Some theologians consider universalism to be a form of predestination, whereas others allow universalism to stand on its own merit. According to this understanding of salvation, God loves everybody, shows grace towards everybody, and ultimately, God will give salvation to everybody, even to those who are not Christians and who do not believe in Jesus Christ. It is possible to argue that this is a form of predestination, but instead of God electing only a limited number for salvation, God chooses to elect all people for salvation. At the very least, universalism shares with predestination the understanding that salvation is based on God*s initiative alone; we humans need not do something first in order to receive it. Regardless of whether or not universalism has any other affinities with predestination, its emphasis on universal election separates it from the other three categories listed above.

The beginnings of universalism in the history of Christianity date back to the 3rd-century theologian, Origen. During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, a handful of Anabaptists theologians argued in favor of universalism. In 18th and 19th century America, universalism gained some acceptance and support in the New England area as a response to the strict understanding of Calvinist predestination that existed. Unitarian churches emerged out of this universalist atmosphere, and to this day, the Unitarian church is one of the only religious bodies associated with the Judeo-Christian denomination that officially endorses universalism. Other theologians and church leaders throughout the past several hundred years have endorsed universalism, and in the Reformed tradition, the 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, at least flirted with the idea that God would redeem all of humankind. Today, in many mainline denominations, both in Europe and in the United States, universalism is gaining popularity, though in the U.S., it is still a much less prominent understanding of how humans receive salvation than Semi-Pelagianism.

Key Texts:

Romans 5:18

18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.

Romans 11:32

32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

I Cor.15:21-22

21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.

Ephesians 1:9-10

9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Philippians 2:9-11

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 1:19-20

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

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