Monday, March 14, 2011

Christ's Doctrine of Hell

There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the "cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell," or "the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms." . . .
But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not " mediaeval": it is Christ's. It is not a device of "mediaeval priestcraft" for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from "mediaeval superstition," but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it. . . . It confronts us in the oldest and least "edited" of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists [gospels] through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.
- Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973], p. 86

3 comments:

Ed said...

I can give a hearty "amen" to that.

I am not impressed by middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency. ;-)

TLF+ said...

Great Sayers comments, Matt. Thanks for posting them... I've tweeted and fb'd this link to your blog. People need to read this!

Matt Perkins said...

Thanks for the comments Ed and Fr. Fountain, thanks also for the tweet!