Foundation for the Biblical Arts

In sight of Truth Beauty and Goodness

Hell/Judgment

My mind would be slower to return to the images of daily life around me… it would likely burn itself into my brain and imagination as had the image from St. Cecile in Albi.

by: Jeff LeFever

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I sit in a church listening to a preacher speak on the doctrine of hell. He says that too many people shy away from the discussion, but he is going to lay it out for us… to shy away from the doctrine of hell is to be embarrassed of Jesus.

This is an evangelical Bible study church. I probably shouldn’t have wandered in on such an important subject, but I wondered why the walls were blank, and now I imagine how I might paint a Judgment scene on the front wall.

Not an original idea.

The preacher alludes to the Catholic Church being soft on the doctrine of hell, quoting Pope John Paul II in some speech (the quote was out of context).

To claim that Christians don’t talk about hell, and that the Catholics in particular are soft, is to ignore the places built in the past where the idea of hell is obvious in the very architecture.

The entrances to many churches and cathedrals requires visitors to pass under a scene of Judgment where people are cast into the maw of a monstrous death, or boiled in pots stirred by demon antagonists. The back wall of the Sistine Chapel itself—the place where each successive Pope is elected—is a Judgment scene by Michelangelo.

I traveled to Albi, France, specifically to photograph the Judgment Wall of St. Cecile–a unique mural that separates the altar table and the Host Chapel.

Talk about a reminder every time one enters for communion and mass.

This pastor can’t tell me that the Doctrine of Hell is not being presented in any major or permanent way at St. Cecile – in a way that lives long after words fade.

I am glad I had this image to draw on as the pastor speaks, and I feel sorry that there is nothing so powerful on the walls before us. At least he was laying out the message…

I doubt, though, that a painted vista of Judgment would stop those folks from looking around or becoming preoccupied by other things. They’ve heard this message before. But I know my eyes would land on an image as my ears took in the preacher’s words. And I know that my mind would be slower to return to the daily life around me after viewing an image, as it would likely burn itself into my brain and imagination, as had the image from St. Cecile in Albi.

That scene made its way to this church today, but I am the only one seeing it.

~JWL

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