EDWYN BEVAN (Christianity, p. 224) says that some modern Roman Catholics, speaking off the record concerning their official doctrine of the endless punishment of the wicked, “teach that the punishment involves real pain, but that it is not forever, others that the punishment is really forever, but that it is not torment as pictured in the old view.” This observation is even truer of the thinking and teaching of many Protestants. In other words, the tendency of modern times has been to take punishment out of eternity or eternity out of punishment.
Quite recently some seem to be trying to take the blessedness out of eternity also. If hell is being changed into heaven, heaven is being brought down to hell. Thus Paul Tillich (“The Meaning of Joy”) finds joy and pain apparently inseparable. Moreover, for multitudes of thinkers heaven must be presently, at least, a very miserable place, or state of mind. For God, say some, suffers because of the sins of his creatures. Being an infinite being he must suffer infinitely and being omniscient he must suffer every moment. And if he, who is the glory of heaven, is infinitely miserable, it is difficult to believe that creatures, whose joy is in him, could be very happy.
The traditional churches have not changed their creeds but there can be little doubt that they have changed their preaching. Walter Lingle, I think it was, once wrote about “The No-hell Church” where that doctrine had never been mentioned for more than 20 years. How many “No-hell” churches exist no one has dared to estimate. Hell is so dreadful that the very thought of it is well-nigh unbearable. At the same time the conviction is growing that religion “without a hell” ...1
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