English artist and writer (and Johnny Depp dead-ringer) Wyndham Lewis died on this day in 1957. He said:
"'Dying for an idea,' again, sounds well enough, but why not let the idea die instead of you?"
Also on this date, in 1274, theologian St. Thomas Aquinas died.
"That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly," he wrote, "they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell."
Hell, says Rob Bell, whose Love Wins won him fame and fortune but also the wrath of the fire-and-brimstone set, may not be irrevocable. God can give people a second chance, in Bell’s eschatology, although He does fell the need to punish them for a spell, for purification’s sake.
But “a God who tortures people in hell forever can’t be trusted and is not good,” Bell says.
The argument raises some interesting and pressing questions: Can a part-time torturer be called “good”? What conduct should one strive for in hell, in order to earn a reprieve? If we can spring ourselves from hell, can we also fumble our way out of heaven? And, more to the point:
Here we are, almost two decades into the 21st century, and still the idiotic and monstrous notion of hell, which has made life a hell on earth for so many millions, has not relinquished its hold on our imaginations. Like babies, we conjure demons in our dreams and boogeymen under our beds, and then try to explicate such infantile fancies.
Our speculations about hell—its design, its curriculum—are as senseless as the visions of a lunatic. And our debates—so earnest, so learned—about just what species of ogre God is, must set the Almighty, if He’s listening, to either roaring with laughter or trembling with rage. Sometimes He must think that a really big bonfire wouldn’t be a bad idea.