The eternal damnation of Kirk Douglas

In Harm’s Way is an old movie, but an interesting one to reflect upon from a pastoral point-of-view. In the movie, Paul Eddington, played by Kirk Douglas, is a skilled naval officer with deep flaws. He drinks too much and has a volcanic temper. Near the end of the movie he rapes a young nurse. When the woman commits suicide, he runs off on a suicide mission of his own that secure vital information for the American forces.

He is part hero, part villain, although the movie clearly gives him respect for the qualities that make him useful in war.

I’m sure most people don’t ask this question, but I found myself wondering about the eternal fate of the Eddington character. Of course, he is fictional, so this is hypothetical. And, of course, were he not fictional, it is not my job to judge the living and the dead. That job is taken already. And yet, I was musing about this.

Eddington’s rape of the nurse surely is not outweighed by his other good qualities.

At the resurrection, when the sea gives up its dead, and Paul Eddington stands before the throne, do his rape of that girl and other sins outweigh whatever good qualities and virtues we might say he had? Does he partake of the life in the heavenly city or is he cast into the lake of fire?

I can hear multiple arguments.

If we have a high view of holiness, then it is hard to imagine any option other than the lake of fire. Other than a worldly sense of honor and loyalty, we see little in his character that sounds like Jesus. Even his self-sacrifice was fleeing the consequences and shame of his crime.

But then I think of Abraham haggling with Yahweh over Sodom and Gomorrah. For the sake of even a handful of righteous people, won’t you spare the city, Abraham asks. And God agrees. For the sake of what is good in Paul Eddington, will God spare the man whose evil is plain to see?

It is enough to make me sympathetic to the Roman Catholic creation of purgatory and Rob Bell’s recoiling over the notion of eternal torment for temporal sins. Given a choice between heaven and hell, I’m not sure where to put Eddington for eternity. I suppose that is why I do not have the job of deciding such things.


17 thoughts on “The eternal damnation of Kirk Douglas

  1. No penance? Purgatory is seen as part of the heavenly world in the sense that when baptized and/or reconciled to Christ in some other way the individual is headed to Heaven. He may not yet be purified enough–strange words I think–to be in the presence of the Holy One, but there is a mechanism for this to happen and that’s what purgatory is all about. This is the distinction Mr. Mahoney was talking about isn’t it.
    Thanks for starting this discussion.

    1. A Wesleyan (and I think Reformed Protestant in general) would say that sanctification occurs essentially in the moments before death — if not before. Wesley taught that entire sanctification was possible in life.

      I concede that both purgatory and sanctification in the shadow of death are theological attempts to deal with the same questions. Most Protestants would say a sinner needs to make good the harm his or her sin has caused, but does not formalize this into a sacrament of penance.

      This is my understanding — flawed as it surely is.

      So for the Roman Catholic, if a man in a state of mortal sin had a death-bed repentance experience, would they be absolved of the sin and bound for heaven?

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