The Doctrine Of Universal Reconciliation

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While the doctrine of universal reconciliation has indeed been a minority position throughout most of Christian history–albeit not quite two-thousand years!–all one has to do is turn to Augustine, a clear non-Universalist, to see how it was once upon a time a rather popular doctrine. He, in the fifth century, rather dismissively writes: It is quite in vain, then, that some–indeed very many–yield to merely human feelings and deplore the notion of the eternal punishment of the damned and their interminable and perpetual misery. They do not believe that such things will be. Not that they would go counter to divine Scripture—but, yielding to their own human feelings, they soften what seems harsh and give a milder emphasis to statements they…show more content…
(Ibid.) A who’s who this impressive forces us to ask two questions. First, was it merely a yielding to human feelings that caused “indeed very many” to “deplore the notion of the eternal punishment of the damned,” as Augustine suggests, or was it something else? Given the scholarship of the above list, I’d have to conclude that Augustine was levying an unfair charge against his Universalist interlocutors by suggesting this. Certainly their collective credentials deserve more respect! And second, has Universalism really been considered heretical by the Christian Church for her entire two-thousand year history, as Driscoll so emphatically states? The simple truth is that no, Driscoll is not correct to suggest that Universalism has been heretical throughout the entirety of Christendom: far from it, in fact, as the theory of apokatastasis wasn’t declared heretical until the sixth century, first by Justinian (a despotic Byzantine emperor) and then at the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. And even then, it wasn’t so much the eschatological conclusions of St. Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and other Universalists that was the cause of doctrinal controversy, it was, as historian Morwenna Ludlow points out, Origen’s ideas about “the pre-existence of souls, their ‘fall’ into human bodies, and a spiritual resurrection.” (Ludlow, “Universalism,” 195) To put it plainly, universal reconciliation was unfairly condemned because it was connected with
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