MP Bishop's Strange Teaching

MP Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev is teaching that hell is created by humans.

Here is an excerpt from an interview:

Bishop:....Meanwhile, the Eastern Christian tradition has never considered the hell as created by God to punish sinners. God didn't create the hell, free will of people has created it. It exists not because God wants it, but because people keep it existing. They first create the hell on Earth and then carry it on to the afterworld.

Interviewer: What do you mean by the hell on Earth?

Bishop: When a man using his power over others makes Earth the hell for them. Didn't Hitler turn Earth to hell for millions of people tried and tortured in concentration camps, perished in gas cameras and battlefields? Didn't Lenin and Stalin make hell for thousands and millions of people who died in camps or were shot on false denunciations or sentenced by Stalin's "troika"? Don't today's terrorists, who kill peaceful citizens, take them hostage and cut off their heads, turn Earth to the hell?...






Details:
______________________________
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 15:22:21 -0700
To: 
From: archb@airpost.net
Subject: The Nature of Hell

TO: Exarchate Clergy, Faithful, Friends
FROM: Archbishop Chrysostomos

Re.: The Reality of Hell and the Comments of Archbishop Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate

May God bless you.
Evlogia Kyriou.
Gospod Blagoslovit.


The following comments by His Grace, Bishop Auxentios, in response to an inquiry by one of our faithful about a recently article by the Moscow Patriarchate Bishop of Moscow is, I think, of general interest. It is, unlike most of what I write, succinct and to the point. It makes some excellent points that reach. in many ways, far beyond just the theological precincts of Orthodoxy.

*

I. Question (posed, again, to Bishop Auxentios):

Vladika, (please) comment on this interview. Thank you.

[See the interview following His Grace's remarks. The translation is as it appeared on various Russian websites. Though far from perfect, it is perfectly understandable - AC]


II. His Grace's Answer

Dear xxx,

May God Bless You.

If you will forgive me, I will do just what you asked; namely, comment quickly on this article. In truth, it demands a lengthy response, as the issues are subtle and demand careful articulation. But I will try to address it briefly.

First, however, let me say something about Bishop Hilarion, one of the younger Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate.. Though he writes with an intellectual knowledge of the Fathers and tries to reconcile his ecumenism with the Patristic witness -- and sometimes very cleverly -- it often seems that he is not formed by the Fathers. His theology is 'pre-formed' and then supplemented by quotations and observations from the Fathers. This is very much the pattern in contemporary Orthodox theology, if in fact the Fathers are evoked at all. A true theologian's theology emerges from his attainment of the mind and thinking of the Fathers (ultimately, of Christ), which is essentially spiritual (or noetic) and not intellectual.

That Archbishop Hilarion quotes the Fathers in many of his writings (including an interesting and popular treatise on St. Isaac the Syrian) makes him a particularly compelling theologian, since he speaks from the Fathers. At the same time, it makes him a theologian whom one should approach with some circumspection, since his theology is not a product of the Fathers but a reflection thereof. (What I have can said can be widely applied, so I am certainly not criticizing His Eminence by suggesting a caveat that is true of much contemporary theology, Orthodox and otherwise.)

Now, there is something positive to be said for Bishop Hilarion's article, in that he knows Orthodox teaching should not be identified with those Western theologies that posit a judgmental and wrathful God Who creates a place of torment for those who do not conform to His Will. After all, how does such a model synchronize with a God of Love? At the same time, quite rightly Bishop Hilarion is unwilling to follow the lead of contemporary liberal theologians (e.g., the Danish Lutherans) and say that notions of Hell and punishment in the next life are just poetic imagery and have no basis in fact. After all, even in the present age, we can see hints of Hell in the torment that people experience on account of violations of conscience. Furthermore, there is ample testimony in Scripture that the judgements of our conscience will be liberated and rise up, even if they have been silenced and repressed in this life, and render a verdict against us at our final judgement.

So far, so good.

I am afraid, however, that from this point on Bishop Hilarion relies on either 1) creative speculation, or 2) other liberal contemporary thinkers (Orthodox or Western) to contrive an innovative but un-patristic model as a solution for the apparent dilemma posed by Hell and a loving God. In claiming that the realm of Hell (in the next life) is solely our own creation (e.g., the reproach of our consciences), he of course distances God from the formula. God is, thus, free of "blame," as it were, for having made something seemingly abhorrent and unloving. However, this theory clearly does violence to the Scriptural, hymnographic, and Patristic texts in our Church, which acknowledge the eternal nature of Hell and characterize it as a place, in fact, already "prepared by God."

Archbishop Hilarion's thinking, therefore, deviates from the Orthodox position on this matter, the consensus of the Fathers, the teachings of much of Western Christianity, as well. The Orthodox position with regard to Hell is far better explained in the words, below, of a learned theologian of the last century, Father John Romanides who, when he was following the Fathers [some of strictly personal views, in his older years, have at times been impugned], was magnificently brilliant. (I have put a few comments, incidentally, in the text of his comments in brackets.)


Man's destiny [salvation] is...the transformation of the desire for happiness into a non-utilitarian love which "does not seek its own." Whereas in [some] Western, heterodox Christian theologies the reward of the just will be...the vision of God, and the punishment of the unjust will be the privation of this vision, in the Orthodox tradition both the just and the unjust [after death] will have [a] vision of God in His uncreated glory, with the difference that for the unjust this same uncreated glory of God will be the eternal fires of hell. God is light for those who learn to love Him and a consuming ["tormenting"] fire for those who will not. The reason for this is not that God has any positive intent in punishing but that for those who are not prepared properly, to see God is a...[consuming] experience ..., one which does not lead to the eternal process of perfection.

Thus, at the end of time, God will manifest Himself to everyone, believers and atheists alike, having patiently waited for the repentance and salvation (if such were possible) of all. Those who do not prepare themselves will be, as the Fathers clearly argue, tormented by this inescapable manifestation of God's Perfect Nature, which is, indeed, Love, but which, having Truth as a hallmark, illumines our consciences and subjects us to their inescapable reproach, sting, gnawing, and shame.

I hope this is of some help to you.

Conveying to you His Eminence's blessings,

+ Bishop Auxentios


_______________________________________
THE INTERVIEW
III. Archbishop Hilarion's comments

God didn't create the hell for sinners, they did it themselves
28 March 2008, 12:50


The Russian Orthodox Church's representative to the European International Institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, on Interfax-Religion's request, commented on the recent suggestion of Danish Lutheran theologians to consider the hell and the devil a metaphor and to accept only existence of the paradise.


- This theology should be considered in general context of liberalized Christian dogmatic and moral teaching developed in depth of many Protestant communities in several recent decades. Everything that makes Christianity is "inconvenient", "uncomfortable" is being omitted, "the dark Middle Ages" heritage is cleared up. Christianity in light version is under construction and the hell and devil don't match it.

A tragedy of Protestantism has originally been the following. Seeking to get rid of medieval stratification of Catholicism, Protestants didn't properly study the heritage of the Eastern fathers. And today when arguing with the Middle Age hell and devil, liberal Protestants don't trouble themselves with reviewing the Holy Fathers and their conception of afterlife retaliation.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Christian tradition has never considered the hell as created by God to punish sinners. God didn't create the hell, free will of people has created it. It exists not because God wants it, but because people keep it existing. They first create the hell on Earth and then carry it on to the afterworld.

-What do you mean by the hell on Earth?

- When a man using his power over others makes Earth the hell for them. Didn't Hitler turn Earth to hell for millions of people tried and tortured in concentration camps, perished in gas cameras and battlefields? Didn't Lenin and Stalin make hell for thousands and millions of people who died in camps or were shot on false denunciations or sentenced by Stalin's "troika"? Don't today's terrorists, who kill peaceful citizens, take them hostage and cut off their heads, turn Earth to the hell?

And is it believable that malefactors and monsters, who kill other people and revolt against God and all-hallows will share the paradise with righteous and saints? Is it believable that the paradise will welcome both John the Baptist and Herod, St. Veniamin of Petrograd and Lenin, thousands of the murdered new Russia's martyrs and confessors and their torturers? It removes division between the good and the evil. Then there's no difference if you are a saint or a villain, if you do the good or the evil, if you save people from death or kill them.

-So sins will be inevitably recompensed?

-Any person bears moral responsibility for his actions. And he will answer for the sins of his earthly life in the eternity. St. Isaac the Syrian writes that sinners in the hell are not deprived of God's love. On the contrary, love is given equally to everyone: to the righteous in the Heavenly Kingdom and to the sinners in Gehenna. But for the righteous it becomes the source of joy and bliss while for sinners it is the source of torture.

Thus, God didn't create the hell for sinners, they did it themselves. God doesn't send sinners to the hell, but people who oppose God's will and revolt against God choose the hell themselves. And this choice is made in their earthly life rather than in some distant eschatological prospect. It is right here on Earth that infernal tortures and "the Kingdom of God come with power" begin.

- However, even the Orthodox divine service says that the hell is "abolished" by Christ after His Resurrection from the dead?

- The reality of the hell, its existence for sinners and even the possibility of its eternal existence don't contradict the news of its abolition by Christ resurrected. The hell is really "abolished" in the resurrection of Christ, as it is not inevitable for people anymore and doesn't have power over them. But those, who consciously oppose God's will and commit crime and sin, restore destroyed and abolished hell as they don't want to reconcile with God's love.

I'd like to stress it again: God didn't create the hell, people created it for themselves, God destroyed and abolished the hell, but people restore it again and again. The hell is re-created every time when the sin is consciously committed and isn't repented.



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