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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Happy Halloween            Friday, October 31 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

God's forgiveness

The major question undealt with from Wednesday's entry was how God can forgive people who strike us as unforgiveable. I received four off-list responses to that Jonal entry and the quality of the emails suggests that many people have had similar questions or wrestle with them frequently. As one of those writers put the question about God's forgiveness of people who don't show any remorse or even think they've been doing good while doing evil...for example: could God really forgive Hitler? She went on to answer her own question, at least tentatively, by saying it's probably a moot point because in all likelihood Hitler would never admit and repent of his evils.

Though concretely, from observation, I think we can say this is generally true, in abstract theological theory we have to allow that anyone can repent, even a Hitler, Stalin, or Nero. Some evangelicals relish the thought, based on anecdotal "testimony," that on his deathbed even Charles Darwin, who probably undermined the faith of more in his time than anyone else alive, said the "sinners prayer" and was assured of eternal life (I'm unconvinced, but proof seems lacking either way). I think we have to believe that anyone can be forgiven by God because, theoretically, the sins of any one of us are so offensive in God's sight that we are no less culpable than the worst famous reprobate. If our sins caused the death of the eternal Son of God...who can be a worse sinner than that?

The great evangelical author C. S. Lewis says that no one goes to hell who hasn't chosen to do so, and one of his best books, in my opinion, is a fiction story, The Great Divorce, depicting a busload of people living in a kind of limbo between paradise and hell, getting a chance to spend a day in paradise. The paradisical city is so radiant compared to the grey sprawling suburb where they've been living that its brilliance hurts their eyes and even the grass is so sharp that it hurts their feet. All but one of the passengers choose to return to their way station on the route to hell rather than stay in heaven.

Orthodox spiritual fathers, going back to the earliest generations of the church, often stress the same point Lewis makes, that only those who choose eternal separation from God receive it. Those who choose Him find their way to Him. In contemporary Orthodox teaching, there is a widely held doctrine that in a spatial sense, Heaven and Hell are the same. Both are the presence of God. As the Psalmist says, there is no escaping His presense, even in hades. They take this to mean that for those who love God, His radiance is unending light and spiritual bliss. To those who choose their own way independent of His Way, His radiance is eternal torment, perceived as a fire that never burns out. And the rub is that today is the day of salvation; there's no grounds to hope that there will be second chances after this life. And even if Lewis's busride were feasible, as he concludes, most of the passengers would choose the roundtrip.

One more thought about whether, or how, God can forgive the unforgiveable: if He is Love, how could He do less?

More on Monday.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Fun facts (or "facts," so it says, but take with a grain)

It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

Have you ever received something wonderful that you didn't even ask for, like money in the mail, a debt that had mysteriously been cleared, or a coupon to a department store where you had just seen something you wanted, but couldn't afford.. That's God...He knows the desires of your heart.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz 

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