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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Population Of Hell

This article by Avery Cardinal Dulles is dated, but is still a great read. Dulles gives a very balanced account of the various positions that have been taken throughout the centuries concerning the number of the damned. There are a number of passages that serve to instill a healthy fear of hell. Take, for example, the following:

"Several studies published by Catholics early in the twentieth century concluded that there was a virtual consensus among the Fathers of the Church and the Catholic theologians of later ages to the effect that the majority of humankind go to eternal punishment in hell."

But Dulles also provides reason for hope:

"The earlier pessimism was based on the unwarranted assumption that explicit Christian faith is absolutely necessary for salvation. This assumption has been corrected, particularly at Vatican II."

Dulles concludes that we have no certitude as to whether many or few will be damned, an uncertainty that may exist due to the wisdom of God:

"All told, it is good that God has left us without exact information. If we knew that virtually everybody would be damned, we would be tempted to despair. If we knew that all, or nearly all, are saved, we might become presumptuous. If we knew that some fixed percent, say fifty, would be saved, we would be caught in an unholy rivalry. We would rejoice in every sign that others were among the lost, since our own chances of election would thereby be increased. Such a competitive spirit would hardly be compatible with the gospel."

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