By Luis Solimeo
Although God's mercy is infinite, in no way can it contradict His infinite Justice.
In this chapter, using theological arguments, we will strive we will refute the most common objections made against the existence and eternity of Hell.
The objections are numbered and followed by the refutations.
1. Because God is good, He cannot wish evil on anyone
- Obviously, God does not wish evil on anyone. He created all men for Heaven, and does not want anyone to go to Hell. His universal love and kindness offer everyone superabundant means for salvation. However when men refuse this kindness, preferring Hell over Heaven, they render it ineffectual.
Furthermore, although God is good, He is also just. His kindness cannot contradict His justice. Among men, kindness can degenerate into weakness and justice into hardness of heart, but, being perfect, God's virtues exist in an harmonic balance such that one cannot prevent the exercise of the other.
2. Why does not God prevent man from practicing evil, or force him to do good?
- God endowed angels and men with intelligence and will. Because the capacity to choose between good and evil is a characteristic of a rational being, God had to make every rational being free. This freedom differentiates us from irrational beings, who are uncontrollably guided by their instincts and thus unable to modify their actions. Since God cannot contradict His own work, He cannot create man free and then prevent him from using his freedom.
Freedom is also necessary for actions to have merit. If God forced angels and men to do good, their actions would lack any merit.
3. Why did God create Hell?
- God created Hell to avenge the Divine justice offended by sin. Hell's punishments atone for the offenses committed against Him and re-establish the order of the Universe, which demands that good is rewarded and evil castigated.
Thus Hell's existence is a powerful (and often the only effective) incentive for the practice of good. Fear of Hell has served to turn countless souls from the path of vice to love of God and virtue. Saint Augustine reputedly said that because of Original Sin, if Hell did not exist to punish evil, life here on earth would be transformed into a Hell because without fear of future punishment, most men would selfishly seek their own advantage, and few would restrain their passions for the sake of love.
Finally considering the mercy of God, Who grants so many graces for salvation, one sees more clearly the necessity of Divine Justice and Hell.
4. Since God knows that certain men will be damned, why does he allow it?
- This common objection, expresses an implicit error by which God is spoken of in human terms.
In human terms, when a man sees the future, he sees something that still has not happened. On the other hand, for God there is no time, everything is present. He sees past, present and future simultaneously. Thus, God does not foresee, but simply sees, and if He prevented something from happening, since it would not happen He would not see it. Therefore, God sees actual reality in the exact moment it takes place, not something that yet is going to take place.
Perhaps a comparison will help illustrate this point.
If an apparatus existed that would record a future reality, we would be able to see the future without being able to alter it.
If an apparatus existed that was capable of filming a future event as though it were the past, we would see the event, but would be unable to change its outcome, because the apparatus would have registered a future reality, not a future possibility.
Furthermore, knowing the future is different from being the cause of an event. Thus God's knowing that a man is going to damn himself, does not make him the cause of it, nor does it mean that He desires it. A father who sees that his son does not accept his advice and change his lifestyle may know that his son is going to be lost, but in no way does he desire it.
5. If God is Love, why must He avenge himself against the reprobates?
- God does not desire the perdition of the reprobates. When someone dies as God's enemy, persevering in evil and forever refusing the divine grace, their perdition comes from themselves, not God.
Concerning vengeance, there is another play on words. In this sense the term vengeance is different from the way it is used in relation to men. In our case, vengeance is the fruit of an imperfection, which is impossible in God. Here, the word is understood in its juridical sense meaning the re-establishment of justice, which God exercises within the bounds of His perfect impassibility and supreme equilibrium.
6. Why can man not repent after death?
- Because the mutability of human nature comes from the union of soul and body, man can only change his will while he is alive, during which time he perceives earthly things imperfectly. However, the soul, separated from the body, comes face to face with eternal truths. Thus it loses the ability to see something imperfect as a good. The eternal goods are evident, and attract or repel the soul without its free choice.
Man's last act of will decides his final choice and fixes his destiny forever. The soul enters into eternity with a will unchangeably fixed, in good or evil. Thus man's psychology and God's sentence are both eternally immutable. Such a change would imply an uncertainty in God, contradicting His Justice and Wisdom. God treats everyone with impartiality, rewarding or punishing each according to his actions.
7. If all souls see God and His perfection clearly, why does not the irresistible attraction they feel towards Him keep them from choosing Hell?
- Upon dying, the reprobate sees God in His infinite perfection, and himself in the hideous moral condition in which he died simultaneously.
When the reprobate sees God in His Infinite Perfection, feeling himself repugnant in His sight, he flees, preferring Hell's torments to Heaven's delights.
The stainless Divine Purity contrasts with the reprobates moral ugliness to an unbearable degree. This contrast crushes him; making him feel repugnant in face of the infinite sanctity and perfection of God and the moral beauty of the elect, to such a degree that he prefers Hell's torments to Heaven's delights. Thus infinite beauty of God, that attracts him also repels him.
8. Is it the reprobate that willfully flees God's presence?
- According to most theologians, reprobates willfully flee God's presence. Since God, the supreme Beauty for which man was made is unbearable to him, he detests, blasphemes and curses God, Whom he has lost forever. This can be compared to an obsessive relationship in which love, becoming impossible, is transformed into dominant, unsubdued hatred, heightened fury, rage and despair.
Thus, in spite of his natural tendency towards God, the reprobate, knowing that only God can satisfy his insatiable thirst for happiness, still willingly flees from this sovereign Good.
9. Could a reprobate desire Heaven while he is in Hell?
- As shown above, by the characteristic psychology of a reprobate, he will never desire Heaven. Let us take a closer look at why this is so.
On earth, the sinner chooses a created good, a deceiving and finite pleasure, as his ultimate end, instead of God. If he could remain in sin forever, without punishment, he would never turn to God. His transitory plans of amendment are fickle and indefinite. When satiated with sin he wants to regularize his affairs, out of fear of Hell, not for love of God. He hates only the punishment due to sin, not the intrinsic disorder and offense to God.
Thus, the sinner, chooses sin and Hell over God and Heaven. Although he may not desire the torments of Hell, he does wish to remain in a state of life that leads to Hell and the definitive separation from God. Through attachment to sinful pleasure or the satanic pride, the hardened sinner sells his Heavenly patrimony, like Esau sold his inheritance. Saint Gregory the Great stated that sinners would like to live eternally only to practice their sin forever.
In this light one sees clearly that a person who dies such, forever binds himself to the disorder of sin, and thus throws himself into eternal damnation.
10. Is it not unjust for God to condemn someone for having committed a single sin of weakness?
- Although, in justice, God could condemned someone for a single mortal sin of weakness, Hell is only for those who persists in evil, since those who sin through weakness usually do not persist in sin.
The habitual sinner closes his soul to the solicitations of grace, purchased at the infinite price of the crucifixion.
The habitual sinner, thinking he has great pleasure in sin, closes his soul to the solicitations of the grace, and repentance, deciding only to convert in his last moment.
Certainly, he who sins through weakness, without falling into habitual sin, finds the sinful condition painful. Therefore, he is sensitive to the graces of repentance that God always communicates to men. Even so, sins of weakness can be the symptom of a condition leading to the soul's definitive separation from God, through a disordered attachment to creatures.
Therefore, Hell is the punishment for a condition of persistent disdain towards the Divine Love and Mercy.
11. If a reprobate wanted to go to Heaven, could he?
-Heaven consists in love of God, and the happiness of sanctity, while Hell is the rejection of God and radical moral disorder. Mortal sin is an act of radical disorder against the ultimate end of man, Which is God. A person who dies in this state is fixed definitively in this rejection, and is therefore incompatible with Heaven.
From the supernatural view, eternal life is sanctifying grace. In destroying this grace, mortal sin also destroys eternal life.
Sin, in itself, is naturally irreparable. Only divine grace can remedy it. Since, the grace of conversion does not exist after death, neither does conversion itself.
12. Is not God's Mercy eternal?
- Undeniably, God's Mercy will always exist. However, because someone is damned not due to a lack of mercy on God's part, but rather a lack of acceptance of this mercy on the reprobates part, God's eternal mercy will never free him from Hell. His will, perverted by the refusal of Divine Mercy during life, would not accept the grace of conversion after death, even if it were offered to him.
Saint Thomas illustrates this point with the following example: if someone blinds or kills himself, does he have the right to ascribe responsibility to God for his blindness or death? Similarly, the sinner who voluntarily destroys in himself the principle of supernatural life does not have the right to protest against his perdition. On the contrary, it is perfectly just that he who wanted to sin eternally against God, be eternally separated from Him.
Sin is evil and disorder. Since it can never become good or order, the enmity between good and evil must endure forever.
13. Aren't earthly punishments enough?
- Evil is not always punished on this earth. In fact, sinners often wallow in honors and wealth here, while the just suffer trials and afflictions. Because God cannot remain indifferent to crime and virtue, a postmortem punishment must exist to re-establish justice.
14. Must Hell be eternal?
- To be useful, every sanction must be efficacious. According to human psychology, man really fears only an eternal punishment, while temporary ones insufficiently impress him. Man's fallen nature is so attracted to sin that, in face of the intense, immediate sinful pleasure, the possibility of a temporary future suffering, is inadequate to restrain his passion. Put plainly, man prefers a transitory, distant suffering, to the denial of a present joy.
15. Is not an eternal punishment disproportionate for sins that were committed over a short time?
- According to justice, the time it takes to commit a crime does not determine the length of sentence. Rather the consequences and seriousness of the fault committed decide the length of the punishment. Therefore, a murder, committed in the blink of an eye, because its effects are everlasting, can merit an everlasting punishment.
16. Would it not be nicer to believe in an eventual general pardon, in which the demons themselves would convert and general happiness be reestablished?
- What is nicest is to accept God's Will and conform ourselves to His Wisdom.This hypothesis, so full of kindness and sweetness at first glance, is absurd. This idea, defended by romantic men of letters of the nineteenth century, like Victor Hugo, Lamartine, Paul Valery and others, is founded in a false concept of kindness and love, in which sentiment dominates reason. When defended by Origen in the early Church, it was condemned.
Only a god moved by sentimental reasons, and not Divine Wisdom could thus contradict his justice. The divine will, like every rational will, is guided by the intelligence, producing infinite mercy while maintaining perfect justice both of which are expressions of the Divine Wisdom.
Furthermore, it is not reasonable for God treat the reprobates and demons with mercy. A general pardon would overturn the foundation of justice, which demands that each one receives what he earned, reward or punishment.
This foundation corresponds to the moral responsibility of each one for his actions. To pardon the demons and reprobates is to reward evil.
It is unimaginable that Heaven would be shared by Lucifer and Saint Michael, hangmen and martyrs, apostates and faithful, prostitutes and pure virgins, heresiarchs and apostles, or innocent victims and cruel assassins!
According to this view, Judas and Saint Peter, Luther and Saint Ignatius and Messalina and Saint Agnes would forever enjoy the same reward!
Truly, sin is evil and disorder. Since evil can never become good or disorder, order, the enmity between good and evil, order and disorder must endure forever together with their consequences: happiness and sorrow.
Even the possibility of Hell's punishments ending would destroy one of virtue's main attractions. It would make good and evil, truth and error meaningless, producing a complete moral and doctrinal relativism.
The effects of this line of reasoning are evident in the absurdly relativistic world of today.