Hans Urs von Balthasar on Hope, Hell and Salvation

Nothing has earned Balthasar the description of "controversial" more than his theological speculations on hell and the possibility of "universal salvation." Following is a collection of articles from all sides critiquing Balthasar's thought.

Catholic World Report Symposium: "Vatican II, Salvation and the Unsaved"

Introduction via Carl Olson (Ignatius Insight):

This special CWR symposium, consisting of eight essays, is the result of a promise made earlier this year as well as the desire to address and discuss some timely questions related to the Year of Faith (which concludes this Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King), the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the New Evangelization.

In April, CWR published a review by Dr. David Paul Deavel of Dr. Ralph Martin's book, Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans, 2012). It was then decided that the review would be withdrawn until a later time; as Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press and publisher of CWR, explained, CWR wished “to provide a fuller treatment of a difficult subject than the original review, in my opinion, is able to provide. … The goal is to try to understand what’s what, who’s who, and how best to proceed in fulfilling the Great Commission, without overlooking the genuine nuances and insights theological wisdom provides.”

To that end, we asked six theologians to take up one, two, or all three of the following questions:

  • What did the Council say about the possibility of salvation for those who do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church?
  • What are the reasons for the apparent widespread loss of emphasis on evangelization following the Council?
  • How can the directives of Vatican II and recent popes about evangelization be best explained and implemented?
Those theologians are Douglas Bushman, STL, Dr. Nicholas Healy, Father David Meconi, SJ, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, SJ, and Father Thomas Joseph White, OP.

This symposium includes Dr. Deavel’s original review, as well as essays from the seven authors above. It concludes with the essay, “Did Hans Urs von Balthasar Teach that Everyone Will Certainly be Saved?” by Mark Brumley.


  • Dare we Hope? Rorate Caeli 12/8/13:
    Mark Brumley, in his own essay cleverly sidesteps one of the central accusations that Martin makes against Balthasar, namely that Balthasar makes specious use of his sources, often quoting them out of context or even to make the opposite point of what the author intended.

    Instead, Brumley concludes the selection of essays by offering an alternative interpretation of Balthasar that would more easily harmonize with Tradition and Scripture regarding the “hope” of universal salvation.

    But what does Scripture and Tradition tell us about hope and salvation? If God created everyone out of love, then surely he would will them all to reach their end - eternal happiness in heaven. And if he wills the end, then surely he wills the means, right? Therefore, all will be saved? ...

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