A few times in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few internet essays about how many people will be saved. Hell has to be real, according to some, or nothing eschatological has real meaning. I suppose I can relate: the whole world can’t be populated by younger sons and five o’clock hirelings. Somebody has to disapprove of fatted-calf parties and screwed-up payrolls.
My short-but-serious take on this that I don’t care. Oh, but I do care … in the sense that I have a hope that everyone will respond to the invitation of Christ and that everyone indeed will be saved. But what people do with the invitation is not very much my business. In all seriousness, I don’t think it furthers the Gospel for Christians to openly discuss in broad terms who will get saved, or how many, and do they need to explicitly know Christ, or be Catholic, or Christian, or orthodox. I have what I hope are good and serious reasons.
First, I think the proper Christian orientation to salvation is to attend to oneself, and by extension, one’s own logs, planks, and personal woodwork that needs removal, polishing, or whatever. I can’t work out someone else’s salvation. And it’s only because of grace that I have a hope for my own.
Speaking of hope, I think this is an important Christian virtue. Saint Paul seemed to think so too. It seems good to hope for one’s own salvation. It seems loving and charitable, if not wildly optimistic, that we hope for the salvation of every human being.
It’s unseemly. Really. It has the whiff, if not the stench of the popular kids in high school yukking it up amongst themselves on who will go to the cool parties and such, and which losers will be shut out.
It gives people an excuse to feel puffy and triumphant. It might be that out of the seventy billion human beings (so far) who have ever lived that maybe only seven-hundred million or so will be in heaven. The one-percent. The special. Is that going to accomplish the evangelization we’re called to effect?