The Loss of Eschatology

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"The loss of eschatology" by Amanda Torres (CatholicMom.com)

Via Unsplash (2016), PD. Text added by author.

Eschatology is the area of theology that deals with death, judgement and the final destination of human souls. An overview of the Catholic understanding of death is that when a person dies they face a particular judgement. Upon death, a person is judged for heaven; either through purification (Purgatory) or immediately, or to eternal damnation.

I am finding that the modern world seems to have lost its bearings when it comes to “The Last Things.” The existence of hell is often denied and dismissed, purgatory is entirely forgotten, and we assume that everyone is destined for heaven. We have removed sin from the equation when it comes to death because it is uncomfortable, and often unsettling. If we face our sin it requires self-examination and contrition. It asks us to make an active choice to turn away from sin and toward God. And conversion is hard.

The Catholic Church, understanding the importance of “The Last Things,” set a place for them liturgically in what we now know as Halloween, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. All Saints and All Souls are the official days the Church celebrates and remembers those who have died in a state of grace and are headed toward Heaven, either immediately or first via Purgatory. Halloween is an unofficial day to remember the souls who have died and are not bound for Heaven, but are instead damned. It also serves as a much-needed reminder for us that hell is real.

Fans of The Usual Suspects will have heard this quote: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.” I think this rings true for a lot of our society. By and large, our culture has accepted that the Devil isn’t real and, more importantly, neither is hell. When we lack a healthy fear of hell, we allow sin to seep into our psyche and it becomes something to be embraced.

The secular world glorifies evil and entertains it without the necessary fear and turning away. Perhaps more tragic is the Christian counter-reaction to simply ignore the existence of evil. The danger of a world that glorifies evil is mostly apparent. But the subtle dangers of a world that denies that evil exists might be more detrimental to our souls. In denying evil we have lost sight of what it is we are battling.

Some of this plays out in the treatment of Halloween in the culture. Halloween has become a holiday to embrace the dark and the evil and the occult, or more and more to make evil sexually appealing. And, the Christian counter-response is to shun Halloween altogether.

Both extremes miss the mark.

It is important to face our mortality, to be confronted with the consequences of unrepentant sin. I think it is good to be afraid, to have a healthy fear of eternal damnation. It is important to recognize the ugliness of evil, especially from a young age. It is good to see what evil looks like and to know all the more that evil has already been conquered in Christ. Halloween as a popular devotion is the perfect visual way to introduce our children to these concepts. Fight the loss of eschatology by letting kids get a little scared at the thought of evil and hell, by showing them it is real, but that in Christ we have the great hope of All Saint’s and All Souls instead.

 


Copyright 2017 Amanda Torres

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About Author

Amanda Torres is a Catholic convert, wife, and working mom from St Paul, MN. She is making great use of her Bachelor's Degree in History and Anthropology as a Management Analyst for the State of Minnesota. When she is not busy trying to get her husband, her rambunctious 7 year-old, and toddler twins into Heaven she enjoys reading, writing, and drinking coffee with entirely too much creamer. Amanda also occasionally blogs at In Earthen Vessels: www.holdthistreasureinearthenvessels.wordpress.com

5 Comments

  1. “But the subtle dangers of a world that denies that evil exists might be more detrimental to our souls.”

    I think it’s not a matter of denying that evil exists but actually an inversion of what is good and what is evil. Evils like abortion and sodomitical mockery of matrimony are codified into law as societal good. I saw a piece just today describing a situation at “catholic” Georgetown U whereby a student group that supports Catholic teaching on marriage is being labeled a “hate group.”

    There are still “sins” but the actual sins as defined by God through His revelation and through His Church are rejected. The world now defines what is sin against “right order” and against secular/atheist orthodoxy. And their “catechism” is almost the exact opposite of the real one.

    I enjoyed your article.

  2. Legal abortion is the reason for spiritual demise in the USA. Since we kill unborn babies then why not kill each other and deny any judgement. Protestants believe that after and abortion murder a woman can ask God for forgiveness and she will be cleansed white as snow. In other words, she can get away with murder scot-free!

    PS: Converts are the best and mother of twins even better!

    • I agree that abortion is a great evil in America.

      A woman who has had an abortion can’t get away scot-free. Her forgiveness must be purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In such a case, where there is genuine repentance, God’s wrath against that sin is poured out fully on Jesus at the cross. “…he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:15

      • Father David Marcham of Holy Cross Family Ministries shares the following:

        Regarding personal sins as a result of our own bad choices, we all are called to the sacrament of confession, which includes a proper expression of contrition and absolution. Absolution means forgiveness through the Grace of God and is a call to amend our lives. If we fall short in doing so, we are invited to return again to the sacrament of confession to receive strength, grace, and forgiveness.
        If a reader is struggling with guilt after an abortion, we encourage you to look into organizations such as Project Rachel, which helps women enduring grief, guilt and hopelessness after abortion. Visit hopeafterabortion.com or contact your parish priest for more information.
        Amanda Torres’ article brings home the message that it “is good to see what evil looks like and to know all the more that evil has already been conquered in Christ.”

  3. I enjoyed your article and shared it- it’s a good reminder that avoidance is not always the answer- sometimes confrontation and retaining our Catholic traditions are stronger against evil .

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