When I tell other Christians that I am a Christian Universalist, the vast majority of them think I mean that I believe that all people go to Heaven regardless of having gone through Jesus to get there. Most Christians hear the word “universalism” and assume that unitarian universalism is what is meant. Even after I explain that I believe Jesus is the only way to salvation, these Christians still think I am teaching that people don’t need faith in Christ to become saved. Their obstuseness aside, have you ever wondered if we should drop the title of “universalist”, seeing that there is such a widespread misunderstanding of the term in Christian circles that just isn’t going away?
I think UR (Ultimate Reconciliation-ist) is a more accurate description of what Christian Universalists are about.
I’ve occasionally played with the idea of calling myself a “katholic” (which is Greek for universalist, more or less), in verbal conversation with other Protestants. But that would be even more confusing.
There are different types of universalism out there, all of which have at least this in common, that the wrath of God is not hopeless. (In some cases the type of universalism denies the wrath of God altogether.) I think the term is useful enough for that purpose, though I like firstborn’s idea, too.
As a practical matter, when I identify myself as an western orthodox trinitarian universalist, that pretty much covers most bases for concerned Protestants and Roman Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox). They may not know what it means, but they won’t automatically think it means something doctrineless; and they’re less likely than otherwise to think it means non-trinitarian; and if they have any idea of Eastern Orthodoxy (enough to know there’s an Eastern Orthodox group) they’ll at least suspect I’m not claiming to be EOx. If they ask or challenge whether that means I don’t believe in hell, I can tell them.
Usually they either back up in confusion or ask questions for clarification. I prefer the latter, of course, but the former is better than hasty assumptions.
I agree that the word “universalism” is problematic with most Christians. I tend toward the route of using any biblical term I can find instead of an -ism. I read an article by an Orthodox bishop who was a universalist. He never used the word universalist, but instead explained his belief that God will reconcile everything on heaven and on earth and under the earth.
In a similar way, I once got in trouble at the Christian school where I teach for using the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart.” Some reformed circles oppose this concept because it’s not biblical. However, I could refer to ‘repenting and turning to God’ which, essentially, means the same thing but is a biblical phrase from Acts (or ‘receiving Christ’ which is John).
Yeah, it’s way tooooooooooooo mushy for a Lutheran.
Yes, Gabe hit the nail on the head. The label incorrectly identifies us. I NEVER claim to be a Universalist. Rather I use the term “Reconcilationist”. If I am questioned about this, I state that I believe in the universal reconciliation of all people to God. I make it clear that those who will be in Gehenna must submit themselves to Christ in order to be reconciled, just as you and I had to, in order to be reconciled to God.
I simply tell folks that I am a “jesusian” ( ja-su-see-un)
That is a great word!!!
And this is a great thread Gabe. Yes, I like, and need, and find interesting all the Greek/Hebrew word analysis by all our wonderful theologian types here, I am of course a mere layman – so my discussions and descriptions are more pedestrian.
Slowly, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of what you suggest here Gabe. The term Universalist does trigger immediate resistance and negativity it seems. And yes, Jesus should always remain central to however we formulate our ideas. Timing is another thing though.
I say stuff like Universal Restoration – accomplished by God’s grace and facilitated by the Christ and mediated by the Holy Spirit. Stuff to keep the conversation going; rather than leaving the listener in some sort of shock at hearing such heresy.
I refer to my universalism as part of my eschatology and secondary doctrine. First and foremost, I’m a lover and follower of God while I believe that everybody else will eventually do the same.