God's Plan for Each of Us

Dear St. Anthony Family,

How is it that a loving God can send someone to hell? It is not an uncommon question which, when lobbed at Christians, can make us squirm.

The Catholic philosopher Michael B. Ewbank defines hell as “the status of a creature which must exist in the confines of endless, indestructible duration without any hope of finality. ... [with] unfathomable spiritual duress and immeasurable personal suffering.” How can a loving God do such a thing? Answer: He doesn’t. How could a merciful God have wished to conceive of such a place? Answer: He didn’t.

Here is a deeper mystery: The omnipotent God, because He is all Good without any darkness in Him, cannot and does not know anything about hell directly. He can know it only as an abode characterized by the absence of goodness. It is, as Ewbank notes, not the Creator who creates hell, but “creatures abusing liberty that make [hell] exist.” (1) Hell is so un-God-like that it is entirely foreign to Him.

Ewbank gives evidence to this idea by quoting the great exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth from his autobiography An Exorcist Tells His Story, trans. by N. V McKenzie (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999):

We must make this abundantly clear: evil, suffering, death and hell (that is, eternal damnation in everlasting torment) are not acts of God. I want to expand on this point. One day Father Candido was expelling a demon. Toward the end of the exorcism, he turned to the evil spirit and sarcastically told him, ‘Get out of here. The Lord has already prepared a nice, well-heated house for you!’ At this, the demon answered, ‘You do not know anything! It wasn't [God] who made hell. It was us! He had not even thought about it.’ Similarly, on another occasion, while I was questioning a demon to know whether he had contributed to the creation of hell, I received this answer: ‘All of us cooperated.’(2)

To avoid hell, do these things: Know that you are a sinner, and repent in your heart. Accept forgiveness from the Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of the sacraments. Try to love God with all your heart. Do your best to forgive one another and to love one another. Be fair, just, compassionate, and patient. Obey the commandments. Know that God loves you and has a plan for you.

In Christ,

(1) From St. Thomas Aquinas: “Hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. vii): ‘God through Himself receives the vision of darkness, not otherwise seeing darkness except through light.’” Summa Theologiae, Part I, Question 14, Article 10.

(2) See Michael B. Ewbank who writes, “He knows evil things also; as by light is known darkness.” https://ratiocinationsorg.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/personal-being-begini...


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