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Question 37

Father Christopher  Will all the non Orthodox such as the Roman Catholics, protestants, other Christian groups and non Christians such as Muslims and Hindus automatically be sent to hell? Also does God listen to the prayers of the non Orthodox Christians and to Muslims and Hindus?  



Answer to Question 37


 Many say that everyone outside of the Church will be condemned to spend eternity in Hell and that there is no salvation outside of the Church. Can we really believe that God as the loving Father we continually portray and praise will allow the great majority of his children to suffer the fires of hell for all eternity. This is a very western image of God who is often portrayed as a punishing God.


It is true that salvation can only be found in the Orthodox Church, but when we talk of salvation we always mean perfect salvation which is deification. Only Baptism in the Orthodox Church gives us the ability to become deified. Often when I am asked about heaven and hell I reply that we should not think of these as physical places but rather as a state of the soul and try to explain this with what I call the eyesight theory.


God is light and light has two properties, illuminating and caustic. If one person has good vision, he benefits from the illuminating property of the sun, and he enjoys the whole creation. But if another person is deprived of his eye, if he is without sight, then he feels the caustic property of light. This is how it will be also for the life of the soul after it leaves the body. God will also love the sinners, but they will be unable to perceive this love as light. They will perceive it as fire, since they will not have a spiritual eye and spiritual vision. Therefore the same love of God, the same energy will fall upon all men, but it will work differently. Therefore Paradise and Hell exist not in the form of a threat and a punishment on the part of God, but in the form of an illness and a cure. Those who are cured and those who are purified experience the illuminating energy of divine grace, while the uncured and ill experience the caustic energy of God.


By using the eyesight theory, it can help us to understand how other people (non Orthodox) can participate in the divine light although not as fully as an Orthodox person. Every man is born with an illuminated nous which as the child grows becomes darkened through the passions and sin. If someone lives a sinless spiritual life fighting the passions then it follows that the darkness of his eyes will slowly fade and allow him sight of the divine light. He may not be able to see as bright as someone Orthodox following a similar life, but he can still see the light even if this is dimly.


Thus salvation relies on the health of one’s spiritual eyes. If they are darkened through many sins he will not be able to see the divine light and so will not be able to participate in God, but if he has struggled to cleanse himself from the passions and his spiritual eyes allow him to see even a little glow of the divine light then that means he participates in God to the level that his eyes allow him.


Of course non-Orthodox always have the opportunity while still in this life to search for the ultimate truth and if they are sincere in their search, God will lead them to the Orthodox Church. Many have done this and embraced the Church while others having searched and found that the Orthodox Church was indeed the only true church, but chose to remain in the church they were born into out of loyalty or some other reason.