Month: December 2014

Reflecting on A Year Ago….

In preparation for the third Hobbit movie, my family has been watching the previous two installments.  Tonight, we saw movie #2.  As Bilbo went up against the dragon, I remembered where I was last year as I watched this in the theater:

I was just beginning to revise and re-post the story of Richard and Tracy.  I saw my depression, Richard’s betrayal, my loss of a best/close friend (Richard) because of this, discovering that my spiritual mentor (Richard) was never actually my friend, loneliness, doubts about God, and Tracy’s bullying and abuse, as the Dragon.

I was Bilbo fighting it, wondering how I would ever get out of it.  I was Bilbo telling my story now, so others can know what happened and glean their own lessons from it, for fighting their own dragon.

Tonight, as I watched the dragon again, and little Bilbo finding his courage to fight goblins, Gollum and the dragon, I realized that those feelings were no longer in my head.

(I also noted that I could understand people’s expressions much better now.  As a child/teenager, I often said I preferred books so I could find out what people were thinking.  Now I can see it better.)

Sure my story is still about the dragon I had to face with courage and fortitude.  But it is now a story that is done, just as Bilbo could relate his story years later without the fear he once felt as the events took place.

The dragon has been slain.  The depression is gone, nothing now but a distant memory, not even a recent one anymore.

The loneliness still comes up now and again, but is diminished because I am building various friendships and acquaintances at various levels now.

Somebody in the writer’s group called me his friend, and he and his dad cry out welcomes when I come in.  The president said he likes my quiet and respectful demeanor, and there is no reason to change that because some people don’t understand it.

Richard’s betrayal only stings a little bit now.  It still leaves me with sadness at times, but more and more over the years since, I have realized the magnitude not only of his betrayal, but of his deceptions.  I see only too clearly the Pharisee behind the false piety.

I just plain don’t care anymore.

Just as I used to feel so hurt after severed relationships that I wanted to die, but eventually, I forgot all about that person, and moved on.  I might e-mail an ex occasionally or friend him on Facebook, but all the pain, hurt and even desire for his company, is gone.

Just as I was sad when my former boss left the company in a spectacularly bad fashion, and I missed him, but now I barely ever think of him.  Especially after I found out his wife divorced him for being abusive, and he went to jail for threatening and violent behavior.

I still have many doubts about God, and often about Orthodoxy as well, but I have stayed put in my church.

In it are people, services and events connecting me to this church, as they have begun to depend on my husband and me for many things: Bible readings, making candles, running the website, washing dishes at Greekfest, etc.

I feel that if I left, many people would be not only disappointed, but in the lurch.

I was once scared of Tracy.  This is why I never spoke up to her face about her abuses of others or her treatment of me.  This is why I did not stand up when she smacked her toddler upside the head, or started yanking/spanking/slapping/screaming at two little girls who had done absolutely nothing wrong.

I feared what she would do to me if I did speak up.  This is why I went into a tailspin of fear after she found my blog, threatened and began stalking me.

Now I no longer fear her.

Heck, now she’s become more of a symbol to me than a real person: a symbol of a pathetically self-deceived abuser who tries to force everyone to see her as what she wishes she were.  But instead of fear and loathing, now I feel something else:

Sometimes, it’s a laugh at how pitiful her antics were, at her pathetic attempts to be superior and keep others under her control, at how obvious she was.

Sometimes, it’s fascination at how someone can act the way she does, as I study the Cluster B disorders which obviously drive her behavior, no longer as an abuse victim but like a curious scientist.

But it’s a feeling which is oddly divorced from the fact that her abuses happened to me.  It’s not forgiveness exactly, but more like when you’ve watched a movie: You feel pain, anger, joy, etc., while watching the movie, as if you were the characters.

But when the movie is over, these emotions are now detached from you because it was only a movie, and the characters live only in one’s imagination.

In my case, the events and things I described really happened, and they happened to me, but when I revise old posts or remember something, I feel as if it were only a movie I watched once long ago.

Basically, the same way I feel when revising or writing memoirs about abuse or other things.

If these people ever repent of what they did, my Orthodox faith compels me to forgive.  So I have one little window perpetually open for that, never closing it because that could condemn me to Hell. 

I know they will read this, and just want to be clear on that in case–maybe twenty or thirty years from now–they reflect on their actions and feel remorse out of fear of Hell. 

But forgiveness does NOT necessarily mean restoring friendship.  I no longer have that pull toward Richard which would make me desire friendship in the least.

But the healing has finally come, without forgiveness.  The moving on.  The dismissal of all former feelings of fear and sadness, with no trace left over.  Like when every last bit of snow is finally gone mid-spring, even from the mall parking lot.

The dragon is gone and nothing is left but the gold.

 

The Love Rectangle–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 6

Sharon and I got into Absolutely Fabulous.  She said British shows were funnier than American shows because they just had the humor, and didn’t try to make a point or have a moral or deal with social issues.

Sometime during this period, Krafter and Stimpy came over to the apartment to watch my copy of the Doctor Who episode “Snakedance,” which included Nyssa.  Krafter explained to Stimpy that Nyssa was the hottest of the female assistants, and I said, “Yep.”

Stimpy looked at me and wondered why I, a female, said that about another female, and I said, “I’m just supporting what he said, because I’m [nicknamed] Nyssa.”  Of course I’d want to support my online-handle-namesake.

While I still wondered which one I wanted, Krafter or Stimpy, I talked with Stimpy online and he said Krafter was a Buddhist.  He was joking, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I feared to find out what religion either of them had, in case it was not Christian.  I didn’t want to have to give up on both of them, or find out that Sharon and I were going after the wrong guys.

Sharon eventually decided to see Krafter even though he wasn’t a Christian: He was searching, and interested in Christianity, even though he was still undecided about it.

I decided not to deal with the religious issue with Stimpy, not if we weren’t having a serious relationship.

I may have already decided along with Pearl that dating a non-Christian was okay, but getting serious with one wasn’t, because when you’re dating someone it may never get serious, but a serious relationship could lead to love and/or marriage.

Why set yourself up for pain by being serious with someone you’re going to have to break up with anyway?  Christians are forbidden from marrying non-Christians.  (Some do anyway, but I have no idea how they’re able to, unless they can get dispensations or they’re in congregations with looser restrictions.)

This is one reason why being in a “Christian” school with few Christian men to choose from, was so discouraging–and one reason why I had so few dates/boyfriends from high school through college.

Once I learned about the restriction midway through high school, I had to stop liking guys who weren’t Christians, which cut my potential “dating pool” way back, because most of the guys I knew were agnostic, atheist or some other religion.

And if the Christian guys I knew, did not want to date me, I had nobody left.

Now Sharon and I found ourselves in a strange and amusing situation: a love rectangle.  You usually hear about love triangles; well, this time, four people were involved.

It seemed we both kept liking the same guy at the same time–sometimes Krafter, sometimes Stimpy.  I thought Krafter was cute, but Sharon thought Stimpy was cute.  She didn’t think Krafter was cute, though I thought Stimpy was cute.  Yet as Stimpy later confessed to me, he and Krafter each ended up with the girl he wanted.

Once or twice, Sharon talked to Stimpy online, and he seemed to be coming on to her.  I didn’t know what to think about that, because I had the impression he liked me best.  We weren’t sure either of them had a preference.

One day, I sent Krafter, Stimpy and probably Speaker cybercards for Valentine’s Day.  There were three kinds of Valentine’s Day cards on TCB.

There were also other cards for birthdays (a big cake with candles) or other things, and you could even send someone a cyber flower or pizza.  (The pizza card spelled it “pizzia,” which became a sort of in-joke for me.)

When choosing a cybercard to send each guy, I didn’t go for the card with a big, beating heart that read, “I love you.”  I chose cards that a friend or flirt would send another friend.  When Sharon found out about this, however, she said,

“You should send Stimpy the ‘I love you’ card.”

Silly me, I thought she was serious, and prepared the card.  Then I chickened out and sent a different one.  She then confessed she wanted me to sabotage my chances with Stimpy by scaring him off.  It was hilarious.

Krafter and Stimpy both began to act like they wanted me.  Then Sharon finally said to me on Valentine’s Day, “You can have them both!  If they both want you, then I don’t want either one of them.”

That afternoon or early evening, I went online and found Krafter.  He asked if I wanted to be his Valentine.  (Maybe I was just the first girl to go online.)

I wrote, “But what about Stimpy?”  I now wanted Stimpy most, and didn’t want to disappoint him if he wanted me to be his Valentine.

Krafter finally sighed and wrote, “I’ll try for Sharon, then.”

I wrote I didn’t know about that, that she didn’t seem to want to date either of them.  But Krafter began singing her praises.  He said, “She’s got looks, brains, what more could a man want?”

As soon as possible, I ran to tell Sharon what Krafter said about her.  She went online that day or the next, and they went into chat mode.  The end result was, they decided to try dating, and see how it worked out.  Though Sharon still was not attracted to him, they had many things in common, such as philosophical ideas and books.

Krafter jokingly claimed to have baby llamas on a farm.  He talked about them in tele.  Sharon became the llama Mommy, and joked about them as well.

In those days, Farwest Trivia hadn’t yet stolen all the interest in teleconference.  Ever after, we remembered those days when tele was party central, sometimes with as many as sixteen people in it at once.

Sharon changed her online summary to, “I’ll twist your mind till you scream.”

Eventually Sharon fell for Krafter, and I said, referring to her and the fun times we were all having online, “And to think, you can thank my dad’s modem for it all!”

Back to Valentine’s Day.  I heard nothing from Stimpy about being his Valentine.

Sharon began gloating a little about getting Krafter, saying I couldn’t have him now.  I clammed up and eventually walked out of the room, went into the study, and closed the door.

Sharon came in and asked if I was mad.  I was, a little.  A part of me still wanted Krafter.  I tried not to be mad, and took the opportunity to move in on Stimpy.

In the last few minutes before midnight, I found Speaker online.  I probably cried out in a squeak, as I usually did, “Speaker!”  Speaker asked me to be his Valentine for the last few minutes of Valentine’s Day, and I said okay.  So even though I had no husband, fiancée or boyfriend, at least I had a Valentine on Valentine’s Day.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?

Though conservative Protestant denominations tend to agree that the answer is yes, this is by no means what all churches believe.  See above section on Hell.

From the Orthodox Study Bible:

–The Orthodox view is that unbelievers are judged according to the natural law, the law written on the conscience which every human being has.  We are naturally good; to sin is to act against our nature.

–Habitual sins can dull the conscience; the conscience is also the means by which unbelievers can ultimately be saved.  The goal is not man’s praise, but pleasing God.  This is based on Romans 2:14-16 and 29.

–Also, those of us who are aware of the Mosaic Law (particularly the moral one, which still stands) are also aware that it is impossible to keep it perfectly; it cannot make us righteous.

–We are accountable to both the natural and Mosaic Law.   Those who “become righteous by grace through faith fulfill in Christ both the natural and the Mosaic Law” (pp. 341-343, The Orthodox Study Bible).

Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Last Judgment (Matt.25:31-46) indicates that for many people the Judgment will become a moment of insight, recognition and conversion, while for others it may turn out to be a great disappointment and frustration.

Those who were sure of their own salvation will suddenly find themselves condemned, while those who perhaps did not meet Christ in their earthly life (‘when did we see Thee?’) but were merciful towards their neighbour, will be saved.

In this parable, the King does not ask people about matters of belief, doctrine and religious practice. He does not ask them whether they went to church, kept the fasts, or prayed for long time: He only asks them how they treated His ‘brethren’.

The main criteria of the Judgment are therefore the acts of mercy performed or not performed by people during their earthly lives.

According to the teaching of the Church, the Last Judgment will be universal: all people will undergo it, be they believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians.

If Christians will be judged by the Gospel’s standards, pagans will be judged by the natural law which is ‘written in their hearts’ (Rom.2:15).

Christians will take full responsibility for their deeds as those who ‘knew’ the will of God, while some non-Christians will be treated less strictly for they did not know God or His will.

The Judgment will ‘begin with the household of the Lord’ (1 Pet.4:17), that is, with the Church and its members, and not with those who did not meet Christ nor hear the message of the Gospel. —The Last Judgment

Also see:

An Orthodox Christian View of Non-Christian Religions–Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou (Greek)

What about other Christians? (OCA)

Will the Heterodox Be Saved?–Archimandrite (Metropolitan) Philaret

The Catholic view:

Salvation Outside the Church

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions–Pope Paul VI

Can people from other faiths be saved?

World Religions: A primer for Catholics

Vatican II for Gen-Xers

Can Non-Christians be Saved?

So, in the Orthodox view, what does it mean that Christ is the “Way, the Truth and the Life”?  It does not mean that belief in Christ is the only way to Heaven, or that Christ is a gatekeeper keeping out the unbelievers.  (One Orthodox forum poster jokingly referred to this belief as “Bouncer of Heaven.”)  Rather, it means that Christ is the Judge of who receives salvation.

How will people be judged if they were not properly taught about Christ?  We don’t know.  But, as my priest says, we who were properly taught have the responsibility to believe/live the faith, be an example of it, and pray for those who are not Christians.

And how do the Orthodox answer the question, “What’s the point of missions, then, if good Muslims/Hindus/etc. can go to Heaven anyway?”

The point of missions is not to get spiritual notches on your witness belt, or to increase believer counts, or to snatch people out of Hell. Our eternal life begins now, not in Heaven, and here we begin sanctification (“theosis”).

The point of missions is to spiritually feed the church and then the people outside the church, getting them started on theosis right here and now.

“You ask, will the heterodox be saved….Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins…” –St. Theophan the Recluse

For more on this subject, related to the concept of Christ preaching in Hades, see here.

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

Hell and the Nature of God

I’m trying to get the bulk of my information here from official, Orthodox Church-run sites, and avoid using “River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros as a resource, because many charge that he was anti-West and part of a schismatic, non-Orthodox group.  Nevertheless, I find many of his claims to be echoed on official Orthodox Church websites, such as the one for the Orthodox Church of America.

In fact, I checked with the Very Reverend John Matusiak, who answers questions in the Q&A section of the OCA website, and he said that yes indeed, the Orthodox idea of Hell is of a place which is beyond time and space, not physical but in God’s presence, with metaphorical fire.

He says that apparent differences between websites and other sources are really just different ways of explaining the same truth.  Also, there are many websites, especially those which are not official Church websites, which have incorrect information and theological opinion which does not match Church teachings.

However, I cannot just discount “River of Fire.”  It is controversial, yes, especially because of the polemics against the West.  It’s also accused of bad theology.  However, it also has fervent backers among the canonical Orthodox, including priests, monks and archimandrites.  Some find it too harsh against the West; some find it to be full of beauty and light, bringing them ever closer to God.

It was the first Orthodox book or article to start me down the path of investigating Orthodoxy’s claims.  After I first read through it late one night, I felt as if I truly loved God for the first time ever–before was just infatuation.  Not only did it discuss Hell, but the nature of God and the atonement.

A good friend, who was recommended the book by an archimandrite (unmarried priest or head of a monastery), requested me to put “River of Fire” back on my site.

He says that whether something comes from an Old Calendrist (very conservative Orthodox, no longer in communion with the official Orthodox churches), or from a New Calendrist (official Orthodox), makes no difference: You can tell if it’s of God.  So here is “River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros.

My research is pulling up an Orthodox vision of Hell which contrasts sharply with the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.

In essence, this “Hell” is not necessarily a physical place.  Many say it is within the heart.  God will not separate anyone from him; he will bathe every single soul with love.  But this is not “universalism”: Even in God’s presence, some will resist his love, while others bask in it.

For those who accept the consuming fires of his love, which burn away all impurities, this love will be bliss.  For those who resist them, this love will be Hell.

Is it eternal, or never-ending?  Some Church Fathers disagree, but there seems to be a consensus that it will never end, that after the Resurrection when all souls are given eternal bodies, that eternal nature means we can no longer change or repent.

The Fathers who disagree say it’s possible for the soul in Hell to repent; it’s also possible to never repent, but become so full of despair that you enter an existential void from which you never escape.  (A friend’s priest told him that the meaning of “eternal” has never officially been fixed.)  So whether you’re dealing with physical flames or metaphorical flames, Hell still should be avoided.

Also, demons will not torture the condemned, because they and Satan will also be condemned–their own fault.  God is not raging at them; he loves them and wishes they had chosen another route.  But they could not be allowed to continue in wickedness.

St. John Damascene wrote in Book IV Chapter XXVII of An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith:

Again the divine apostle says, For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

And again: It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory: it is sown a natural body (that is to say, crass and mortal), it is raised a spiritual body, such as was our Lord’s body after the resurrection which passed through closed doors, was unwearying, had no need of food, or sleep, or drink.

For they will be, saith the Lord, as the angels of God: there will no longer be marriage nor procreation of children.

The divine apostle, in truth, says, For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus, Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body: not meaning change into another form (God forbid!), but rather the change from corruption into incorruption….

We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ:

and the devil and his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and the impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not material fire like our fire, but such fire as God would know.

But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages. Amen.

As is written on the website for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

The resurrection of the dead is a miracle that will happen at the second coming of the Lord. According to the Creed: “I await the resurrection of the dead.”

This resurrection will be a new creation. However, our physical bodies as we know them now will be restored, in a spiritualized existence like that of the Lord after His Resurrection.

The final judgment will follow the resurrection of all. Some will rise to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of judgment and condemnation. Christ will be our Judge on the basis of our deeds, our works of love or our acts of wickedness.

The end-time will follow, with a permanent separation between good and evil, between those who will be awarded eternal life of happiness and bliss in heaven, and those who will be condemned to the fire of eternal damnation, to the eternal remorse of their conscience for having rejected God and authentic life in Him and having joined the inauthentic life invented by the devil and his servants.

A new heaven and new earth will be established, inhabited by righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). The Kingdom of God will be fully established; the Church will cease to exist. Finally, the Son of God will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, “that God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor. 15:28).

 

Spirits first go to Hades, or Sheol; this is also where Christ went between his death and resurrection.  He set free the captives there, the Harrowing of Hades (also known as the Harrowing of Hell).  (Though some say this is a misreading of 1 Peter 3:18-19, my research shows that this is how the Early Church understood it.  The Orthodox Church still understands it this way.  See The Communion of Saints by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr. and Christ the Conqueror of Hell by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.)

Some theologians of different denominations say that the blessed dead go to Paradise (not Heaven, but a holding tank for the righteous) and the wicked dead go to Hades (not Hell, but a holding tank for the condemned).  Some say that before Christ, there was no Paradise, only Hades; some say that before Christ, there was Paradise and Hades.

At the Resurrection and Judgment, we will go to either Heaven or Hell, which are eternal and unchanging, unlike Hades.  An Orthodox catechism put out by the Russian Orthodox Church says that the spirits of sinners in Hades could potentially be saved–until the Resurrection and Judgment.  After the Judgment, there is no more salvation.   (It’s hard to tell if this is official church doctrine or just one school of thought.)

During a Lenten or Holy Week sermon, possibly on Holy Friday, in I believe 2011 or 2012, my priest spoke of the time of Christ speaking to the spirits in Hades as ever-present.

My priest often speaks of events in the past being ever-present: When the Divine Liturgy and Eucharist are celebrated, he says, it does not just represent Christ’s crucifixion, but we are actually there at the crucifixion.  When during Holy Week we go through the services, and especially on Holy Thursday as Christ suffered his Passion, we are there with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane; when we don’t attend services, we desert him.  The preaching in Hades follows the same concept.

It is a difficult concept to understand, but fits with the mystical heritage of Orthodox theology.  My priest said that our relatives, when they die, will all go to that point when Christ spoke to the spirits in Hades.  Basically, this means everyone gets the chance to accept or reject Christ: neither universalism nor unfair.  The following passage by Bishop Hilarion might clarify:

Has this anything to do with those who died outside Christian faith after the descent of Christ into Hades?

No, if we accept the Western teaching that the descent into Hades was a ‘one-time’ event and that the recollection of Christ did not survive in hell.

Yes, if we proceed from the assumption that after Christ hell was no longer like the Old Testament sheol, but it became a place of the divine presence.

In addition, as Archpriest Serge Bulgakov writes, ‘all events in the life of Christ, which happen in time, have timeless, abiding significance.

Therefore, the so-called ‘preaching in hell’, which is the faith of the Church, is a revelation of Christ to those who in their earthly life could not see or know Christ. There are no grounds for limiting this event … to the Old Testament saints alone, as Catholic theology does.

Rather, the power of this preaching should be extended to all time for those who during their life on earth did not and could not know Christ but meet Him in the afterlife[73].

According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, all the dead, whether believers or non-believers, appear before God. Therefore, even for those who did not believe during their lifetime, there is hope that they will recognize God as their Saviour and Redeemer if their previous life on earth led them to this recognition.

…Is it possible at all that the fate of a person can be changed after his death? Is death that border beyond which some unchangeable static existence comes? Does the development of the human person not stop after death?

On the one hand, it is impossible for one to actively repent in hell; it is impossible to rectify the evil deeds one committed by appropriate good works. However, it may be possible for one to repent through a ‘change of heart’, a review of one’s values.

One of the testimonies to this is the rich man of the Gospel we have already mentioned. He realized the gravity of his situation as soon as found himself in hell. Indeed, if in his lifetime he was focused on earthly pursuits and forgot God, once in hell he realized that his only hope for salvation was God[76] .

Besides, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the fate of a person after death can be changed through the prayer of the Church. Thus, existence after death has its own dynamics.

On the basis of what has been said above, we may say that after death the development of the human person does not cease, for existence after death is not a transfer from a dynamic into a static being, but rather continuation on a new level of that road which a person followed in his lifetime. —Christ the Conqueror of Hell

In On the Soul and the Resurrection, St. Gregory of Nyssa argued that, since spirits were in Hades without their bodies, it could not be a physical place, the gulf separating the blessed and the wicked could not have been physical, and the fires torturing the wicked could not have been physical.  I’m not sure what he said about after the Resurrection.

St. John Damascene, as we have just seen, also said that the fires after the Resurrection of mankind are not material.

The Greek Orthodox Church seems to agree with the Russian Orthodox Church that change is possible after death until the Resurrection, though I’m not sure if they’re referring just to the saved or to everyone:

A partial judgment is instituted immediately after our physical death, which places us in an intermediate condition of partial blessedness (for the righteous), or partial suffering (for the unrighteous).

Disavowing a belief in the Western “Purgatory,” our Church believes that a change is possible during this intermediate state and stage.  The Church, militant and triumphant, is still one, which means that we can still influence one another with our prayers and our saintly (or ungodly) life.

This is the reason why we pray for our dead. Also, almsgiving on behalf of the dead may be of some help to them, without implying, of course, that those who provide the alms are in some fashion “buying” anybody’s salvation. —“Orthodox Eschatology” section, The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh

According to the Orthodox Church in America, at the end of the ages the Earth will be renewed and we, in our resurrected bodies, will all live here in God’s presence and love.  For those who love God, it will be bliss (Heaven); for those who hate God, it will be torment (Hell): Eternal Life, from Vol. 1 of the Rainbow Series

Heaven and Hell from Vol. 4 of the Rainbow Series

So when you hear people say, “This Earth is not my home,” they are wrong: It is our eternal home, though then it will be in a perfect condition.

On another page, we see that this inner Hell is worse than the Dante-ish external Hell, so it still must be avoided.  This is also proclaimed to be the teaching of the Church Fathers: Judgment from Vol. 1 of the Rainbow Series

In a book commonly used to introduce people to the Orthodox faith, The Orthodox Church, Bishop Kallistos Ware writes that God does not imprison man: Man imprisons himself.  Man experiences God’s love as suffering because of his own free will.

…Yet, though Hell is viewed as eternal, several Church Fathers have believed in universalism, or that all will be saved.

…It is perfectly all right to hope that universalism is correct (even though it is not church doctrine), and we must pray for the salvation of all.  St. Gregory of Nyssa even said we could hope for the salvation of Satan. —Excerpts from The Orthodox Church

Check out how Wikipedia describes the Eastern Orthodox view of Hell, and what it says (in the “Judaism” section) Jews considered Gehenna to be.  Though the “Images of Hell” section under Eastern Orthodoxy, contradicts the claim that Orthodoxy does NOT believe in a material Hell.  ARGH!

The Orthodox also reject the Catholic view of Purgatory.  Some, Orthodox and Catholic, have argued that the Orthodox view of metaphorical purifying fires is the same as Purgatory.  However, these purifying fires lead to bliss, not pain, and they are eternally part of Heaven, not a temporary place of punishment.  Since these views are not officially from the Orthodox Church, they could be inaccurate.  For these views, see: The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory

Here, Wikipedia quotes from the Greek Orthodox website, contradicting both the earlier quote from the same website that change after death is possible, and the Russian Orthodox catechism, saying that the Orthodox Church has always taught it’s not possible to repent after death.

So you see why it’s so frickin’ hard for inquirers to figure out what exactly the Orthodox Church believes.

Here is an online catechism from the Russian Orthodox church, which includes an explanation of Hell and Christ’s visit to Hades/Hell.  See Death & Resurrection, which says there’s a possibility of the soul being released from Hell before the final Judgment.  See The Last Judgment, which talks about what happens to non-Christians.  See What is Hell and A New Heaven & a New Earth.

Check this out:

In a remarkable instance of freedom from biblical literalism, St. Isaac the Syrian, arguably the greatest mystic in the tradition of Eastern Christianity, intentionally demythologizes the image of hellfire.

Although he by no means rejects the reality of hell, he reinterprets it as a separation from and inability to participate in God’s eternal love, a separation more painful according to him than any physical hell.

For St. Isaac, hell did not exist prior to sin and its ultimate end is unknown. Hell is not a place of punishment created by God, but a spiritual mode of anguished suffering created by sinful creatures willfully separated from God.

According to Isaac, sinners in this hell are not deprived of the love of God; only they suffer in the profound realization of having offended against love and of being unable to participate in it.

Hell is none other than this bitter awareness of separation and regret, what St. Isaac calls the ‘scourge of love.’ Thus, the same divine love radiating towards all is bliss to the righteous but torment to sinners.

Certainly the patristic tradition, known for its spiritual exegesis, cannot be charged with slavish literalism to an absolute holy word. In the end, as H. Chadwick has observed, the Church fathers knew that Christianity is not a religion of a book but of a Person. —The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective–Theodore G. Stylianopoulos

Here’s another quote from an Orthodox Catechism by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto:

Let us be careful here. All that the Holy Scriptures say regarding hell should not be understood physically, as we know these things today.

We should always keep in mind that with the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgement everything will change. Everything will become ‘new.’ The whole universe.

The Fathers of the Church explain this very well, particularly, St. Gregory of Nyssa, who writes the following:

‘Because you learned to understand something different from what exists in reality, when you hear the words fire or worm, you should not think of the earthly fire or insect.’

In other words, when you hear of fire and worms do not understand it as the fire and worms that you know of here.

St. John Damascene also writes the following: ‘eternal fire is not a material thing such as we are familiar with; rather it is something that only God comprehends.’ In other words, the fire of hell is not physical as we know it, but will be fire as God knows it. —Eternal-life-and-eternal-hell

Also see Eschatology and Purgatory by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

Here is the view of the Orthodox Church of America:

Judgment

Eternal Life

Heaven and Hell

The Kingdom of Heaven

Also see:

The Uncreated Energies: The Light and Fire of God by Peter Chopelas  (also here)

Apocatastasis: The Heresy That Never Was on Eclectic Orthodoxy, argues that universalism was never actually condemned by the Church, but that this is a misinterpretation passed down as fact for hundreds of years.

This is a testimony of a convert from the Baptist to the Orthodox church.  I see some similarities with him: disenchantment with evangelical Christianity, a discovery that Hell is not fire-and-brimstone but an inner reaction to God’s love, a discovery that relying on individual interpretations of the Bible (as opposed to examining doctrines of our forefathers) can be a trap.  (I’ve read that even Luther did not mean “scripture alone” as “ignore tradition.”) : From First Baptist to the First Century by Clark Carlton

What does my priest say about “River of Fire”?  He found it very hard to get through, with too many negatives about other faiths and not enough positives about the Orthodox faith.

But he said that Hell is not physical or material as we are: Everything will be transformed at the Resurrection, no longer material as we know it now.  Pictures of Hell are made material so we understand the devastation of it.  We can burn inside without being materially affected.

An interesting aside on Isaiah 66:24, which is about the continual burning of the bodies of the wicked, and the righteous looking upon them, after all wickedness is finally defeated:

The Talmudists (t) observe from hence, that the wicked, even at the gate of hell, return not by repentance; for it is not said, that “have transgressed”, but “that transgress”;

for they transgress, and go on for ever; and so indeed the word may be rendered, “that transgress”, or “are transgressing” (u); for they interpret it of the damned in hell, as many do; and of whom the following clauses may be understood:

for their worm shall not die; with which their carcasses shall be covered, they lying rotting above ground; or figuratively their consciences, and the horrors and terrors that shall seize them, which they will never get rid of. The Targum is,

“their souls shall not die;”

as they will not, though their bodies may; but will remain to suffer the wrath of God to all eternity: neither shall their fire be quenched; in hell, as Jarchi interprets it;

those wicked men, the followers and worshippers of antichrist, will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; they will for ever suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever, Revelation 14:10,

and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh; the true worshippers of God, Isaiah 66:23 to whom their carcasses will be loathsome, when they look upon them; and their souls abominable, because of their wicked actions;

and who cannot but applaud the justice of God in their condemnation; and admire distinguishing grace and mercy, that has preserved them from the like ruin and destruction. The Targum is,

“and the ungodly shall be judged in hell, till the righteous shall say concerning them, we have seen enough;”Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

From what I understand, the Targum was an oral explanation of the Torah given by rabbis in ancient times, to help the people understand the Torah better.  So–according to the Targum, the punishment goes on because the wicked never stop sinning, yet this eternal punishment only lasts until the righteous ask for it to end?

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

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