Universalism is the theological view arguing that all persons will ultimately be saved. Some also teach that there is no such thing as a literal hell or eternal punishment. Universalism has been asserted at various times in different contexts throughout the history of the Christian church.


"Belief in universal salvation is at least as old as Christianity itself and may be associated with early Gnostic teachers. The first clearly universalist writings, however, date from the Greek church fathers, most notably Clement of Alexandria, his student Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa. Of these, the teachings of Origen, who believed that even the devil might eventually be saved, were the most influential. Numerous supporters of final salvation were to be found in the postapostolic church, although it was strongly opposed by Augustine of Hippo. Origen's theology was at length declared heretical at the fifth ecumenical council in 553."^[1]^

Unitarian Universalism

"As an organized religious movement, universalism dates from the late 1700s in America, where its early leaders were Hosea Ballou, John Murray, and Elhanan Winchester. As a form of religious liberalism, it has had close contacts with Unitarianism throughout its history. The Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association merged in 1961 to form a single denomination - the Unitarian Universalist Association."^[2]^

Unitarians, denying the Trinity, stressed the unity of God and nature, the humanity of Jesus, and the inherent goodness in humanity. Universalists, by comparison, agreed with the humanity of Jesus but had a strong focus on the concept of universal salvation, and a benevolent God who offers hope to all. Both of these approaches, merged in Unitarian Universalism, are in direct opposition to the trinitarian nature of God and the doctrine of original sin.

Universal reconciliation

"Universal reconciliation" is the position that all of mankind will ultimately be saved through Christ whether or not faith is professed in him in this life. While most proponents may adhere to many tenets of traditional Christianity, they uniformly claim that God's qualities of love, goodness, and sovereignty require that all people will ultimately be saved and that eternal punishment is a false doctrine. Salvation is not from hell, but from sin. Advocates of this view take verses such as 1 Timothy 2:6 and 1 John 2:2 literally, explaining that Christ took away sins of the "whole" world such that there remains no basis for condemnation. This is also based on the belief that a loving God would not submit any person, regardless of their sins, to everlasting torment, but would instead reform them. This is a belief held by some protestant denominations. An extension of this, called "strong universalism", holds that no person, even the greatest sinner, is sent to Hell, and therefore Hell does not need to exist.

Some proponents do believe that there is a physical, literal Hell in existence, but that Hell is only for the reformation of the sinners. Hell, though real, "will be remedial and corrective rather than just punishment for punishment's sake."^ [3]^


  1. D. B. Eller, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary
  2. Casara, ed., Universalism in America, 1984
  3. Carlton Pearson, p. 2

See also

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