The topic of hell is largely ignored in modern culture, which seldom examines the end of man or the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell.First and foremost, then, hell should be considered in light of man's final destiny and divine judgement, which are well-summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.Even in the context of the last things, many contemporary Christians misunderstand the nature of hell, believing that it points to a vindictive God. These argue that a loving God could never damn anyone, which minimizes the seriousness of sin. An excellent clarification of the nature of hell was provided by Pope John Paul II in one of his catechetical audiences in 1999.Given the existence of hell, a common question is whether anyone necessarily goes there. In a lecture at Fordham University in 2002, Avery Cardinal Dulles surveyed the Catholic tradition and magisterial teaching on this topic, and compared the results with various contemporary explorations of the same theme.
If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.
- Hell in Context: The Catechism on Life Everlasting
- Hell is the State of Those Who Reject God (John Paul II)
- The Population of Hell (Cardinal Dulles)
And if you've got more time...
Those interested in contemporary controversies surrounding the theology of hell among faithful theologians may find the insights of Hans Urs von Balthasar interesting. A debate in First Things in late 2006 and early 2007 considered whether von Balthasar's ideas about hell served to enrich or obscure the essentials of Catholic teaching: Balthasar, Hell and Heresy: An Exchange.