Is redemption possible in Hell?
Standard Christian doctrine would say no. When you’re in Hell, there’s no hope. The Catholics devised Purgatory, but that was for people like me who were not quite bad enough for Hell but were definitely not Heaven-bound. In Purgatory, it’s like an exercise regimen for that roll of flab around your belly – you’ve got to work it off. Sure, the tortures are horrible, but if you survive then, you get the Manna. Plus as awful as Purgatory is, it pales compared to the never-ending horror movie you will be starring in in Hell.
How about some radical Christian thinkers?
If you read enough Dostoevsky, he believes redemption is possible in Hell, and that’s just one of the great things about him. For instance, see Grushenka’s tale to Aloysha in The Brothers Karamazov (p. 340) when she tells the story of the woman in Hell who was offered an onion by her Guardian Angel as a ticket out of Hell. This is similar to Ivan’s tale of Mary’s visit to Hell, where Hell can abide both mercy and punishment.
In a conversation between Ivan and Aloysha (p. 259), the two discuss whether there is forgiveness for the worst of men, the torturer. Both agree that if there is universal harmony, then there will be forgiveness for the worst of men. However, Ivan says that there shall be no forgiveness for the torturer and therefore this is no universal harmony. Instead of agreeing with him, Aloysha says that “Christ can forgive everything, all and for all, for he gave his universal blood for all and everything.” In other words, the Kingdom of God is not complete until there is forgiveness for all, including torturers. Aloysha believes that no one is outside of redemption. Obviously, this must include people in Hell.
This doctrine is clearly absent from the OT and NT, but if you make your way through the wondrous Apocrypha, you will stumble upon. The little known Gospel of Peter is quite clear that there can be redemption in Hell. It’s a lot clearer about it than Dostoevsky. That’s what I love about the Apocrypha. Such wild and near-fantastic tales and even doctrine in there. The Apocrypha seem to be stretching Christian theology to its very limits or even beyond, but that’s part of why they are great. It’s almost as if they are applying a nascent scientific method to the Bible, to figure out what’s really lurking back there behind it all. It’s Fringe Theology, but the fringe is OK. Many of the finest discoveries in science came from Fringe Science and were derided as pseudoscientific at the time.
In any process of discovery of knowledge, from the prosaic to the sublime, the best results are found by pushing your inquiry to the absolute limits or beyond. The only real limit in any exploratory inquiry is the limit of your own imagination.
Why be rigid? Rocks are rigid. If you are rigid, you are basically a rock. And once you decide to go rigid, you are locked in ore forever more, and for what purpose? Peace of mind? How weak. That’s no way to be an ubermensch. Go up and beyond. Rise above. Transcend. The sky’s the limit.
- Connolly, Julian W. 2013. Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Gibson, Andrew Boyce. 2016. The Religion of Dostoevsky. Wipf and Stock Publishers.