Why Do Christians Believe in Hell? by Michael Pakaluk

False Shepherd, Part III: ‘We Are in Schism’, by Joseph M. Hanneman
January 21, 2020
The Senate Impeachment Trial: 8 Things You Need to Know, by Thomas Jipping, Elizabeth Slattery
January 21, 2020

*Image: The Last Judgment by Jan van Eyck (detail), c. 1440-41 [The MET, New York]. This is the bottom area of the right panel of a diptych.

By Michael Pakaluk, The Catholic Thing, Jan. 21, 2020

Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is a professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. His latest book, on the Gospel of Mark, The Memoirs of St Peter, is now available from Regnery Gateway. He is currently at work on a new book on Mary’s voice in the gospel of John.

Note to readers in the Washington D.C. area: Tonight (January 21) at 7:30 PM, Robert Royal will be giving the inaugural lecture in a series sponsored by the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria Virginia in commemoration of its 225th year of existence. Information about this event is available by clicking here.

Michael PakalukWhy Do Christians Believe in Hell?   Because Christendom has affirmed it, Jesus clearly teaches the reality of Hell in the Bible, and Hell’s reality resonates with an honest account of our own experience.

That’s not the answer theologian David Bentley Hart gave earlier this month, when the New York Times offered him a perch to discuss the misguided beliefs of his fellow Christians.  The Bible is so unclear about Hell, he wrote, while it is clear about universal salvation, that the doctrine of Hell must be purely an expression of the ill will of Christians.  They hate their fellow human beings so much that they want them to spend eternity in torment.

When the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, Hart writes, the doctrine of Hell was a form of “spiritual terror,” which served as an “indispensable instrument of social stability.”  But the enduring motives, Hart insists, have always been deeply personal – and demented.  Christians derive a “secret pleasure,” he says, from hoping that, when they are saved, they will be envied by the damned: “What heaven can there be. . .without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”  ….