Sympathy for the damned

Most interesting of Schleiermacher’s arguments against hell is his deeply felt conviction that the blessedness of the redeemed would be severely marred by their sympathy for the damned. This is precisely the opposite of the conviction of many earlier theologians that the blessedness of the redeemed would be actually enhanced by their contemplation of the torments of the damned. The latter view has a kind of reason on its side: Those who are wholly at one with God’s will should rejoice to see His justice done. But it has largely disappeared from the doctrine of hell since the seventeenth century, and the modern Christian’s instinctive sympathy with Schleiermacher’s contrary view places him on Schleiermacher’s side of a great transition in the history of attitudes to suffering. With Schleiermacher we now feel that even the justly inflicted suffering of other men roust be pitied, not enjoyed. Schleiermacher’s argument is typically modern in its appeal and is one element in the increasing popularity of universalism since his day.

–Richard Bauckham, “Universalism: A Historical Survey

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