I am not trying to resolve great theological debates, I hope to have people think about how they see God and what that does, or might, mean in their lives. With that in mind, let me make some proposals about the nature of God and pose some questions. I am not binding myself to any statements I make about the nature of God and there are no provable answers to the questions but I hope you will find this something interesting to consider.
Does God ever stop loving us and is there ever a time, even in eternity, when He gives up on us and will let us permanently “stew in our own stuff” in Hell?
In his novel, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis proposes that Hell is a spot between two blades of grass in Heaven. It is inhabited by small-minded, self-centered people focused on their ideas about how life has been and how they have been mistreated. The residents of Hell can choose to take a trip to heaven and are welcome to stay if they are willing to let God, and joy, be more important to them than the “baggage” they carry around in their lives. His book is a classic in showing how people in this life refuse pleasures of every sort in order to continue to be “right” about how things work.
My understanding of the Orthodox Christian view of the after-life is this – Since there is no place where God is not, Heaven and Hell are defined by our reaction to God’s Love. We will all be in His presence and be engulfed by His love. If we are willing to accept that love, eternity will be a great joy (heaven). If we continue to refuse His love, that love will be a torment to us and we will be in Hell.
When I mentioned the Orthodox view to a friend, he asked who I thought I was to think I could resist God? I decided to post that question here for all of us. I look forward to hearing your comments.
Let me close by saying that this is not just a question about the next life. How many times today have I resisted God? Will there ever be a time in my life on Earth when I grow tired of resisting?
Who are you to resist God indeed!
But is not resisting God the root of our whole problem?
Hasn’t he given us this ability?
What does he want us to do with it?
C.S. Lewis also includes this idea in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the last book of that series, the Last Battle. Lucy is upset the dwarfs do not seem to understand they are not stuck in a stable. So Aslan shows Lucy what he (“He”, in Narnia) can and cannot do – he offers them a feast and yet they perceive it as rotten vegetables.
“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” So, I think this means that God will not give up on us – but he will not force us to make the choice He would like us to make either.
ST. Gregory of Nyssa was one of the few fathers who taught “apokatastasis,” the idea of universal salvationn. Others include Maximus Confessor and St. Isaac the Syrian. I read Gregory’s work, and he claims that even Satan will be unable to resist the love of God in the end, though he believes in a sort of purgatory for all. This is speculative theology at best. I like your idea of God’s love. But there are two things I think all Christians need to consider:
1) Orthodoxy does not have one consistent teaching on judgment and the nature of the afterlife. We can’t, because it is mostly a mystery that God has yet to fully reveal to us.
2) God continues his work in creation. Perhaps the story of God’s “love affair” with humanity ha a conclusion none of us could possibly foresee or even imagine.
To me, God’s “greatness” surpasses even our understanding of what love is. We need to be open to receiving whatever comes next if we are truly Christian. Part of our life in this world is practicing trust without knowing future outcomes. Maybe that’s part of what love is in its nature.
I agree we can’t know what God has in mind. I would like to repeat that I am using this as a way of provoking thought and discussion and claim no theological expertise.
Thank you for the comment and the church history information.
Also, as far as trusting God, please see my previous post Life’s Mystery – It’s Awesome which is an article I had published 15 years ago when I was attending a very different kind of church.
Being created in the image of God (who is Love), perhaps our freedom and suffering and rebellion (sadly) and submission (hopefully) is a sort of crucible, in order that we, the deiform creatures, might learn to love in the way the Original Lover loves… and thus become (at least in part), after all, what we were created to be.