Today the Jewish faith celebrates Passover, and Christians begin Holy Week. My prayers are with you and your families during these sacred days.
As promised, below you will find some reactions to Thursday’s article on hell. I’ve included a few responses as well to keep the dialogue going.
God bless, Father Jonathan
• E-mail me at FatherJonathan@foxnews.com
Thank you very much for posting the piece about hell! As an engineering college student, who has had to figure out a lot of the “church” stuff on my own (my parents never took me to church — not even Christmas / Easter), I find that this response to hell is refreshing to hear from a high-ranking official in the Catholic Church. Indeed, it is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, a man who held theological views very similar to my own. [….]
There is another doctrine with regards to Hell that I would like to invite your response to —universal redemption. I’ve noticed that this is a viewpoint that is gaining ground, and was a view that was put forth by John Wesley (among others). This idea has evolved over the years, but Wesley essentially stated that when we “meet our Maker” we will be so overwhelmed by love that no person will be capable of rejecting it and thus all of us will enter Heaven. — Chris (Golden, CO)
RESPONSE: Chris, your personal search for religious truth is admirable. Keep going! As you say, the theory of “universal redemption” is not new. I don’t, however, think it holds much sway for those who believe in the Bible as divine revelation. You won’t find any Bible passage that unequivocally states that all people will end up in heaven. But, yes, I agree that God is going to have to be very merciful to us. Society today makes it very hard to believe and very hard to live up to those beliefs.
As an evangelical pastor, I was encouraged to read what Pope Benedict had to say. I must say that the more leaders like him speak directly from the Words of God, they leave little room for disagreement to our stance. We merely are quoting the Creator of the Universe. I agree that we need to temper the fire and brimstone with the message of love, especially this Easter season. The Bible says, "For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son ..." Love motivated the Father to send the Son and it motivated the Son to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world. —Rev. Kirkpatrick, Berean Bible Fellowship Church (Terre Hill, PA)
RESPONSE: Thanks, Pastor!
Anyone who believes in heaven or hell is a coward and a moron. There is no logical reason to believe in God, heaven, or hell. The sooner people realize this, the better the world will be. World peace is impossible when such a large percentage of the world lives in separate bubbles of delusion. Certainly you think that Islam is delusional, so why can't you see that Christianity is as well? Proud to be Godless. — Jeff
RESPONSE: Jeff, it sounds like you are suggesting religion is an overall negative for society. I disagree. While throughout history people have misused the name of God to carry out their own selfish plans (as we still see today), true religious belief has been the driving force for the greatest cultural achievements. The European Renaissance is one good example. But maybe you’ve met some hypocritical Christians ... I can understand your disenchantment with that.
I admire and appreciate Pope Benedict’s message. He reiterates and confirms who we are as Catholics by standing firm on issues that are not so popular in the public eye. As a 28-year-old man, I feel that it is imperative to have a constant reminder that we are held accountable for our actions and the repercussions of those actions. We are fortunate to have Pope Benedict leading the Catholic Church. He reminds each us of how we should live our life based on Jesus Christ's teachings and holds steady the path of the Christian faith. — Clay (Bryan, Texas)
RESPONSE: Clay, I think it is going to take a while for the media to get used to Pope Benedict’s style. Because television relies so heavily on images, producers often pass over the importance and relevance for the average viewer of this kind of straight-talk on the tough issues coming from the new pope. He is a masterful teacher, and from the times I have been with him personally, both before and after his election, I can also say he is a genuinely humble and holy man.
Father Jonathan, in regards to Hell, it's true, a lot of churches avoid the topic, but I believe the avoidance of discussing Hell is a direct reflection of our society in the U.S. Due to a variety of factors, such as divorce and the general erosion of the traditional family, people want to be told they are "good people," despite their actions. They don't want to be told that their bad behavior has consequences…
In essence, any topic that deals with our faults and failures, society has come to avoid. Hell is a place of punishment and/or banishment, and we live in a positive-reinforcement, "you're OK, I'm OK" world. — Doug (Lebanon, TN)
RESPONSE: Doug, I agree. The fact is that our life choices do have consequences.
Father Jonathan, The other thing that you fail to mention is that it is still church doctrine that anyone who isn't baptized CATHOLIC goes straight to Hell. — JD (Denver, CO)
RESPONSE: Wow! Believe it or not, JD, the Catholic Church has never taught that. I certainly don’t believe it. One thing I love about this column is we can address the many misperceptions about so many topics. There is real dialogue.
I did appreciate your words about hell. Life often seems like hell, but then there are also so many great parts to it. I regret to admit, I am not much of a religious person but wish to share that I really do appreciate those that are.
My friend and golf partner is a Born-Again Christian — I am not sure what denomination. There is also another young man that I golf with often, who was a substance abuser, now recovered, that is now greatly involved with the Catholic church. They both have such great attitudes about all things. I may not agree always but do respect them always. They seem to have that love thing for everyone. You know the kind that just says I really do care what happens to you. —Perry
RESPONSE: How refreshing to hear your story. It sounds like your golf buddies do more good for their faith on the links than many preachers like me do from the pulpit. Thanks, Perry.
What a strange doctrine Hell is for the church to continue to support. Based on this doctrine, the love I feel for my child is purer than God's love of his children. The love I feel for my child is unconditional, where as God's love is riddled with strings and carrot and stick approaches. Why would an "all loving" God who created me send me to hell simply because I worshipped him incorrectly, or not at all. How could a person of reason, of which He himself has given me, not admire my questioning of Him and His existence? Wouldn't this all loving God admire me for using the gift of reason and logic he has bestowed upon me to more closely exam Him and the reasoning behind believing or not? Would this God not want me to use his gifts instead of being a droid who simply believes because He and His other creations tell me to? — Brian (Houston, TX)
RESPONSE: Brian, you bring up two excellent points. First, I agree it would seem like hell is a de facto limit to God’s love. As you say, it would be unfathomable that you would allow your own children to go to hell, so how can God allow it? As I tried to explain in Thursday’s article, Christianity teaches that hell is not God’s choice for anyone. But God respects our free will to reject his love if that is what we want. Hell is a state of eternal self-exclusion from God’s presence. It helps me to imagine how sad God must feel when this happens … something similar to what parents feel when their children run away from their love. This analogy helps, but it doesn’t satisfy, I know. The existence of hell still remains for me a mind-boggling mystery.
Secondly, you wonder why an “all loving” God would condemn someone for using their gift of reason to question God’s existence. I don’t think he does. Using our mind is a good thing and if we use it well, I think in good time, God reveals himself to us in differing degrees and in ways we can grasp without throwing reason to the wind.
I so appreciate the balance, clarity and love in the way you present eternal truths. I was brought up a Baptist and now attend a non-denominational church, but I’ve come to see that Christ is shining through His Body regardless of labels we have put on our selves. Mother Teresa is one of my all time heroines who opened my eyes to my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church. —
God Bless, Dale
RESPONSE: Thanks, Dale!
I don’t believe in Hell and I think the concept of burning in it for eternity was fabricated by those in charge who needed a way to control the befuddled masses of long ago. However, I do occasionally enjoy thinking of those who have done me wrong burning in it for eternity. A better fantasy does not exist. — Mary
RESPONSE: Mary, your perspective always brings us down to earth ... so to speak. I don’t know what else to say.
Wow! Your article had a great perspective on a highly sophisticated topic. Indeed, hell is not much spoken of. When it is referred to, it is frequently a big joke, i.e. "Go to hell!" I never thought of looking at heaven from hell as distancing from the loving arms of God. Thank you for your fresh approach! — Sharon
You always stand out for your ability to say simple things in complicated and unhelpful language. Hell is hell and that’s all there is to it. Get over it! Why do I still read you? — Jill
RESPONSE: Well, Jill. I better keep this response simple. Thanks for reading.
Thank you Father Jonathan for going where few dare to trod. — J H
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• Kansas Candidate Casts Himself in Mold of Political Pastors
• Author Claims that Evil is Learned, not Inherent
• Doctors in Scotland Told to Force-Feed Anorexic Patients
• A ‘Me-First’ Code of Ethics for the 21th Century
• Setting a Price for Putting Off Death
• Throwing Out Your Cookies – a Passover Lesson
• From Faithful, Push for Sainthood for John Paul II
• ‘Like a Second Birth’: The Miracle Which Could Help John Paul Gain Sainthood
• The Lost Parish (Part 2) – An Agonizing Battle to Save a Church Reaches the Vatican and Puts the Faith of Believers to Ultimate Test
Not All News is Bad News
• Atlanta Honors Civil War Priest For Saving City Churches
• Howard Stern Invites ‘Live Prayer’ to Studio, Prompting Thousands of Prayer Requests
• Men Asked to Commit Their Blood, as Well as Their Faith
• Both a Craft and a Calling for Rosary Makers
News Which Never Made the News
• One Muslim’s Decision to Enlist
• The ‘Lord’s Table’ Illegal in Dallas
• Europe’s Amnesic Anniversary
• Contaminated Pet Food May Prompt Legal Status Change for Pets