Hoping to finish up Dare We Hope? from the great Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar tonight. I first encountered his ideas in seminary, and a recent bible study on the Revelation of John inspired me to finally take this off the shelf. The question guiding the Swiss Catholic’s tome is a daunting one: from the Biblical and other evidence, do we have any grounds to hope (not claim!) that all might be saved? Citing the RC Catechism, he points out that official dogma has never held that anyone is absolutely in hell right now. Might it be that, as so many biblical texts imply (or claim directly), Jesus might achieve his stated goal of “drawing all men” to himself?
For anyone who has struggled with the question of salvation, particularly its scope, Von Balthasar is a welcome read. Far from liberal claims that God would “surely” not damn anyone (because God, like liberal theologians, views all judgments as passe’), Dare We Hope insists in on nothing more than the what the title suggests: if we truly love our neighbors and wish for them their highest good, we can, and should, dare to hope that they will be saved…as well as ourselves.
I leave you with a succinct statement, from his Short Discourse On Hell (attached to Dare We Hope? as a response to his critics):
The question, to which no final answer is given or can be given is this: Will he who refuses [salvation] now refuse it to the last? To this there are two possible answers: the first says simply “Yes”…the second says: I do not know, but I think it permissible to hope (on the basis of…Scripture) that the light of divine love will ultimately be able to penetrate every human darkness and refusal. (Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved” with A Short Discourse On Hell [San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1988], 178)