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Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

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The Church's teaching on Hell has been generally neglected by theologians, with the notable exception of Fr. von Balthasar. However, what he has said has stirred controversy both in Europe and in the United States. Here he responds in a clear and concise way, grounding his reflections clearly in Scripture. Revelation gives us neither the assurance that all will be saved, n The Church's teaching on Hell has been generally neglected by theologians, with the notable exception of Fr. von Balthasar. However, what he has said has stirred controversy both in Europe and in the United States. Here he responds in a clear and concise way, grounding his reflections clearly in Scripture. Revelation gives us neither the assurance that all will be saved, nor the certitude that any are condemned. What it does require of us is the "hope that all men be saved" rooted in a love of Christ that reaches even into the depths of Hell.


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The Church's teaching on Hell has been generally neglected by theologians, with the notable exception of Fr. von Balthasar. However, what he has said has stirred controversy both in Europe and in the United States. Here he responds in a clear and concise way, grounding his reflections clearly in Scripture. Revelation gives us neither the assurance that all will be saved, n The Church's teaching on Hell has been generally neglected by theologians, with the notable exception of Fr. von Balthasar. However, what he has said has stirred controversy both in Europe and in the United States. Here he responds in a clear and concise way, grounding his reflections clearly in Scripture. Revelation gives us neither the assurance that all will be saved, nor the certitude that any are condemned. What it does require of us is the "hope that all men be saved" rooted in a love of Christ that reaches even into the depths of Hell.

30 review for Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    The premise of this book is fairly simple and plain and yet as with all things Balthasar it remains incredibly dense. Here are two quotes that capture a sense of what is being purported. "... love hopes all things (1 Cor 13:7). It cannot do otherwise than to hope for the reconciliation of all men in Christ. Such unlimited hope is, from the Christian standpoint, not only permitted but commanded" (213). "I would like to request that one be permitted to hope that God's redemptive work for his creatio The premise of this book is fairly simple and plain and yet as with all things Balthasar it remains incredibly dense. Here are two quotes that capture a sense of what is being purported. "... love hopes all things (1 Cor 13:7). It cannot do otherwise than to hope for the reconciliation of all men in Christ. Such unlimited hope is, from the Christian standpoint, not only permitted but commanded" (213). "I would like to request that one be permitted to hope that God's redemptive work for his creation might succeed. Certainty cannot be attained, but hope can be justified" (187). He covers a lot of ground in this small book and the tension he holds is commendable and I believe thoroughly biblical. This work is actually composed of three shorter writings. The first (Dare We Hope) is chronologically where he began to layout his thoughts on this controversial topic. The second (A Short Discourse) is a response to the critics of the first. The third and last portion is basically an epilogue comprised of two chapters dealing with 'apokatastasis' (i.e. universal salvation). Overall, this work definitely provides one with some thoughtful fodder for meditation on an oft neglected subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Hans Urs Von Balthasar narrowly avoids outright heresy by offering his book as mere speculation and possibility rather than an assertion. He is flatly contradicted not only by the witness of scripture but by the regula fidei (rule of faith); throughout all of historic Christian orthodoxy it has been agreed that hell is everlasting. So, based on this fact, we may not have a reasonable hope that all men may be saved. If this was the case, the implications for the meaning and purpose of the cross, th Hans Urs Von Balthasar narrowly avoids outright heresy by offering his book as mere speculation and possibility rather than an assertion. He is flatly contradicted not only by the witness of scripture but by the regula fidei (rule of faith); throughout all of historic Christian orthodoxy it has been agreed that hell is everlasting. So, based on this fact, we may not have a reasonable hope that all men may be saved. If this was the case, the implications for the meaning and purpose of the cross, the resurrection, the judgment and the electing purpose of God in Christ would all be cheapened. Just bad stuff. A more intellectually rigorous and sophisticated version of Rob Bell's "Love Wins".

  3. 5 out of 5

    François B

    I'm a "traditional Catholic", or as I prefer to think of it, simply a Catholic Christian. As such, I've heard a lot about this book and its author, 99% of it very negative. I decided to read the book for myself and see if what Balthasar says is honestly represented by his critics. ....critics which I always consider as being on "my side". I can only say that I've been pleasantly surprised to read this book and find myself edified and in a sense, humbled. I find it unfortunate that those of us wh I'm a "traditional Catholic", or as I prefer to think of it, simply a Catholic Christian. As such, I've heard a lot about this book and its author, 99% of it very negative. I decided to read the book for myself and see if what Balthasar says is honestly represented by his critics. ....critics which I always consider as being on "my side". I can only say that I've been pleasantly surprised to read this book and find myself edified and in a sense, humbled. I find it unfortunate that those of us who are very concerned about orthodoxy, and rightly so, seem unwilling to read what Balthasar says in its full context. I say this because from what I can tell, the negative characterization of his writings in this book can only come from reading him outside of the context he intentionally sets at the very beginning of his book and which he clearly endeavors to maintain throughout the book, lest we forget it and misunderstand him. I'm open to correction of course. I could, in my ignorance, have been mistaken in my general understanding of the topic.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    Back in 1988 this book stirred up the water in theological circles, or so I have heard. In 2020 its still worth a read if you are interested in Christian views of hell and heaven, but overall, it is kind of vanilla. The question for the book is the title: should we hope that all men will be saved? I mean, of course we should hope that. Why is this a question? Balthasar is not arguing all will be saved, he is simply arguing it is okay to hope for it. Most of those he interacts with are Catholics, Back in 1988 this book stirred up the water in theological circles, or so I have heard. In 2020 its still worth a read if you are interested in Christian views of hell and heaven, but overall, it is kind of vanilla. The question for the book is the title: should we hope that all men will be saved? I mean, of course we should hope that. Why is this a question? Balthasar is not arguing all will be saved, he is simply arguing it is okay to hope for it. Most of those he interacts with are Catholics, so its like reading an old debate between people you don't really know (unless you're Catholic). Also, the debate has shifted greatly since then. We have books on top of books not just arguing we should hope for all to be saved, but arguing all WILL be saved. Whether they argue strongly (like David Bentley Hart, who took Balthasar to task in his book) or sound more like Balthasar (like Brad Jersak) or if they show that plenty in the early church thought all will be saved (as Illaria Ramelli) the question of whether all will be saved has certainly shifted. Balthasar's book is definitely worth a read, depending where you are at. But again, to imagine it is out of bounds to merely hope for all to be saved seems odd. My favorite takeaway from this book is Balthasar's talk on Paul's willingness to be cursed on behalf of his own people. From this, he challenges us to imagine everyone else being saved except for ourselves. This is challenging and humbling because we often think through these questions by thinking of others - "of course I am saved, but will such and such or so and so be saved?" Why do we put ourselves in the saved group? The discussion shifts, perhaps we become more humble, if we do not assume we're in. Overall, a worthy book to read if you're interested in the topic. But depending where you are at, it might be a bit disappointing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jackson Swain

    I’ve read quite a bit on the teaching of universal reconciliation, from ancient church fathers to contemporary writers, so I’m pretty familiar with the arguments. I’m also pretty familiar with the range of confidence theologians have been willing to place in the idea, from the more “hopeful” position of someone like Brad Jersak to the staunch position of someone like David Bentley Hart. Reading Dare We Hope, I found myself increasingly frustrated with Balthasar’s timidity. I respect the “hopeful I’ve read quite a bit on the teaching of universal reconciliation, from ancient church fathers to contemporary writers, so I’m pretty familiar with the arguments. I’m also pretty familiar with the range of confidence theologians have been willing to place in the idea, from the more “hopeful” position of someone like Brad Jersak to the staunch position of someone like David Bentley Hart. Reading Dare We Hope, I found myself increasingly frustrated with Balthasar’s timidity. I respect the “hopeful” position in general, but in my opinion this felt like a version of hopefulism with such little bite that it can feel borderline meaningless. Balthasar seems so committed to tiptoeing through the minefield that is 2000 years of orthodox theology and tradition without ruffling any feathers, that his arguments land with very little impact and I regularly ended passages unsure of what he himself even believed. Maybe I should have taken the title a little more literally, because Balthasar spends several chapters trying to justify the idea that the Christian could even rightfully hope for the ultimate good of every soul (not even claim it as a belief), which really left me scratching my head. That it could be considered even problematic to simply hope for universal reconciliation had never occurred to me. He spends so much time creeping around this idea of hope, which felt unnecessary and frankly convoluted, using a mixture of Biblical texts and systematic theology in an effort to crack open the door to universal reconciliation quietly and without letting more than just a sliver of light in. In my opinion he could have done all of this work much more efficiently in just a few pages by citing a few well-known passages of the New Testament as follows: 1a: Jesus tells his followers to pray that "God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." (Matthew 6) 1b: God’s will for the world expressly includes the salvation of all people (2 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2) 1c: Therefore, when we pray that God’s will be done, we are free to pray for the reconciliation and salvation of all people (whether or not that makes universal salvation an eschatological inevitability or merely an open-ended possibility remains a separate discussion). Moving from prayer for universal salvation to hope for universal salvation seems pretty straightforward from that point. Also: 2a: 1 Corinthians 13:7 - "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I’m sure you could come up with a way to move "hoping for all things” away from universal salvation, but I think the text (especially in it’s larger context in 1 Corinthians) not only leaves open that possibility, but actually encourages it (Balthasar does mention this verse a couple times, but in my opinion he doesn’t do much to unpack it). While I think finding the “permission” to hope for universal salvation should have been pretty straightforward using the text, again, I just don’t know why Balthasar feels compelled to spend so much time on that idea. I guess he’s really trying to make it abundantly clear that his theology is a hopeful one and not one of certainty like that of Gregory of Nyssa, but man, it feels like he is holding himself back from saying what he wants in order to avoid anything even slightly off-color within his Catholic tradition. He even lets others quote the more bold universalist statements for him, which was some of my favorite content in the book, but he always remains careful to not affirm too strongly any of their theological visions. Maybe this is just my own misunderstanding of the context he was writing in. Overall, I felt like Balthasar leaned too heavily into systematic theology for a discussion about universal hope. Obviously this discussion is going to require a lot of nuanced theology and exegesis, but I just really don’t think a topic like hope can end in the realm of the systematic. Something like hope has to extend out of the abstract and into the daily Christian life, and directly inform how a Christian understands the very heart of Christ. At no point did I feel like Balthasar unpacked why or how exactly such a hope would be important or meaningful in the Christian life (even in the chapter explicitly titled “The Obligation To Hope For All”). To me he felt stuck in the world of calculated, traditional theology, and I’m not sure if that was by choice or because he felt uncomfortable breaking out of that world for fear of condemnation by his contemporaries (which he ended up receiving anyway). This all said, I found Balthasar’s division of “pre-easter” texts (the synoptic gospels) from “post-easter” texts (the Johannian and Pauline texts) really thought provoking. I liked his short passage on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I also found the epilogue discussion about the early understanding of apokatastasis really interesting. The book is also well written, although I really wish Balthasar would have been more forthcoming about his position. I would recommend this book to people interested in the dialogue around universal salvation, but I would not recommend it as an argument for a specific position so much as a series of short musings on the tension we find throughout the New Testament. I realize this is an important text in this discussion, but I ironically felt less “hopeful” after reading this book than before starting it. I think some of the most interesting ideas discussed in this book were much more beautifully unpacked in George MacDonald’s series "Unspoken Sermons,” such as Paul wishing he could be accursed on behalf of his brethren (see MacDonald’s sermon “Love Thy Neighbor”) and the tension between God’s justice and his mercy (see MacDonald’s sermon “Justice”).

  6. 5 out of 5

    James

    I have to rave about the physical book. Ignatius Press turns out expensive, but incredibly well-made paperbacks. Their editions are printed on quality paper with excellent bindings. One of those books I will not read in the presence of food and drink.

  7. 4 out of 5

    C.E. Case

    Great book and thesis. Makes an argument from Aquinas, Augustine, Clement, and a number of female Catholic mystics from the Middle Ages. Just my kind of stuff. The premise is that we, as people, are more awful than we can conceive of, and that God loves us more than we can fathom. Seems legit.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly McLane

    This is an excellent book that gives a Catholic lots to think about! It is very controversial and often misunderstood. It was a great first theological work for me to tackle and I found it easy to follow and understand. It definitely made me question where I had gotten certain ideas on hell and gave me a far greater hope than I had before. I would definitely recommend it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Damon Brandt

    Hans Urs Von Balthasar with Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) and Henri Lubac were some of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Balthasar was a close personal friend with Ratzinger and was appointed Cardinal by Pope JP II after Balthasar declined the appointment the first two times. Regrettably, Balthasar died before accepting the red hat after finally accepting the offer on Pope JP II's third, and most persistent, offer to Balthasa Hans Urs Von Balthasar with Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) and Henri Lubac were some of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Balthasar was a close personal friend with Ratzinger and was appointed Cardinal by Pope JP II after Balthasar declined the appointment the first two times. Regrettably, Balthasar died before accepting the red hat after finally accepting the offer on Pope JP II's third, and most persistent, offer to Balthasar. Along with the great Protestant theologian Barth (good friend of Balthasar), Tillich, Bonhoffer, and even Lewis and Schweitzer, they are/were some of the most influential Christian theologians of the 20th century. Although one of the easier reads for Balthasar (and every time I read Balthasar), he seems to open up more questions than answers, more crevices of thoughts that will take me 30 or 40 more books to climb out. I guess your best teachers don't always give you the answers, but, instead, teach you to think, struggle, and ultimately learn..

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This is a very well written, insightful, and thought-provoking essay, but it contains several deep-rooted errors. Those who are new to or have less knowledge of the Catholic faith should be cautious about reading it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Mallary

    Simply wonderful exposition of hope for universal redemption from a Catholic theologian.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tristan Sherwin

    I’d certainly call this a book of two halves—and personally, I preferred part two. The first part, *Dare We Hope*, is Von Balthasar’s exploration of the two stream of thought that Scripture and the Saints put before us about Universal Judgement and Universal Salvation. It’s a deep, though brief, survey and he obviously knows what he’s talking about; displaying a thorough knowledge of the musings and expositions of the Church Saints (which he focuses on more than the scriptures themselves). However I’d certainly call this a book of two halves—and personally, I preferred part two. The first part, *Dare We Hope*, is Von Balthasar’s exploration of the two stream of thought that Scripture and the Saints put before us about Universal Judgement and Universal Salvation. It’s a deep, though brief, survey and he obviously knows what he’s talking about; displaying a thorough knowledge of the musings and expositions of the Church Saints (which he focuses on more than the scriptures themselves). However, I found this part really difficult to follow. With great pains I managed to (just about) follow his train of thought—and key paragraphs do help summarise along the way. But it was tough going. Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge this exposes, but I do feel this section could have been better written and explained. The Second part, *A Short Discourse On Hell*, however, was a different case altogether. This section is Von Balthasar’s response to those who were alarmed/confused by the Hope of Redemption that was put forward in *Dare We Hope?*. This section was written in a much more accessible style, in my opinion. And—probably because it was written to refute/clarify Von Balthasar’s position to his critics—it does a better job a putting the tension of Redemptive Hope across. There’s no clear answers here though, regarding Hell or Salvation. But that is precisely the thrust of Von Balthasar’s insight. All we have is a tension between the possibility of Hell and Redemption. This tension must be lived in, accepted, and walked through with Hope; and not a self-inclined hope, but a Hope for others. None of us have a perfect knowledge—a certainty—about the things regarding the final judgement. Scripture just presents us with the possibilities, but never any clear answers on “who”, or “how many”, or the “how long” regarding Hell. None of us have been given special access to seeing a definitive list of names. As Von Balthasar’ posits, using a variety of Saints, any clear knowledge in this regard would be dangerous to our own Spiritual Health, leading some to dangerous arrogance (for those who feel certain to be in), and our Love and Charity to others (leading is to exclude or demonise those we believe to be out). All scripture says is that Jesus is both judge and saviour of all, and that all will be judged. And so we are called to Hope in the perfect judgement of Jesus’ all humanity, including ourselves, as we walk between the choices placed before us. Overall; tough going, but gives much to ponder. And as a text (and author) that I see getting cited frequently in books on Eschatology, it was definitely worth the read. —Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I read this shortly after finishing Thomas Talbott's The Inescapable Love of God. Balthasar's book is considerably more difficult to read, and his breadth of theological thinking and reading is vast. More than that, the second edition is expanded by something like a hundred pages, in some of which he takes his critics to task for not reading carefully what he said in the first edition, and adds chapters that weren't in the original. For all that, I'm not sure that he adds anything more to Talbot I read this shortly after finishing Thomas Talbott's The Inescapable Love of God. Balthasar's book is considerably more difficult to read, and his breadth of theological thinking and reading is vast. More than that, the second edition is expanded by something like a hundred pages, in some of which he takes his critics to task for not reading carefully what he said in the first edition, and adds chapters that weren't in the original. For all that, I'm not sure that he adds anything more to Talbott's book - for me. Balthasar, at least in translation, writes in a dense fashion, with lengthy sentences full of corners and by-paths. I'm sure his work is more strongly argued than Talbott's but in the end it's very hard work reading him. Nevertheless, his book is a valuable addition to the subject, and for all my quibbles, I'm (probably) glad I read it...! In the end, of course, he can say with no more certainty than Talbott and many others, including a great number of the Church Fathers, that all will be saved, or that is no hell. Equally, we can say with no certainty that certain people are in Hell, or that we are necessarily amongst those who are saved without any further need to worry ourselves. God is the one in whom justice and mercy combine; he is the one who balances these out perfectly (something we're not good at doing). One great thing about both these book is that they clear away the awfulness of the doctrines that say certain people are predestined to Hell (and equally, certain people are predestined to eternal life). If for nothing else, they're both worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    Much of this goes over my head by a considerable margin. But it is an extremely rigorous exploration of an extremely thorny theological problem, and part of its merit is that it reinforces how thorny the problem in fact is. (i.e. if you're not at all troubled by the idea of an eternal hell for the majority of humanity, you might not be doing a great job practicing Christian charity.) All to the good. But I've got to say that "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan is a significantly easier version of the Much of this goes over my head by a considerable margin. But it is an extremely rigorous exploration of an extremely thorny theological problem, and part of its merit is that it reinforces how thorny the problem in fact is. (i.e. if you're not at all troubled by the idea of an eternal hell for the majority of humanity, you might not be doing a great job practicing Christian charity.) All to the good. But I've got to say that "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan is a significantly easier version of the problem that, to my mind, gets to the same theological place without all the history and polemic. Of course if you're interested in the history, this is the book to go to, but if a practical theological answer is all you want, well, you know. (At one point, Chan says something like, "Some people call themselves 'Hopeful Universalists.' Now if this just means that they hope that all people will be saved, sure, we all hope that way." Which is interestingly not what ol' H.U.v.B's opponents say. Also interesting: Chan's book is in response to Rob Bell, who picked up and ran with the 'hope' that von Balthasar refuses to allow to be a 'certainty.') There are other good things. Consider the following: "Love itself is crisis: to the extent that it is truth, it contains justice within itself, which is why Jesus, in his disputations with those lacking in love, can just as well say that he (as love) 'judges not' as that he (as truth) 'judges.'" Pretty good writing. Pretty energetic mental cardio.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Hamilton

    Read this for a book club. We had the discussion about the first part last week, and I just finished it up for part 2 now. We had a great discussion, especially because the book is not really about everyone necessarily going to heaven. In fact, we cannot know that. Instead, it provides a very powerful way to examine one's own beliefs. Is there anyone you think should not or will not end up in heaven? Are you on that list? That kind of differential thinking can truly lead to a loss of love/charit Read this for a book club. We had the discussion about the first part last week, and I just finished it up for part 2 now. We had a great discussion, especially because the book is not really about everyone necessarily going to heaven. In fact, we cannot know that. Instead, it provides a very powerful way to examine one's own beliefs. Is there anyone you think should not or will not end up in heaven? Are you on that list? That kind of differential thinking can truly lead to a loss of love/charity/agape. While there were things in this book that frustrated me, it still was good to read. It really felt like von Balthasar was just pulling together a lot of material from various places and looking at things in a way I would not have looked at them. Because my one friend makes me think about "Universalism" so much, I don't think this was anything extraordinary, but it was definitely better than the fire breathing of David Bentley Heart. If you can understand what he is saying, which is not always easy, this would be a fine read. But, please don't misinterpret it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    W Tyler

    This is a dense, potent, and ultimately inconclusive study of Christian Universalism from a Catholic standpoint. Tapping deep into the tradition which contains the works of Augustine, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Thomas Aquinas, Balthasar advocates for a hopeful universalism; it is possible, and even obligatory, to hope for the salvation of all people, but it is off limits (espcially in a Catholic context) to assert that all people definitely will be saved. An important insight has to do with t This is a dense, potent, and ultimately inconclusive study of Christian Universalism from a Catholic standpoint. Tapping deep into the tradition which contains the works of Augustine, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Thomas Aquinas, Balthasar advocates for a hopeful universalism; it is possible, and even obligatory, to hope for the salvation of all people, but it is off limits (espcially in a Catholic context) to assert that all people definitely will be saved. An important insight has to do with the Catholic Church's refusal to say for sure that any particular person is damned, as contrasted with its happy naming of many saints who have certainly been saved. There are also helpful reflections on the hellish experiences of the mystics, ranging from Julian of Norwich to Therese of Lisieux. This is essential reading for this topic.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pseudia Sloan

    Balthazar opens with the idea that we're under God's judgement, in no position to say with any certainty how he will judge ourselves or others. He makes the case that scripture is ambiguous on the subject, and we're prone to misinterpretation, then goes on to say that one of the most influential interpretations, that of St. Augustine, is more certain about the damnation of many men than scripture warrants or our place under judgement allows. Duly noting how profoundly troubling the thought of ev Balthazar opens with the idea that we're under God's judgement, in no position to say with any certainty how he will judge ourselves or others. He makes the case that scripture is ambiguous on the subject, and we're prone to misinterpretation, then goes on to say that one of the most influential interpretations, that of St. Augustine, is more certain about the damnation of many men than scripture warrants or our place under judgement allows. Duly noting how profoundly troubling the thought of even one person being eternally damned is, the author points to other saints who took more hopeful stances about salvation. In keeping with his premise, he concludes without presuming to say how God will or must judge, but with the idea that God's grace far surpasses our sin.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dominic De Souza

    At once ancient, and incredibly new, this isnt speculative theology. This is the core teaching of the Catholic Church, in her Gospel and Catechism. Cardinal von Balthasar has a. core contention is that St. Augustine's interpretation of the hellbound serves a purpose, but has cast a shadow across theology ever since that doesn't fully embrace all the meaning in Sacred Scripture. We can't count on all men's salvation, like the deft syllogisms of David Bentley Hart. We ought to hope for it. God's r At once ancient, and incredibly new, this isnt speculative theology. This is the core teaching of the Catholic Church, in her Gospel and Catechism. Cardinal von Balthasar has a. core contention is that St. Augustine's interpretation of the hellbound serves a purpose, but has cast a shadow across theology ever since that doesn't fully embrace all the meaning in Sacred Scripture. We can't count on all men's salvation, like the deft syllogisms of David Bentley Hart. We ought to hope for it. God's radical love and track record is such that we must hope for this. I grappled with the implications of the theory; does it undermine the need to evangelize, or even try to achieve perfection? Cardinal von Balthasar is rigorous on this point; the Great Commission is not dissolved. Its meaning is refreshed and renewed, and restored to the incarnation of the Kingdom in every time and place, the binding of wounds, the freedom from sin, and the swiftest lovegift from Christ to human living. He explores the idea that Christ's journey to hell was more than a rescue mission. In becoming sin, Christ not only became an atheist, but somehow suffered Hell itself. He endured not just the loss of Faith, but the loss of God as well. In Him, they're probably the same thing. Why would He do that? If man remained damned forever, why endure such a state? This question, not the conversion of the damned, because thats a contradiction in terms, but the conversion of the damnable, is at stake. If Christ did endure the pains of Hell, then I can understand why the Agony in the Garden was so shattering. He wasn't just bleeding through his pores because of a few hours of pain and crucifixion. As the GodMan, His being was rejecting plumbing the ultimate depths of distance from God. Many heavyweights of our Faith have leaned in this direction; Fr. Balthazar lists spiritual fathers and saints through the centuries, not to mention two recent popes. What stunned me was the stories of the saints who suffered hellfire. Fr. von Balthazar points out that these saints entered so deeply into the love of God, that they were willing-even asked-to be damned to Hell if it meant that other souls could be saved. They weren't willing the evil, but to endure the greatest possible agony, even forever, if it meant that the hellbound could be restored in God. Apart from more recent mystics, Fr. von Balthasar makes fresh sense of Moses' request for a similar fate - which shook me. I didn't realize his depth of love was so great, and on reflection, realize it must have been. Perhaps it was a nod to that that kept him from the Holy Land. If some of these saints were willing to endure Hell for the sake of others, how is it conceivable that they could go where Christ did not? That they could experience what He did not? That they could love other men to such a folly that they would ask for eternal separation from God to appease His justice on others? To imagine that they could love more than Christ is ridiculous. To my mind, these mystic experiences form a bedrock against which all of this falls into line. If they were willing, how much more so would Christ be willing? If Christ was therefore willing, why would He do something like that, unless there was a benefit for souls to be gained? And as He said to a mystic, His love is so deep and clever that He will follow a soul even unto the narrowest of places, where none but He can go. I have long thought that Heaven will be fuller than we ever anticipated. I don't doubt that there may be human souls who are damnable, apart from myself, but I have vast confidence in the clever, crafty, and fantastically radical love of God to desire to save all men. Even one child lost to a parent is an infinity of too many. One sheep lost from the flock causes an anguish that cannot be endured by the shepherd, who abandons the 99 that he might save the lost. So these two thoughts give me excitement and hope; the craftiness of God to navigate and suspend his own rules out of an undivided justice-mercy. And what I hope is a humility to take Scripture on its own merits, and take God at his word, when He proclaims His unbounded love for all men in all times and places. In reading this, I've found that I am invited to have more patience with other people, and greater readiness to smile, because there's a very real chance that we'll all meet up again. There remain very real questions that Fr. von Balthasar hasn't, and obviously can't, answer; like why promise Hell if no one reasonably ends up there. We are not given to know this answer. Unlike universalists, we are not given a palm reading of human fate. And unlike infernalists, we are not assured that many are lost, only that many are in danger of the state. As Fr. von Balthazar points out, God promised damnation to Nineveh, but their weak, best shot at a repentance stayed His hand. Who knows what happens in the final moments of even the worst sinner? They may need plenty of time in Purgatory, but it makes much more sense to me that it takes a particularly radical degree of evil to merit Hell for eternity. Even after a period of punishment from which Christ may save us. And most of us are such a weird patchwork of love and weakness, under so many influences and traits and pressures, it makes more sense to side with the Church and believe in God's mercy, and live in his justice. Both are the same thing. Yes, we ought to hope. Because that's not a novelty, but the Catholic message.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sam Beethoven

    This is good, good theology: affective but thorough, responsible with the irreducibly mysterious nature of its content, conversant with the old masters. I’d heartily recommend this book for (especially, but not only) Christians who struggle with the moral dilemmas brought on with the tight constraints of evangelical eschatology. There’s room in the Great Tradition, though some don’t initially see it, for hope beyond the borders of our tribe.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lyle Enright

    Lucid and even treatment of a hard topic. I disagree some with Balthasar's handling of apokatastasis-- at least, I don't think he tells the whole story. But this is the best book I've read on the Christian idea of "hell," its status as a Scriptural warning, and the Gospel's final universal relevance. Lucid and even treatment of a hard topic. I disagree some with Balthasar's handling of apokatastasis-- at least, I don't think he tells the whole story. But this is the best book I've read on the Christian idea of "hell," its status as a Scriptural warning, and the Gospel's final universal relevance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    The petty thoughts of a small mind. All around Urs people are doing stuff. Inventing glues. Or new machines. Medicine. Vaccines. People are busy inventing the new world. But Urs' intellect is too weak to learn Chemistry or Physics. What can he do to get that attention? Well, he can broker a deal with his imaginary friend. He would tell you who and why is going to the magical cruise in the sky. The petty thoughts of a small mind. All around Urs people are doing stuff. Inventing glues. Or new machines. Medicine. Vaccines. People are busy inventing the new world. But Urs' intellect is too weak to learn Chemistry or Physics. What can he do to get that attention? Well, he can broker a deal with his imaginary friend. He would tell you who and why is going to the magical cruise in the sky.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt Burget

    “Be warned, dear reader, that this concerns a theologians’ quarrel!” Not gonna lie, this may be the greatest opener to a response section of a book. Von Balthasar’s book is measured, thorough, and brilliant! Like every HUvB text, it’s understandable in argument with his artistic flair. His position leans apophatic, but he is not shy to share premises.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wylie

    A book that tackles the logical questions that most people ask: why do people wish hell on others and should I ever think that toward another? I liked his answer but it was also a tough, academic-type read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    Really enjoyed his historical argument from the tradition and the meditation on what hope is/it's relationship to eschatology Really enjoyed his historical argument from the tradition and the meditation on what hope is/it's relationship to eschatology

  25. 4 out of 5

    John W.

    I use the word “read” in the loosest of terms. I understood half of this book. I liked what I understood, and it is worth revisiting at a future date

  26. 5 out of 5

    Renée

    Mercy > justice

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rusty

    Many iffy and confusing/contradictory statements. He claims that parts of the Bible conflict with each other. There are much better books to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Barros

    A very important book - equally important is the short discourse on Hell. Many misconceptions about Balthasar floating around that are easily resolved by this essay.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Becca McGuinness

    A provocative title, an unprovocative book. Perhaps debate can be found in the intricacies, the overarching dependency, however, on the hope that allows for enduring love of all seems rather simple.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Nugent

    Most of those who disagree with von Balthasar's conclusion have never read the text. He certainly doesn't fall under a universalist camp. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the question. Most of those who disagree with von Balthasar's conclusion have never read the text. He certainly doesn't fall under a universalist camp. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the question.

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