The Evangelical Universalist Forum

History of universalism in protestant churches

I’m searching some article about history of universalism in protestant churches.

Thx! :slight_smile:

[tag]Sobernost[/tag], our resident history buff, might be able to help you on that one :slight_smile:

[tag]Sobornost[/tag], actually. (It’s an old term from the patristic universalists.)

Hopefully that will summon him and he’ll direct to the proper threads. He’s super-awesome and has written AN ABSOLUTE TON of interesting research on it already. :smiley:

Sorry, must have misspelled :blush:

Thanks for the thumbs up lads! :blush: Yes I’m the resident drudge. I know quite a bit about Protestant Universalists. As far as the research I’ve done here and put it on line for comment as I was chugging along– it’s a project in development. The first ever thread I came in on – about Universalism in the Anglican Church – I made a valiant stab at the Rev Drew’s opening question and I think a lot of people here were impatient for some positive answers. But I in the end I put it on the back burner because I realised that I didn’t have wide enough knowledge to do the question justice. It’s a very long and involved thread. I got in the habit of making long and involved posts because I was trying to communicate such complex stuff there. I’m briefer these days – but still a bit long winded. I know a lot more about the subject now and would certainly nuance the discussion differently – although it’s going nit eh right direction.

Then I was asked question about the Quakers by a lass named Sass and did a thread on them and other radical protestant sects which tended towards universalism – there is some genuine attempt by me at doing history there – but there were lots of other issues in covered in a sort of bonnet of wild bees fashion. And again I was finding out stuff as I was going along and would nuance it differently now I know a lot more. Recently on a thread about a sectarian Calvinist attack on the history of universalism I’ve written quite a lot about the Boehmenists and the Philadelphians - and thinking about them a bit more has made some stuff about those two other major threads fall into place for me. So there is a work in progress scattered around here - a lot of it pretty rough and without polish.

For the moment I don’t think you can do better than have a look at Pog’s thread

– edited by my very bright friend Pog, who is a poster here and who started the whole thing off (and then Matt volunteered my services and he hasn’t changed on that score :smiley:). Many contributed (including Jason with some chunky learned bits, and Matt got some good leads going too). And I did a good number of entries.

Read through the Opening Post; it gives a potted history of universalism in biographical sketches of Universalists through the ages. It is certainly a good deal more accurate and informative than other offering s on other Universalist sites at the moment – and is meant in part as a corrective to these. But it’s by no means a completed work ( I think we are seeing a pattern here :smiley:). The entries on early Universalists are sketchy at the moment. But it really starts to take off at the Reformation – there’s a lot about Protestant Universalists there. Once you’ve got an idea of the scope – don’t be afraid to ask for any other info.
All very good wishes


Hi Dick, :smiley:

I think I mentioned to you reading about the George MacDonald being exposed to certain “new faith folks” in his youth. Who these were isn’t identified (he mentions them in letters to his father if I recall), but I’m wondering if this is a reference to the group of Scottish universalists in the generation before GMac— Thomas Erskine, John McCleod Campbell and AJ Scott (who was later a good friend of MacDonald’s) Do you know much about the formation of this group’s universalism, what kind of tradition they came out of and their influences? I guess I’m wondering if we can trace GMac’s universalism back to this group to some extent and then back to their influences.

Thomas Erskine is the big mover here and his main influence was…William Law :slight_smile:


Steve here are relevant entries from the Pog list plus stuff I have found on Scott :slight_smile:

Erskine of Linlathen, Thomas (1788–1870), Scottish advocate/defense lawyer and lay theologian who attempted a revision of Scottish Calvinism in the direction of Universalism:
'[God’s purpose for us] cannot be a purpose confined to any one stage of our being, but must extend over all the stages, and the whole duration of our being. It is surely more unreasonable to suppose that God should change His manner of dealing with us, as soon as we quit this world…He who waited so long for the formation of a piece of old red sandstone will surely wait with much long-suffering for the perfecting of a human spirit’ (Hanna ed. Letters vol. 1, 238; vol. 2, 242).

MacLeod, Rev. Dr. Norman (1812–1872), Scottish Presbyterian clergyman, social reformer, philanthropist, author of Morvern, a Highland Parish and the song Farewell to Fiunary, and editor of the magazine Good Works. One of his teachers was Erskine of Linlathen, and in the biography written by his bother Dr. Donald Macleod it becomes clear that the doctrine of universal restoration grew on him too:
‘When our common friend, Mr George MacDonald, was about to write for Good Words, of which Dr. Macleod was editor, Dr, Macleod was anxious that no heterodox views should be introduced into it. For hours the two discussed the matter in the publishing office with the friendliest warmth. At length in tripped little girl, and by her simple, wise prattle, not only put an end to the controversy, but actually became the model for t he most interesting character of the story. Before his death Dr. MacLeod had adopted Maurice’s [that is F.D. Maurice’s’] standpoint on this question, as he emphatically made manifest in the last sermon I heard him preach in Balmoral’ (quoted in Hanson, Cloud of Witness, p. 217).

Campbell, John McLeod (1800 –1872), Scottish minister and Reformed theologian who numbered F.D. Maurice and Thomas Erskine in his circle of friends. He was removed from his ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland for holding, against the Westminster Confession, that Christ’s death was not only for the elect but for the whole world. On the other hand, Campbell also rejected universalism - “God’s love does not imply safety…pardon is not salvation.’ As strongly as Campbell insists that atonement, pardon, and forgiveness are universal, he emphasized that they are temporary. Campbell was so far from universalism that he did not doubt that the number of people saved will be small, even as Noah’s ark saved only eight:
'the present condition of the human race is, that God has forgiven all men their sins—not as a permanent and eternal condition of things, but as a preliminary state—preliminary to a day in which he shall judge men according to the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or whether they have been evil’(Sermons and Lectures 1,p.119).

Law, William (1686 –1761), Anglican cleric and spiritual writer:
‘God’s Providence, from the Fall to the Restitution of all Things, is doing the same Thing, as when he said … “Let there be light”; He still says, and will continue saying the same Thing, till there is no Evil of Darkness left in all that is Nature and Creature … Love knows no Change, but into a redeeming Pity towards all his fallen Creatures’ (An Humble, Earnest and Affectionate Address to the Clergy , Address 191; 200).

Alexander Scott was a weird paradox it seems– a Chritian Socialist and Chartist he was also a beloved friend of Edward Irving – one of the founders of premillenialism and the man whose London Church saw the first outbreak of speaking in tongues (much to the frisson of London high society) decades before the Azusa Street revival in America. Scott appears to have been involved in this, as contraries meet

From wiki

Scott, Alexander John (1805–1866) Scottish dissident theologian, who became the first principal of Owens College.
His first sermon after he was licensed was preached for the Rev. John McLeod Campbell, who heard him ‘with very peculiar delight.’ In the following year (1828) he made the acquaintance of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, afterwards one of his closest friends, and of Edward Irving, who invited him to be his assistant in London. He accepted the invitation, without committing himself to Irving’s doctrinal views. He spent the winter months in preaching and teaching among the poor of Westminster. Towards the close of 1829 he went to preach for McLeod Campbell at Row, and also at Port Glasgow, where his sermons on the Charismata or ‘spiritual gifts’ of 1 Corinthians xii. led to an exhibition of speaking with tongues and prophesying in the church. The movement and the manifestations accompanying it had great influence on Irving, more than on Scott himself, who never felt the utterances to be proofs of any inspiration. The connection between the two preachers was soon afterwards severed, though their friendship continued.

In the summer of 1830 Scott received an invitation to the pastorate of the Scottish church at Woolwich, but the necessary ordination involved subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. This he could not give, and he put his objections in a letter to the moderator of the London presbytery, in which he stated his inability to assent to the doctrine that ‘none are redeemed by Christ but the elect only,’ as well as his conviction that the ‘Sabbath and the Lord’s day were not, as stated in the catechism, one ordinance, but two, perfectly distinct, the one Jewish and the other Christian.’ He also mentioned doubts as to the validity of the presbytery’s powers in ordination. On 27 May 1831 he was charged with heresy before the presbytery of Paisley, and deprived of his license to preach, a sentence which was confirmed by the general assembly. Scott then remained at Woolwich until 1846, as minister of a small congregation.

Steve if you want to see all of these people in context do try and get hold of a copy of Boyd Hilton’s ‘The Age of Atonement’ :slight_smile:

Thanks, Dick, I think I will. :smiley: I’m reading “dribs and drabs” about these folks here and there and it’s hard to fit it together. While I’m doing this, I’m trying to mentally picture, say, the way Tom Talbott relates to Robin Parry relating to Rob Bell or Kevin Miller or Mike Hardin in our current times. Communication is so much more diffuse now, that direct connections are probably impossible to pin down unless expressly stated by those involved. :confused:

Very good analogy there Steve :smiley:

Thanks, Dick. :slight_smile:

I’m interested in exploring Erskine, MacDonald, Maurice and their connection with Law. My gestalt (given lots of familiarity with GMac and a little with Law) is that GMac’s idea of “obedience”–with the Spirit leading one into further levels of understanding as a Christian begins to try to follow the light at his feet, is very much derived from Law (perhaps influenced by Boehme, I’m not sure yet.) In the Krenglinger book I mentioned on the “Gray Wolf” thread and elsewhere, GMac’s “pneumatology” is considered “underdeveloped” and perhaps (if I’m reading her correctly) underemphasized. I think this may be overstated as I think obedience with subsequent illumination by the Spirit is a** major **Gmac theme in all his works and I’m interested to see how closely this is to Law’s views. Law definitely was a universalist, but it’s difficult to assign this aspect of GMac’s theology ***purely ***to Law.

One of these days I’ll do an outline of William Law for you - when I get some time. :slight_smile:

I’d love that, Dick. :smiley: In the meantime, I need to get back to the Hobhouse book with selections from Law and read him for myself, I think.