That Mosquito on the Tuxedo
Neuhaus also made this pointed remark about me in that brief response: “I have no need, interest, or intention of engaging in extended public polemics with Mr. Vree.” In my mind’s eye I could just see him brush the mosquito off his tuxedo as he typed that. Well, in the intervening months, Fr. Neuhaus has obviously had second thoughts. In the lead article in his “Public Square” section in the August/September First Things, he offers an extended (four-page) explanation of what he was trying to say in his book.
Why the delay? Says Neuhaus: “I confess to being caught off guard by the vehemence of some criticisms” of the book, and he makes it clear that the criticisms came from others besides the Editor of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW. Apparently, that pesky mosquito just wouldn’t go away.
Neuhaus says that his critics have “misunderstood” him. But nonetheless he wishes to offer “a clarifying word.” So maybe — just maybe — the problem was indeed with the messenger, not the reader.
Now, Neuhaus does make some helpful clarifications: (1) “The hope that all will be saved is precisely that, a hope. It is not a doctrine….” (2) “Yes, certainly, people who live that way [as described in Mt. 25] until the very end will go to hell.” (3) “All are found [by Christ], and therefore are not lost. That some may choose not to accept the gift of being found is quite another matter.” (4) “Must we not hope that, according to God’s desire (2 Peter 3:9), all will repent?” (italics added). These are welcome clarifications, and I hope that if Fr. Neuhaus’s book is to be released in a new edition he will, at a minimum, make those same assertions in a new Preface, and, even more, will change the numerous affirmations of universal salvation in the book in light of those four assertions.
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