Daily Office: Matins
Monday, 25 April 2011

Ross Douthat’s attempt to find a few good things to say about Hell provides us, we see at once, with an ideal exit line. With this entry, we bring to a close the conceit of dressing newfangled World-Wide Web aggregation in the plumage of the canonical hours.

In this sense, a doctrine of universal salvation turns out to be as deterministic as the more strident forms of scientific materialism. Instead of making us prisoners of our glands and genes, it makes us prisoners of God himself. We can check out any time we want, but we can never really leave.

The doctrine of hell, by contrast, assumes that our choices are real, and, indeed, that we are the choices that we make. The miser can become his greed, the murderer can lose himself inside his violence, and their freedom to turn and be forgiven is inseparable from their freedom not to do so.

As Anthony Esolen writes, in the introduction to his translation of Dante’s “Inferno,” the idea of hell is crucial to Western humanism. It’s a way of asserting that “things have meaning” — that earthly life is more than just a series of unimportant events, and that “the use of one man’s free will, at one moment, can mean life or death … salvation or damnation.”

Stuff (it).

Perhaps because we’re looking forward to August at the beach, we’ve been wishing that the everyday chore of glancing over hundreds of feeds (reading 25 of which is a big job) were more like beachcombing. Henceforth, we’re only going to bend to pick up the items that catch our fancy — some because they’re really unlike anything else; others because they add to our collection. We are no longer going to stalk the strand in search of edification in predetermined topics.