Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, and the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award winning documentary about the Catholic[…]
In Partnership With
John Templeton Foundation

According to Christian theology, hell is a corollary of two fundamental teachings: One, that God is love, and two, that we are free.

Hell can be considered the permanent and eternal absolute “no” to God’s love.

There is plenty of wickedness in the world to support the notion of a crowded hell. But God’s love is a powerful argument for a crowded heaven.

BISHOP BARRON: Hell is a corollary of two more fundamental teachings. Namely, that God is love and that we're free, which means we can respond to that love, we can incorporate that love, we can hook ourselves onto it, or we can resist it. And hell would be the permanent and eternal absolute no to God. If you are at a party. There's a party swirling around you. Everyone's having a great time. 

There's music and there's good food and everyone's laughing, but you're in the worst mood of your life. That party is increasing your suffering. If you were by yourself, you wouldn't suffer as much as you would in that party. Well, see, hell would be like that. The Bible's very clear on the existence of hell. Well, some time ago I did a video where I suggested we may hope that all people be saved. I didn't say I know all people are saved. I didn't say, no problem, don't worry about it. I said, we may hope. And I must say I was very surprised at the vehements of the reaction of some people, who seem to be very enthusiastic about a populated hell. 

The position I take, I think, is kind of a middle ground between saying, well, obviously everyone goes to heaven and well, no, obviously there's lots and lots, or most people, in hell. Mine, I think, is a middle position. What are arguments for a crowded hell? Well, look around us. I mean, that's easy in a way. There's plenty of wickedness to go around. And so we can say Hitler and Stalin are the real limited cases, but come on, look around, and look in. 

Well, the Bible says, "There's no man righteous, no, not one." So that's easy in a way that, yeah, if I just look at human achievement morally speaking, I'd say most of us would go to hell. What's the counter argument? God, and God's love and God's mercy. And more to it, what God has accomplished in Christ. The Father sent the Son where? Into our sin so that, He could, in principle, carry everybody back to the Father. So yes, I look all around, what do I see? People destined for hell. Jesus himself said that the road to perdition is wide and most taken. Yeah, sure, that's true, but that same Jesus went to the end of that road so that as we run away from the Father. We are running into the arms of the Son. Are we ready for intimacy with God, which is what heaven means? Well, not until we've purged selfishness, cruelty, different forms of wickedness from our lives. 

We require, therefore, the 'the schola animarum', the school of souls, this purgative process, by which we're readied for love. Might this take place even after we die? Let's face it in this life, it's not the case that the best people get rewarded and the most wicked people are punished. I mean sometimes, but not always. And so people, I think, very naturally have said, "No, there must be some realm where things are set right. Where a God, who is a God of justice, sets things right." Now is anyone in the state of hell, permanent everlasting rejection of God? Well, we don't know. Purgatory, a place of purification, where imperfections are burned away, where things are set right. Might we hope for that, hope for that, even for all people. We may hope. I don't know it. To claim to know it is to fall into a heresy. I'm not gonna do that. But I may hope. Given the acrobatic display of God's love in Christ, I may hope that all people be saved.