It is unfortunate that people officially qualified to speak are not silencing clerics who espouse dangerous speculations which confuse people, and lead them away from knowing the clarity of the gospel. I am sorry that I need to speak so forcefully to this, but we have a deafening silence not just from those who hold the keys of the kingdom, but from the theologians who ought to know better. I here offer a challenge to a growing belief in our day which says that we can have a reasonable hope that all mankind is ultimately going to be redeemed and glorified in the blessed eschaton. The challenge I give is very simple, since it consists in a mere appeal to the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. In turn, I also open myself to be challenged on this, since if I am wrong, I’d like to know I’m wrong. If all of us are out to serve and know the Truth, then putting ourselves out there to proclaim the Truth and/or receive correction so that we might thereafter know the Truth is the modus operandi.
I saw someone post a published piece from a widely known cleric, His Excellency, The Most Reverend Bishop Robert Barron, which says “there is no one whom the Church has formally declared to be a denizen of Hell“, and consequently, “we are permitted to hope that all people might be saved“. The Bishop goes on to say, “Indeed, St. Paul writes to Timothy: ‘God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’“(1 Tim 2:4). Of course, Bishop Barron is often mistaken for being a full blown universalist, which isn’t true. He does not speak to the likelihood of the salvation of all mankind. His position, therefore, is consistent with an eventual massa damnata, i.e the massive majority ending up in the eternal furnace of Hell. Rather, his position is that, given the redemptive travel which the God-man, Jesus Christ, embarked upon in mercy and love, it is not unreasonable (note, not likely, probable, or predictable) to possess a hope that all of mankind will be delivered from the wrath of God, and be welcomed into eternal beatitude. Even with this clarification in mind, I don’t think the position should be held by anyone, not on account of its stupidity of incoherence, but simply because it contradicts the Holy Scripture and, particularly, the very words of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
There is something odd, I think, with the idea that if a proposition or teaching does not have extraordinary and infallible declaration from the Church, that we are thereby permitted to hold to it or its opposite. There was no formal declaration of Christ as “one substance” with the Father until the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), and even then, a neutral historian would say that such a Synod was not understood by the associated populace as an infallible Council. Perhaps there were (I’m sure there were). Does this mean that before the Council of Nicaea, we were permitted to believe that Christ was not God? That’s absurd. The Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, did not feel prohibited from disciplining Arius when the latter came out with his teaching on Christ as an emanation or creature from God. But, per the reasoning, if we don’t have infallible machinery pumping out a declaration, then we are permitted to hold whatever until that is
achieved? I think this reasoning is problematic. Another example would be the Canon of Scripture. We did not have a solid and codified canonical list until a few centuries (if even) after Christ. Does that mean that all Churchmen were permitted to exclude all of the 27 books of the NT, 39 books of the Old Testament, and the 7 Deutero-canonical books until an official declaration was made? I don’t think so. Was there a question as to minute detail? Sure. But that does not mean that in the absence of an infallible decree, we have total space to assert X or dissent from Y. The one who disbelieved in the deity of Christ prior to the Council of Nicaea would have been rightly understood as a heretic, as St. Athanasios himself acknowledged when he recounted the history of the Roman Synod in the 260’s which examined St. Dionysios of Alexandria, who was reported to have espoused Modalism. In fact, one might say that there was no formal declaration by a universal Council or a Pope prior to Nicaea 325 (this is arguable, of course). Does that mean the whole content of the Christian religion was up for whatever one thought they might make of it? Were they thereby “permitted” to think in all ways possible? I think not. Now, I doubt the defenders of Balthasar’s “Dare We Hope
” thesis would urge the point, but it is worth pointing out that modern Catholics liberals have built a certain doctrinal epistemology which sees only clear infallible (de fide) teachings as binding on the faithful. For Christians in the pre-Nicene era, those who departed from the regular fidei, or were espousing something which appeared novel, their beliefs were condemned, and they were often silenced.
(2) The Synoptic gospel to St. Matthew’s is St. Luke’s, which records the following narrative: “He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few’? And he said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and >will not< be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’. He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from’. Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets’. But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth’. ” (Luke 13:22-28). The Matthean account says : “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-14). When Jesus says – “and those who find it are few” (or, quite literally, those who are [finding it] are few) , our Lord gives a “Yes” answer to the original question, “Lord, are there few who are saved“? Now that is far more reasonable than squeezing into this text the Balthasarian hermeneutic of seeing this as a hypothetical warning sought to be avoided. More evidence of this will be shown below where the prophetic-eschatological nature of that Scriptural passage is made manifest.
The gloss which sees this as in the mode or genre of apocalyptic warning, or hypothetical future, etc,etc. is very improbable, given the Greek text of the Synoptic account in St. Luke. Our Lord is recorded as saying, “…for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able”. The Greek word, ζητήσουσιν, which is rendered “will seek” is in the future tense, as is the Greek οὐκ ἰσχύσουσιν, which is rendered “will not be able”. But it can still be a hypothetical future. The chances of this are even slimmer when we read the forthcoming words: “When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’. He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from’. Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets’. But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from East and West, and from North and South, and sit at table in the Kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:25-30). The context here is eschatological, and more than likely prophetic of what will happen. Our Lord himself, in another part of Sacred Scripture, compares his 2nd coming to the “days of Noah”. Our Lord says, “But of that day and hour no one knows…..As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two woman will be bringing at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had had known in what part of the night the thief was coing, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:36-44). The Synoptic account in St. Luke is even more to the point, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man…the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot — they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them — so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-29)
(4) Some argue that if it were true that only “few” will ultimately be saved, as our Lord answered to the disciples, then out goes all motivation for world mission, the proclamation of the gospel, and the hard work of discipleship. The reasoning here is selfish and opens itself to many problems. I will cover just a few. Firstly, it makes the goal of evangelization, first and foremost the quantity of the saved, where the first and primary goal is the glory of God. There are times when God’s word is preached *in order* to make more guilty the guilty. We see this in the 6th chapter of Isaiah where the Lord tells the prophet to go and proclaim to Israel the message that they will utterly fall into doom. Our Lord Himself also , when speaking to the Pharisees, says: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (9:39). Secondly, we cannot know what makes up the “few” who will be saved. We know that in proportion to the whole of humankind, there were be countless of saved in the eschaton singing the praises of the glory of God (Rev 4). Thus, “few” is a relative term , and is to be understood in relation to the whole. And lastly, our Lord says, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). It is all worth it just for one.
The oft repeated verse from 1 Timothy 2:14 where St. Paul says, “God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” does not signify that this will actually occur. Sometimes it can come across as if those espousing to semi-universalism cite this verse as if those who say that not all will be saved are getting in between God and his desire for all men to be saved. Nothing can be further than the truth. Firstly, Paul also says God desires all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. However, we know that all men do not come to the knowledge of the truth. Paul himself tells us very explicitly. He wrote that ungodly men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). In speaking of the coming of >the< anti-Christ, a very neglected topic, Paul writes: ” The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
” (2 Th 2:10-12). He is speaking of the future here, and negates that these people will be saved. Hypothetical? I think the argument of Paul would lose all its force. Here’s why. The context from v1-9 is that the Thessalonians are worried that the coming of Christ already happened. Paul proceeds to refute this by saying that there are some identifying evidences which will precede the 2nd coming of Christ, and since they had not happened, it was unreasonable to suppose that Christ already came. One of those evidences was the reject of the truth, and ultimately the lost chance of being saved by many.
Paul warns St. Timothy about the coming of perilous times and evil men, as a prophecy, not a hypothetical speculation. His words are telling:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” (2 Tim 3:1-9)
That last part, “but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest o all, as theirs also was”, is clearly Paul’s assumption that there will be a population who are not saved, ultimately. That is the teaching of Scripture. While we have man today speculating whether all are going to give their last second godly sorrows and repent, Paul here does not even entertain that thought. Why not? Because it was common knowledge for the Apostles to speak this way.
Paul even knew two men who had fallen from the truth, and he makes no hesitation to name them and declare them as having strayed, and thus “ceased” from their knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2). He says: “But shun profane and [e]idle babblings, for they will [f]increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:16-18).
In his instructions to St. Titus, St. Paul says: “As for a man who is divisive, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, >knowing< that such ap erson is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:11). Gasp! You mean to say that Paul actually said that he could hypothetically know that a person strayed from God? Yes.
(6) Lastly, the very first Pope, speaking in something more profound than the modus of “ex cathedra”, that is, under the internal inspiration of God Himself, wrote this following warning to the exiles in the diaspora (1 Peter 1:1): “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” Notice here that even if we stretch the literary genre to obliterate literalism, the very spirit of his argument is that the non-Christian world stands no chance in the coming judgment, which means St. Peter’s argument is contrary to that of Balthasar and Bishop Barron.
Given the ample evidence in the New Testament, whose surface we have barely scratched, there is no reasonable hope to be had which says all mankind will be saved in the end. Therefore, no one should be spreading the idea that it is OK, let alone a good thing, to believe that there is a reasonable hope that all mankind will be saved. What does this look like for those who go out in bodily death *in the midst* of their sin? How about those involved in shoot-outs? Who die in the process of murdering? Are we to speculate on the possibilities of inculpability and last-second perfect contrition for the vast countless myriads of persons all over the world ? That seems to me to be a thought which people who teach this error will need to welcome as “reasonable”, if they want the attribution of “reasonable”. But this is not reasonable. We need not look further than what we read recorded in the New Testament concerning the Apostle Judas. Our Lord says of him, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt 26:24). Better that he had not been born? Complete non-existence can only be preferable for someone whose existence will endure forever in the worst possible conditions. If Judas is predestined to glory and everlasting life, then his latter state makes all the more worth his being born. Better to have not been born means it would have been better of if he never existed, since his eternal estate will be one of abject misery.
Is there a millimeter space of possibility that there is a different meaning? The speculative theologians since liberalism took over biblical scholarship will always manage to find an “…well, its possible”, but they, I trust, will never gain the force of a persuasive argument in this matter. This method of the modernistic thought is to approach the most fundamental question of mankind and his relationship to evil, corruption, and sin with a few instruments which grease the interior disposition so that, in all likelihood, culpability is far less than what may seem. I call it the pobrecito (spanish for, “You poor thing”) mentality, which makes man the sinner be man the victim. By driving a wedge between the objective contravention of God’s will and the subjective capacities which are sufficiently aware of it , the modernists have opened a whole new field of pastoral science which allows for the speculative non-judgmentalism of our day. We might call it greasy grace, to borrow from Bonhoeffer, or infantile morality. Whatever you call it, the raw logic and thinking is quite fine, and checks out. But it lacks total common sense, and self-evident truths. For example, I could try and argue that the whole world, due to climate stress, poverty, economic hardship, depression, psychological illnesses, ungodly leaders, etc,etc is probably only within the “venial sin” boundary, and thus, theoretically heaven-bound, and given the oft lauded intricacies of the subjective conditions which make a sin “mortal” or “deadly”, my reasoning will check out just fine. But again, it lacks what any child would know just by thinking. Thankfully, we don’t see Christ or the Apostles driving with these insane hesitations to assert evil when it is real. Even our Lord, when he said, “cast not your pearls before swine”, indicated you could judge swine from the godly. This new pastoral science is what has stood behind many of the new policies which are finding wide acceptance in the Roman Catholic Church today, such as that of Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, and the recent German proposal of intercommunion with Protestants. I don’t trust we are near making a U-turn from this any time soon. Perhaps, when God delivers us from the elderly Elite in the Church who still have strong attraction to this, we might see a new generation of true intellectuals who will be mistaken for a St. John the Baptist risen from the dead, like our Lord was so mistaken. The only reason he was mistaken for this was because He preached the dreadful day of judgment and the necessity of conversion or all men, because they were sinners who needed to be forgiven and pardoned. Or, even more so, mistaken for being Jeremiah, as our Lord was, since he was also a doomsday preacher. May God raise up fire-breathing prophets so that they can light up the world with truth, and die deaths conformable to our Lord!