The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Michael McClymond on Universalism

Hi Mike,
You’ve said so much, I almost don’t know what to comment on first, but I see here a direct query that doesn’t seem to have been answered yet:

I think I can safely say that the majority of regular participants here (who are universalists) are basically christocentric, trinitarian, and believe that the sanctification process continues into the coming ages. There are some who are ultra-universalists, some who are not trinitarian, and some who are “hopeful universalists” – who, for one reason or another, don’t feel they can take a strong position on the issue. There may be some other variants here as well.

And, yes, these things have often been discussed here.

If anyone disagrees with me on this evaluation, please correct me.

This comment caught my attention:

I’m not sure what exactly is the “problem” you see. Don’t all branches of Christianity do the same? We all like the people who share our beliefs and hold to the same standards of interpretation that we do. I see no reason to give credence to the teachings of every historical teacher or individual who happens to have shared my belief that all will be saved.

Is this different from what any other branch of Christianity does? Do we not all reject those who we think are not adequately representing our position?

I feel free to reject the teachings of anyone who does not seem to me to have a right understanding of scripture. If one is simply cataloguing and tracing the various trains of thought on universalism through the ages, then it would be necessary to look at everyone and examine all the intricacies of their various ideas. From a historical perspective, that is somewhat interesting.

But when you ask, “How do these German and French authors fit into the picture?” I have to answer that I don’t know – and from a practical standpoint, I don’t have much interest.

I am primarily interested in reading my Bible and trying to understand what God means by it, as opposed to reading other people’s views and trying to figure out if I agree with them – unless they’re around to discuss with or if some other good reason arises. I’m convinced that we have One Teacher and One Father – we are all students and children. The children might study their lessons together, share insights, and help each other learn – ‘encouraging one another to love and good deeds’ – but I see no great need to study what all the other children have thought of the Master’s lessons.

My own universalism has no Gnostic roots or heritage – even if it is true that there were Gnostic universalists. :sunglasses: My beliefs are the natural progression of a Calvinist background corrected to more accurately reflect the teachings of scripture. :mrgreen:


I agree Sonia :smiley:

Hi Sonia

Why be an historian? Well to tell you true I didn’t realise I was one – or at least I had forgotten my childhood passion until I came to this rotten place courtesy of Rev Drew :smiley: I’ve taught so many different things in my life that I was neither of North or South, East or West. The last work I was doing – which I gradually had to give up to care for my Mum – was teaching computers to older people and running reminisce workshops for people with senile dementia (along with a bit of private supervision to people doing post graduate degrees in oodles of different things, like Human Rights, Special Needs, and Cultural Studies). But I cones here and I’m ‘Dick the Historian’ and some blighters call me ‘Prof’ – although I do not have a post graduate degree – never too interested in gongs and robes :smiley:

Ach an historian is a dull drudge :smiley: Wow when I think of you educating that brood of yours it is so admirable of you and time consuming. Love you Sonia – and I think your very articulate practical wisdom about universalism above speaks more than many dusty volumes of posts by the likes of me :smiley:.
As a carer – OK I am confined and it can be onerous but since the person I care for is senile now my mind sort of has the space to roam free. I got sucked in here by that scoundrel Arlenite :smiley:

Hi Mike –

Looking back on things I understand that you were just putting things out into the open for feedback with your lecture and three mini seminar type discussions on You tube. But honestly Mike I do like you and i;ve chanced my arm many times like this in more private settings. My major criticism from the beginning is that your lecture does seem to suggest that all Universalists are rooted in Gnosticism, Occultism and perhaps even deception and self regarding destabilisation. I’m keen for dialogue here. The message of the lecture – and how your book may have panned out without feedback – was rather inflammatory. If it had been picked up by many in the Neo Reformed camp it may well have lead to witch hunt hysteria towards non –sectarian American Universalists; and this may have been contagious via the internet. And since I have many friends here who are non sectarian American Universalists I was concerned for them and felt protective towards them.

If this had gone through the roof Universalists and many Armenians of the Wider Hope may have allied in rhetorical wars against Calvinists I would think –

‘‘All Calvinists are Gnostic in terms of their doctrine of election and in seeking for a pure Church, they interpret scripture not for what it says but in the light of certain currents within late medieval scholasticism and jurisprudence which they take as there ‘givens’, they gloss over the bad bits of Calvinist history (support of genocide, slavery, racism etc), they are insensitive to the needs of people who are morally scrupulous and mentally ill etc…’’

So I am glad for dialogue - for this would have made the Body of Christ bleed. 

My offers of dull drudge scholarship still on the table are –

Information about Erasmus and Universalism (and Huet’s place in the Erasmian tradition – have touched base with Huet now as an influence on Le Clerc) 

Books and page numbers for alternative – and scholarly - interpretations of Hegel.

Details of the five universalist/wide hopers included in Wesley in his Methodist Library and citations for info about his late view of William Law.

Any information you may require about early Universalist traditions in Zoroastrianism Judaism and Islam (which are mentioned in you lecture and discussion in passing)

Blessings to all

Dick –old drudge and historical train spotter

Well Church Fathers is where it’s at now it seems :smiley: Very good stuff there :smiley:

Almost ditto except the other way around for me (as Sonia knows but visitors may not): mine is the natural progression of coming from a largely Arminian background in a communion that respects both Arms and Calvs. I started paying more serious attention to Calvs making sense, and still thought Arms also had a good case for their points – I didn’t quite put the two sets together at first, but once I saw the coherent logical implications of trinitarian theism (as a doctrinal set), then I had a shared theological grounding basis for accepting both sides in their important gospel assurances. :slight_smile:

And I only care about whether any Gnostics were or weren’t universalists of some sort for sake of historical accuracy; beyond that I couldn’t give a poot about their beliefs (though to whatever extent they happened to share some of my beliefs I’d be obligated in fairness to grant them that much credit. :wink: )

But I do care about attempts to argue from innuendo that universalism cannot be trinitarian Christian; and I care somewhat, in relation, about whether early trinitarian leaders who struggled against heresy are being libeled or not by careless hostility. Ditto modern trinitarians.

Anyway, what Sobor meant above is that Alex (our chief admin) ported one of Dr. Mike’s posts to a new thread for discussion here. I haven’t finished doing catchup notes to this thread yet, but I went ahead late last night and worked up a reply to that particular post which I’ve put in that thread for some topical coherency. Less I have to do here then eventually. :slight_smile:

Just to clarify, I do agree that historical stuff has it’s place, and I’m not trying to disparage it. For instance, Dr. Mike brings up the issue of the universalist movement of the 1800’s eventually devolving and merging into the Unitarian church. I don’t think I’d agree with his hypothesis that this resulted from those folks not putting enough emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church, but it might be useful to know how that theological degradation did come about.

It may be a fairly common historical pattern that the pioneers of a movement begin something in faith and truth, but their followers corrupt it. I would theorize that the corruption of the universalist movement came about because people were following other people instead of doing the hard work of seeking Truth for themselves.

I see the doctrine of universal reconciliation as a true revelation of the heart and purpose of God – but it is not the full embodiment of Truth. Truth can never be reduced into a mere system of belief, because the Truth is the living Lord Jesus, the exact representation of His Father, who now leads and teaches us through the indwelling Spirit of God. When we elevate facts about God above the Person, then we have begun to fall away and begun to follow law and/or the doctrines of men. Those men may have had their feet firmly planted on the Rock, but others who try to stand on their shoulders may find themselves on shaky ground.

That’s my take, anyway. :sunglasses: I’ve rambled a bit off topic here, but maybe someone will find some relevance.

As to the concern about people picking up the gnostic origins premise and using it as a argument against universalism, my response, as it has always been, will be to point to the scriptures that I find convincing. I’m a universalist because I find it in scripture, and while the historical thread of universalist thought may be an interesting topic in its own right, it has no bearing on the foundation of my hope.

And, anyway, St. Paul’s universalism pre-dates any Christian gnostic universalism – so there’s that for people who are concerned about who came first. :mrgreen:


Sobor has done some very insightful and careful work on trying to demuddle what happened in the 19th century, though I think he’s only just started and I don’t recall which thread he was working in. (Was it this one?? I’ve slept several times since this thread got going. :wink: )

From what I’ve read in the primary sources of the time (not exhaustively but pretty representatively), I think one factor that can be fairly identified is a resentment about having been taught Doctrinal Set X on emotionally pushy grounds which on examination of those grounds as provided did not turn out to be validly solid, and/or did not turn out to be sufficiently accurate or comprehensive about the data.

Apologists routinely see people falling away from this or that doctrinal set or from Christian faith altogether for the same reasons today. But for a long time (and often still today) trinitarian orthodoxy has been directly bound up in a punitive fashion with threats of hopeless punishment, the wrapping statements of the Athanasian Creed being an early example: believe this (rather complex) set of doctrines or be hopelessly punished – the only way to be saved is to believe this complex doctrinal set, apart from which belief there is no hope of anything but the worst possible suffering (which is itself the merest gnosticism, the doctrine of salvation by doctrinal assent!)

So when people start perceiving (rightly or wrongly – I’m trying to put this as neutrally as possible, and I realize people can shift beliefs for poor reasons, too, even to what I myself agree is true) that they’ve been misled and worse even psychologically bullied about Doctrinal Set HP (hopeless punishment), then they’re naturally (and even reasonably) likely to turn their eye upon other doctrinal sets they’ve had nascent problems with, especially if those sets are connected by punitive threat to HP. Was one-fifth of the case presented to them for trinitarian theism that verse from 1 John which wasn’t actually there in the original text?! – discovering that certainly isn’t going to help their confidence in a difficult doctrinal set they were threatened with not believing! They were threatened with at best an error and maybe even a direct lie by someone! What else were they wrongly and even unfairly threatened by!?

And what about the authorities who did the wrong-and-even-unfair threatening? By proportion they can’t be trusted again; and in an overall cultural context of dangers of misused authority (such as in the 19th century generally and the US particularly, no less so today in many areas of the world), this can lead to an erosion of belief that any authority at all is even a good idea.

Add compounding throughout the 19th century as various other sacred beliefs came under direct attack – not always for good reasons in hindsight, but at the time the attacks seemed powerful – and it isn’t hard to predict the outcome for some people who still want to be part of a charitable social group: they start dogmatically (if in cruel irony) rejecting religious doctrines altogether and focusing on whatever social justice remaining that seems reasonable and good. And they aren’t actually wrong, social justice is reasonable and good! – if the Trinity means anything it’s that social justice, fair-togetherness between persons, is the ground of all possible reality!

But having lost their ground for believing more than kind of vaguely in God (maybe), much moreso in the Trinity – a doctrinal set psychologically attached in their personal history with inaccurate and unfair personal oppression – they do their best to throw away what they now see as at best a dead (and maybe poisonous) husk, and to keep the good kernal.

The so-called UUs are one natural result of that process; secular humanism is another. But the problem was inadequate and sometimes even demonstrably inaccurate teaching and even psychological terrorism, not necessarily that what was being taught was untrue or even morally horrid in itself.

As the orthodox trinitarian author Dorothy Sayers once quipped when talking briefly about this (in an essay defending and promoting the importance of trinitarian orthodoxy): “For this state of affairs, I’m inclined to blame the orthodox.”

Dr. Ramelli has very graciously (if a bit briefly) replied to one of Dr. Mike’s posts, copied over to a parallel thread by Alex a little while ago, here!

Aside from a busier weekend than expected (not counting my niece’s baptism service on Sunday, which I already expected and after which I didn’t want to get involved in disputation for a while out of happiness for her), our hosting servers got aggressively attacked so I haven’t even been able to log on to work on catching up with this thread until today. But as noted a little upthread I replied (before the weekend attacks) to that one post Alex cloned off for discussion purposes, in the thread I just linked to, more on the theological challenges per se than the patristic challenges (though a little on that, too).


Dear All–

Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Dr. Talbott.

Regarding the idea of some people never being forgiven at all, I guess I have to quote your own words, Dr. Talbott. The relevant passage comes in–The Inescapable Love of God (1999). There you argue that some people are finally saved though they are never forgiven by God. Instead of being forgiven they make full payment for their own sins through personal suffering rather than through divine forgiveness. Here is it:

**“They will experience his love as a consuming fire…So in that sense, they will literally pay for their sin; and God will never—not in this age and not in the age to come—forgive (or set aside) the final payment they owe” (Inescapable Love of God, p. 106). **

In the same passage you refer to this as an “alternative strategy,” whereby some people pay the price themselves—i.e., atone or compensate for their own sins by suffering—and so they get saved apart from a Savior. I find this an ironic outcome. In an effort to extend forgiveness/grace to everyone, the argument ends up by denying that forgiveness/grace is necessary. Some are saved by grace, and some are saved apart from grace.

Of course, there is another problem that ensues. I would call this the issue of the “unbended knee.” What if certain creatures–let us say Satan–reject God’s free offer of forgiveness in the many that you have indicated, Dr. Talbott, and choose to pay the price themselves in purgatorial suffering (however long that might take)? Would not Satan at that point be still a rebel against God? He would have endured the suffering required and imposed on him (you present purgatorial suffering as an imposed suffering). Yet Satan would still not willingly have submitted himself to God. So far as I can see, your argument leads to another irony–that “*not *every knee will bow.”

To shift topics…

Because there is a lot of discussion here on Ramelli’s book, let me add here the result of a preliminary survey I have done regarding the overwhelming patristic consensus against the idea of universal salvation. What is stunning is to see the large numbers of anti-universalists, and to find them among the Greek authors and in the Syriac East as well. My book will develop an extensive argument on this, but here is a taste…

Brian Daley’s *The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology *(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991) is the most respected, reliable, and up-to-date guide to this area. What is more Daley’s book discusses not just a few selected figures (as Ramelli does) but basically all the major early Christian authors.

In Daley’s text, those authors and texts indicating a final two-fold outcome of heaven and hell are as follows:

Epistula Apostolorum, Sibylline Oracles (except for one passage), First Clement, Second Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius of Antioch, Aristides, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Victorinus of Pettau, Lactantius, Apophthegmata Patrum, Aphrahat, Ephrem the Syrian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Apollonaris of Laodicea, Basil, Epiphanius, Firmicus Maternus, Hilary of Poitiers, Zeno of Verona, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia (in Daley’s analysis), Theodoret of Cyrus, Hesychius of Jerusalem, Pseudo-Macarian Homilies, Apocalypse of Paul, Gaudenius of Brescia, Maximus of Turin, Hilarianus, Tyconius, Augustine, Evodius of Uzala (or whoever wrote the Dialogue of Zaccheus), Orosius, Liber de Promissionibus, Salvian of Marseilles, Pope Leo the Great, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Paulinus of Nola, Orientius, Commodian, Peter Chrysologus, Agathangelos (Armenian), Shenoute of Atripe, Narsai, Oecumenius, Pseudo-Dionysius (in Daley’s analysis), Severus of Antioch, Leontinus of Byzantium (in Daley’s anlaysis), Cyril of Scythopolis, Barsanuphius, John of Gaza, Aeneas of Gaza, Cosmas Indicopleustes, Andrew of Caesarea, Romanos the Melodist, Maximus the Confessor (in Daley’s analysis), and John of Damascus.

In Daley’s study, some authors seem to be “on the fence,” or are difficult to interpret, on the question of universalism—Apocalypse of Peter, Clement of Alexandria, Sibylline Oracles (in one passage), Eusebius, Nazianzus, Ambrose (who seems to oscillate), Jerome (who seems to oscillate, both before and after 394), Isaac the Syrian (two authors probably included under one name).

Then there is what we might call the pantheist or near-pantheist position, which cannot be identified as universalist in the standard Origenian sense: Evagrius, Stephen bar-Sudaili (The Book of the Holy Hierotheos), and perhaps Philoxenus of Mabbug.

The question remains as to who actually teaches universal salvation—in a non-pantheistic sense. The answer seems to be Origen (almost certainly), Nyssa (most likely), Didymus the Blind, and possibly Marcellus of Ancyra (who offered his own unique eschatology).

To summarize then, of the figures that Daley analyzes and whose views seem clear-cut, the ratio is something around 10:1—that is, early church writers who uphold the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment instead of the doctrine of universalism. From the list of names and texts given above we further note that the non-universalists are found not only in the Latin West, but—contrary to the common impression today—among Greek and Syriac authors as well. When we factor in the results of the First and Second Origenist Controversies, and that of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and it seems that universalism was a minority view that prevailed among some teachers for a time but then was set aside.

Germanos I, Patriarch of Constantinople (in office 715-730 AD), was clearly embarrassed by Nyssa’s expressions of belief in universal salvation, and so—taking a page from Rufinus’s playbook—he claimed that the passages on universalism were interpolated into Nyssa’s writings. No one today believes in such interpolations into Nyssa’s writings. The point is that by the eighth century the doctrine of universal salvation was closely associated with the condemned Origen. Eastern Orthodoxy did not regard Origenist universalism as part of its tradition. At most, it was a private opinion that was tolerated by the church—so long as it was not taught in the church.

A later Patriarch of Constantinople made a revealing, double-edged statement regarding Origen. In the margin of a manuscript of Origen’s commentaries that now resides in the Vatican, George Scholarios, Greek spokesman at the fifteenth-century Council of Florence, the one-time Patriarch of Constantinople and student of both Eastern and Western theology, wrote the following note:

The Western writers say, “Where Origen was good, no one is better; where he was bad, no one is worse.” Our Asian divines say on the one hand that “Origen is the whetstone of us all,” but on the other hand, that “he is the fount of foul doctrines.” Both are right: he splendidly defended Christianity, wonderfully expounded Scripture, and wrote a noble exhortation to martyrdom. But he was also the father of Arianism, and worst of all, said that hellfire would not last forever. (Citing Vaticanus Gr. 1742, fol. Ir; translated and quoted in Henry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition [New York: Oxford University Press, 1966], 95).

For Patriarch Scholarios, no less than for Patriarch Germanos, universalism was an unacceptable teaching. There was no doubt about that. From the comment above, Scholarios seemed to think that universalism was more theologically objectionable than Arianism—which is saying a lot, given the general opinion regarding Arianian as the ultimate early church heresy. At the same time Scholarios recognized the valuable aspects of Origen’s literary legacy. There was thus both a reception and a non-reception of Origen’s teachings. From the time of the First Origenist Controversy, universalism has regularly been regarded as a part of the non-reception rather than the reception from Origen.


PS–I would perhaps disagree with Daley on Isaac of Ninevah, and put him definitely in the universalist category. But Daley in general is an extremely meticulous scholar–as careful and exacting in his approach as Ramelli is not. I will be publishing a review article on Ramelli. If you are interested I can let you know when it’s coming out next year.

PPS–There is new work on Nyssa by Italian scholars arguing that Nyssa is wrongly regarded as a universalist. If you are interested, Mario Baghos has made his essay available for free download from his Academia webpage. It is called “Reconsidering Apokatastasis in St. Gregory of Nyssa’s On the Soul and Resurrection and the Catechetical Oration,” Phronema 27 (2012) 125-162. It’s a very careful argument, based on reading of larger contexts in Nyssa’s Greek texts. I think that it raises questions–not sure if I am completely convinced, even though agreeing would I suppose “help” my argument. Essentially Baghos argues that apokatastasis has happened already, and that Nyssa conceives of it as happening in Jesus Christ himself. There is an “already” in addition to a “not yet” aspect of apokatastasis. Participation in this present-tense apokatastasis depends on baptism, faith, and the choice to pursue virtue. Baghos then shows places in which Nyssa expresses tentativeness about everyone consenting to enter into this relationship with God. The essay is almost forty pages–so read it and see what you think. If Baghos is correct, then this whittles down even further and sort of ancient universalist lineage. Unless you embrace the pantheistic outcome presented in Evagrius and bar Sudaili, then the problem with ancient universalism is that there isn’t really very much of it…

Dear All (and Dr. Talbott particularly)–

The Inescapable Love of God has been out since 1999, so not surprisingly I am not the first online commentator who has noticed and commented on Talbott’s idea that some people pay for their own sins through suffering–apart from being forgiven.

With a simple Google search I found two bloggers who previously commented on the same passage that I commented on–the first with an unfavorable spin on this passage, and the other with a favorable interpretation. FYI, here are the links: … gment.html … elove.html

From the posting of a few days ago, it seems that you, Dr. Talbott, now reject the idea that you presented in 1999. (I recall that you used the word “absurd.”)

Is this so? We are all entitled to have a change of mind. Augustine wrote a book of Retractiones


Hi Dr Mike,

Thank you for your [second to] last response. I’ve read various things that question if Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist. I recall that there is no challenge to Gregory’s belief about postmortem conversions and his belief that everybody could eventually be saved. This implies that the debate about Gregory involves whether he was a hopeful universalist or a definite universalist. Or do you suggest that his hopeful universalism is in question?

I quoted rather more extensively from the end of that chapter of Inescapable for context, here at the parallel thread collecting their discussions.

The short pithy version is that Dr. Mike has selectively chosen (though perhaps inadvertently) not to quote immediate portions of Dr. T, the context of which would instantly demolish his interpretations. Extended context doesn’t help Dr. M’s critique either, but leaving off an immediate clause which indicates exactly the opposite of Dr. Mike’s critiques, can’t help but look… convenient.

Dear All–

In light of some of certain recent publications on Nyssa, I’m really not sure what to think about Nyssa. Perhaps a hopeful universalist? Maybe. Is that your take Jim (Goetz)? Is there something I should read toward that end? Please let me know. Your proposal would, perhaps, fit with Baghos’s reading of Nyssa.

In Ramelli I see a kind of “Nyssa-fication” of Origen taking place. It doesn’t seem that she admits differences between them. And so her Origen looks a lot like that guy of the 4th century. But Origen is not Nyssa, and Nyssa is not Origen.

Ramellis’ views on Nyssa and on Maximus are not those of most other patristic scholars. The disparity in interpreting Maximus is especially clear. Polycarp Sherwood documented Maximus’s anti-Origenism in a volume published in the 1950s. Hans Urs von Balthasar (a hopeful universalist) agreed with Sherwood’s work to the effect that Maximus is anti-Origenist. See Balthasar’s Cosmic LIturgy, where Balhasar affirms that Maximus was opposed to Origen. And then Nick Constas–whose translation of Maximus’s Ambigua just appeared–agrees with Sherwood and Balthasar.

One could argue that Origen was NEVER understood by anyone–Nyssa, Maximus, Jerome, Augustine, the Fifth Ecumenical Council. But that seems implausible. One wonders why a scholar of the twenty-first century would claim to understand Origen properly if no one previously did so.

See also my earlier post in which one Patriarch of Constantinople (Scholarius) calls Origen the “fount of foul doctrines” and seems to regard Origen’s denial of the eternity of hell as worse than the Arian heresy.

I have looked into nineteenth- and twentieth-century Greek Orthodox theologians (little read–since they wrote in modern Greek) and they sound a lot like Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, or Calvin on an eternal two-fold destiny. Origen gets rehabilitated in the mid-1900s, primarily by French Jesuits. It simply isn’t the case that “the East” accepted and embraced universalism as part of its tradition through the centuries. This particular myth is younger than many of the people reading this blog.

If you all read nothing else that I posted earlier, consider the list of about seventy or so non-universalists that Brian Daley describes and documents. In Ramelli you get a highly selective database, and even that has been played with.

Jason Pratt–??? Talbott said some people are never forgiven. Right? They pay the price themselves. Right? I didn’t make that up. How else can one interpret this? I guess one could say that God = love = purifying love = hell = suffering. In that case one could then say that being plunged into the fire is a form of “salvation by grace.” But Talbott in this passage (pp. 105-6) speaks of two ways of coming into relationship with God–one of which involves suffering and the other of which does not. So there is a split vision here–according to Talbott’s own language about the “alternate strategy.”

One way out of the “split vision” or “split outcome” would be to see all sufferings–whether of this life or of the life beyond–as having a purifying effect. I call this the “karma-ization” strategy. (Some early American Universalists taught this rather explicitly.) But Talbott seeks to be more evangelical than this. As I read him, he does not want to make suffering the Savior but keep Christ the Savior. Salvation must be possible without suffering for one’s sins, because Christ suffered for our sins. (A bona fide substitutionary suffering.) Yet, as Talbott presents it, not everyone is saved in this seemingly “evangelical” way.


Hi Jason –

Just a note to say that the all round level the playfield hectoring from me is just a cultural thing – we do it in England to get a result :laughing:  Thanks everyone for taking it in good part. It’s just my little way of saying ‘Yoo hoo everyone this is good; this is important!!!’ :smiley: And thanks to all for responding and not begin too offended.

Jason – I have enormous respect for you and for your scholarship and count you a friend. You are very right that I’ve waffled on at this thread and then every now and then have focussed well:-D On this thread and other I’ve been covering the history if Universalism from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century rather than just the nineteenth century. Just me being defensive now for a second here :smiley: I will say that I’ve rarely started a thread and usually responded to other’s questions – so I’ve been pretty well mannered here :smiley:.

After I’ve finished my break ) I’ve been off for a week proper and intend to have another off too– I’ll think about drawing stuff together on return . I think I may just be able to get away for home once a month now long enough to spend a day at the British Library. All that I need to do is have a look at some vital primary sources for clarity –passages from Origen’s homilies on Scripture and from Erasmus; Paraphrases on the new Testament and his Annotations on the Textus Receptus. Then I think I’ll feel confident that I know enough to write some stuff up in essay form – and will actually be writing good enough sense. My old boos was Professor Bob Owens is an expert on John Bunyan and the Authorised Version of the Bible – I’m in contact with him still fleetingly and will have a chat with him too if I can (well he’s the best I’ve got to hand here)

Hi Mike -

‘Karmatisation’ ? – Karma is a doctrine found in Eastern Religions that believe in Reincarnation (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism , Taoism and in sects of Esoteric Shia Islam such as the Druze and the Ismailis). It is locked into the idea that birth and death are part of the endless wheel of becoming and suffering (samsara) from which we seek to escape (moksha). Also – certainly in traditional Hinduism – it is part and parcel of the ideology that upholds the caste system. So I’m not sure that this is a good term to use for reaping what you sow. Yes a small minority of Universalists have believed in Reincarnation – the Nestorian Church of the East, and a few individuals inspired by Lurianic Kabbala for example. The Ancient Church of the Far East’ may well have believed in karma in this way and in Christ as liberator from samsara. But in Lurianic Kabbala – that inspired Lady Anne Conway and Van Helmont for example -reincarnation (gilgul), is placed in a life affirming context as opposed to a world denying noel. Each time a person is reincarnated this is for their perfecting through their hallowing of the world and service to their neighbours– and it is in the last incarnation that their body is so infused with Spirit that they can return to communion with God – body, soul and spirit.

You know Dr. Ramelli is actually corresponding with you over in the other thread, right?

Wrong. I quoted what he wrote extensively; he never says some people are NEVER forgiven. He says some people are not let off from being punished, and so are not (not “never”) forgiven in that very limited sense, but the goal of the punishment is forgiveness, and the result of the punishment is only forgiveness. When you neglected to quote the second half of his sentence, you left that out (not even counting the context of the rest of that section you were quoting from).

Wrong, he never says they pay the price themselves. He explicitly says Jesus paid the price and that some people will go the long way to accepting that Jesus paid the price for them.

But yes, you’re making this up. I’m sorry but there’s no other way to say it. I’ll accept if you say you don’t realize you’re making it up, but it will still remain wildly convenient that the points of his sentence you neglect to quote would count strongly against your interpretation.

You could start by including all the relevant data and not some brief parts which look like they fit your theory taken in isolation. Otherwise it’s a moot question, because he demonstrably didn’t say what you’re charging him with, and said much the opposite on significant points.

That’s a lot closer at least to what he actually wrote, where twice for example he talks about the problem of sinners being in conflict with the Holy Spirit Who as the 3rd Person of God still always has an attitude of forgiveness and seeks the salvation of the sinner from sin; also salvation from punishment where applicable, but Who is willing to punish sinners so far as necessary in purifying love to lead them to accept the forgiveness and sacrifice of Christ for their sake. (And by the same token, to lead them to cooperatively sacrifice themselves with Christ in following Christ.)

Again, you’re leaving off the point of connection. The “alternate strategy” still leads to the only way of coming into relationship with God, accepting the voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is expressly the point you neglected to quote. You’re the one foisting a split vision into what he wrote, which is nothing in principle other than an extended version of “Saul, Saul, how hard it is for you to kick against the goads” (though he doesn’t cite that parallel.)

to deal with what he actually wrote. That’s really the only way “out of” the split outcome you’re talking about.

I’m sure he would/will say the same thing, only in a nicer way. :slight_smile:

Incidentally for anyone who hasn’t read the extensive quoting yet, or gone to the actual book recently – “split vision” or “split outcome” isn’t a quote from Dr. T, though Dr. M may not have meant to imply that and was only using double quote marks to emphasize concepts he thinks he’s talking about from Dr. T but isn’t. I will strenuously emphasize again that Dr. T says THERE IS ONLY ONE OUTCOME! And that one place Dr. T says this is where Dr. M stopped short of quoting him.

Really, this isn’t even a question of agreeing or disagreeing with Dr. Talbott; you aren’t even talking about what he was actually saying yet, except in such a radically truncated and piecemeal fashion that you’re filling in the gaping holes with something completely different than what he was saying.

Not what Dr. T does. Nor does he even slightly have to do this. Nor is it a corollary to what he does.

Even PSA proponents of the crudest (and quite non-trinitarian) sort still think the saving Christ (or at least one of the other Persons of God if not Christ(!)) punishes with the rod some of whom He intends to save. The suffering Savior still goads Saul into accepting the suffering Savior.

So if what you’re complaining about is that not all people are saved by the suffering Savior without first some suffering themselves inflicted by the suffering Savior (their own suffering not being what saves them), then you need to take that up with Paul and Luke and some other canonical authors, and like 99% of Christendom through all Christian history. Because that’s all Dr. T is saying.

He differs with the 99% on the scope and persistence of Christ’s action (with the 1st and 3rd Persons) to save sinners from sin, and thus on how far God will go on that where applicable.

(Though actually in more recent years Dr. Talbott has I think moved to being more optimistic about how effective God’s healing will be in bringing people, including by resurrection, to a point of repenting of their sins and accepting Christ’s salvation without being impenitent and so without needing post-mortem punishment. That isn’t a shift of the principles from back in this book, though, only a difference in expecting how God will put those principles into action. I’m less optimistic about that and we’ve had some discussion on it.)

Hi Mike, I still suppose that Gregory was a definite universalist, but if I am wrong, then he was a hopeful universalist. Chapters 13-15 of my 2012 Conditional Futurism: New Perspective of End-Time Prophecy [in part] look at Gregory’s and Augustine’s and the Fifth Ecumenical Council’s view of possible postmortem conversions and the conversion of evil spirits including Satan. Ironically, Emperor Justinian’s introduction to the Council honored Gregory and Augustine among a handful of other church fathers while condemning Origen. The irony involved Gregory’s clear support of postmortem conversions and the eventual conversion of evil spirits. All in all, I did not go into the recent criticism of Gregory’s universalism because my book never addressed definite universalism, which I plan to address in future works. The criticism looked weak to me and only challenges if Gregory was a definite universalist and never challenges if he believed in postmortem conversions and eventual conversion of evil spirits. If you like, I will let you know when I put together an analysis of Gregory’s universalism.

I agree that Gregory has major differences compared to his predecessor Origen. Gregory believed in a finite beginning of creatures and an everlasting progress of creatures instead of Origen’s view that everything will restore to original perfect, which sounds off to me. I also appreciate Gregory’s support of the Trinity. Since I have only one life to live, I study only summaries and small portions of Origen while I focus more on Gregory.

AN obscure note on Karma and the ancient Church of the Far East. Regarding my post above - I’d like to nuance my obscure point. The Jesus Sutras of this Church - that was eventually persecuted out of existence - cerintaly take on board the metaphysics of the people they are meant for, but they are no rooted in pessimism about the goodness of the world that we find in many schools of ascetic Hinduism and in the Hinayana school of Buddhism in which samara - the wheel of birth and death - is often seen as an unmitigated disaster from which we should seek to escape. Rather the process of salvation/liberation is seen in terms of Mahayana Buddhism. This rejects the monastic asceticism of earlier schools - and has as it’s hero figure the Bodhisattva (which I’ve posted about elsewhere here0. Also samsara - the wheel of becoming - is seen as the place where loves work is done through transforming compassion as the lotus flowers out of the sludge and silt at the bottom of a pond. A bloke named Martin Palmer wrote a very good book on the Jesus Sutras :slight_smile:

And Origen did not believe/teach the transmigration of souls - that’s is for certain and can be demonstrated from his commentates on Scripture.

Another obscure and scholarly note here for Mike and others with nothing better to read –

In an earlier post you mentioned the influence of the Florentine Neo Platonic Academy’s appropriation of the ‘Corpus Hermeticum’ upon Christian Universalism. As I have shown a long way up thread the key Hermetic text – the Poimander – while being more positive about the universe than classical Gnosticism was certainly not Universalist. Also the Florentine Neo-Platonists are not on record as advocating for the doctrine of apocatastasis. Their ‘universalism; was more akin to UUC doctrine today – they believed in a Prisci Thelogi in which Orpheus, Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, , Jewish Kabbala, Proclus and Plotinus and the Bible were saying the same thing – but they were aristocratic and elitist in their ‘universalism’. Also they misinterpreted Origen with Neo-Platonic glasses when in fact Origen was a Christian Platonist – like the other Greek early Church Fathers -not a Neo Platonists (he argued passionately against the Neo-Platonists Celsus – especially no the grounds that Celsus was a snob).

I’m not sure that Hermes Trismegitus had much influence on Boheme actually – his thought world is inspired by the Theologia Germanica, Pseudo Dionysus, the Discarded Image of the Medieval World Picture, and Lutheran Pietism primarily (perhaps with some influences from Christian Cabbala ( Jewish Kabbala, Christian Cabbala and Occultist Qabbala are the different spellings/meanings of the term I gather). Certainly the Prisic Theologia had an influence on some more marginal thinkers that we cannot identify as universalists in Origneist terms – for example the mysticism of High grade Masonry of a Martinez de Pasqually and his ‘Elect Cohens’ has all of the aristocratic hallmarks of Florentine Neo-Platonic inspiration and of course the magical angel summoning rites (which Louis Claude de St Martin rejected when he became a Boehemnist and also resigned from High Grade Masonry). Obviously this elitism persisted in deeply trivial, shady occultist, quasi fascist figures like Julius Evlova and Aleister Crowley in the twentieth century who sought to become as God (and declared that the weak should go to the wall).

Last year I read a book by James D. Heiser ‘The Prisci Theologi and the Hermetic Reformation in the Fifteenth Century’. He is an ultra conservative American Lutheran Bishop ( but no friend to Calvinists because he has also edited and published an early Lutheran fulminating and polemical tract against the Calvinists). Heiser does not mention Christian universalist in this book per se – but he is keen to see the Hermetic Prisci Theologi as the fountain head of all modern ills – post modernism, relativism, lack of belief in hell etc. His key and much used secondary source for this attack is D.P. Walker’s classic ‘Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella’ (but he does nor reference D.P. Walker’s other classic ‘The Decline of Hell’).

D.P. Walker was a good friend of one of my favourite scholars, Professor M.A. Screech. I’ve just spent a delightful hour reading Screech’s book Ecstasy and Praise of Folly’. It turns out that he and Walker had many productive scholarly discussions about how Erasmus rejected the Florentine Neo-Platonist for the Platonism of Origen and Athanasius (and I’m still happy to enumerate the reason why I think Erasmus both inclined to universalism and was the level in the dough for of the non sectarian and orthodox tradition in the modern world. Also I’m close to tracking down the Universalist tradition about the salvations for Judas – I think it probably does come from Origen’s commentary on the Gospel Matthew (from hints in Screech). Now if there is one man I’d love to speak to it is M.A. Screech – he’s very old but still alive and kicking and in England. Hmmmmmm

Yours dull as dishwater


Dear Dr Mike – putting aside all Erasmian irony here – why don’t you pull your lecture and three seminars off of Youtube? You are a kind, decent man and a fine scholar with an ecumenical vision. Whatever shape your book eventually takes the stuff on Youtube at the moment is so full of errors and half truths and it is rousing others to hate Christian Universalists with holy hatred. THE Lecture is delivered in a very decisive and polemical manner – it’s not a tentative opener to wider discussion. You must know that in the hands of people less kind and less open minded than you it could lead to American non sectarian universalists – loyal members of Churches which also contain ECT believers, Annihilationist and Wider Hopers probably –being treated as scapegoats.

If you pulled them off you’d have my respect and the respect of all here. You’d get the respect of your pupils and colleagues too – for admitting to begin wrong and grasping the nettle rather than opting for a slow car crash option. We’ve all made mistakes in our lives – I know I’ve made some big ones.

You don’t have to become a universalist, but your book - if it is to be a platform for scholarly dialogue – which I understand Robin Parry has hopes about – will need to be far more measured and far more factual – making proper distinctions between what is impossible. What is possible, what is probable, and what is certain in terms of historical reconstruction and of what most mainstream universalists actually believe today.
I think you’d be much respected if you did this.

In Christ our Hen