Universalism 101

Today: A brief introduction to universalism. Next Post: We look at what Paul’s letters may have to say about universalism.

Universalism is the belief that all people, whether Christian or non-Christian, will ultimately live in God’s new creation.

Do universalists believe in hell? Yes. In fact, universalists believe that most people will eventually find themselves in hell. The question for the universalist is not whether hell exists, but whether hell is eternal.

For the universalist, hell is not an ultimate, eternal destination, but a necessary layover for those who refuse to die to themselves during their lives in this world. Hell is a refiner’s fire, a place where things that are self-centered and evil can be burned away, perfecting us and turning us into people that truly reflect the image of God. In the universalist way of thinking, everything that is good in each of us will be saved, and everything that is evil will be destroyed – suffering the “second death” in the garbage dump outside of God’s kingdom.

That is the short version, at least. I’m sure some people will vary on the details – but the general features are: (1) hell as a “refining process” after death and (2) an assurance that everyone will eventually be redeemed.

The down-side to universalism is that there is virtually no support in scripture for the idea that people can “return” from hell. The positive side of universalism is that there are some seemingly strong passages in Paul’s letters which suggest that “all people” will ultimately be saved.

In the next post, we’ll look at a few of those texts.

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4 Responses to Universalism 101

  1. curtis says:

    looking forward to you diving into those texts… This is something I’ve been reading about and looking into for a little while now. Most people are scared to talk about this topic (with reason, I guess), so I’m glad to find someone who shares my desire to wade through it, in the hopes that maybe God will show us His Truth at the end of the tunnel. Whatever that Truth may be.

  2. Thurman8er says:

    Very interesting stuff. I have decided recently to chuck most of what I have “always thought was right” and start from scratch. It’s amazing how little of what I have believed is truly what it says. There is so much speculation about so many things.

  3. Richard says:

    Matt,
    I’ve been following your posts on Universalism. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go. BTW, Bill Rankin is also partial to Universalism. So, there are at least three of us at Highland. Are there any more? Should we out them here?!

  4. Matt says:

    Thurm-
    I think thats the wonderful side of evangelicalism – a commitment to the text means that you are constantly going back, re-thinking your views and testing them against scripture. I’m glad my own reflections as I do the same thing are helping.

    Richard-
    You’re my inspiration. I loved your series on Universalism – it actually helped to gel my thinking in two or three important ways.

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