We receive as of the Faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, as contained in the Holy Scriptures*, and taught faithfully by the holy doctors, confessors and bishops of the Church, from the time of the Apostles onward:
- That there is a hell and it is eternal, and eternally miserable, and from it there is no escape.
- That Satan and the demons will be sent there and punished for all eternity.
- That there will be a resurrection of the wicked as well as the just, and the wicked will be sentenced on Judgment Day to this hell.
- That the wicked can be defined (at least) as comprising those who consciously and willfully reject or turn their back on the outreaching love of Jesus Christ, and die impenitent of their sins, refusing the mercy that God freely offers in His Gospel. (Were it not for the Grace of God, we would all be counted as among the wicked. Until our last moment on earth, we must not be presumptive of the Last Judgment, but as St. Peter exhorts us be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election)
- That the suffering of hell is comparable to a fire.
- That the misery of hell is comparable to the flesh being eaten by worms.
- That the verity of these claims rests on the integrity of the explicit teaching of the Incarnate Word himself. (See Appendix A)
- That there will be intelligent beings in hell (the demons) reveals that the eternal torment of a damned creature, initially created to exist in harmony with God’s love, is not ipso facto contrary to mercy or the justice of God.
- That the unseen part of a human being (usually called the soul) is created at the moment of the creation of the body. It has no existence prior to bodily existence.
- That after death, there are no further opportunities for repentance, nor — despite whatever refinement there may be — can the soul increase in its capacity to behold the beatific vision of God. In the place where the tree falls, there it shall be. (Eccl 11:3)
*Matt 3:12, 5:22, 7:13-14, 7:19, 8:11-12, 10:28, 13:39-42, 13:49-51, 18:8-9, 22:13-15, 24:48-51, 25:29-30, 25:41, 25:46;
Luke 3:9, 3:17, 12:5, 16:22-28;
2 Thessalonian 1:9
2 Peter 2:4
Revelation 14:11, 20:10-14, 21:8
We hold as matters of opinion on which great and holy theologians of old have differed:
- Whether the fire of hell is a created fire, or whether it is the fire that emanates from God’s holy presence.
- Whether the number of people in hell will be many or few. The fact that our Lord Jesus refused to answer this question when he was directly asked should guide Christians to normally be more taciturn than Augustine’s affirmation of a massa damnata. The final number will not be made known to us until the Books are opened on the Last Day.
- What operations on the soul God the Spirit effects in the moment right before death, before the soul is separated from the body.
- What faculties and degree of consciousness the soul possess between death and the resurrection on the Last Day.
- What are the properties of the body of the wicked after the resurrection.
- Whether the fire is a corporal fire.
- Whether the soul is created ex nihilo or out of the substance of the souls of the parents.
We believe as matters of historical fact, about which there can be no sincere dispute:
- That the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things (apokatastasis) was condemned by local teachers and synods in the church prior to it being condemned under the title of Origenism (e.g. the Synod of Diospolis convened in response to Pelagius)
- That regardless of what happened in what place in the years 553-554, The ecumenical reception of the fifth ecumenical council received the anathemas against Origenism. This is evidenced by the repetition of that condemnation at the Lateran council of 649 as well as the sixth ecumenical council. The swift and universal reception of these anathemas reveals the mind of the Church to be conclusively opposed to Originest heresies, including the false-teaching of apokatastasis.
- That the logical appeal of apokatastasis has often been a temptation to the philosophically minded throughout the ages.
- That the opinions of three thinkers who for 1500 years prior to the 20th century received little to no recognition as doctors or saints (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Isaac of Nineveh) are patently a minority thread beyond the outskirts of the consensus of the fathers, which affirms simple faith in a real and eternal hell as plainly as it can be asserted. Among the names cataloged as representing this consensus are: 1 Clement, 2 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius of Antioch, Sibylline Oracles (apart from one passage), Epistula Apostolorum, Aristides, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Victorinus of Pettau, Lactantius, The Apophthegmata Patrum, Aphrahat, Ephrem, Cyril of Jerusalem, Apollonaris of Laodicea, Basil, Epiphanius, Firmicus Maternus, Hiliary of Poitiers, Zeno of Verona, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia,Theodoret of Cyrus, Hesychius of Jerusalem, the Pseudo-Macarian Homilies, Gaudentius of Brescia, Maximus of Turin, Hilarianus, Tyconius, Augustine, Orosius, Pope Leo the Great, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Paulinus of Nola, Orientius, Commodian, Peter Chrysologus, Agathangelos, Shenoute of Atripe, Narsai, Jacob of Sarug, Oecumenius, Pseudo-Dionysius, Severus of Antioch, Leontinus of Byzantium, Cyril of Scythopolis, Barsanuphius, John of Gaza, Aeneas of Gaza, Andrew of Caesarea, Romanos the Melodist, Maximus the Confessor, and John of Damascus. All of these teach clearly that there is a hell that is an everlasting punishment of the wicked. Note the full span of geography, language, and time that these fathers embody, verifying the teaching to be no localism. (This list is sourced in the work of Brian Daley’s The Hope of the Early Church) See Appendix B for a representative list of extended quotations from the Fathers.
We therefore reject as erroneous and as incompatible with the Gospel that our Lord Jesus revealed to the Apostles, as dangerous to souls, as a corruption of the Faith, and ultimately accursed:
- The teaching that there is no hell, or that it will be empty, because all are in heaven (universalism)
- The teaching that the pains of hell, for those who have been sentenced there, will be temporary and not eternal.
- The teaching that those in hell, after a period of punishment, will be admitted into heaven
- The teaching that those in hell will ultimately be annihilated from the cosmos, and no longer exist (annihilationism).
- The teaching that human souls exist prior to human bodily existence.
- In short, all that has and does fly under the title ‘Origenism’, as it has been historically condemned.
Corollary to this, we warn all Christians from:
- Historians and historical theologians who seek to cast doubt on the integrity and validity of the condemnation of Origenism in the early centuries of the church.
- Historical theologians who assert that Origenism was a normal and accepted viewpoint in the early church (e.g. Ramelli)
- Theologians — be they however learned — who argue that Universalism is a tenable Christian doctrine (e.g. Barth, Bell, Hart)
- Theologians and pastors who suggest that universalist theologians are worthy of some credibility for these views, or who offer vague or “hopeful” variations on the theme (e.g. Balthasar, Behr, Jersak)
We encourage all Christians to recall the many and dread instances of our Lord revealing the true doctrine of hell, especially Matthew 25:41 and 46, as well as those included in Appendix A:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
This passage, from the lips of our Lord himself, must be adequately accounted for by all Christians who desire to submit to the Revelation of God.
We affirm that God desires that all might be saved, and that the means he has appointed for the execution of this will is the Church, who has been commissioned to preach obedience to all that God has commanded, to make disciples by baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
What the neo-Origenists slander under the name of ‘infernalism’, is in the main what the historic church has simply received as ‘orthodoxy’.
“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” — 1 Peter 4:18
Cyril of Scythopolis was the monk chosen by Eustochius of Jerusalem sent to the New Lavra of Saint Sabas in the year of our Lord 555, to replace the Origenist monks who had been driven out. This Statement hopes to do the same: To offer true doctrine to replace the false that has crept in.