The following is a summary of Richard Bauckham’s survey of the doctrine of universalism (the belief that all will eventually be saved). It is taken from Themelios Journal, Volume 4, No. 2 (The Gospel Coalition). Please note, this is from 1978!

The history of the doctrine of universal salvation (or apokastastasis) is a remarkable one. Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated (in its commonest form this is the doctrine of ‘conditional immortality’). Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation, though these few included some major theologians of the early church. Eternal punishment was firmly asserted in official creeds and confessions of the churches. It must have seemed as indispensable a part of universal Christian belief as the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation. Since 1800 this situation has entirely changed, and no traditional Christian doctrine has been so widely abandoned as that of eternal punishment. Its advocates among theologians today must be fewer than ever before. The alternative interpretation of hell as annihilation seems to have prevailed even among many of the more conservative theologians.4 Among the less conservative, universal salvation, either as hope or as dogma, is now so widely accepted that many theologians assume it virtually without argument.

[Origen on Hell]

The most famous and influential advocate of universalism in the early church was Origen, whose teaching on this point was partly anticipated by his predecessor Clement of Alexandria. . . According to Origen all intelligent beings (men, angels, devils) were created good and equal, but with absolute free will. Some, through the misuse of free will, turned from God and fell into varying degrees of sin. Those who fell furthest became the devils, those whose fall was less disastrous became the souls of men. These are to be restored to God through a process of discipline and chastisement, for which purpose this material world has been created and the preexisting souls incarnated in human bodies. The process of purification is not complete at death but continues after this life. Nor is it an inevitably upward path: the soul remains free to choose good or evil, and so even after this life may fall again as well as rise. Within this scheme punishment is always, in God’s intention, remedial: God is wholly good and His justice serves no other purpose than His good purpose of bringing all souls back to Himself. Thus the torments of hell cannot be endless, though they may last for aeons; the soul in hell remains always free to repent and be restored.

Given unlimited time, God’s purpose will eventually prevail and all souls will be finally united to Him, never to sin again. The final restoration includes even Satan and the devils.

. . .

The doctrine of the final restoration of all souls seems to have been not uncommon in the East during the fourth and fifth centuries. It was clearly taught by Gregory of Nyssa and is attributed to Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia,10 and some Nestorian theologians. Others, such as Gregory of Nazianzus, regarded it as an open question.12 Augustine took the trouble to refute several current versions of universalism, as well as views on the extent of salvation which stopped short of universalism but were more generous than his own.

. . .

A Council at Constantinople in 543 condemned a list of Origenist errors including Apokatastasis, but whether this condemnation was endorsed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553) seems in doubt. At any rate the condemnation of Origenism discredited universalism in the theological tradition of the East. In the West, not only Origen’s heretical reputation but also Augustine’s enormous influence ensured that the Augustinian version of the doctrine of hell prevailed almost without question for many centuries. During the Middle Ages universalism is found only in the strongly Platonic system of John Scotus Erigena (dc 877) and in a few of the more pantheistic thinkers in the mystical tradition, for whom the divine spark in every man must return to its source in God.

[Universalism 16th-18th Centuries]

Universalism in the seventeenth century should be seen partly as reaction to the particularism of high Calvinism, which with its doctrine of limited atonement excluded any kind of divine will for the salvation of all men.

. . .

One very strong objection to universalism in these centuries was the deep-rooted belief that the threat of eternal torment was a necessary deterrent from immorality during this life. So weighty was this objection felt to be, that some who believed in universal salvation (or even in annihilation) held that this belief must remain an esoteric, secret doctrine for the few, while hell must continue to be preached as a deterrent for the masses. Even in the nineteenth century, when such esotericism was seen to be indefensible, universalists found it necessary to meet the objection by emphasizing as much as possible the severity and length of the torments which the wicked must endure before their eventual salvation.

[19th Century]

F. D. E. Schleiermacher was the first great theologian of modern times to teach universalism. He taught a predestination as absolute as that of Augustine and Calvin, but he rejected any form of double predestination. All men are elected to salvation in Christ, and this purpose of divine omnipotence cannot fail.

. . .

Most interesting of Schleiermacher’s arguments against hell is his deeply felt conviction that the blessedness of the redeemed would be severely marred by their sympathy for the damned. This is precisely the opposite of the conviction of many earlier theologians that the blessedness of the redeemed would be actually enhanced by their contemplation of the torments of the damned.

. . .

Common to almost all versions of the ‘wider hope’ was the belief that death was not the decisive break which traditional orthodoxy had taught. Repentance, conversion, moral progress are still possible after death.

. . .

[Twentieth Century]

In this century, however, exegesis has turned decisively against the universalist case. Few would now doubt that many NT texts clearly teach a final division of mankind into saved and lost, and the most that universalists now commonly claim is that alongside these texts there are others which hold out a universal hope (e.g. Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20).

. . .

One is a new form of exegesis of the texts about final condemnation, which acknowledges the note of finality but sees these texts as threats rather than predictions. A threat need not be carried out. This, as we shall see, is the approach adopted by the most persuasive of modern universalists.

. . .

Here the doctrinal authority of the Bible is understood much more flexibly than by most nineteenth-century universalists.

. . .

Neither Karl Barth nor Emil Brunner was strictly a universalist, but both regarded the final salvation of all mankind as a possibility which cannot be denied (though it cannot be dogmatically asserted either). . . It is also a position which has probably had more appeal to conservative Christians (including Roman Catholic theologians) than dogmatic universalism; it allows us to hope for the salvation of all men without presuming to know something which God has not revealed.

. . .

Thus the modern universalist is no longer bound to the letter of the NT; he can base his doctrine on the spirit of NT teaching about the love of God. The same principle can even be extended to the teaching of the historical Jesus, though some have been able to persuade themselves that the Gospel texts about final judgment are not in any case authentic words of Jesus. This more liberal approach to Scripture has probably played quite a large part in the general spread of universalism in this century.

. . .

[Modern Theology (please note, again, this was written in 1978)]

Two of the most persuasive of recent arguments for dogmatic universalism are those of J. A. T. Robinson and John Hick.

. . .

This is because, for Robinson, only universal salvation is consistent with God’s nature as omnipotent love. Final judgment would be a frustration of His purpose. But what of man’s freedom to resist God’s love? Omnipotent love must in the end force every man to yield to it—not as an infringement of freedom, but as free choice elicited by love. Man’s freedom is compatible with the victory of omnipotent love.

. . .

Hick feels the strength of the objection that universalism is incompatible with human freedom. His answer essentially is that human nature has a created bias towards God, which means that we naturally tend towards Him of our own free will. Therefore, given time, His love must in the end evoke a response from all men

Hick’s distinctive approach to universalism, however, lies in his concern for theodicy, which colours a great deal of his theology. The suffering and evil of this world can only be justified if God is going to bring to a good end every individual personal life He has created. If there is either eternal punishment or annihilation for some, then either God is not perfectly good—since He does not desire the salvation of all His creatures—or He is not omnipotent—since His purpose has finally failed in the case of some. Only universal salvation can vindicate the omnipotent good God in whom Christians believe.
More than most other modern forms of universalism, Hick’s bears a striking resemblance to both the Origenist and Victorian types, in that he envisages this life as merely the first stage in a long—in many cases, unimaginably long—postmortem progress towards final salvation

[Bauckham’s Assessment]

It is typical of this variety of universalism that our ultimate salvation becomes a prospect so distant as to be hardly capable of concerning us at all in this first of our many lives. This is a far cry from Jesus’ message of present salvation to be apprehended or lost in immediate response to His preaching.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    60 replies to "Universalism Through the Centuries"

    • phil_style

      I’m surprised you didn’t pay more attention to the detail in your quote form Origen regarding “preexisting souls”.

      It seems to me that a consciousness-in-hell was necessary for the 2nd century and later Greek Christians, because that had to explain what happened to the preexisting (and eternal – after Plato) souls. Of course they needed eternal punishment, because they though that human souls were eternally conscious.

      Take away that assumption (i..e replace it with the idea that “souls” can be destroyed – Matthew 10:28), and suddenly the need for eternal consciousness disappears. “Eternal life” is purely at the mercy/ grace of God. (and requires a resurrected body too, not just a disembodied soul).

      I think developments in anthropology (moving away from Greek ideas about eternal human souls) have helped theologians return to a more pre-hellenic jewish anthropology

    • Aaron Walton

      CMP,
      Thanks for posting this.

    • Nice piece of theological history! But, thank God for the Pauline Gospel: Christ crucified, risen/ascended…The Mediator, the glorified God-Man on the Throne In “Session”-above for His people! And in some literal time, HE will step out, and Come Again…Come Lord Jesus! (Heb. 9: 28)

      *Indeed, Salvation-History, and the Jewish Hellenistic and Pauline Greco-Roman world and Gospel! (Acts 22: 3 / Gal. 4:4-7)

    • James

      So I think it is pretty clear that the NT teaches there is a Hell, maybe not as clear as a lot of people make out but clear enough.

      But I have some questions about the subject:
      It is my understanding that the Jews of Jesus time believed in Hell, which is evidenced by the fact that Jesus could talk about it without treating it like a new revelation. But where did they get this revelation from? I don’t see hardly any talk of an afterlife revealed in the OT.

      If Hell is HELL you would think that would be a core concept of the gospel and of the NT itself. That Jesus and the Apostles would have talked about it every chance they got. Kind of like how every western preacher does now a days. And yet only a handful of verses mention Hell and most of them are found in Revelation, a book so filled with Apocalyptic imagery as to call into question whether or not the author was describing the literal hell. Why is this?

    • […] If you think universalism is a recent invention, you might want to pour a coffee and pore over this mini church history lesson. […]

    • Jeff Ayers

      I was saved in 1980 (as a 15 year old) and my thoughts often turned to Hell and theological ramifications an eternal unending hell:

      1. Why was nothing said about Hell for the first 2,300 years of world history (Gen 1-12 4,000 BC to 2,200 BC- if you can trust Ussher), very little spoken of regarding Hell (and the reasons one would be sent there) from Moses to the time of Christ?

      2. If people went to Hell in the old testament (for 4,000 + years Adam to Christ) why was there no missionary or outreach to the nations to get them saved (except isolated endeavors such as Jonah–who neither gave the gospel nor warned of Hell)

      3. Why were there warnings of going to Hell for calling a brother a fool, or having your eye and hand offend you?

      4. Why did Paul never mention Hell when he gave the Gospel in the book of Acts?

      5. Why did NONE of the apostles ever mention Hell in the book of Acts, except to state the Christ went there?

      6. How can Paul, who wrote 13 epistles about the gospel, justification, salvation by grace through faith etc. NEVER ONCE MENTION HELL?

      7. If Hell was a potential for those who lived during the time of Christ, then why did Jesus and the apostles ONLY go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and Christ commanded them to NOT go into the way of the gentiles? (so all those in the world outside of Israel dies without a gospel witness and went to hell while they limited their mission to Israel).

      8. I would read multitude of verses about Gods anger being limited in length and scope, but his mercy was unending and enduring. How does that work with an unending Hell?

      9. I read of the lake of fire (which is never mentioned as unending or eternal) where death, hell and those not found written in the book of life were cast into… and then i read that the last enemy to be destroyed is DEATH… WHAT IS THE SECOND DEATH? THE LAKE OF FIRE.

      SO many more questions… and as an IFB, you cannot ponder such questions out loud.

    • aj

      Two points. 1. Universalism is not recent. Review your history. 2. During your review, consider what led to it’s declining acceptance- think militaristic persecution from the catholic church. I’m astounded at the degree to which seminaries fail to accurately teach history today. If it doesn’t fit their paradigm, then it’s not mentioned, and most of today’s students will only regurgitate what they hear from their professors rather than actually study something objectively…

    • If the seminaries taught sound Church History again, then maybe we might have young pastors who could both preach and teach again? But of course, one must believe in the authority of Holy Scripture, and in “spirit and truth”! But hey, I am over 60!

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      I’m really glad you guys (y’all) are looking into this aubject (Universalism), and with an open mind (I think). I do respect you for thinking about those subjects which less penetrating theologians dismiss with a couple of mis-interpreted scriptures and a wave of the hand. Keep it up! Brother Stumblefoot

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Let me suggest that only the Universalist or perhaps the Annihilationist (or a combination of the two), can survive unscathed, an encounter with Romans 9. When it is recognized that all the scary statements in that chapter do not have an eternal consequence, that ultimately God’s sovereignty is benevolent to all; then that makes all the difference in the universe.

      Also, the great debate between Calvinism and Arminianism
      shrinks to near/er zero, when Universalism is seen as the missing piece of the puzzle. Keep thinking!
      Brother Stumblefoot

    • If we are left with Universalism or Annihilationism, we might as well forget any true Gospel of Christ, even John 3: 16 runs these two into the ground of truth and logic, i.e belief and perish!

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert–
      Bro. Stumblefoot stumbles a lot and evidently he landed right in your path. I should have used the words “Evangelical Universalist,” i.e., “Gospel believing Universalists,” for such there are, and such there should be; at least as I see it. If you stumble around as i do, you will probably find some in your own denomination, and among your fellow clergy.

      The Evangelical Universalist (I rather prefer the term “Ultimate Reconciliationist.”) bases the whole reasoning on the events of the gospel. Without the atonement and the resurrection, there could be no reconciliation, and reconciliation implies the necessity of faith and submission to Jesus our Lord.

      While it is a thousand times better to believe now, before facing an after life judgment, the Bible does not really state that there is no hope for an after life reconciliation. Martin Luther evidently hoped there might be.

      But the Bible does seem surely to indicate that all will be reconciled (Ro. 11:15, 2 Cor 5:19, Col. 1:20), all will be justified (Ro. 5:18,19), and all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). And it also indicates that the purpose of God is “to seek and to save that which is lost,” (Lk. 19:10) and that “all should come to repentance” (2 Pe. 3:9). I know, I know, I read these verses all my life and it didn’t click, just like most Evangelicals today still read them and they don’t click. But surely they mean something, and if they don’t mean what they say, they why don’t they say what they mean? (I borrowed that last line from someone.)

      But surely, no rational person could wish an eternal hell, rather than a reconciliation of all mankind. If my thesis is correct, this is the greatest good news in the universe. The atonement and the reconciliation covers all! That would be more like our God; Do you recall years ago we used to sing a little chorus, “It’s just like Jesus…?”

      Bro. Stumblefoot

    • @Bro. Stumblefoot: Aye no Origen “Apocatastasis” for me! And I am something of a neo-Calvinist, and I do believe in God’s doctrine of “Reprobation”! Judas Iscariot… “the traitor” (Lk. 6: 16), was also never regenerate! (John 6: 70-71 ; as John 17:12). And Jesus Himself said of Judas: “good for that man if he had never been born!” (Matt. 14: 21) Quite amazing statement for one of the 12!

      WE simply cannot “wish” for something that God’s Word does not give! And btw, Theophilus (bishop of Antioch, late second century), called Origen “the hydra of heresies”. Though certainly Origen was brilliant, he was quite wrong on so many issues theological and biblical! But yes, a “seminal” thinker. (And today, we have/had several seminal and brilliant theological thinkers, who also are sadly wrong as to the biblical text. Old Clark Pinnock, NT Wright, to name a few).

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert-
      I’m glad to have stumbled into your path, never having been able to “interrogate” that many real live Neo-Calvinists before. I am attempting to assemble a profile on you; a rector i presume, definitely over 60 (me too), British, obviously educated, theologically conservative and living in somewhat faithful wedlock to the Church of England, the confessions, the creeds, and Calvinism in general. You may disabuse me of any misconceptions I might hold regarding the above.

      But I should be most grieviously shaken, if you were to eventually convince me that our God is like that; able, but unwilling to bring all (generally all, as I have stated elsewhere) to repentance and reconciliation. That He is arbitrary, that He is enough unconcerned for His created mankind, that He would initiate the human race, knowing full well that a huge percentage of them would end up in an eternal Hell. Theodicy is the issue here, it is a huge issue.

      Though I am unable to completely jettison all Calvinistic though in my own theology, I yet choke on the perception that seems to be painted by many Calvinists, that we dare not believe God is all that good! He is great, He is all powerful, all knowing, but extremely demanding, and has not well provided for the needs (spiritual needs) of the billions of souls He has created. That is the perception Calvinism presents to the world, or at least it is the perception I pick up.

      And then, when the Reconciliationist or the Annihilationist suggests that the Bible might indeed offer a hope beyond the grave (even if nothing more than annihilation), the Calvinist rushes in to make sure no one presumes God to be “all that good.” Could the Calvinist not at least hear out the basis for our hope, and not attempt to squelch it before we get everything on the table?

      Alas, i have spoken strongly. Please forbear while I reset my halo. Bro. Stumblefoot

    • Bro. Stumblefoot: Not to worry mate, your so-called strong language is not yet biblical or “theological”, but personally and popularly modeled. And indeed “perception” is rarely the place of truth!

      “Behold therefore (note the therefore looks back) the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shall be cut off.” (Rom. 11: 22) And then of course Romans 9!

      Indeed Theodicy, is man’s (Lebibniz, first) philosophical & theological effort to defend the goodness and omnipotence of God in the face of the suffering and evil of the world. Holy Scripture never “solves” this so-called problem, but it always maintains God’s traditional theism (HE Who Is), which is God’s own mystery of transcendence and immanence. Which we can see beautifully in St. Paul’s Letters especially! (Rom. 11: 36) Which btw both Augustine and Calvin grappled with this, as too somewhat Luther.

      Surely, the peace & goodness of God In Christ!

      Fr. Robert (Anglican)

      D. Phil., Th.D.

      … I am now semi-retired, and living right now in America with my wife (we are here mostly for her health issues, chronic COPD). We are Irish Brit’s! 😉

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert–
      Thank you for the gentle response to my overspill of passion in my last comment post. Keep this up and I may be inclined to remove your name from the 666 file, and put you simply on my “watch list.” (But humor is usually lost on you Brit’s, right?)

      It is so difficult to cover all the bases in a couple or so paragraphs. Let me begin by an attempt to answer certain points you have brought up.

      (1) Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and their difficulty with reprobation and the goodness of God. The short answer as I perceive it, is that of course there is a problem, and of course they would grapple with it, so long as they did not have the missing parts of the puzzle, an effectual love of God, and an ultimate reconciliation for all. And certainly the problem is not limited to those three scholars, it is a real stone wall to most any traditionalist who really thinks about it-seriously.

      (2) The reference to the severity of God, Ro. 11:22:
      God can be terribly “severe” without it being an eternal severity. He can bring terrible judgments without them being “eternal judgments.” God can “cut off” but He can also “graft in again.” The traditionalist seems to miss these points.

      (3) Judas: Would it have been better if he had not been born? This passage (plus some others) is why I do not rule out the possibility of anniniliation for some. But at any rate, Mark 14:21 might yet merit some further exegesis, I am stretched here between reconciliation and annihilation.

      (4) God has not revealed His reasons for reprobation (either direct reprobation or by default): Here the Calvinist takes refuge from his own dogma from which he cannot extricate himself. And to further secure his safety in this refuge, he admonishes all that there be no questioning into such matters. At least one or two recent writers have suggested Hell to be the destination of any who question the traditional view of it.
      I wish your wife much improved…

    • “Bro.”, let me suggest reading John Calvin, rather than “Calvinism”! I have the 7 Vol. ‘John Calvin, Tracts and Letters’, (Banner of Truth Trust). Also there are some more so-called modern works on Calvin, from T.F. Torrance’s book: Calvin’s Doctrine of Man (I have a signed copy myself. I met and heard him in England (back in the 80’s.. As I remember?) And there are several new books today, see: Calvin (historical and NOT a pop psychological bio), by Bruce Gordon, Yale University Press 397 pages with Index. And finally a few theological books: Calvin, Participation, and the Gift, The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, by J. Todd Billings, (Oxford, 2007/2009). And Calvin’s Latter, A Spiritual Theology Of Ascent And Ascension, (Eerdmans 2010), by Julie Canlis. But just indeed first reading John Calvin, himself!

      Note I am an Irish born (Dublin) Brit, so I have too my own form of humor! 😉 And I am too a retired RMC, Royal Marine Commando, (a so-called “mustang” – enlisted to officer, over 10 years active..the rest reserve.. save, the last was Gulf War 1). After I lived and taught in Israel in the late 90’s. A real providence for me, certainly!

      And finally, one cannot defeat so-called “Calvinism” with mere “ad hoc”! Note again, I am myself (as I said), a “neo-Calvinist”, which is always somewhat biblical-theological and creedal. But also somewhat “existential”! But simply can never remove the spiritual of the latter, as in reality Calvin himself did not! 🙂

    • Btw, see the book by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (American Anglican, rector), (died in the 90’s?) ‘The True Image, The Origin And Destiny Of Man In Christ’, (IVP, 1989). He is/was certainly Reformed, but also favored to degree, the idea of Annihilation.

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert- I ran out of space in my last post, so i will refrain from Calvin himself and continue my “rant” against Calvinism. I would also like to address the stepchild of Calvinism, Arminianism.

      What really gets my engine running of course is the joyful hope of a universal reconciliation for all mankind, something that says to the bereaved parent of a deceased prodigal that there is yet hope indeed! Traditionalism is a dead end street for these grieving souls.

      But both the Calvinist and the Arminian miss all this. The latter acknowledges at least that God greatly loves and desires all men to be saved, yet supposes He is unable to accomplish so great a need; while the Calvinist recognizes His ability to work repentance in the heart, but that He is not at all passionate to do so.

      The Arminian, with good intent, comes up with whatever theory he may to bring some sense to all this and to retain his view of theodicy. Their teaching that God respects man’s free will so much that He will allow said man to “go to Hell, if that is what he chooses,” just doesn’t make the grade. It is a noble attempt, but it just does not do the job.

      The Calvinist is faced with the non-resolvable problem of the monster God syndrome. If he really thinks about this
      difficulty, I believe he is left to these following options, possibly some others i may have overlooked.

      1: He can reject God altogether. Some have, regretfully.

      2. He can shift gears in his defense of omnipotence, and begin sounding like an Arminian. (Happens frequently)

      3. He too, like the Arminian, may invent escape theories which are difficult to take seriously, e.g., “Hell is locked from the inside.”

      4. He can drive himself crazy. William Cowper comes to mind.

      5. He can become hardened in his doctrine of reprobation, and lose all concern for the masses. A great loss!

      6. He can become Universalist, or at least Annihiliationist.
      The non-hidebound Calvinist sometimes does

    • Bro. Stumblefoot

      Hello James,
      I think I can help here. While most English Bible speak of Hell, the word is (except in two cases as i recall) a translation of one or the other of two Greek words, Geheena, or Hades. This begins to change the playing field about the concept of Hell.

      Geheena comes to us referring to a valley outside of Jeruslaem and is associated with idol worship, infant sacrifice, cremation of criminals,, and probably garbage burning.
      No one is in Geheena today; the casting into Geheena that our Lord spoke of occurred to some extent during the destruction of Jerusalem A.D. 70, and will occur again at some point in the last days. It is not a permanent, eternal destination of agonizing Hell.

      Hades, the other Greek word translated Hell, is sometimes used as a synonym for the grave, but probably better understood as being the abode of the dead. In pre-christian times, everyone went to Hades, saint and sinner alike, King David went there but he expected that God would not leave his soul there. Today, the saint goes into the presence of the Lord at death, the sinner yet goes to Hades, though this is not permanent eternity either. Death and Hell will one day be cast into the Lake of Fire.
      Hades seems to me (and I am not omniscient), to be some kind of prison, whether conscious or non-conscious, but nothing at all like Dante’s imagery brings to mind.

      The “Lake of Fire” mentioned above, is never referred to in the N. T. as Hell, though that is the concept most people have of Hell. Even this fire is not eternal; what is cast into fire is either destroyed, modified, or purified.

      The English translations in our Bible which speak of eternal suffering are actually translating the greek word
      “aion” or “aionios” as meaning “eternal.” This is where I think, the house of cards has to crumble. An aion is an age, it does not mean eternal if translated literally, and even if we give it a figurative meaning it refers to a quality of…

    • Jim Roane

      The Golden Text of the Bible is most certainly, John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And, we know that [verse 17] God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. # If William Barclay is right, then the word “perish” in this verse represents a real problem, since for something to perish, it seems to me that it ceases to exist; whereas, he claims otherwise. In either case, however, limited punishment is indicated. That is, if the wicked dead are annihilated, then that punishment is most surely of a limited duration, because it is all over after a while—yet, in this case there seems to be no logical reason to punish the wicket, other than annihilate them, if such punishment is not redemptive or remedial. And, if the Universalism of William Barclay is scripturally correct, then that remedial punishment is certainly within a time frame, and not for the type of eternality that only God possesses. How foolish of us to think that the soul of man possesses the eternal nature of God without possessing his spirit of regeneration within those of us who are His children. He alone is immortal. We mortal beings must take on immortality; it is a gift. (1 Timothy 6:16; 2Tim:1:10; John 3:16) My goodness, what else do we need to convince us of this? Listen to the inspired words of Paul in 1Tm:6:16; speaking of God, he says: Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. # 2Tim:1:10: But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Thus, we see that Jesus Christ brought immortality, and that it is not the ontological quality of man, to use philosophical terminology. Continued . . .

    • Jim Roane

      It is, however, a necessary quality of God, or He would not be God! At least Immanuel Kant was right about that, as was St. Thomas Aquinas before him.# Noted evangelical scholar, John R. W. Stott has this to say about Hell: “I question whether ‘eternal conscious torment’ is compatible with the biblical revelation of divine justice, unless perhaps the impenitence of the lost also continues throughout eternity.” Quoting Revelation 14:11, he continues: “And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever,” Stott went on to argue, “The fire itself is termed ‘eternal’ and ‘unquenchable’, but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which ‘rises for ever and ever.’” #The ultimate annihilation of the wicked, Stott added, “[Should] at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.” Further, Dr. Stott insisted that his opinion of hell was not based on his emotions alone. Stott reiterated this opinion some five years later, according to Timothy Dudley-Smith, his authorized biographer. “Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it… my question must be—and is—not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?”

    • Jim Roane

      Stumblefoot, you acquiesce too easily. I recommend a good dose of Molinism for Fr. Robert (Anglican). Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as Karl Barth, and including evangelical John Stott see it differently, and for good reasons, too. Check out Wm. Lange Craig, he’s available on YouTube as well as in the library. (:-

    • @Jim: I was raised Irish Roman Catholic, so I have read MM before, just a waste of time actually! Even then I was a Catholic Augustinian. Sorry mate, I am a neo-Calvinist Reformed now (many years, I’m 64 in Oct., wow..I am getting up there! If I make it? 😉 Btw Von B., Barth, John Stott, Craig, etc. etc., the list can go on, are hardly “presuppositional” to the Holy Scripture! Years back I read the whole corpus of Barth’s CD, I should get points for that! 😉 Btw, I have read Von. B. much also (well back in the 80’s)…his Theological Aesthetics! Note he was once a Jesuit (but left, thanks be to God!) And JS was a good man, but always lite, on theology! But Craig, now there’s a “thinker”, but like Wright (Tom), they both veer into a kind of scientific intellectualism! I seek a ‘Theological Biblicism’ myself! 🙂

    • ‘Law and Gospel’…Luther, Calvin, and the better top-tier Reformers!

      Btw, John 3: 16 in the original Greek is best… “For thus God loved the world (Kosmos= the world as created, ordered, and arranged.), that The Son, The Unique and Only One, that everyone believing ‘In Him’ my not perish, but have life eternal.”

    • I lived through the whole William Barclay era, a great man (a Scots btw), but an awful theologian! (His best work was on Greek Word studies, and I have his NT Translation). I read his official bio (years ago now), the loss of his daughter (in a boating accident) was tremendous, on him and his dear wife. She was never the same! I put both Barclay and John A.T. Robinson just about in the same place (actually Robinson was better biblically in my opinion), but both will be saved, yet so as by “fire”! (1 Cor. 3: 15) 😉 Btw, all of us (the Redeemed) will see the Bema-Seat!

    • Jim Roane

      I am impressed. Reading and understanding are 2 different things. I am not sure I understand everything I read; however, I do understand TULIP Calvinism and any modification thereof is still Calvinism as far as I am concerned. No way can I see a God who would condemn someone to Hell who has not had a fair shot at understanding the Good News. Perhaps, I am Socratic in that respect, but so be it. 😉

    • Jim Roane

      Concerning Bath (one of my favorites), have you read “The Use of Anaogy in Theological Discourse”-an investigation in Ecumenical Perspective by Fr. Joseph Palakeel? I find his coverage of von Balthasar, W. Kasper, E. Jungel, Karl Rahner, and K. Barth very interesting. He really simplifies their theologies of analogy very well. Barth and Germans in general have a tendency to be deep and profound but I sometimes get lost in the forest of verbage they all seem to love. One other point, or perhaps question: I thought von Balthasar was a secular Jesuit, i.e., didn’t wear the garb, but none-the-less was still in good standing. I particularly enjoyed his book: Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? By the way, what branch of Anglicism are you? I was just in Lincolnshire, UK, and attended Holy Trinity in Boston. Marvelous service. Charismatic but not the kooky kind. I live in the Dallas area. Just taught a graduate class in Kiev, Ukraine at Evangel Theological Seminary. Fantastic experience. Great students. All from the Pentecostal Union that covers all of the former Soviet Union countries, including, of course Russia.

    • @Jim: I am pretty much retired now, though I do some hospital chaplain work almost daily. I am a Irish Brit, or I guess now I would call myself something of an Anglo-Irish. (Note I too am a retired RMC officer – I was a “mustang” enlisted to officer, reserves Royal Marine Commando), my last full active service was in Gulf War 1). But I had over ten years active duty or service.

      My wife (an Irish Brit too) suffers from chronic COPD, we came to the US for her medical. We have been here off and on for several years (4 to 5?). I/we lived and taught in Israel, late 90’s. Note, I am somewhat an eclectic theologically, but most certainly a conservative. I am even an Historic Pre-Mill (post-trib), and pro-Israel, being something of a “Biblical” Zionist (with something within the Progressive Dispensational position). And my younger brother (51) is now an American citizen, and was an American Marine in the 80’s.

    • ‘In 1950, the Jesuits did not see running the secular institute as compatible with belonging to the Society of Jesus. So, von Balthasar had to choose between remaining a Jesuit and dropping the institute or keeping the institute and leaving the Jesuits. He joined the diocese of Chur as a Roman Catholic, diocesan priest. From the low point of being banned from teaching,[2] his reputation eventually rose to the extent that John Paul II asked him to be a cardinal in 1988. However he died in his home in Basel on 26 June 1988, two days before the ceremony.[3] Balthasar was interred in the Hofkirche cemetery in Lucern.’ (From the Wiki..

    • Jim Roane

      Yeah, I get the Wiki link explanation; however, it was my understanding that the Jesuits ‘allowed’ von Balthazar to cool his heels as a publisher while he worked out his theology; which, as you pointed out was commended by John Paul II. However, what you point out makes sense since he did join the diocese of Chur as a Roman Catholic, diocesan priest prior to the good pope’s invitation to become a Cardinal.

    • Jim Roane

      Back to von Balthazar. Interestingly enough his flirting with Universalism was based on a theology of works which never gave even the most devote much of a chance to have enough imparted grace to make it to Heaven without first going through some after death purifying process. It just seems that staunch Roman Catholics can never quite get the picture, or understand sola fidei—which is clearly taught in scripture, in my humble opinion.:-)

    • Jim Roane

      Neo-Calvinist? What in the world is that, Fr. Robert? What about just being an humble follower of Jesus. For when one says, “I follow John Calvin,” and another, “I follow Jacobus Arminius,” are you not acting like mere human beings? Why label yourself? Heavens! The Bible should be enough. Defend your theology by not hiding behind the cloak of some quaint theologian?

    • Wow Jim! Have you never read John Calvin or Martin Luther “themselves”? (And you teach theology?) I am not ashamed at all to call myself a neo-Calvinist! Theological definition is always important! Btw, when most of these guys here were playing in the sand-box, I was either doing theology (teaching it too), or off with the Royal Marine Commando’s! I hold both the D. Phil. (which I did on Luther’s Ontology of the Cross), and the Th.D. (Romans Studies, especially on chapter 7: 13-25)…holding Augustine’s classic second or later position.

      And btw, certainly neither Luther of Calvin were “quaint” theologians! 😉 Yes, I am most certainly Reformational and Reformed, for me anyway here is the depth of the great Pauline doctrine!

      See, “Calvin in Context”, (Second Edition now)…Oxford 2010, by David Steinmetz. Just a grand read!

      Btw Jim, I wrote another blog on another one of CMP’s or P&P’s blogs, but it appears hung in “moderation”? As to Paul as Misogynist.

    • Jim Roane

      I thought that would rile you up, dear Father. Back in the Marine Corps, eh? The point is, sola scriptura does not mean sola neo-Calvin, or anything else, other than, sola scriptura. Defend your own theology. Why hide behind Calvin, or Luther, or whomever? Yes, I teach New Testament theology and if one of my students rested his or her case on Calvin or Luther, I would flunk them.

    • @Jim: Aye, no more of that seminary teaching of even steven stuff for me! I am a most convinced Reformed guy, but again neo-Calvinist. And I am sure you know what a neo-Calvinist is! 😉 Besides reading Calvin and Luther, I am close to several more modern types, though I am not an American Calvinist for sure, though again I like a few American Reformed, John Frame, Mike Horton, and of course the great R.C. Sproul! But all of them are fallible, and yet the Top-tier Reformers were most certainly providential! (That’s the Reformation for sure!) And I am closer to being a ‘Calvin Calvinist’ (I will let you work on that one yourself!)…It does touch some with his Genevan Reformers, like both Theodore Beza, Calvin’s hand-picked successor, who lived to be 86 and into the early 17th century! As too one of my favorites, Francis Turretin. Btw, Turretin’s “Institutio” has become one of the great Reformed treasures! Yes, I love Reformed Divinity! Btw, I forgot to mention the great Richard Muller, perhaps the greatest historical Reformed scholar alive today! His book, from the Oxford Studies In Historical Theology: The Unaccommodated Calvin, Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition, is simply one of the greatest historical and theological works on Calvin yet seen! 🙂

      Btw, what is it your hiding from? We all stand on the shoulders of those theologians/theolog’s that have gone before us! I even read and know pretty-well the Wesley brothers! They were of course great Anglican Evangelicals! Yes, I am again a very certain historical Christian and “Churchman”!

      Btw, that’s one of the big problems of modernity & postmodernity… “our theology”! I am always something of the Creedal Anglican, with the great Nicene “homoousios”! And again, Luther stood here, in Christology that is always theocentric! I challenge you mate, without the first Five of the Ecumenical Councils, where is historical Christianity and divinity? 🙂

    • Btw Jim, I am a “Nam” Vet (over 10 months in the Tet of 1968), I was attached to the American Marine 3rd Force Recon Co., out of Pu Bai, as a RMC (I was 19 and 20 then, an enlisted man). In fact I turned 20 in Nam. IT never goes away, our days of living thru combat! Aye, I’ve got some PTSD still, but thank God He gives great mercies to this old Irishman!

      Can ya “flunk” that? We call it the experience of living!

    • Jim Roane

      Referencing: Your statement, “without the first Five of the Ecumenical Councils, where is historical Christianity and divinity?” I totally agree. Now tell which branch of the Church, am I?

    • Jim Roane

      Fr. Robert. PTSD? That’s not a crime, but it is a good opportunity for me to pray for you. My hat’s off to you, Pal. I, too, am a veteran. Navy. Meterology. So that tells you that combat was not my lot. Thank God for that. Incidentally, you’re not the only old codger on the block. I’ve got you bested by 10.

    • @Jim: Perhaps Presbyterian or Anglican? Note, I still like the Irish Articles 1615, old Archbishop James Ussher. Note too, I tend toward an Old Earth Creation, but I will never rule out some kind of Young Earth. We just don’t really know? As we don’t really know the age of the earth, either. My father (RIP) was a scientist and physicist, and of course followed Einstein. He was a moderate R. Catholic.

    • I am glad someone is older than I am, so many 20-30 crowd on the blogs it seems? This generation is certainly not mine! 😉

    • Brother Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert and Jim: You are a pair. And the surprises I keep getting from you almost leave me dizzy. I never thought I would see words like Conservative, Pauline,
      Dispensational, Bishop Ussher, and Anglican Priest, all in one paragraph, but here I have it both in print and personified in the Rector himself.

      And Jim, at first I thought you might be Unitarian but now I am debating between Elijah the Prophet and the Abominable Snowman. Just kidding, but I am curious as to where you are in the theological arena. Btw, you both do realize you’re getting a long way off from Universalism, which was the subject of this blog.

      Brother Stumblefoot

    • BS, that’s because there is NO “universalism” or Apocatastasis!

      Btw, Archbishop Ussher was an Irish Anglican, and Calvinist! Indeed there used to be many Anglican Calvinists, but there are still a few of us left today! 😉

      Just a personal point, but my Irish Greatgram was a PB, Plymouth Brethren. She had a great affect on me as it turns out!

    • Brother Stumblefoot

      Fr. Robert: Did I catch you correctly on those first two letters in your comment? Maybe they mean “Banana Sandwich,” but if you meant what it sounds like you meant, I rebuke you!

      We have “dumbed down” the culture, “dressed down” the culture, and “communicated down” the culture. And now “Cussin’ Preachers” almost look like the next fad.

      Again, I may have mis-translated your abbreviation, but if that is what you intended, my take is that you have dishonored your calling. Brother Stumblefoot

    • I just used the initials here is all, I was writing quickly! But I am Irish, and a cuss word can pop out now and then, especially on the blogs! But if I wanted to just say “Bull Shit”, I would have said it straight-out! I am no holier than thou type! 😉

    • Dr. Jay

      Clearly, scripture teaches that only God has immortality (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16) And, no, I am not a 7th Day Adventist! Why must we swallow Greek philosophy hook line and sinker, along with Aquinas, et al? There was a time when the soul, including the Devil (also a created being) did not exist, so what is so earth shattering if some souls along with the Old Scratch Himself and his angels cease to exist once again? Where in scripture do we get the notion that man, including his soul, has a Divine right to live on forever regardless of his condition? I thought that the Good News is that we have been given eternal life because of what Jesus has done for whosoever will accept his saving grace. What am I missing there?

    • Dr. Jay

      Brother Stumblefoot

      Word is that Jim is the Yeti. Shhhh . . . Elijah might be offended.

    • Francis

      In light of the recent “controversial” homily that suggests the possibility that atheists may be saved (which, as I learned later, is perfectly in line with Vatican II and with the CCC), I wonder if anyone want to comment on Christian inclusivism as part of a larger discussion on universalism?

    • Dr. Jay

      Brother Stumblefoot:

      For the record, I have it from a good source that Jim is not a Universalists (i.e., the belief that all will eventually be saved); although, he does entertain debate on Annihilism, and the best way to do that is play the devil’s advocate. Otherwise, we would all be rehashing the same theology over and over again. Surely, there must be a middle way to reach a common consesus. If not, then Christ’s prayer in in John 17 (esp. John 17:21) was in vain.

    • Dr. Jay

      48. Francis says:

      Francis, whoever you are, one of the best sources is Hans Urs von Balthasar’s book “Dare We Hope-That all men be saved” with a short discourse on Hell. He is not the first only Catholic theologian to comment on this, but is no doubt one of the most competent in recent memory. Have fun!

    • Dr. Jay

      The problem with the thought that even an atheist can be saved is that one must believe in Christ to be saved according to scripture. However, I think that perhaps the Catholic Universalists must have purgatory or a remedial Hell in mind when they make these statements. Again, the other problem with this remedial remedy is that it has a weak scriptural basis, and it, like Mariology has evolved down through the centuries. So, in my humble opinion, one of the next infallible ex cathedra pronouncement will be that yes even good Buddhists, Muslims and atheists will eventually be saved. The problem is with the word “good.” Scripture also teaches us that there is none good but God, and His efficacious grace in us to bring about salvation in and through Jesus Christ, our only Lord and Savior, for there is no other name, given among men, whereby we must be saved. So, unless one believe in Christ, I don’t see much hope. Really not any; but then I am not God, so I will have to let Him decided. (And, he will!) How’s that for orthodoxy?

    • As to Greek Philosophy and doctrine, Monad was their idea of the “ultimate” and “indivisible unit.” Thus as for Plato, Monad/Monads cannot begin or end except by creation or annihilation. But the soul for Plato cannot undergo any annihilation! Plato’s Monad is the souls “unique” reality. Leibiniz called monads as the basic unit of perceptual reality. Here was Aristotle’s and Plotinus, first being: God! Thus as Plato, intuition cannot be wholly wrong, but it also must live outside itself in a king of “Platonic Idea” – above and beyond in some reality of truth. Here was where a kind of Jewish Hellenism was seen by the Jewish thinkers. Certainly St. Paul was somewhat affected here, (Gal. 4: 1-7, etc.), (Acts 21: 39 ; 22: 3 ; as was the writer of the Book or Letter “exhortation” to the Hebrews (Heb. 13: 22).

    • Brother Stumblefoot

      Francis and Dr. Jay: Since you didn’t ask me, then I’ll go ahead and tell you; fair enough and in accordance with Stumblefoot logic?

      The Evangelical Universalist believes both positions are correct, but I’m trying to be tricky with the answer.

      I. We believe that even the atheist will be ultimately saved.

      II. We believe that no one will be saved who does not believe.

      III. Therefore, to make these two propositions work together, we believe God will ultimately bring the atheist to
      truth and submissive faith.

      But I will at the moment tread easy here, it may be that there will be some exceptions and that the said exceptions will be annihilated, I’m not sure.

      However, if we believe God is sovereign (and we do), and if we believe that when God sets His hand to do something, then He will in fact do and complete the task (and we believe that):

      Therefore: When we read “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Lk19:10), can we suppose He has set His hand to a certain task but wil fail to bring it to fruition? And of course 2nd Peter 3:9 makes an equally or even stronger case, “Not purposing” any to perish, but “purposing” (Yeah, that is the intent of the verse) that all will come to repentance.

      The traditionalist is just not aware of the warehouse of arguments the Universalist has. I’m glad you asked me(???). Brother Stumblefoot

    • Btw, the so-called true “traditionalist” is always aware of the antinomian nature of Universalism. The loss of the Moral Law Of God is tremendous in both modernity and postmodernity!

    • Dr. Jay

      Stumblefoot, I think you must have your foot in your mouth on this one. What planet did you step off of to suggest that the Greek even romotely indicates taht the word should be “proposing” instead of “willing”? Check it out; it’s not there.

    • Brother Stumblefoot

      Jay-
      Stumblefoot may not be the sharpest puppy in the litter but he didn’t make that mistake! I didn’t say “propose,” I said “purpose.” Big difference, eh wot?

      As I recall, it was perhaps 30-35 years ago that I first read a column by Harold J.. Berry, (Greek Scholar) in which he made a distinction between “thelo” in 1Tim. 2:4, and “boulomai” in 2 Peter 3:9.

      I have re-checked a couple of lexicons and the one I quote here has lost the outer cover over the years and I cannot tell you who edited it, but it gives the following definitions for boulomai: to be willing, disposed, to intend, to desire,
      to choose, be pleased, to will, decree, appoint,
      I could wish.

      But I don’t wish to alienate you Jay, I can “handle” anninilationism, which is where i perceive you to be. We non-traditionalists need all the friends we can hang on to, there don’t seem to be many out there.
      Brother Stumblefoot

    • James-the-lesser

      Theological Word of the Day: Universalism (August 20th, 2013) you stated that ”This is the doctrine that states all people of all time will be saved by being reconciled to God and go to heaven, whether or not faith is professed in Jesus Christ in this life. There are a few variations of this teaching that accept “hell” as a real place, but all Universalists unequivocally agree that no person will ever go there.” This is simply not true. Most Biblical Universalist, I know, believe that “hell” will be destroyed (annihilated) in the Lake of Fire along with all those who remain there (i.e., “those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life). (Revelation 20: 14-15)

    • andy

      I would like to see more blogs dealing with the wider hope. One of the things that started me thinking about universal salvation is the number of “conversions” that seem to be based upon fear of hell. This played a part in my history, I first believed that I needed to be saved after a discussion of the end times and hell. Now, in terms of evangelism, I’ve thought, is Hell really our strongest argument? Consider this scenario: We go to someone and say, “Here is our message… This is not a coercion. You don’t have to agree with me… But if you don’t… you will die (eternally, in incredible pain and torment). So… your choice.” Is that really the best we have?

    • cherylu

      Andy, the New Testament certainly has an emphasis on “repent or perish.” That being the case, how can we fail to give people the same message? Should the ultimate destiny of people not be of utmost concern?

    • Woodrow Nichols

      Not rightly dividing the Bible by believing it’s all true with no contradictions is preordained to hold all the false and untrue parts of it over the true parts. There is no arguing rationally with Hick’s distinctive approach to Univeralism because only it is true in preserving God’s righteousness. You can reach me at antinomianuniversalism.com

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