Eternal Punishment by J. P. Arendzen - Introduction



Those who carefully study everyday conditions clearly see that religious faith is breaking down among those outside the Catholic Church. Religious indifferentism is growing more and more prevalent. In the daily newspapers and in magazines shallow writers allude scornfully to religious dogma as something long since relegated to the scrap heap of antiquated ideas. The doctrine of eternal punishment is especially ridiculed. There is a growing number of men and women who seem to consider it extremely vulgar to take Jesus Christ literally and to believe in hell.

We have sympathy for the man or woman who has real spiritual difficulties, for those who are earnestly striving to find the light of Faith. We have little patience with carping, shallow critics who scoff at revealed truth, or who would ask Jesus Christ to compromise with them on His doctrine. To argue with such scoffers is a waste of time. While posing as being intellectually broad-minded, they are for the most part ignorant and narrow-minded. They have never seriously studied Holy Scripture with attention to the Hebrew and Greek texts; they have little or no knowledge of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. While professing to be well read, they are unfamiliar with any standard works on Catholic belief.

Dr. Arendzen's excellent little volume was written to answer the objections which beset many honest minds in regard to eternal punishment. These difficulties usually arise from a lack of knowledge of Catholic teaching or from a misunderstanding of the nature of sin and its malice as an offense against God. The reader will not only find a clear explanation of Catholic doctrine, but will be pleased to note that the objections against the doctrine of hell are met honestly and with a clearness that should be helpful to those wishing to know what the Catholic Church teaches. While the doctrine of hell is based on revelation, the author shows that there is in it nothing contrary to right reason when the nature of God and the malice of sin are properly understood. The objections raised against the eternity of hell are not dictates of reason, but rather a darkening of reason by feelings and sentiment.

This small work, like the other volumes of The Treasury of the Faith Series, should prove interesting and valuable to priests and Sisters in charge of instruction classes. It comes at a time when there is great need of a clear exposition of the doctrine of hell, for we meet even some who call themselves Catholics yet speak in an apologetic tone of this doctrine of our Faith. There are those who seem to resent that this truth should so frequently be stressed in the Catholic pulpit. Pope Benedict XV, in his Encyclical on Preaching the Word of God (June 15, 1917), is most emphatic about not minimizing the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Praising St. Paul's zeal in his preaching, the Pope says: "Hence he delivered to them all Christ's doctrines and precepts,; even the most severe; neither passing them over nor whittling them down&emdash;humility, self-denial, chastity, contempt of the world, obedience, forgiveness of injuries and the like, and this without timidity; for men must choose between God and Belial, since they cannot serve both. A terrible judgment awaits each one at his death. We cannot drive a bargain with God; either we shall obey His law completely, and gain everlasting life, or we shall obey our passions with no other prospect but eternal fire."

Rev. Charles J. Mullaly, S.J.

Editor, The Messenger of the Sacred Heart