The Hinge of Morality
At some point “in time,” these perpetrators will have to realize the immense horror of the atrocities which they inflicted on other human beings, and filled with regret, they will have to beg forgiveness not only from God but from their victims—their brothers and sisters in creation—as well. This is a necessary step in their approach to God, and to repeat, it will have to take place. The reason for this necessity is that at the end of time God will be “all in all.” Jesus will present to the Father all of creation, every creature, joined with one another in the peace and harmony of self-sacrificing love. St. Paul most appropriately writes: “For Jesus is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, . . . that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two [Jew and Gentile], thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.” (Ephesians 2:14-16.)
It is impossible to conceive that there will be any “left-overs” when Jesus gathers all creation together in the holiness that all creatures have grown into (by the grace of God), and presents them to God, to live in peace and loving harmony with one another and to live in blissful union with the God of Love. God cannot be “all in all” if some creatures are left out of the state of union with God. And so it follows that every creature must mature in holiness at some point and enter into union with God and with every other creature. Even the Nazi perpetrators must mature in this way. For the Kingdom of God to come to completion—for God to reign in every heart—the Nazi perpetrators must repent, seek forgiveness from their victims, and by doing this, find salvation, which is life in God.
Those who realized the horror of their crimes before they died, and repented before God, will after death continue on the path of purity of heart, of surrender to God, and of generous love of those around them. They will continue with this process with the aid of the loving grace of God. They will be drawn toward it, they will recognize how far they are from loving perfectly, and they will yearn to be able to love in that way—surrendered completely to God, yielding their minds to God, and their feelings and their wills and their whole strength. Through grace and through the growth in them of love for others, they will eventually grow to full stature in Christ and love with abandonment of self. They will have finished the purgation, and they will join in union with the God of Love.
Those, on the other hand, who died without realizing the magnitude of their crimes, will have died with hardness still in their hearts. They will have died with no love for God nor for those strangers to them whom he created. The loving God, in this case, as Dr. Scott Hahn concludes, will give them what they wish: a place separate from God. God will nonetheless continue to love them, as is his nature. This constant love of God pouring over them and offering them nourishment, in disregard of their desire not to have it, will be torment to them—the torment which we call hell.
But again, this torment cannot last forever. These people cannot be excluded from the Kingdom of God because if they were, God could not be “all in all.” And so, we conclude that at some point, the condemned will give up their resistance and surrender to God: “That’s it. I give up. You win.” This surrender to the stronger power may not be humble or contrite. But they will continue to be graced to resume their journeys to holiness, until they face and accept their responsibility for the horror of what they did to God’s innocents during the sho’ah. After that terrible realization, they will be fit to continue the purgation of their imperfections and to grow in holiness until they come at last to be united fully with the God of Love.
When the last of the hard-hearted comes under the Kingship of Jesus and enters into this union with God—that is, the hard-hearted one called Lucifer and Satan and the Devil—, all purgation will end, universal peace and loving harmony will thrive among all people, and God will be all in all.
The Divine Plan will have been achieved.
10. The second group to benefit from the evil of the sho’ah is humanity itself, or at any rate, those societies which were paying attention to the Nazi atrocities done to the Jews and the others. These societies witnessed the evil of ethnic hatred on an unimaginable scale. During the decades that followed, one society after another came to reflect on its own structural ethnic hatred and to recognize the injustice, if not the horror, of its own sin against its minority citizens. Then the process of social change ensued, as many in the majority class joined with the oppressed minority class to create within the confines of the society a more just social order. Thus it was with regard to the campesinos in Latin America and the Hispanic farm workers in the United States; also with regard to the Civil Rights of Black Americans; also with regard to the self-determination of the oppressed majority Black Africans in the nation of South Africa, and so on. The slaughter of the seven million in the sho’ah, over the following seven decades, has given birth to freedom from oppression and to the right of self-determination—that is, to justice—for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Such justice is the single necessary foundation for life in peace on this planet. For, when people feel that they are treated unjustly by others, they rebel and war ensues. But when they feel that they are being treated justly, they are prepared to live in peace with their neighbors.
11. Type 4 actions, such as the sho’ah, clearly demonstrate that the good which derives from these evil actions lies in the recognition by the individual perpetrator, and also by an attentive society, of the harm which these actions cause individuals and the damage which is done to the intention of justice and peace, whether this is seen to be the Divine Intention or the ultimate admirable intention of secular humanity.
The general point is, however, that this recognition is the great good to be derived by individuals and by attentive societies from imperfect moral actions of all four types. Whatever contributions to the achievement of the Divine Intention for Creation the good aspects of Type 1 and Type 2 make, the ultimate good which derives from Type 1 and Type 2 actions is the same recognition of individual harm and of damage to the intention of peace and justice which derives from Type 4 actions. This is to say that with respect to any non-neutral morally imperfect action, the ultimate good which derives from it is the spiritual growth that results from the recognition of the harmful impact which the imperfections of the action have on the Divine Plan for Universal Peace and Harmony.
12. And so, from the Divine perspective which we have adduced here, all morally imperfect actions are both evil and good: evil in their direct impact on the people who are victimized by the actions, and good in the long-term spiritual growth which springs from the individual and societal recognition of the damage to justice and peace which the evil of the action caused.
The evil of morally imperfect actions, then, complicates and impedes the fulfillment of the Divine Plan for Creation because of the chaos and hatred and animosity it causes. Nonetheless, this evil (eventually) stimulates long-term spiritual growth in the individuals and societies which recognize and reflect on the evil action and on its parallels in their own individual and societal lives. It is this long-term spiritual growth which is the focus of God’s attention. God nurtures it with his love and grace so that it will eventually blossom into universal justice and loving peace.
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 Some, when they encounter this argument, protest: Didn’t Jesus teach that hell is eternal? The answer is “not exactly.” At issue is the notion of time and duration which was available when Jesus taught. We do not know how Jesus taught this idea in his native Aramaic language. The Gospels, as we have received them, are written in the Greek language of the First Century. Now, the situation is this: The Greek texts of the Gospels and of the letters of Paul use the same word, aionion—which is usually translated as “eternal”—for the eternal torments of hell (e.g., eis to pur to aionion, “into the eternal fire,” Mt. 25:41), for the eternal life of heaven (e.g., eis zoen aionion, “into eternal life,” Mt. 25:46), and for God himself (e.g., tou aioniou theou, “of the eternal God,” Rom. 16:26.)
However, the First Century Greek word aionion does not have the same meaning as our Twentieth Century word eternal. The Greek word aionion means “having a long duration.” In the Seventeenth Century, aionion was taken into English as the word “eon.” In English, the word eon means “a long duration of time.” An eon is “an age.” And “for eons” means “for ages and ages,” that is, “for a long, long duration of time into the future.”
This meaning of the word eon in English is exactly the meaning of the First Century Greek word aionion. It means, “for an age,” or “for a long duration of time.” The fact that the Christian writers used this word aionion of the existence of God, in an attempt to express the limitlessness of God’s existence, demonstrates that First Century Greek did not have a way to express eternity.
When we speak of eternity in Twentieth Century theological English, we are referring to “timelessness.” Eternity means “existence in the simple present moment.” There is no duration in eternity. There is no past and there is no future in eternity. There is only the single, present moment. The First Century Greeks simply could not express this idea. They had no word for the timeless nature of eternity, for the concept of a simple present moment, without duration, without past or future.
It was not until the Sixth Century after Christ that the Christian theologian Boethius introduced this difficult concept of a timeless eternity. [Catholic Encyclopedia; see "eternity."] So the Gospel texts, written five hundred years earlier, in the First Century, described hell, heaven, and God himself by using the word aionion, a word which did not mean eternal in the sense of “without time,” but rather, meant for eons, that is, “going on and on in time into the ages.”
So there is no justification for translating the word aionion in the Christian texts as eternal, in the modern theological sense of the word. [The fact is that most Christians do not know this technical meaning of eternal, and read the word as meaning “everlasting,” that is “going on and on in time into the endless future.”]
Moreover, it is true that in the Christian Scriptures, the word aionion is applied to the existence of God, and thus, in the developed theology of Christianity is now taken to mean eternal in the sense of “without time or duration.” But it does not follow logically that because aionion is translated with reference to God as eternal in the theological sense, that the word aionion, when it is applied to hell—and even, to heaven—must likewise be translated as “eternal.” The word aionion simply does not have that meaning. If modern scholars choose to translate the word as “eternal” because their theology compels them to, it does not follow that aionion translates as “eternal” in every context in which it appears.
And so, there is no linguistic evidence from the texts of the Christian Scriptures which clearly depicts or characterizes hell (or heaven, for that matter) as “eternal.” The Greek word which is used to characterize hell might be translated just as correctly as “going on for a long while.” And since conceiving of hell in this way—as being of long but limited duration—appears to be more consistent with what we know of the loving nature of God and of his Plan for Creation, we do so in our inquiry here. Nothing stands in the way of doing this except insistent dedication to the certainties of the past, which we now know to be doubtful and anachronistic.
So let us rejoice that even hell is not forever. Rather, God’s mercy and grace will gather every creature to himself, the gates of hell will truly be shattered, and when all people achieve the holiness intended by God for them individually and the justice that God intended for them communally, then all creation will rest in God, and God will truly be “all in all.”