The final issue concerns the fate of those who have finally rejected the good. Given that the traditional answer supported in this chapter is correct, that such persons have ceased to be persons capable of enjoying Heaven, what is their fate? The majority answer of Christian theologians down the centuries (though not one incorporated in the Catholic creeds, such as the Nicene Creed), is that they are subjected to endless physical pain in Hell. Now, no doubt the bad deserve much punishment. For God gave them life and opportunity of salvation but they ignored their creator, hurt his creatures, damaged his creation, and spent their lives seeking trivial pleasures for themselves. But for God to subject them to literally endless physical pain (poena sensus, in medieval terminology) does seem to me to be incompatible with the goodness of God. It seems to have the character of a barbarous vengeance; whatever the evil, a finite number of years of evil-doing does not deserve an infinite number of years of physical pain as punishment. The all-important punishment is to be deprived of eternal happiness (this is the poena damni in medieval terminology)—a fact which Augustine, a firm proponent of the doctrine of endless physical pain, himself pointed out. This deprivation, I have suggested in this chapter, is plausibly an inevitable fate of those who have finally rejected the good. It seems to me that the central point of New Testament teaching is that an eternal fate is sealed—at any rate for many—at death; a good fate for the good and a bad fate for the bad.
(Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], 171 [italics in original; footnote omitted])
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