God's silence is ecstatic torture.
Piper: The death of Jesus and the damnation of the unrepentant are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is holy, and sin is treason.— Desiring God (@desiringgod) August 10, 2013
Piper: The death of Jesus and the damnation of the unrepentant are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is holy, and sin is treason.
A proclamation of God's holiness that focuses on damnation and makes no mention of love or eternal life @desiringgod https://t.co/daFRoIoMc0— Virgil T. Morant (@VirgilTMorant) August 10, 2013
A proclamation of God's holiness that focuses on damnation and makes no mention of love or eternal life @desiringgod https://t.co/daFRoIoMc0
I do not understand the devotion to the doctrine of hell among so many strands of Christian theology. It is as if they think there was not enough desirable in God Himself to draw people to Him, so He had to scare them into Him. I have done some reading in the early church fathers, and the doctrine of hell seems to play little or no part in their thinking. Or have I missed something, not being well-versed in these things? I have read some Gregory of Nyssa, some Augustine, and they seem very lacking in an interest in hell.I am not sure that the damnation of the unrepentant implies that God is holy. It seems to me to be the reverse, that it implies He lacks holiness or that holiness is not such a profound quality. That sin is treason seems not to need proof.
One thing that St. John Chrysostom, contemporary of St. Gregory of Nyssa, emphasized about Hell is that it was made for the devil, not for human beings. This was not intended to say that no human beings will go there, but it certainly cuts against the modern notion that all are consigned to Hell without getting saved in this life. It seems to me that St. John also wrote more something more substantial about the torments of Hell and how we ought to take them seriously--seems to my memory that I read this in some collection or essay that quoted him at some length recently--but I'm not sure.You're right to surmise, though, that the emphasis is very different in the Church Fathers. St. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, wrestled with the notion of children who die so young that they were neither baptized nor able to make any independently virtuous choices, and he concluded that they would not be punished, and he did so in a way that you may find interesting--and consistent with Chrysostom's view. He said that we were intended for Heaven and not particularly as a reward for virtue: why then should babies go to Hell, when it is in their very nature to be Heaven-bound?I'm not sure about Augustine. I wouldn't be surprised if he took a harsher view. I acquired some translations of his works shortly before the fire in my house. They're in one or another of the boxes of things that were recovered, cleaned, and stored after the fire. I've been meaning to get better acquainted with him, and perhaps one of these days I'll manage. He's a controversial one among the Orthodox, with many even debating whether he should be called "Saint" or "Blessed" and some detesting him altogether. I think some moderate view is probably correct, but my knowledge of his teachings is mostly secondary, with a few translated quotes here and there.
Who among the eastern fathers should I read more extensively first? I did a term paper on Gregory of Nyssa during my seminary days and though I found him very intriguing have never had time to get back to him. Augustine I do like very much though again I am not widely read in him either. Athanasius is required reading at my wife's seminary and she has read a miscellany of the other eastern fathers. I have read a fair amount of Tertullian and though he is clearly very ingenious I do not find him congenial. At my seminary, the church history class naturally focused on the west, and then on the protestant, and then much more closely on the presbyterian, so there are wide swaths of ignorance in my background.
I'm sorry it's taken me a bit to respond, Carroll. (It is Carroll, isn't it?) Life's cares and what-have-you. I'll get to your other comment on the "Venality" post in a moment too.Anyway, I should start by saying that I am the least of the chaps to consult for guidance in reading the Fathers, but--and especially based on what you say here--I'll go ahead and generally recommend a couple of things. Even if you were not familiar with St. Gregory of Nyssa, and even if you did not have a family connection to St. Athanasios, I would nonetheless recommend getting started with the Cappadocian Fathers and their contemporaries and near contemporaries. The proclamation of Orthodox doctrine was moving in big ways at that time.So, for instance, Athanasios's On the Incarnation is worth a look, and St. Basil the Great's On the Holy Spirit is an important work. It seems to my memory that a good many of St. John Chrysostom's homilies on Scripture can be found online (perhaps at ccel.org), and they are a rich source, although his writings can also be very dense material--not always the easiest to read, perhaps to some extend depending on the translation.If you find any of those rewarding, and you feel brave, St. Maximos the Confessor's writings are of great import too, and, again, not always the easiest stuff to digest.The problem with Tertullian is that he went all heretical later in life. Origen is worth reading too, even though he too had some controversy about him. Neither is regarded a saint by the Church.Well, that seems like enough to jabber about this evening. As I said, consider me the least of your guides in this matter, but if you start with the late 3rd century and 4th century fathers, you're probably off to an intelligent start.
P.S.: I had thought of it but forgot to mention it when I was leaving the comment. St. Nicholas Cabasilas would very possibly be a useful source for you too, and that would take you about a thousand years into the future from most of my previous suggestions. The first Church Father I read in any seriousness was St. Gregory Palamas, who is also worth a look, particularly on the topics of prayer and the nature of the mind and perception, and there is a nice abridged edition of his Triads translated by Nicholas Gendle and with a very good introduction by Fr. John Meyendorff.I run the risk of overwhelming you. It's no small thing, and I reckon any of these are worth your time, should you have it to spare.