Universal reconciliation


Universal reconciliation

portal|Christianity

Universal reconciliation, also called universal salvation or sometimes simply universalism, is the Christian doctrine or belief that all will receive salvation due to the love and mercy of God. This is the main belief that distinguishes Christian Universalism from other forms of Christianity. Universal reconciliation states that all people will eventually experience salvation, and most forms of the doctrine assert that the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the mechanism that provides reconciliation for all humankind and atonement for all sins. This concept is distinct from Unitarian Universalism.

Universal reconciliation is intimately related with the problem of Hell. There are various beliefs and views concerning the process or state of salvation, but all universalists conclude that it ultimately ends in the reconciliation and salvation of all mankind.

The belief in the eventual salvation of all humankind has been a topic of debate throughout the history of the Christian faith. In the early Church, universalism was a flourishing theological doctrine [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc12.u.ii.html The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96; retrieved April 29, 2007. “In the West this doctrine had fewer adherents and was never accepted by the Church at large. In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional mortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.”] * Seymour, Charles. "A Theodicy of Hell". p. 25. Springer (2000). ISBN 0792363647. * Ludlow, Morwenna. "Universal Salvation: eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner". Pp. 1-2. Oxford University Press (2000). ISBN 0198270224.] . Over time, as Christian theology experienced growth and expansion, it lost much of its popular acceptance. Today, most Christian denominations reject the doctrine of universal reconciliation.

History

Early history

Various theologians, including Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the 3rd century, St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century, and St. Isaac the Syrian in the 7th century, expressed universalist positions in early Christianity.Fact|date=May 2008 Though Gregory of Nyssa was a known universalist, he was never condemned. He was additionally declared "the father of fathers" by the seventh ecumenical council. [cite web|url=http://www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/nextpage.asp?m=2188|title=www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/nextpage.asp?m=2188 |accessdate=2007-05-20 * Schmithals, Walter. "The Theology of the First Christians". Pp 85-88. Westminster John Knox Press (1998). ISBN 0664256155.] [cite web|url=http://www.thefreelibrary.com/St.+Gregory+of+Nyssa-a0126313737|title=www.thefreelibrary.com/St.+Gregory+of+Nyssa-a0126313737 |accessdate=2007-05-20 * cite web|url=http://www.iep.utm.edu/g/gregoryn.htm|title=www.iep.utm.edu/g/gregoryn.htm |accessdate=2007-05-20]

Modern universalists claim that universalism was the primary doctrine of the church until it was forcibly stamped out by the Catholic Church in the sixth century. Four of the six theological schools of thought in ancient Christendom supported universalism, and only one supported eternal damnation. Additionally, theological thought appears more varied before the strong influence of Augustine, who forcefully denied universal salvation. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc12.u.ii.html The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96; retrieved April 29, 2007. “In the West this doctrine had fewer adherents and was never accepted by the Church at large. In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional mortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.”] * Seymour, Charles. "A Theodicy of Hell". Pg 25. Springer (2000). ISBN 0792363647. * Ludlow, Morwenna. "Universal Salvation: eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner". Pp 1-2. Oxford University Press (2000). ISBN 0198270224.] Some claim Augustine's rejection of the doctrine was an unwarranted side-effect of Platonist pagan philosophy, rather than a conclusion based on his study of the Scriptures.

Origen and a form of apocatastasis were condemned in 544 by the Patriarch Mennas of Constantinople and the condemnation was ratified in 553 by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Many heteroclite views became associated with Origen, and the 15 anathemas against him attributed to the council condemn a form of apocatastasis along with the pre-existence of the soul, animism, a heterodox Christology, and a denial of real and lasting resurrection of the body. Some authorities believe these anathemas belong to an earlier local synod. [Von Balthasar, Hans Urs & Greer, Rowan A. "Origen". Pg 3. Paulist Press (1979). ISBN 0809121980. * cite web|url=http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.ix.html|title=www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.ix.html |accessdate=2007-05-20 * cite web|url=http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.viii.html|title=www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.viii.html |accessdate=2007-05-20] It should also be noted, the Fifth Ecumenical Council has been contested as being an official and authorized Ecumenical Council, as it was established not by the Pope, but the Emperor because of the Pope's resistance to it. It should also be noted that the Fifth Ecumenical Council addressed what was called "The Three Chapters" [cite web|url=http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14707b.htm|title=Three Chapters|work=Catholic Encyclopedia|publisher=New Advent|accessdate=2007-09-04] and was against a form of Origenism which truly had nothing to do with Origen and Origenist views. In fact, Popes Vigilius, Pelagius I (556-61), Pelagius II (579-90), and Gregory the Great(590-604) were only aware the Fifth Council specifically dealt with the Three Chapters and make no mention of Origenism or Universalism, nor spoke as if they knew of its condemnation even though Gregory the Great was opposed to the belief of universalism. [cite web|url=http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11306b.htm|title=Origen and Origenism|work=Catholic Encyclopedia|publisher=New Advent|accessdate=2007-09-04]

"Apocatastasis" is considered in modern times to refer to Origen's doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. However, until the mid-sixth century, the word had a broader meaning. While it applied to a number of doctrines regarding universal salvation, it also referred to a return, both to a location and to an original condition. Thus, the Greek word's application to universalist theology was originally broad and metaphorical. [Ludlow, pp. 39-42]

Christian universalists in History

"In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional mortality (annihilationism); one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked”. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc12.u.ii.html The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96; retrieved April 29, 2007. “In the West this doctrine had fewer adherents and was never accepted by the Church at large. In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional mortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.”] * Seymour, Charles. "A Theodicy of Hell". p. 25. Springer (2000). ISBN 0792363647. * Ludlow, Morwenna. "Universal Salvation: eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner". Pp. 1-2. Oxford University Press (2000). ISBN 0198270224.]

There has been a number of prominent and influential Church Fathers and Church leaders throughout Christian history who have held to the belief of Universal Reconciliation in and through Christ Jesus. Though disagreement will arise on the basis of subjectivity of interpretation of their beliefs, many men have expressed in writing and witness accounts, the hope of Universal Reconciliation at some time in their religious walk. [cite web|url=http://www.tentmaker.org/tracts/Universalists.html|title=Universalist Thought Through Church History|accessdate=2008-04-11]

Universalist revival

The Reformation era witnessed a rekindled interest in the theological doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. Figures such as Erasmus rekindled interested in the Greek Church Fathers. Historically early advocates of universalism, such as Origen, became more broadly known as new editions of their writings were published. The period between the Reformation and Enlightenment featured extended debates about salvation and hell. [Ludlow, pp. 2-3]

A German Christian, Hans Denck converted to universalism in the sixteenth century. Hans Hut was deeply influenced by Denck and spread the doctrine of universalism. The teaching spread from Germany. Universalism was notably present in England by the seventeenth century. Universalism was brought to the American colonies in the early eighteenth century by the English physician George de Benneville, attracted by Pennsylvania's Quaker tolerance. North American universalism was active and organized. This was seen as a threat by the orthodox, Calvinist Congregationalists of New England such as Jonathan Edwards, who wrote prolifically against universalist teachings and preachers. [Seymour, Charles. "A Theodicy of Hell". Pp. 30-31. Springer (2000). ISBN 0792363647.]

Recent developments

Vatican, April 7, 2008, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna in his presentation at the First World Apostolic Congress of Divine Mercy, argued that God's mercy is so great that He does not condemn sinners to everlasting punishment. The Orthodox understanding of hell, Bishop Hilarion said, corresponds roughly to the Catholic notion of purgatory.cite news|url=http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=57674|title=Divine Mercy congress ends-- spiced by theological disagreement|last=Lawler|first=Phil|date=2008-04-07|publisher=Catholic World News|accessdate=2008-04-08]

On May 17, 2007, the Christian Universalist Association was founded at the historic Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. [http://www.christianuniversalist.org/events/foundingmeeting.html] This was a move to distinguish the modern Christian Universalist movement from Unitarian Universalism and to promote ecumenical unity among Christian believers in universal reconciliation.

In 2005 Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, reiterated that Universal Salvation was entirely compatible with Catholic teaching cite web|url=http://www.romancatholicism.org/cormac-apokatastasis.htm|title=Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor Speaks of His Hope for Universal Salvation|publisher=Romancatholicism.org|accessdate=2007-10-16] and expressed his personal hope for universal salvation.

Bishop Carlton Pearson received notoriety in 2004 when he was officially declared a heretic by the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops. Bishop Pearson, who had attended Oral Roberts University, a conservative Christian teaching institution, formally declared his belief in the doctrine of universal salvation. His church, called New Dimensions, adopted the doctrine. [cite news|url=http://www.washtimes.com/news/2004/apr/20/20040420-104557-5370r/|title='Inclusionism' deemed heresy|date=2004-04-21|work=The Washington Times|accessdate=2007-05-27]

Evangelicals and related Christian denominations have published extensively against universalism in recent decades, defending the doctrine of perpetual Hell. [cite web|url=http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/01-05/02-6.htm|title=UNIVERSALISM IN PRESENT DAY THEOLOGY|last=Climenhaga|first=Arthur|publisher=Northwest Nazarene University|accessdate=2007-08-10]

Roman Catholic and Orthodox teaching

Catholicism, unlike most other forms of Christianity, asserts the existence of purgatory. In theological terminology, "purgatory" is a separate and distinct term from "hell". It is possible to loosely describe purgatory as "a temporary hell", or as "a temporary period in hell", but these statements would, according popular consensus among Roman Catholics, be using Catholic terminology incorrectly.

As the Catholic Church teaches that Christians must believe in the existence of hell, it has been the standard belief of Catholics that certain people go to hell. For Roman Catholicism, the doctrine of universal reconciliation is considered heterodox, albeit they do believe in purgatory, and it is accepted by some of the clergy as compatible with current church teaching.

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna, in April 9, 2008, in his presentation at the First World Apostolic Congress of Divine Mercy at the Vatican, argued that God's mercy is so great that He does not condemn sinners to everlasting punishment. The Orthodox understanding of hell, Bishop Hilarion said, corresponds roughly to the Catholic notion of purgatory.

References

ee also

*Christian Universalism
*apokatastasis
*Problem of Hell
*Unitarian Universalism
*Universalism
*Traditionalist School

External links

* [http://www.tentmaker.org Tentmaker Ministries] An extensive online library concerning Universal Reconciliation.
* [http://www.biblicaluniversalist.com/index.html Biblical Universalism: Universal Salvation as Taught in the Greek Text of the New Testament] – Articles and sermons from historic universalists like Gregory of Nyssa, Charles Chauncy, and Elhanan Winchester.
* [http://www.carm.org/universalism.htm Christian Apologetics, response to Universalism.]
* [http://www.christianuniversalist.org/ The Christian Universalist Association]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15181a.htm Catholic article regarding Universalism]
* [http://www.studentoftheword.com Student of the Word] Craig Nolin's website with various articles concerning Universal Reconciliation
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01599a.htm Catholic article regarding Apocatastasis]
* [http://www.mercifultruth.com Articles detailing universal salvation]
* [http://www.modernchristianministries.org/srindex.htm Various studies in Sytematic Reconciliation, TURA, and Biblical Universalism]


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