The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Primitive Baptist Universalists

i typed “Universalist Baptist” into Google, on a vague hope, and these fellows came up : … iversalist … neycr.html

it’s pretty remarkable. they appear to be conservative evangelicals, with the faith in UR, a denial of any kind of punishment after death, and an assurance that the cross of Christ saves all people, past, present, and future. they also seem to practice footwashing as a sacrement, or church custom.

there’s not much else out there on them, though at least one book has been written (“In the Hands of a Happy God: The “No-Hellers” of Central Appalachia” by Howard Dorgan).

has anyone else heard of this sub-denomination, or met with any PBUs? i know we have some members here from Appalachian states, wondering if you’ve heard of these churches, or attended a service?

Never heard of them. Hm!

Maybe not surprising, though, since the original Anabaptists had some tendencies along this line.

I would personally be very amused if this group turned out to be snake-handlers… (being in peace with serpents, as well as being unable to be affected by them, is a powerfully universalistic symbolic statement.)

Jason ~

yeah, i was reading that the early Schwarzenau Brethren held to UR, it’s just interesting to find modern Baptists with the same belief. Baptists are usually pretty firm on eternal torment for the unsaved.

would love to get down there and meet some of these folks, or observe a worship service.

That is interesting, Grace! I wonder how many of them there are, and if they’re located anywhere else.


Modern primitive Baptists. :mrgreen:

(Who, it must be said, are regarded as not primitive enough by other primitive Baptists, mainly because of the UR thing. Then again, Calvinism per se is hardly primitive either. :wink: )

Sonia ~

i would love to know, too! the little information out there states that there are a few, kind of scattered PBU churches in the Appalachian states, like Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and the like. so it seems that if one were to visit a PBU church, they’d have to take a roadtrip, if not nearby. there don’t seem to be a great number of them, but enough to warrant mentioning here and there on the 'net.

Elkhorn, West Virginia has a couple of these churches, and there’s one in Stoney Creek, Tennessee.

Jason ~

some of the only info on these churches comes from “Baptist Boards”, complete with immediate references to CD burning.

Information on this denomination can be seen in this website: … pbuni.html

They believe that Satan is:

“natural man” warring against “spiritual man.” For each of us, our “dark side” is Satan.

More like the Christadelphians.

An emphasis on God’s sovereignty, no post-mortem sin or punishment, no supernatural satan…it sounds like I would fit right in with these guys! :mrgreen:

So I was looking for more about this group and this thread came up. Anyone have an update or are they just a dying group?

Nickles, CharlesF (1881-1949), American Primitive ‘No-Heller’ Baptist. Nickles was a professional photographer in Scott County Virginia and long time clerk of the Point Truth Primitive Baptist church. In 1924 the Calvinist Regular Baptist Church in the Washington district fell into a bitter dispute between the ‘Hellers’ and the ‘No-Hellers’. The No-Hellers were and are ultra Universalists (although only a few congregations are left today); they do not believe in any punishment in the world to come - punishment for sin comes here in this world. They are also strict determinists – which, with their ultra universalism, suggests the influence of the writings of Hosea Ballou – and they do not believe in Satan or other supernatural forces of evil; they see these as symbols of human evil. Nickles gave the fullest expression of the beliefs of the No-Heller Primitives in his nineteen page essay –Salvation of All Mankind (published by Nickelsville, VA, apparently in 1937).

‘In my survey and meditation on the theory of hellfire and damnation, or a living, conscious, Eternal punishment after death, for any of the creatures of His Powerful Hand, I find that it is incompatible with the Holy Nature of the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. And if true, would bar, and exclude Him from the Divine Attributes of Love, Justice and Mercy with which He is so magnanimously endowed. God is Love. We cannot conceive of Him violating the holy faculties of his Person, by consigning any part of his helpless creation to interminable torture’. (quoted by Howard Dorgan, In the Hands of a Happy God: The “No-Hellers” of Central Appalachia, University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville 1997, p.88)

Mack, Alexander (1679 –1735), leader and first minister of the Schwarzenau Brethren – a radical pietist/Anabaptist group also known as the Dunkers, Tunkers, or Dunkards. The Brethren emigrated to the United States in the mid-18th century, where he continued to minister to the Brethren community until his death. They brought the ‘Everlasting Gospel’ to the USA with them although Mack stressed that the teaching of UR should not be preached publicly (The Brethren still exists and with the Mennonites and the Quakers are one of the historic Peace Churches in the USA)

‘Therefore that is a much better and more blessed gospel which teaches how to escape the wrath of God, than the gospel which teaches that eternal punishment has an end. Even though this is true, it should not be preached as a gospel to the godless’ (European Origins of the Brethren, Donal F. Durnbaugh).

So Primitive Baptist Unversalists are a subset of Primitive Baptists. Is that correct?

When you look at the doctrines of Primitive Baptists generally, it would seem that they are typical Calvinists and not Universalists:

True, they’re a subset. Primitive Baptists generally are hardcore Calvs; which explains why the subset went with ultra-universalism, keeping most of the hardcore Calv doctrines.

The Brethren are more Arminian (I think???). They’ve split into four groups (somewhat along the lines of different Mennonite/Amish groups), and I’m unsure which (if any) still believe in Christian universalism, since as Sobor noted they don’t advertise this. One of the more modernized branches of the Brethren is still heavily involved in Heifer International, arguably the best-rated charity in the world. One of my mother’s best friends helps run the Southern Baptist rural mission across the Carpathian Mountain range in eastern Europe, and she says the Brethren like to team up with the local Mennonite missions there – the Brethren use Heifer International to set up the gospel from the side of peacemaking and social justice (one result being that they pick up donations from a lot of non-religious or even anti-religious people along the way, who don’t realize the religious underpinning of HI and its roots in Baptist evangelism), and the Mennonites do the religious evangelization.

(The Southern Baptist International Mission Board doesn’t cooperate with either of them much, not being big on inter-denominational cooperation, unfortunately. :frowning: Which doesn’t help problems dealing with the local Eastern Orthodox branches either.)

Hiya Jason -

You are right according to my researches - and to flesh this out a bit:

Yes the Brethren will be ‘Armenian’ in their theology because they emerge out of German Pietism which was based in a freewill soteriology of human/divine collaboration . The American Universalist who rubbed shoulders with them was Elhanan Winchester who was an Armenian Baptist until persuaded of Universal Salvation by the German Pietists. By way of contrast, the No-Hellers it seems were influenced by Hosea Ballou who is in the lineage of Murray style American Universalist theology - and Murray started out as a Calvinistic Methodist. So the Brethren and the No Hellers represent the two theological strands of the older American tradition.

At the time of his switch to universalism Winchester was Arminian Baptist, but he started out technically Calv, thus tried to preach only to the elect and held closed communions. However, his personal conversion was such that he saw God was both capable and willing to save all men, and so eventually he came to be Arminian as that comported better with his desire to evangelize all (in light of his own conversion experience).

He’s a pretty classic case of the Baptist from both traditions who comes to see that both traditions are right in their gospel assurances, but thus wrong about hopeless punishment.

That’s very interesting Jason :smiley:

I guess this all shows that what goes around comes around! I think many of us come to UR because Calvin/Arm does not make sense and UR is the next logical step. Then we find Wow “God is nice and he likes me.” That by the way is a quote from Adrian Plass. Look him up if you have not heard of him.