Friday, October 26, 2007

The "Saint Judas" Syndrome

Hope is not enough. Just as the doctrine that God is love can be distorted to eliminate God's justice and eternal punishment, so hope can eliminate the point of no return. But Moses really did lose the Promised Land through one impetuous sin. King Saul forfeited his kingship and life through several acts of what might seem like minor disobedience. Yet we tend to assume automatically that no such line exists, and that's the basis for some bad stories, some of them horror.

The classic example of this is Judas. From time to time, someone comes up with a story about how misunderstood Judas was, how he meant well but messed up, and so on. Some even claim that he was acting on Jesus' orders, so he was saved.

Nonsense. Jesus said he was "a devil" (John 6:71-72), which doesn't sound so innocent. Yet people not only try to save Judas but sometimes even a demon or Satan himself.


Because we can't bear to say that someone is without hope. And the good news is that if someone's still alive, there's technically hope. (I do believe that there is an unpardonable sin, which involves knowingly attributing the Holy Spirit's work to the Devil, as in Mark 3:28-30. But it's not as easily or lightly committed as you might think.)

Now, in horror, this tends to come out in the idea of the monster in search of a cure. In the old Universal werewolf movies, he was always looking for a cure. I admit I have a theological problem with the standard werewolf concept, as we'll see in a later post, but the idea is that there are some curses you just can't get out of. Ask Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:29-40)!

There's an intriguing scene in the Hammer film Brides of Dracula, where Van Helsing confronts a woman who has been vampirized by her own son. He says that vampirism is a curse, but she can renounce it and be saved. The problem is that she's dead, so although she does make things right with God, part of that involves submitting to the stake that frees her spirit. The theology is quirky to say the least, but the balance isn't bad: there is hope, but it is the hope of a blessed death and eventual resurrection. Would we accept that kind of hope today? Probably not. But like it or not, hope has its limits.

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