Is the phrase, "Heaven is the presence of God, but Hell is the absence of God" an orthodox viewpoint?

By orthodox I mean orthodox with a lower case o, not an upper case O, as in Orthodox.

I used this idea when responding to another question regarding exclusion from heaven here: Will good, God-fearing people who don't believe in Jesus' divinity be excluded from Heaven?.

More to the point, does this phrase describe the primary characteristics of both places, and what verses support/refute this idea?


3 Answers 3


Revelations 14:9-10 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice,

"If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger;

and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Assuming this is the Lake of Fire or Hell, then the damned are not just away from Jesus and His benefits, but in His presence, and He is actively involved in administering their eternal torment.

So I don't think that is an orthodox statement.


Depends on what you mean by "orthodox", I guess.

According to the Eastern Orthodox, the answer would be "no".

Origen, and all rationalists who are like him, was not able to understand that the acceptance or the rejection of God's grace depends entirely on the rational creatures; that God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love; and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision. He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward this unceasing grace and love is the difference between paradise and hell. Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God.


  • Is this saying that everybody goes to the same place, and some people like it, and others don't? Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 20:04
  • This video might help a little, @DavidMorton youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WosgwLekgn8
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 20:58
  • Hmmm... Yeah, I don't think that's what I'm talking about. The result of what this priest is saying is that the Eastern Orthodox viewpoint of Christ's death is that it accomplishes nothing except being the "ultimate example" of God's love. I do believe it is the ultimate example (John 15:13), but I also believe that the cross is meaningful and accomplishes something more than that. I'm also a little shaky on his understanding of Protestant views of Salvation. But no, this doesn't answer my question. I'm speaking of orthodox, as in "accepted or traditional", not as in the denomination. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 21:15
  • 1
    It is not the Orthodox (Eastern) teaching that Christ's death was merely the greatest example of God's love. Any cursory encounter with Orthodox hymnography would dispel any such notion. The triumph of Christ on the Cross was a victory over death: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life," for instance, is our primary Easter hymn. Our God broke death by the Cross, defeated the devil, embittered hell, and so on. Indeed, you are right in saying that the Cross has accomplished more than a manifestation of God's love. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 21:22
  • 1
    @DavidMorton - you'll have to be more specific then, because while your statement is accepted by some traditions, it is clearly not accepted by all traditions, and you can't get more traditional and orthodox than the Orthodox themselves
    – kurosch
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 22:04

It is an orthodox view inasmuch as it's not heterodox. (The question asked whether it's "orthodox," not "Orthodox")

The Catholic Catechism defines hell as "the state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed." CCC 1033

The real Hell is knowing that not only is God absent, but that he is absent because one's own actions have excluded him. He's not absent because he wants to be. "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice." [ibid]

Heaven is entirely the opposite, being in the presence of God crying "Holy, Holy, Holy" and falling on one's face worshipping him for eternity because that's the best thing ever and something you never want to stop doing. [Isa 6:1-3, Rev 7:9-12, Rev 11:16-17]

CCC defines "heaven" as having a number of meanings: the firmament of the sky; God's own place; the place of angels and spiritual creatures who surround God; eschatological glory. CCC 326

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .