Choosing Hell: W. H. Auden on Charles Williams’ view of Hell

Here is W. H. Auden in his introduction to Charles Williams‘ The Descent of the Dove:

The popular notion of Hell is morally revolting and intellectually incredible because it is conceived of in terms of human criminal law, as a torture imposed upon the sinner against his will by an all-powerful God. Charles Williams succeeds, where even Dante, I think, fails, in showing us that nobody is ever sent to Hell; he, or she, insists on going there. If, as Christians believe, God is love, then, in one sense, He is not omnipotent, for He cannot compel His creatures to accept His love without ceasing to be Himself. The Wrath of God is not His wrath but the way in which those feel His love who refuse it, and the right of refusal is a privilege which not even their Creator can take from them.

Auden’s comments on Williams remind me of C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, which is one of my favorite books by Lewis. There, souls are invited to respond to the love of God and enter into the Eternal City. Too often, however, they do not see the beauty for what it is, and resist it so that they might have their own way, which is, in a sense, a simple description of what Hell is really all about.

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