Tom Talbott Reviews ‘That All Shall Be Saved’ (Part II)

by Thomas Talbott, Ph.D.

Hopeful Versus Necessary Universalism

There seem to be two separate paths that have led some to a “hopeful universalism,” as many have called it: one biblical and the other philosophical.

The biblical path rests upon two distinct New Testament themes that many find difficult to harmonize: the theme of Christ’s total victory and triumph over sin and death, on the one hand, and that of God’s wrath and judgment of sin, on the other. David Bentley Hart thus points out that, according to the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, these two distinct themes represent “two kinds of absolute statements, both indissoluble in them­selves and each seemingly irreconcilable with the other. And we are supposedly forbidden—by piety, by doctrine, by prudence—from attempting to decide between them” (That All Shall Be Saved, p. 102). Evidently, then, we are being asked to hold together two theolog­ical claims, even though they might appear to us as flatly inconsistent; we are to hold them together “in a sustained ‘tension,’ without attempting any sort of final resolution or synthesis between them” (pp. 102-103). And maintaining such a tension will supposedly enable us to hope for, without being certain of, an ultimate reconciliation of all things, including all human beings, in Christ. Thus the title of Balthasar’s book Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”?

But what sort of hope does that amount to? What does it even mean to hope for a universal salvation even as one tries to accept as equally true that some will be lost forever? Set aside the Bible for a moment, and consider the following two propositions on their own terms, so to speak:

  1. All human beings will eventually be reconciled to God (through the redemptive work of Christ).
  2. Some human beings will never be reconciled to God.

These two propositions are clearly inconsistent and are indeed self-contradictory if you subtract the parenthetical phrase in (1). There is no mystery about this and no sense in trying to hide this fact behind a lot of silly talk about antinomies or a supposed tension between these two propositions. The conjunction of (1) and (2) is simply false, even as every other conjunction of the form: p and not-p, is false. Whatever its source, therefore, any evidence for (1) is evidence against (2) and any evidence for (2) is evidence against (1); and furthermore, any sacred text or set of texts that appears to endorse—in different places, perhaps—both of them has thereby presented evidence of its own unreliability. That is why, if we turn our attention back to the Bible again, all but a relatively few Christian theologians have proceeded in one of two very different ways. Those who interpret such tests as 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), among others, as providing a biblical warrant for (2), or the idea that some will never be reconciled to God, have typically adjusted their under­standing of Christ’s triumph and total victory over sin and death accordingly. And similarly, those who interpret such texts as Romans 5 and 11, 1 Corinthians 15, and the old creedal hymn reproduced in Colossians 1:15-20, among others, as providing a biblical warrant for (1), or the idea of universal reconciliation, have typically adjusted their understanding of God’s wrath and judgment of sin accordingly. The one way of proceeding is just the reverse of the other. For obvious reasons, moreover, few theolo­gians, whatever their view of hell might be, have been willing to vacillate between (1) and (2) or, worse yet, to embrace them both in an act of sheer irrationality.1

Accordingly, Hart seems to me right on target when he comments: “I cannot quite suppress my suspicion that here the word ‘tension’ is being used [by Balthasar] as an anodyne euphemism for ‘contradiction.'” And similarly for his comment that this “whole posture looks uncomfortably like intellectual timidity to me”—although, for my own part, I some­times wonder (without much evidence) whether Balthasar’s basic strategy, as a Catholic priest, was simply to get others in his church to examine various universalist-sounding texts more closely even as he managed to escape the charge of heresy. In any case, with a bit more sarcasm, perhaps, Hart finally concludes his critique of Balthasar this way: “And, frankly, I have no great interest in waiting on God to see if in the end he will prove to be better or worse than I might have hoped” (see p. 103 for the above quotations). Whereas no one can question Balthasar’s greatness as a 20th Century theologian, his biblical case for a “hopeful universalism” nonetheless strikes me as a gigantic copout. If the New Testament theme of Christ’s total victory over sin and death provides a biblical warrant for accepting proposition (1) above, as I believe it does; and if the theme of divine judgment also provides a biblical warrant for accepting proposition (2), as I believe it does not, then New Testament eschatology is simply incoherent and confused. It is as simple as that.

The philosophical path to a “hopeful universalism” is perhaps more hopeful (pun intended) than the biblical path. It rests on the assumption that our freedom in relation to God, which includes the power to persist in rejecting him forever, is incompatible with determinism, at least in this sense: no genuinely free choice or action can be the product of sufficient causes that lie either in the distant past before we were born or in eternity itself. So even if the infinitely resourceful God should in fact successfully reconcile all human beings to himself, there would still remain the logical possibility that he might not have been successful. There would still exist, in other words, possible worlds in which some of us freely reject him forever even if the actual world should not be one of them. We can at least hope, therefore, that God will successfully reconcile the entire human race to himself, but we can never be certain in this life that he will successfully do so.

But just what kind of freedom are we talking about here? Hart raises two questions at this point that bring us to the very crux of the matter: “Could such a refusal of God’s love be sustained eternally,” he asks, “while still being truly free? And would God truly be the Good in an ultimate sense—and his act of creation good in a final sense—if the eternal loss of any soul to endless sorrow were a real possibility?” (pp. 27-28). We’ll take up the first question in Part III of this review and concentrate here on the second question. Why suppose it even possible, if I may express the question in a slightly different way, that our Creator who loved us into existence in the first place would grant any of us the power to harm ourselves irreparably, or in a way that not even Omnipotence could repair at some future time? To begin with the most extreme kind of case, consider a putatively possible world—call it β—that includes all and only those created persons who exist in the actual world, except that in β every one of them freely rejects God forever. Do we have any reason to believe that β is a genuinely possible world? If God exists necessarily and thus exists in all possible worlds; and if he retains his essential perfections, such as perfect love and justice, in every possible world in which he exists, then it is simply inconceivable, surely, that he would have permitted β to become the actual world. But if it is impossible that he would have permitted such an absolute disaster to occur in his creation, then β is not a genuinely possible world after all.

The moral here is that you cannot settle the question of which free choices are genuinely possible simply by adopting a conception of human freedom that makes it look as if certain choices are indeed possible. You must also consider which choices a loving and just God would permit someone (or some collection of persons) to make, or at least to carry out successfully. We know from history, for example, that God did permit Hitler’s murder of six million Jews. But in a case such as this, he can at least resurrect the victims of murder just as easily as he can the victims of old age. So now we must ask whether God might have allowed Hitler to inflict upon these victims of his cruelty a kind of harm that not even Omnipotence could repair (or at least bring to an end2) at some future time. Is it even possible, to be more specific, that God might have granted Hitler the power to annihilate the souls of certain Jews forever? The question virtually answers itself. So if, given his essential nature, it is not even possible that God should grant someone the freedom to inflict irreparable harm on someone else, why suppose it possible that he would grant any of us the power to inflict such irreparable harm on ourselves?3

In fact, given that we are not isolated monads, why suppose it even possible that we could harm ourselves irreparably without, at the same time, harming irreparably those who in obedience to Christ have managed to love us even as they love them­selves? When the mother of Ted Bundy declared, so agonizingly and yet so appropriately, her continuing love for a son who had become a monster (as a serial rapist and murderer of young women), she illustrated the true nature of a mother’s love and the true nature of God’s love as well. Her obvious suffering over what her son had become and her all-consuming desire that he should achieve redemption of some kind is reminiscent of Paul’s ”unceasing anguish” over the spiritual health of his beloved kin: ”I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish [or pray] that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people” (Rom. 9:2–3). So how, I ask, could God possibly impart blessedness to the anguished Paul and to the suffering mother of Ted Bundy, unless his forgiveness should find a way to reclaim their lost loved ones as well? It will not do, at this point, to invoke the possibility of blissful ignorance. Hart acknowledges that God could, if he chose to do so, remove from the minds of Paul and the mother of Ted Bundy all knowledge of their lost loved ones: “Think of it as a kind of heavenly lobotomy,” he suggests, “a small, judicious mutilation of the intellect, the surrender of a piece of the mind in exchange for peace of mind” (p. 150). But Hart also stresses how much of their individual personalities that would likely destroy.

[God] could of course erase each of the elect as whatever they once were, by shattering their memories and attachments like the gates of hell, and then raise up some other being in each of their places, thus converting the will of each into an idiot bliss stripped of the loves that made him or her this person—associations and attachments and pity and tenderness and all the rest. But persons could not be saved; they could only be damned. (p. 155)

Not only would such “an idiot bliss stripped of the loves” and memories that made the mother of Ted Bundy the person she was not qualify as a worthwhile salvation for her; this would itself be akin to a kind of damnation, even if not a total annihilation. Indeed, only if the ultimate truth about the universe should turn out to be glorious could Jesus rightly declare, “You shall know the truth, and the truth [not blissful ignorance and not an elaborate deception] shall make you free” (John 8:32; NKJV). But if the truth about the universe is ultimately tragic or even includes an element of unmitigated tragedy, then it will also, by its very nature, include grounds for a kind of eternal sorrow and regret. And that is precisely why two thoughts were able to convert Paul’s “unceasing anguish” over the fact that so many of his beloved kin had rejected Christ, which he expressed at the beginning of Romans 9, into the ecstatic joy he expressed at the end of Romans 11. The first was that the faithful remnant of Israel, or the elect, were but the first fruits of a larger and more communal salvation that would eventually include all of Israel (see especially Rom. 11:16 and 26). And the second was that the non-remnant Jews, the so-called non-elect, “have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy . . . For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” Rom. 11:31-32—NIV).

From such considerations as these and a host of others, Hart draws, correctly in my opinion, the following inference: “either all persons must be saved, or none can be” (p. 155—italics his). Either (a) it is necessarily true that all persons will be saved, or (b) it is possible that no one, including Jesus Christ or even the Father himself, can truly be saved from eternal sorrow and regret. But (b) is utterly absurd for a host of biblical, theological, and philosoph­ical reasons. Therefore, it is necessarily true that all persons will be saved. Having eschewed a so-called hopeful universalism, Hart thus embraces what some Christian philosophers have called a necessary universalism; and in Part III of this review, we’ll examine a further reason for embracing necessary universalism: the incoherence in the very idea of someone freely rejecting God forever.

(Go to Part 3)


[1] Balthasar could argue, I suppose, that the Bible establishes merely the epistemic possibility that (1) is true as well as the epistemic possibility that (2) is true—as if, for example, Paul’s explicit statement that God is merciful to all were merely a shorthand way of saying, “For all we know, God is merciful to all.” But that would be as pointless as saying, “For all we know, Jesus Christ died for our sins.” It would also be an admission that we have no clear idea of what Paul’s teaching really was.

[2] Clearly, bringing to an end the harm we have done to ourselves or to others is a necessary condition of God’s repairing such harm in any conceivable way whatsoever.

[3] For more on this point, see the section entitled “Irreparable Harm and the Limits of Permissible Freedom” in Thomas Talbott, The Inescapable Love of God (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014), pp. 177-181.

* * *

Dr Thomas Talbott is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Willamette University and author of the celebrated book on the greater hope, The Inescapable Love of God. He is the author of numerous philosophical articles, as well as a piece published on this blog: “How to Read the Bible from a Universalist Perspective.”

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, David B. Hart. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Tom Talbott Reviews ‘That All Shall Be Saved’ (Part II)

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Just a brief note about my choice of the Theotokos icon: it is titled “Seeker of the Perishing.” It seemed appropriate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate this excellent engagement with Hart and the clear logical delineations that make necessary universalism so compelling. Thanks, Fr. Aidan and Mr. Talbott. Looking forward to Part III.

      (One minor editorial note: there are no italics showing in Hart’s quote in the last paragraph.)


  2. Bob Sacamano says:

    I think it’s a mistake to attribute infernalist inclinations to “intellectual timidity” or moral deficiency or psychological issues….it *may* be true in some cases, but as a rhetorical device I think it gets in the way of the argument and is more likely to be received as moral and intellectual preening (if the infernalist is intellectually timid and morally coarse, then the universalist must be intellectually bold and morally upright) than the good news that it is.


    • Tom Talbott says:

      Hi Bob,

      So far as I know, Hart nowhere attributes someone’s “infernalist inclinations to ‘intellectual timidity.’” As much as he disagrees with St. Augustine on the issues of limited election and limited atonement, for example, he nowhere charges Augustine, whom he refers to as a “towering genius,” with such “intellectual timidity.” Neither does he charge those who believe in an eternal hell with this malady. It is instead those so-called hopeful universalists, such as Balthasar, who refuse to acknowledge an explicit contradiction for what it is that he suggests might be suffering from some kind of intellectual timidity. As I suggested in my original post, however, I suspect that, as a Catholic priest, Balthasar’s motive may simply have been to thread a difficult needle even he escaped being charged with heresy.

      Anyway, thanks for your interest and for your contribution to the discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joel in ga says:

    Fwiw, Jewish convert to Christianity and Harvard Professor Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973) was also a universalist. He wrote in his book, The Fruit of Lips, “the universalists harped on the same sore point of Thomistic, Lutheran, and Calvinistic Doctrine: Nothing, according to the Bible, is eternal except God. Eons may punish souls during their times. But the punishment of hell is of one eon only (Aionios) and this cannot mean “eternal.” This wrong translation of aionios as eternal, for ever and for ever, still fills our theological dictionaries. It is palpably wrong. It has poisoned theology.”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Jonathan says:

    Isn’t there an alternative to affirming either (1) the certainty of universal salvation, or (2) the certainty of some never being saved? I agree that it’s illogical to affirm both. But what about affirming, more cautiously than (1), that salvation is *eternally possible* for everyone, because anything less is inconsistent with the all-embracing love of God? “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Repentance is necessary for salvation, but to suggest that God closes the door to repentance completely and leaves creatures incapable of repentance either after physical death, or after the Last Judgment, calls into question whether the divine will for salvation truly is universal, or whether that salvific will allows itself to be defeated by the ignorance, foolishness, and stubbornness of humans and fallen angels. St. Irenaeus of Lyons taught (Against Heresies, II, 28, 3) that “not only in the present world, but also in that which is to come, [it is the case] that God should for ever teach, and man should for ever learn the things taught him by God.” If growth in knowledge is possible for the “sheep” whom God welcomes into the Kingdom at the Last Judgment (Matthew 25), why should growth in knowledge not also be possible, after a suitable period of corrective punishment in Gehenna in the age to come, for the “goats” who are shut out from the Kingdom at the Last Judgment on account of their lack of love? Some punishment must be given in Gehenna to the goats in the age to come, or else the possibility of their repentance will represent a moral and spiritual hazard, and there will be no distinction between the wise virgins and the foolish virgins, or between the faithful servants and lazy servants, in the immediately preceding parables in Matthew 25. But, if both the inheritors of the Kingdom and those excluded from it can grow in knowledge, then we can always hope that *all* created beings will learn eventually to repent and embrace the ever-present love of God which they had formerly rejected. I say, “we can always hope,” rather than “we can be sure,” since, until Gehenna is completely emptied of souls and spirits–perhaps in the age *after* the “age to come”–then the hope of universal salvation will be awaiting fulfillment. But it makes sense to assert that only the universal salvation of the Cosmos represents the complete fulfillment of the purpose of God through Christ “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom Talbott says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for a carefully reasoned response. I agree with you that, given his loving nature, God would never close off the possibility of someone freely choosing to repent. But the question is whether it is even possible that someone should defeat the love of God forever and in the process should freely refuse forever to repent. The answer to the latter question, I believe, requires a more complete account of human freedom than free will theists have typically offered, and we’ll consider that issue in Part III of my review. In addition to that, I’ll argue in Part IV that God has no need to control our individual choices in order to “checkmate” each of us in the end; he need only respect our free choices, especially the bad ones, and, if necessary, allow some of us to experience the very condition of separation that we might confusedly choose for ourselves.

      In any case, I’ll be interested in your response to the final two parts of my review. Thanks again for an excellent response above.
      P.S. I do apologize for those misplaced hyphens in my previous post, which I stupidly wrote with the automatic hyphen feature turned on in Microsoft Word.


      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Tom, I’m not seeing misplaced hyphens in this article, at least not in my browser (Safari). Can you point me to the specific paragraph.


        • Tom Talbott says:

          Thanks Father Aidan. The misplaced hyphens were in my previous response to Bob Sacamano. They appear in the words “timidity” and “limited” in the following two sentences: “So far as I know, Hart nowhere attributes someone’s “infernalist inclinations to ‘intellectual ti-midity.’’ As much as he disagrees with St. Augustine on the issues of limited election and lim-ited atonement . . .”


  5. Steven says:

    Whatever Balthasar’s motives, his brand of hopeful-maybe-universalism plays an important role in this grand conversation, most especially for people who are ambivalent toward universal salvation yet attracted to it nonetheless. Same goes for Benedict XVI’s hinting in a similar direction in Spe Salvi. At present I would find both of their positions too diluted, being more confident in my universalist inclinations, but when I first encountered their arguments it was revolutionary, rock-my-world stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Grant says:

    Perhaps whatever Balthasar’s own intentions for the work perhaps looking at how it has been used to could be seen to illustrate the Church’s Dogmatic position, one in which both the two positions exist within the Dogma of the Last Things (universal restoration on one side, classically espoused by St Gregory of Nyssa or St Issac of Ninevah, and of eternal torment and annihilation by St Augustine and St John Chrysostom, and annihilation by Grifiths and MaCab). In that Dogma these doctrines exist in tension, much as other doctrines elsewhere conflict yet remain within the Dogmatic bounds of the Faith with their adherents.

    Whether he intended it as such or not, this might be a better and more logically coherent reading, that the Church as a matter of Dogma is unwilling to decide between the pious positions and opinions, just as it doesn’t elsewhere (you certainly don’t see many hardline Augustinians or Thomists talking about eternal torment or those lost, but also mabye saved at the same time, they are pretty clear on their position: ) ).


  7. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    Does Hart address arguments for eternal damnation that are based on the idea that once a person becomes disembodied their will becomes fixed because in a noncorporeal state they lack the passions necessary to change their minds? This is the argument that Ed Feser defended a couple of years ago and is based (if memory serves me) on Aquinas’ discussion of angelic wills. It always felt insufficient to me, because it seems like there’s nothing holding God back from either restoring people to, or keeping people in, a corporeal state. I’m interested if Hart talks about this because if that’s the favored position of someone as influential as Aquinas it would be worth discussing.


    • Matthew Hryniewicz says:

      Of course, the idea that a loving God would not allow someone to cause irreparable harm to their person would speak to this. I’m just wondering if arguments like this are specifically addressed.


      • Grant says:

        In some respects this always feels like an concept developed to justify some being (angelic or human) being damned forever. But in anycase, God would be manifestly unjustice in allowing something to fix itself in an attitude to their own destruction based on ignorance due to not truly comprehending the Good and themselves. They would not be choosing freely at all, and would be making the decision in incompleteness and trapped by death.

        If the were free and comprehend God perfectly, they would choose the God, which is the same as their own true desires and selves and wants, and so could never be in a situation at that choice of being fixed in damnation. Otherwise God would have formed things so that those in confusion and ignorance, and unable to choose freely are damned for decisions they were not free to make (otherwise they would chooae the Good, since they are only free as much as they know and participate in the Good).

        I expect Hart’s arguments along those grounds cover that (even as I find that conception unconvincing).


    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Yes he does, starting at page 45. Essentially asserts there is no warrant for the notion that souls become fixed after death.


    • In entering into discussion with those in the West who hold to this opinion, they inevitably quote Aquinas as the final authority on the state of the disembodied souls. I find it more than a little odd to see the way in which the musings of a single man – Doctor of the Church or not – are treated as if they are of divine origin when the best one could say about them is they are theologumen.

      And in the course of such discussions, when they inevitably whip out their trusty old Aquinas Card and play it, the response from that point on which I get is that Aquinas has spoken and you, you brainless nothing, should accept it and shut up!



      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I agree. Thomist-inclined folks tend to forget that Thomas’s argument against post-mortem repentance is itself a bit of speculation grounded on an Aristotelian anthropology that does not enjoy ecumenical consensus, much less dogmatic authority. The question is: if we were to bracket the dogma of everlasting perdition, would we still find Aquinas’s explanation convincing?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Father -I wish that you or someone (DBH, Talbot etc) would address 2 from the perspective of the corruption of the Scriptures by the Western (Roman) mindset. I was taught in seminary that in the Roman Empire the LAW was EVERYTHING. That is, the Roman citizen was consumed with the application, the meaning, the results, etc. of the Law.

    Simply put, looking at the soteriological differences between East and West (healing of the nous vs God as wrathful Judge) I must conclude that the Roman mind prevailed over Holy Tradition and the Scriptures in coming to a legalist mindset in regards to how God deals with us.

    This is most evident in how the modern translations of the Bible have rendered the Greek word κρίσις (krisis or in English “crisis”) as having to do with retributional justice. As I look in the Strong’s Lexicon and examine the word, I find that it has more to do with the following definition:

    a trial, contest, selection , judgment, opinion or decision given concerning anything

    These definitions could be nuanced in a number of ways. For instance, I am in a state of κρίσις when the doctor tells me that I have cancer. My κρίσις now is about what shall I do with this, what judgment shall we, the doctor and I, make regarding this disease. It has NOTHING to do with condemnation. The doctor has spoken the truth and now a certain action has to be taken. It is a moment of decision.

    Likewise, in the κρίσις of the Last Judgement, truth will be declared and there will be a decision as to what happens next? Have I repented on earth, participated with the Holy Spirit in putting my flesh to death, sought Christ on a regular basis? Have I been changed by the influence of the Holy Spirit? Or am I a carnal person, my soul still bound by and in love with my sins? Having arrived at a proper understanding of what my exact spiritual state is, there is then a κρίσις in which it will be determined, much the same as a doctor will now tell the cancer patient, “This is what we are going to do to effect a cure and bring you back to fullness of health.” of what the next step in my spiritual journey will be.

    As the Orthodox Church teaches, for some, those who die in love with their passions, filled with unrepented of sin, and in hatred of God, there will be a cure which will be quite painful (and one which we should urge others to avoid at all costs). The Fathers of Universalism called this “hell.” As St. Isaaac the Syrian declared, it is God’s love experienced by the sinner as hell. But it is not the same as the way that Rome defines the word κρίσις :

    “a sentence of condemnation, damnatory judgment, condemnation and punishment”

    This is the Roman (Western) mindset whenever the word “judgment” appears in Scripture. And I believe it to be wrong, based on the influence of Roman Courtroom thinking on the Christians of the West. Beginning with Augustine and developed over the ages by men such as Aquinas and Anselm of Canterbury, the Western mind can only think of the word “judgment” in Scripture as one leading to some form of condemnation.

    God is not Father. He is Judge, and a fearsome one at that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      The priest you want to speak to is Fr Stephen Freeman over Glory to God For All Things.” He has a number of articles on the role of law and legalism in the Christian life.

      For Orthodox Christians, the relationship between the baptized and God is mediated only by love, because God is a communion of love between the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Judge whom we will meet at the Great Assize is the crucified Christ who offered his life on the cross for his brethren. There are any number of ways to unpack this, but they all find their end in the Love that is God. Hence the liberating confession of the Apostle Paul: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death“ (Rom 8:1-2).


  9. Thank you, Dr. Talbott, for your series. I am thoroughly enjoying your analysis.

    One quibble. You write regarding the dichotomy between the two statements, one in support of eternal hell for some and the other for the salvation of all (all will be reconciled/ some will not be reconciled): “These two propositions are clearly inconsistent and are indeed self-contradictory. . .”

    I think this dichotomy too simple. It seems to me that both could be true if we tease out some equivocation. Scripture and the Fathers seem to state both that many will be eternally destroyed and all will be reconciled. It is possible to hold these two aspects of tradition in tension while working to reconcile them (much like the Fathers have done for many other doctrines like God’s unity and trinity).

    It could be that the false self of Stalin will be eternally damned so that he might know his true self in Christ. In this scenario Stalin will be eternally saved THROUGH being eternally damned–the death of death. This would shed light on the paradoxes of scripture (lose your life to find it; I no longer live; God shuts up all in disobedience so He might have mercy on all; he kills to raise up, etc.)

    Holding the language of both aspects of scripture/tradition would be beneficial for at least three reasons. One, it preserves the language of scripture and the fathers. And two, it preserves the gravity of sin and our true identity in Christ. Three, it strengthens the apologetic for universal reconciliation. We are not telling the “infernalist” opponent that the whole tradition is wrong; we, instead, would be stating that it needs to be reinterpreted within the context of other biblical passages and within the tradition of the Fathers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Grant says:

      Another way to read Balthasar mabye, or to take what he was saying a step further rather then being locked in a theological Schrodinger’s cat situation where it would be affirmed some are damned but yet all could be saved.


      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Maybe Balthasar is not as hopeful as often portrayed: “The Hopeful Non-Universalist.”


        • Grant says:

          Interesting, as I read that article I ferl Bathasar (assuming the author gets his thought right) fall on human freedom, both in terms that a created and contingent freedom could exist in a way to evade God’s purpose for them forever, as if they were equals on a pkane of existence, and so rather God would have intended their fall all along. But also in having a reduced vision of freedom, on looked in insanity and confusion such as he invisioned is not in any way free, any more then some with pychotic mental dellusions is free to know and make true choices. And to see clearly, truly and come to know Christ and themselves would be to choose Him as their act and way of freedom (just as if their were a cure for such deep psychosis the cured patient could not go back to that state because they are free). We see this in Scripture with St Paul, or Isaiah, God appears to them and they know who they really are, and see clearly the damage in their life and knowing respond to Him brcause they are freedfrom dellusion and darkness, healed and given clarity.

          On one hand the Lord doesn’t give St Paul any choice, but that is because he has freed him to be and choose freely, releasing him to the only way to be free at all, as he was trapped unable to choose or know before, his vision of all having become so warped.

          So with that in mind, as a foretaste ahead of time of what awaits all, it would be impossible to not respond to freedom in Christ, as one would not be free and left in dellusion unable to choose otherwise.

          At least that is how I see it.


Comments are closed.