If human existence is grounded in participation in the reality, and reality is grounded in Christ, then what happens if one does not participate in Christ? Thinkers like C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright seem to head towards a less literal interpretation of hell – hell being a total loss of all existence and human identity. Effectively it means simply continuing on living without participating in reality – this is the road that I see Bonhoeffer ideas going down. The question is, however, does this fit with the Biblical data of the afterlife?
Given the Jewish understanding of the afterlife, which is the view that Christ and the Apostles would have held, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to say that it does indeed fit with the data. The Jewish view of the afterlife was that of a shadowy sort of non-existence – think of the Nazgul (Ringwraiths) from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. I think this is a fairly solid view of the negatiove afterlife given Bonhoeffers view. It’s not a literal fire-and-brimstone kind of idea, but to my mind it’s a much worse kind of existence.