Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"

Dorothy L. Sayers:
...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. If we are Christians, very well; we dare not not take the doctrine of Hell seriously, for we have it from Him whom we acknowledge as God and Truth incarnate. If we say that Christ was a great and good man, and that, ignoring His divine claims, we should yet stick to His teaching—very well; that is what Christ taught. 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 realises, until one reads the Evangelists through instead of merely 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. from "Introductory Papers on Dante" (1954) as reprinted in A Matter of Eternity.
A Matter Of Eternity: Selections From The Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers