Letter to the Editor of First Things

Balthasar is a name that has remained on the outskirts of my full consciousness, aware as I am of his sometimes controversial views on hell. I have been hoping for quite some time for a forum such as the one here provided by First Things to try to understand some of the ins and outs of his controversial thought, with opposing views from people more knowledgeable than me. It was with great expectation, then, that I devoured the conversation between Ms. Pitstick and Fr. Oakes on Balthasar, Hell and Heresy. Ms. Pitstick laid the groundwork for a fruitful conversation by laying out what she believed to be a difficulty in reconciling some of Balthasar’s ruminations on Christ’s descent into hell with the Catholic tradition as has been commonly understood, and as the Catechism seems to teach. In response to this seeming difficulty, Fr. Oakes gives us two sentences on another of Balthsar’s “difficult” views: an empty hell. For the rest, Fr. Oakes merely contents himself with labeling Ms. Pitstick as an anti-Protestant double-predestinarian Monophysite crank who believes in a pre-Christian purgatory. Apparently, this is supposed to allay our fears that Balthasar is, in fact, outside the pale of Catholic theology by tarring and feathering the chief witness. Unfortunately, the only effect of such a tactic is to further convince the Balthasar skeptic that Ms. Pitstick’s difficulty really might, after all, be unanswerable.

We’ll see if this gets published. Submitted 12/20/06.

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~ by Rob on December 20, 2006.

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