I read this in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics the other day:
There is no part of the world, no matter how lost, no matter how godless, that has not been accepted by God in Jesus Christ and reconciled to God. (67)
Hints of universalism, perhaps? No. Bonhoeffer makes a clear statement about the need for salvation and his active participation in the plot to kill Hitler is not a natural outcome, I don’t think, of a universalist theology (or is it?). But interesting nonetheless.
This was discussed in class. What Bonhoeffer is getting at is that Christ is already in the world. To borrow directly from my professor, the church’s mission isn’t to bring the Light to the world, as it if somehow possessed the Light; the Light is already in the world, and the church responds to it worship (and thereby also points to it).
Bonhoeffer goes on:
…in the body of Christ all humanity is accepted, included, and borne, and…the church-community of believers is to make this known to the world by word and life. This means not being separated from the world, but calling the world into the community…of the body of Christ to which the world in truth already belongs. (67)
That still has the ring of universalism about it. Or at least near-universalism. So close, in fact, you wonder why it isn’t.
But I digress.
I read tonight in William C. Placher’s Narratives of a Vulnerable God the following in a discussion about interfaith dialogue, pluralism and expressing disagreement with other faiths:
Two of the theologians in our century most unbending about the errors of other faiths, Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar, also entertained at least a strong hope for universal salvation. Barth believed that we could at least hope that all could be saved, since we cannot imagine that anyone could hold out against the reality of what one already is in Christ. What crucially distinguishes Christians is that we already know the good news. (123)
That will, naturally, sound terribly arrogant to some, but it makes sense in the context of what Placher is saying (I may post about that later). But do you see the similarities between Barth’s (paraphrased) words and the words of Bonhoeffer? All this was mostly to say that there is a surprising amount of overlap and interrelation and (unwitting) dialogue (not about universalism, though) between the various things I’ve been reading so far this semester. Bonhoeffer. Placher. Yoder. Fascinating.
Also, though, universalism (or at least the hope for it) isn’t the Brad-Pitt-in-12-Monkeys of theology. Or maybe it is.
Back to reading.