The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Are the 19th Century Universalist Scholars Taught in Seminary or Soteriology?

I’ve been reading Beecher and Hansen from the 1800s. Beecher’s book History of Opinions on the Scriptural Doctrine of Retribution is an excellent evaluation of the Early Church’s Universal Restoration beliefs. He quotes several other scholars on the subject who agree, such as Dr. Barclay. He also mentions how no one in mainstream Christianity nor in scholars’ circles were picking up on the Universalism of the Early Church, as if he feared the belief would very likely die out as a result.

With the solid evidence he gives (dare I say irrefutable), including a full history of the word aion and the solid evidence found in the Apostles Creed, one would think this would be taught in great detail in soteriology courses or seminary. But I get the distinct impression it’s not. Am I correct about that? If those scholars are taught in soteriology courses, are their books and dissertations simply not well represented? Just trying to figure out how so many works and such good evidence got pushed to the side and forgotten or marginalized.

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And a hearty AMEN to what you draw attention to.
Strangely and provocatively, those 19th century writers - where I spend most of my time, most recently (the past 8 years or so) with an in-depth study of William Ellery Channing, the most gifted and perhaps wisest man I’ve read alongside 19th century guy George MacDonald - those writers had a clarity and fundamental honesty that is breathtaking compared to moderns. Their moral philosophy alone is a towering - their Universalism had nothing to do with sloppy morality, or hiding behind ‘imputed righteousness’, or thinking that our characters in this life have nothing to do with the next.
I’m preparing a post as we speak, on that last issue - the importance of this life (not our beliefs, our theologies, no - what we actually become) for the next.
Thanks Brian. I think you are coming from the right place on this.

It is interesting that modern scholars tend to mock these guys. We had a crass independent scholar on these forums a year ago that flat out said these guys were wrong, because of so much scholar advancement in the last 100 years.

This is where I get to be harsh. Scholars are intellectual hacks when it comes their dogmatic assertions. They are nothing more than knowledgeable people that have opinions on things they have not actually witnessed. To be fair, they can’t. The past is gone. I just wish the arrogant ones would be honest enough to explain to people what they already know: “I think, because of xyz, that”. That’s it. It comes down to filtering what we know (better stated as “what we think we know”) from the past. There is nothing truly scientific about it. No one was there, no one knows for sure. All we have are theories and often scant evidence to support them.

I mean, if we are honest about it… Scholars are just people who read a lot, study a lot and form opinions on things that really have no verifiable answer.

By and large I agree.
There are some True scholars around, and some not around but have works extant. But I get pretty tired of the overly dogmatic ones.

BTW, I love the 19th century scholars. I think they make their case far better than modern scholars.

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Academic arrogance really is an issue today. The level of schooling in the 1700s, 1800s is astonishing, and I doubt very few PhD’s know on average a 4th of what they did.

Just like what my mom says to me… High school in the 60s is what college is today. The first 4 years, at least.

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Yeah she’s right. And even more surprising - I saw and posted a high school exam from our 1930’s - I could not do it. It called for an amazing amount of knowledge. I think Paidion was the only one who had a clue on some of that stuff.

Thank God I’m not the only one! I agree, the 19th Century scholars put modern scholars to shame. They were absurdly well-educated and well-read with a shrewd logic you rarely find nowadays.

That was well put about scholars being intellectual hacks. I get so frustrated when they write books pushing their dogma as if it’s an irrefutable fact rather than being objective and balanced. I sit there with my jaw dropped, thinking, “How could you have missed the obvious arguments that invalidate your dogma? Aren’t scholars supposed to be able to think from many different perspectives and read all of the literature out there in there field of study so they’re well informed? And what happened to objectivity?”

I’m no scholar but I can spot a lack of objectivity a mile away. The second I hear a scholar saying he knows the truth about something instead of sharing the different perspectives on it, I can’t help but wonder what the heck our seminaries are teaching nowadays.

I just posted the question I asked in this thread on Quora and got horrible answers from a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister, neither of which had ever read the 19th Century scholars. They had virtually no knowledge of Universalism, yet responded as if they knew the truth and I was an ignorant moron. They didn’t even try to answer the question. And a third guy responded with an answer that basically was utterly insulting. He built a straw man argument and claimed that my question was making a false assumption, which invalidated everything else I stated on the subject from there on out. I told him that was like a janitor telling an engineer, “Since I don’t know these ‘experts’ you’re referencing, your arguments and knowledge on the subject are all invalid.” It was like a lawyer getting his guilty client’s charges dropped on a technicality.

The difference in the response from them as opposed to you guys who are educated on this subject is like night and day.

So would you say the fact that Universalism in the 1800s never caught on in seminaries or mainstream Christianity is likely the reason it died out and was forgotten?

I’m very curious if the 19th Century Early Church scholars are taught in soteriology courses nowadays. I highly doubt it.

I also want to add that a scholar is a very broad term. You could be a scholar that specializes in Abrahamic religions, or ancient Greece of certain periods. A historian of certain empires… A scholar in Greek usage, or Chinese. I mean, there are hundreds of categories to study that would make you a scholar.

Then you have recognized scholars - they paid money to an institution, studied what they were told to study, using the course work that the professor specified. If these people stay largely within orthodoxy of the given school, they may be accepted into a PhD program and press on to be another disciple of that school of thought.

Then there are independent scholars who may not have any credentials, and yet may actually be more knowledgeable in a wide range of topics, and may see the “bigger picture” better. Or they may be frauds…

In regards to arrogance, it is very typical for a PhD scholar, on a given position, to mock someone else based on their lack of credentials. I mean, I understand that credentials are indeed a way to tell someone “I should be knowledgeable in this area” and yet, just from my experience in my field (non-academic, IT) I see people with many certificates that state they are capable, and yet they lack some very basic reasoning skills. Their deductive reasoning, ability to think outside the box, non existent. They can’t analyze, and they make for poor IT people. Yet, most of them are schooled, at least formally, much greater than I am, but they can’t solve the complex problems and struggle with intermediate ones. On paper, these guys should Trump me, but it doesn’t happen. Additionally, lest I come off as arrogant, it is more confidence. It isn’t that I think I am the best, but I definitely rank myself as one of the best in my field, at least in the IT generalist administrator role and am capable of specializing in certains area if needed, on the fly. IMO, the ability to self teach Trumps formal education. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive - you can have both! But both are not required.

On my phone all week, and it capitalizes stuff and makes a lot of typos. Just an FYI.


Here’s that link to a 1912 EIGHTH GRADE TEST.

Very many of HS grads cannot read at even the 6th grade level upon graduation, nor are they required to. Shameful.



That’s awesome.

That’s good to know. You make some great points.