Heaven, Hell and Toll Houses

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I know of only a few other topics in Orthodoxy that can cause as much division as toll houses.  With that in mind, I have put together this page in order to assist people who want to know more information.  Most people I’ve spoken to and resources I’ve encountered that oppose the toll house theology end up creating an overly-literal and exaggerated concept of the toll-houses.

The resources I have to offer are 1) Free electronic resources and 2) Printed books that are usually a bit more in-depth.

ELECTRONIC RESOURCES

Toll Houses

  • The series on the soul after death by Fr. Thomas Hopko, in which he teaches about the toll houses in addition to heaven and hell, is a highly recommended audio source.  The files are from St Paul’s Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA.  You can downloaded it in four parts here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.  Fr. Thomas takes a very careful, well-researched, and balanced approach when addressing this topic.  It’s lengthy, but certainly worth a listen.
  • You can download a short summary of the above lecture which was recorded on Ancient Faith Radio here.
  • Also, some articles regarding the toll-houses:
    • The Taxing of Souls – Met. Hierotheos.  An excellent and well-researched article by a highly esteemed author.  It comes from the book referenced below, Life After Death.
    • The Debate Over Ariel Toll-Houses – ROCOR Synod of Bishops, 1980.  An evaluation of the controversy between Fr. Seraphim Rose and Lazar Puhalo.  Mr. Puhalo has been raising controversy for decades now, causing quite a few problems with his opinions that he promotes as church doctrine.  His ideas sometimes reflect whatever will make people feel good about themselves.  He is not a trustworthy source.
    • On The Question of Toll-Houses – Fr. Michael Pomazansky.  Another article on the toll houses by a well respected theologian.
  • Here is a document filled with patristic quotes on the state of the soul after death.  It was compiled by Rhonda Dodson and is shared on the Traditional Orthodoxy (TradOx) Facebook site.  If you are already Orthodox and take the wisdom of the Church seriously, it is a good resource.  After reading through it myself, I feel this shows that there was a common consensus among the fathers that we don’t immediately find ourselves in heaven or hell after death.

Heaven and Hell

BOOKS IN PRINT

The first book in English (and therefore the one most commonly loved or criticized) on the topic of toll houses is Fr. Seraphim Rose’s The Soul after Death.  Fr. Seraphim was a strong advocate of toll-houses and presents the material from a patristic point of view, while also making several speculations of his own on the state of the soul immediately after death, “out of body experiences,” UFO’s, and other phenomenon that people experience.  Whether one likes it or not, it certainly gives some food for thought.

Other books that have been written on the topic include:

  • Life after Death – Metropolitan Heirotheos.  A book that I read this year (2015).  He addresses heaven, hell, toll houses, universal salvation, purgatory, and several other topics.  A most excellent read.
  •  Life After Death According to The Orthodox Tradition – Jean-Claude Larchet, G. John Champoux.   I have several friends who say this is the best book on the topic due to its depth of patristic insight.
  • Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave – Archimandrite Panteleimon.  This is recommended by the monks at a monastery that I frequent.  I definitely trust their recommendations.

LESS REPUTABLE RESOURCES

I have removed the two resources by Fr. Michael Azkoul and Lazar Puhalo from my page.  Originally, my intent was to provide the varying points of view on this topic.  However, my desire has always been to be on the path of truth, even if I don’t like the truth I have discovered, even if it makes me uncomfortable.  The resources I had listed in this section neglected many of the teachings of the Orthodox Church and were written by men who, it seems, were too heavily influenced by Protestant theology in which once someone dies they either enter into “soul sleep” or they immediately find themselves in heaven.  These authors neglected a ton of scriptural passages and patristic sources in order to try to make their theology work.  They’re not worth reading, but if you must, a simple search engine query should bring you to their articles.

Tip: right click and hit “Save Link As…” to save several of the electronic resources above to your computer.  If the listing of any material here is seen as a copyright infringement, please contact me immediately.  Thank you.

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