I just wanted to write and let you know that I loved your recent editorial, “Don’t Shut the Door” (December 18). Even though I haven’t been a practicing Catholic since I was a little girl, I still love your stance on many social issues like refugees. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” With so many of our country’s leaders professing the Christian faith, you’d hope they would keep that Scripture in mind.
La Crosse, Wisc.
GOODNESS AND GRATITUDE
The two responses (January 29) to my article on universal salvation (“Hell, Population Zero,” December 18) are good examples of how answering one question raises a dozen others. Both letters have appreciative things to say about the article while raising several questions for further consideration.
John O’Neill asks about the “moral hazard” he sees attached to universal salvation because it leaves us in a quandary: If we are all to be saved just the same, why should we struggle against evil? Why evangelize? These are good questions but they do not tell against universal salvation precisely because it is a good and has the means of warding off any hazard threatening it—recall the parable of the generous employer of farmhands in Matthew 20. The ultimate answer as to why we should struggle against evil or why evangelize is to be found in recognizing that the moral sense is a given; it is self-evident. We know that “good is to be done and evil avoided” directly; it makes its own claim on our behavior. Thus we know that to struggle against evil and to spread the Gospel are both good and to be done.
George Hunsinger emphasizes the role of prayer in bringing about our salvation and quotes 1 Timothy 2:1 to that effect; it is the “context” for verses 4 and 5 in the same chapter, in which God’s will to save everyone is clearly proclaimed. Petition and gratitude, the main focus of the exhortations in the first verse, are prayers centering on a good we hope for, or one that has already been assured—in this case, the salvation of all. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s will be done on earth but we know it is not when, for example, one does damage to another or unjustly suppresses the truth. God’s will can be frustrated on earth, frustrated in the quotidian sense where fulfillment depends on the human will, but not in the transcendental sense (“as it is in heaven”) where it depends entirely on the divine. To love the sinner but hate the sin is a long-standing principle with respect to person-to-person relationships. It is a daunting prospect for anyone but especially for the obdurate sinner who, at the final moment, must get sin behind him. Resolving this dilemma in favor of the sinner does not mean that he will be saved despite himself, but that God, in his own merciful way, will bring about the sinner’s conversion as the ultimate instance of loving the sinner while condemning the sin. That’s something to be thankful for.
Albert B. Hakim
I’ve subscribed for many years and recognize that magazines go through life cycles of richness and famine in content. For the past year or so Commonweal has been at the top of its cycle. The January 29 issue is an excellent example of that. Please don’t let a compliment go to your heads.