Universalism Today Part I -- By: Harold Lindsell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:483 (Jul 1964)
Article: Universalism Today Part I
Author: Harold Lindsell


Universalism Today
Part I

Harold Lindsell

[Harold Lindsell, Vice President, Professor of Missions, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.]

Different ages have given rise to different emphases in theology. Thus in the early church, the eastern world concerned itself with Christology, problems relating to the person of Christ and His pre-existence. The Roman side of the church thought through questions having to do with soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. The Reformation paid strict attention to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The Arminian emphasis sought to negotiate the impact of Calvinism. Twentieth century liberialism arose to challenge orthodoxy and then found itself challenged, in turn, by neo-orthodoxy. So it has ever been.

One of the recurring emphases in theology has had to do with the question of universalism or universal salvation. At various times in the history of the church this viewpoint has been common currency. Strong voices have been raised to support the notion that ultimately all men will be redeemed. In our day universalism has enjoyed a substantial resurgence. It has come to the fore in ways and situations which suggest the necessity for a reconsideration of the subject.

It is interesting to note that an immense amount of literature for and against universialism was published in the United States in the nineteenth century. During this period one could read polemical material on both sides of the controversy, and ardent champions arose to defend their particular opinions hoping to settle the matter one way or the other for all time. Even the book titles of the nineteenth century are illuminating. M. Steere wrote Footprints heavenward: or universalism, the more excellent way in 1862; John Wesley Hanson wrote The Leaven at Work in 1888; Matthew

Smith wrote Universalism not of God in 1825; in 1874 Nathan George Dow wrote Universalism not of the Bible; Samuel Cox wrote Salvator mundi, or Christ is the Saviour of all men in 1878; in 1883 A. W. Hall penned a work entitled Universalism against itself; and in an earlier time in the nineteenth century Ezra Stiles Ely published a work which brought together the debates of learned and interested savants on the question of the correctness or incorrectness of endless punishment and universal felicity.

The nineteenth-century controversy surrounding universalism died out without resolving the problem in the minds of many. In place thereof new excitements and concerns pressed for attention; now some seventy-five years later universalism has come to the fore once more. At this state the resurgence of universalis...

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