Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Frederick Buechner on "Hell"

I love the writing of Frederick Buechner. My first introduction to him came about 15 years ago when I found a delightful book of his at a yardsale. It was entitled "Wishful Thinking" A Theological ABC. Here is a sample of this book on the topic of hell...

People are free in this world to live for themselves alone if they want to and let the rest go hang, and they are free to live out the dismal consequences as long as they can stand it. The doctrine of Hell proclaims that they retain this freedom in whatever world comes next. Thus the possibility of making damned fools of ourselves would appear to be limitless.
Or maybe Hell is the limit. Since the damned are said to suffer as dismally in the next world as they do in this one, they must still have enough life left in them to suffer with, which means that in their flight from Love, God apparently stops them just this side of extinguishing themselves utterly. Thus the bottomless pit is not really bottomless. Hell is the bottom beyond which God in his terrible mercy will not let them go.
Dante saw written over the gates of Hell the words "Abandon all hope ye who enter here," but he must have seen wrong. If there is suffering in Hell, there must also be hope in Hell, because where there is life there is the Lord and giver of life, and where there is suffering he is there too because the suffering of the ones he loves is also his suffering.
"He descended into Hell" the Creed says, and "If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there," the Psalmist (139:8). It seems there is no depth to which he will not sink. Maybe not even Old Scratch will be able to hold out against him forever.

That is great food for thought, to which I will only add... "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

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