble acceptance of Him in faith and the choice to remain in Him by the way we live [what we call a “living in a state of grace”]) is in accepting and living in right relationship with Him, opening ourselves up to that more perfect love that is meant for perfection in heaven. On the other hand, if we ourselves reject His love, not accepting His love in our life through faith while turning to ways that are sinful, God will continue to offer His loving forgiveness to us, but He will never force it upon one who is not open to receiving it. In the moment of death, if one says “no” to God’s generous love, choosing instead what we can
consider in reference to God one or more of the many “false loves” of the world (of self, of the world and its pleasures, of immoral acts, etc.), God does not force forgiveness. Thus, God fully respects our capacity to freely love, allowing us to remain in whatever we love, even if it is false. While God continues to offer His love to us in all moments, the consequence of our response to His love (whether good or bad) is that we are united to whatever we love: either to God and His will, even if we need some purification for our love to be perfected; or to the false “loves” that are not of His will, which in death consigns one to eternal separation from true love – as there is no true love within, but only the false love which is not love at all.

     Therefore, when we speak of the reality of hell, it is important to note that insofar as we have a capacity to freely choose to love God or to freely reject that love, there must remain the possibility of rejection unto eternity – which is to place oneself eternally in separation from God – that is, to be in hell. Hell was not created; it is instead a fruit of the choice to sin and reject God’s love. While we hope no souls are in hell, the possibility remains in reference to our own capacity to love (and to freely choose to accept God’s offer of eternal life and communion with Him) or to reject love (and to freely choose to separate ourselves from God, even unto eternal separation.)

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