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← The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Cartomancer

Peacebeuponme, Comment #12,

You are far from the first to wonder this. It was a classic point of medieval scholastic disputation, following Peter Lombard (Sentences, 4.44) and ultimately Gregory the Great's Moralia in Iob (6.16). A typical solution to the problem would posit that it was the psychological distress of being burned that the disembodied soul would suffer in the hereafter, rather than actual physical fire per se, and that this distress would be transferred via a method other than usual sense perception through the organs of the physical body.

However, it must be noted that the orthodox theological line on bodies and souls would have it that the body and the soul would be reunited at the end of time, and thus there would be an actual body present to suffer eternal torments for the eternity after the day of judgment. Thus the problem of sensation in the disembodied soul was at most a temporary problem. It was often remarked that the "fire that burns eternally and the worm that never dies" of Mark 9.48 were to be understood as the physical and perceptual aspects of the same thing.

It really surprises me, to be honest, that Ratty can come out with a bald statement that "hell is a real, physical place, with real physical fire" when, as a doctor of theology who studied in the catholic tradition, he must surely be very well aware of the immensely subtle and sophisticated musings on the subject of the corporeality of the hereafter that were engaged in by medieval scholars. Likewise this pet historian of theirs - how on earth can somebody who has studied the very human scholarship of past theologians, scholarship that develops and changes in exactly the same way as any other kind scholarship, consider that modern catholic theology has any special direct line to the truth at all? I would expect that a detailed knowledge of the history of ideas would be one of the strongest antidotes to catholic pretensions of specialness and unique validity.

I am forced to conclude, therefore, that Richard is right when he says that sophisticated theologians will say one thing to the congregations and another to a learned audience. Either that or Ratty has a cognitive dissonance of truly universal proportions.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:50:00 UTC | #443114