That question arose at a Princeton University Karl Barth Conference, as reported by Joel Garver at Sacra Doctrina.
Reading, not to mention studying, the works of Karl Barth, is not a task for those with anything else to do. However, Mr. Garver gives us the highlights of Professor Bruce McCormack’s paper â€œThat He May Have Mercy Upon All: Karl Barth and the Problem of Universalismâ€
Â “For Barth, because all are in Christ in election, Christ is the savior of all, united to all humanity. Also in Christâ€™s descent into hell, he suffered hell for all humanity who are in Christ in his descent.”
“When Barth couples his belief in universal atonement with a belief in irresistible grace, we then have the problem of universalism. Yes, asks McCormack, is the impossibility of universalism really so clear from the New Testament?” “God sent his Son into the world to be the Savior of all and what Jesus accomplished is already done. On the other hand, the gospel message calls for faith but not all believe, leading to a separation among people, those who believe and those who do not.”
How can the two positions be reconciled? One side explains away the universalist passages; the other side explains away the eschatological ones.
However, there is a necessary tension in living in the Already/Not Yet Kingdom of God:
McCormack suggested the tension “is not so much a contradiction in a logical sense, as a tension in terms of the already/not yet of history and eschatology.”
“McCormack suggested that there are three certainties for Paul:  the cross and resurrection are the incursion of Godâ€™s future into the present world;  the Spirit is the power who makes church an eschatological community conditioned by hope; and  the Day of Lord involves judgment and vindication of Godâ€™s work, with a judgment of all according to works.”
What do you think?Â
Read Mr. Garver’s account for yourself here.