Will All be Saved?

Jason Micheli —  March 15, 2013 — 4 Comments

barthAs you know, I’ve kicked off a Reading Karl Barth with Me online forum. I’ve got nearly 50 folks from all over the world, reading/enjoying/struggling/hating Barth right now.

This isn’t in the sections we’re reading now but is hinted at throughout Barth’s work.

The logic of Barth’s absolute stress on Christ, Christ’s singular and perfect work, immediately leads to questions of ultimate things.


On that topic, Barth has frequently been accused by Evangelicals of being a universalist, a charge Barth wouldn’t cop to in his life.

So, this is getting ahead of ourselves but it’s out there in the blogosphere so I thought I’d post it now. Here’s Roger Olson’s take on the question of whether or not Barth was a universalist. I’ll post the conclusion (Olson writes way too much and doesn’t segment or separate his writing…impossible to read.) and then you can click to read the whole thing:

We are coming, then, to the conclusion that the controversy over whether Barth was a universalist or not comes down to a matter of semantics. (Which is not to say it’s unimportant.) Apparently, in spite of some confusing ways of expressing it, Barth believed in at least two distinct senses of being “saved.”

One is the objective reconciliation with God extended to all people because of Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. In that sense, because of election and atonement, all are saved. No personal decision of faith is required for it to be ontologically true and real. The other is the subjective fellowship with God enjoyed by those who, through a personal decision of faith, embrace their identity as reconciled persons. Such persons alone are “Christians.”

But they alone are not “saved.” At least some, if not all, of those who reject their election and reconciliation, will, in spite of being saved, go to hell, understood either literally as Lewis’ painful refuge after death or figuratively as the lie lived in misery. Even they, however, are “saved” in the objective sense. And, according to Barth, based on the statement quoted earlier, God will continue to proclaim the kerygma to them, apparently with the hope and intention that they will somehow, sometime become saved in both senses.

Our thesis and conclusion agrees almost entirely with one of Barth’s most astute German interpreters Walter Kreck in his magisterial Grundentscheidungen in Karl Barths Dogmatik: Zur Diskussion seines Verständnisses von Offenbarung und Erwählung (roughly translated Basic Decisions in Karl Barth’s Dogmatics: Toward a Discussion of his Understanding of Revelation and Election). There, in the middle of an exposition and discussion of Barth’s doctrine of election, Kreck asked whether it leads to apokatastasis. He concluded that Barth did not want to draw that conclusion, but that it seems logically to follow from Barth’s doctrine of election.[15]On the other hand, Kreck also wrote that Barth rejected “speculating” (about ultimate reconciliation) and attempted to hold to the “open situation of proclamation” (in place of a doctrine of apokatastasis).[16] However, what Barthwanted and what Barth logically implied (as necessary) appear to be two different things.

The main contribution, if it can be called that, of this research project is that Barth was and was not a universalist. The solution is not sheer paradox, however. He was a universalist in the sense of everyone, all human persons, being reconciled to God, not just as something potential but as something actual from God’s side. He was not a universalist in the sense of believing that everyone, all human persons, will necessarily know and experience that reconciliation automatically, apart from any faith, having fellowship with God now or hereafter. Without doubt, however, he was a hopeful universalist in that second sense of the word.

Here’s the rest.

Jason Micheli


4 responses to Will All be Saved?

  1. If you’re an Arminian who believes that prevenient grace implies the eternal persistence of God’s love, then you can’t really avoid Barth’s conclusion. I don’t know why it should be offensive. Salvation is not about changing God’s mind; it’s about changing our minds. If you understand God to be perfect and eternal, then you really only have two options: He picked some and rejected others before time or He picked all and some will accept Him and others will reject Him. The popular Arminianism that Olson may or may not subscribe to where we change God’s mind about us by “accepting” Christ is Pelagian.

  2. Wow, pretty all over the place and provokes more questions than provides clarity. Very interesting……………

  3. Barth’s views on this make perfect sense to me. I have often wondered how any Christian could believe that God created all people and then willingly rejects a big lot of them.

    • Yeah, I agree. Wesley believed that Calvinists make God a prisoner to their own logic, that God’s sovereignty and internal laws of justice are more determinative than God’s love.

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