Friday, 20 January 2006

Hans Urs von Balthasar: dare we hope?

The brilliant Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar is best known for his vast theological trilogy, Herrlichkeit, Theodramatik and Theologik.

But reading Chris Tilling’s blog recently, I noticed that his wishlist includes Balthasar’s little volume Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? With a Short Discourse on Hell (1988). And seeing this book on his list reminded me of the immense value of even Balthasar’s smallest books.

Dare We Hope is a sharp and insightful work, and it deserves close attention regardless of one’s own view of the scope of salvation. The book evoked some controversy, with critics accusing Balthasar of universalism, i.e., of believing in the apokatastasis panton. But such an accusation misses the whole point of Balthasar’s argument—for he does not believe in universal salvation, but he hopes for it. And, as the whole of Dare We Hope demonstrates, there may be all the difference in the world between “believing” and “hoping.”

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