Links on Universalism

It’s been a couple of years now since I’ve officially “come out” as a universalist.  For those who don’t speak theology what that means (in the negative) is that I don’t believe in hell.  In positive terms, it means that I believe God will save every person.

This post is not the place where I will offer a full biblical, theological, and philosophical defense of this position.  That’s for another day.  What I want to do here is draw my readers’ attention toward a few online links to resource websites where Christian universalism is experiencing something of a revival in recent years.  Christian universalism went dormant for a while after the Universalist Church of America merged with the American Unitarian Association in 1961.  More recently, it has received a renewed energy of attention among Christians in mainline (and a few evangelical) denominations.

Websites

The Christian Universalist Association
http://www.christianuniversalist.org/
This is the only attempt I am aware of to revive universalism on a denominational level.

Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship
http://uuchristian.org/
Christian subgroup within the Unitarian Universalist Association.

UniversalistChurch.net
http://universalistchurch.net/
Historical documents and hymn texts related to the old Universalist Church of America.

Hymns of the Spirit Three
http://www.hos3.com/hos3/
Classic universalist hymn texts.

Books (links to Amazon.com)

Philip Gulley & James Mulholland. If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

Gregory MacDonald.  The Evangelical Universalist

Sharon L. Baker.  Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Ever Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment

Rob Bell.  Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

Thomas Talbott.  The Inescapable Love of God

Brad Jersak & Nik Ansell.  Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem

These last three books are not, strictly speaking, universalist in theology, but they provided me with certain foundational values that led me toward universalism in my own journey:

Brian D. McLaren.  The Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity

Wm. Paul Young.  The Shack

Brennan Manning.  The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, and Burnt-out

9 thoughts on “Links on Universalism

  1. Good post – thanks for the links. Always been a Universalist myself, raised in a family that didn’t believe in hell. When you talk with many Presbyterian ministers, this is a common belief, but rarely discussed in our chuches. Living in the Midwest, love to see posts like this to remind me I am not alone!

    1. You’re right: universalism is here and it’s widespread but not talked about. I’m hoping to change that.
      Part of the problem, I think, is in the way that well-intentioned people are trying to “shun all labels” like “evangelical” and “liberal”. This is an admirable aspiration, but one that I think is misguided. What it creates is an ill-defined, generic, and shrinking middle ground that all sides are fighting over. My hope is that we would embrace who we are and be public about it, but think hard about how we relate to each other. I would rather be known as a liberal Christian who loves and respects evangelicals. I want to make room in my denomination for those who are different from me, provided that I am afforded that same freedom.

      1. Well, personally, I’m perfectly happy to be labeled a “liberal” Christian anymore. The alternative is . . . distressing, to say the least. It seems that for many years, all Christians are labeled “conservative/fundamentalist” whether we like it (or are it) or not. That It has led to a situation where people everywhere seem to bend over backwards to be “open minded” toward every other religion, except Christianity, and they base it on on this misperception that we’re all conservatives.

  2. J.B., thanks so much for this, I have now read about 90% of the website for the Christian Universalist Association and just submitted an application for membership and made a donation. I agree with you that it is good to “embrace who we are and be public about it,” while remaining tolerant and respectful of those who differ, although as you know being public about things like Universalism can cost us dearly. In the Deep South where I live, if a person such as myself uses the word “God” comfortably in a sentence, many people assume that they not only know my theology – they think they also know my politics! It constantly amazes me…Anyway, good to know about this organization. As usual, your blogs are very valuable to me. Blessings to you and to your family. GT~

  3. Nicolas

    Christian Greetings JBL!

    I got here by means of my Google Alert for “Christian Universalism” !

    I too am one of this new revival within Christianity, and what a blessing it is.
    Like you I’m always gently trying to get people talking about this.

    You say you “don’t believe in Hell”. Although I suspect that you are talking about the “traditional” teaching on Hell, I wonder if this stand-a-lone statement scares traditionalist Christians when they first hear it. Do they immediately think that you reject all judgement and punishment?

    So I’d just like to hear your view on that, or you can point me to another page of your site.

    Blessings.

    NT

  4. Excellent question, NT.
    I say “I don’t believe in hell” because it’s the simplest and most direct way to explain universalism to folks who are not as theologically inclined as myself. What I mean (in theological terms) is that I do not agree with the doctrine that there is an afterlife location where human beings endure unending conscious torment as punishment for their sins.
    I plan to one day write another blog post where I get into the biblical, theological, and philosophical reasons why I don’t accept this idea.
    For now, I’ll just say I do believe that we will be held accountable for our actions in this life. My thoughts on this matter have been shaped by the theory of restorative justice, where reconciliation, not punishment, is the final goal of justice. Restorative justice reconciles the apparent schism between justice and mercy. The relationship is not either/or but both/and. You cannot have one without the other.
    This view of justice has powerful implications, not only for our theology, but also for the way we run our society. I believe that there will be something like a final judgment for this world, but I believe it will look less like a military court martial and more like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

  5. My grandmother was a little 4’11” Brooklynite who attended a VERY reformed temple. In a quiet moment she said to me, “Bobbele, there is no heaven or Hell. We Jews do not believe in that sort of thing. I do believe there is an afterlife, and everyone goes there. For me, it will be Heaven: sitting on a park bench in the warm spring sun, feeding the pigeons, reading a little in my romance novels, talking in Yiddish or German to the nice young man sitting with me. For Hitler, sitting next to me, listening to me prattle on and on about my cousins in Berlin and Leipzig, it will be Hell!” I love my Bubbe!

  6. Nicolas

    Thank you JBL for your kind and very full reply.

    I esp like your “Restorative justice reconciles the apparent schism between justice and mercy.”

    And your Reconciliation Commission analogy!

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