04 November 2001

A conversation (via e-mail) led me to pick up Hans Urs von Balthasar's little book Dare We Hope "That All Men be Saved"? (Ignatius Press) and look at it again after several years.

Balthasar is not a universalist and explicitly rejects the doctrine of the apokatastatis panton. Indeed, he has quite a bit to say about hell, the real and terrible possibility of hell, and the nature of hell. Nonetheless, he warns that we should not undermine a proper hope of salvation directed towards all people, especially by claiming to "know" the population of hell. Nor should we pit biblical teaching regarding the efficacy of grace and God's electing love against those passages that speak of God's universal salvific will. He argues that whatever distinctions we may properly make with regard to God's will (antecedent/consequent; conditional/absolute; etc.), those distinctions ought not to be taken to resolve the essential paradox.

I also appreciate his point that the possibility of salvation is always to be contemplated from the standpoint of the infinite sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ while the possibility of damnation is to be considered in light of the lovelessness of our own hearts.

And though I certainly don't agree with everything Balthasar has to say in this little book, it is a good book in that it is unsettling and jostles one out of an all too easy complacency. It also helps us to reconsider the place that the "doctrine of the decrees" has sometimes taken up within certain strains of Reformed orthodoxy.