Why I Am A Universalist: A Dogmatic Sketch

In the interest of making the series accessible to those who have perhaps only read bits and pieces, I have brought together all the posts thus far. This index will be available in the sidebar as well, and I will continue to update it as I add more posts to the series.
  • §1: Prolegomena
  • §2: The Doctrine of God, Part 1: Introduction
  • §3: The Doctrine of God, Part 2: Deus pro nobis
  • §4: The Doctrine of God, Part 3: The Attributes of God
    • Section I: God’s complexity and simplicity as the “one who loves in freedom”
  • §5: The Doctrine of God, Part 4: The Doctrine of Election
    • Section I: A summary of Barth's doctrine of election
    • Section II: Jesus Christ, electing and elected
    • Section III: Jesus Christ, divine election, and predestination
    • Section IV: The election of the individual
  • §6: Jesus Christ, the Judge Judged in Our Place
  • §7: The Doctrine of Justification
  • §8: The Doctrine of the Atonement
  • §9: Eschatology and the Last Judgment (coming soon)
  • §10: Ecclesiology, or, What Is the Point of the Church for a Universalist? (coming soon)
  • § 11: A Universalist Sacramentology: The Eucharist as the Feast for the World (coming soon)

UPDATE (Nov. 12, 2010): Because some people have asked, I want to make it clear that (a) I will not finish this series and (b) I no longer agree with some of the theological claims I make in these posts. That’s not to say I now reject the “universal scope” of God’s grace. Rather, I reject a number of the theological moves and concepts that I employ in order to articulate this grace. I am currently working on a book (to appear in a few years) that will clarify my thinking on these matters.


    Anonymous said…
    Wow. Amazing information so far. I linked your series from my blog. Hope you don't mind. :)
    James Rovira said…
    Universalism is the ultimate declaration that all humanity and all its acts and decisions are ultimately trivial. I think a better name for this doctrine would be "sentimentalism."

    Clearly you haven't read my series. You've simply imported your own definition of universalism -- one which I too despise -- and assumed that I am liable to all the same theological errors.

    Thankfully, you are wrong and I am not liable to those errors. I may be liable to other ones (who isn't?), but I certainly haven't rendered human acts trivial.

    Why not? Because I've made universalism the basis of one very important human act -- viz. the human act of Jesus' life and death for us and for our salvation. His humanity stands in the place of and on the behalf of all other humans. His humanity is definitive for what is truly human. Our humanity is only a distant echo of his, at the very best.

    Our humanity is not trivial, because Christ assumed our humanity in his incarnation. Our human acts are also not trivial, because God has given clear commands in accordance with the covenant; we are called to live in correspondence to Jesus Christ. But when it comes to salvation, then yes, our actions are indeed trivial, because we do not save ourselves. If you think that our actions are necessary for our salvation, then I can safely call you a heretic without any hesitation -- not that I want to, of course.

    It seems that you only leave me with two options: Pelagianism and sentimentalism. But I reject both. I don't think we save ourselves, nor do I think God ignores what we do, as if anything we do is just "OK" with God. No. God judges human sin in the person of Christ, and God commands new human actions in conformity to Christ. God says No to sinful action and Yes to righteous actions. But our sinful actions do not prevent us from salvation, because Jesus Christ destroyed them on the cross. And our righteous actions do not save us, because we do not save ourselves.
    Jason Pratt said…

    Kewl! I'm currently doing something similar over at the Christian Cadre, though there the result is implied from a metaphysical analysis arriving at orthodox trinitarian theism (plus the filioque. {g})

    In fact, I'm about to return to the analytical posts (after a hiatus this spring while posting up a harmonization study of Gospel texts) next Friday, and have just posted up a catch-up page with links to previous posts here.

    (An analysis of scriptural data in the canonical texts will be done later, but is likely to run into a couple thousand pages, so it could be a while. {g})

    Anyway, I look forward to reading through your 'dogmatic sketch'; I suspect we're approaching things at somewhat different angles, but there appears to be some topical overlap, too.

    Have a good weekend,

    Jason Pratt
    Jason Pratt said…
    Followup: some evangelical universalists have asked Gregory MacDonald and myself to act as sponsored guest authors for www.evangelicaluniversalist.com; and I've included a couple of links to your relevant index pages under the "Articles" category.

    Anonymous said…
    David, when may we expect the remaining installments to this series? I've found it very enlightening so far and want to read the rest.
    Anon: I don't know if I will ever finish this series. In fact, I am pretty certain that I won't. My thinking on issues of universalism has progressed so much that I would have to rewrite what I've done here. Not that I disagree with anything I've said here. Much of it I would say again. But nowadays it would be much more apocalyptic and missiological in nature. For some more recent thoughts on these matters, see http://bit.ly/HL1O9.
    Mike Gantt said…

    Thanks for this post. Particularly since your understanding has continued to grow since you wrote it, I thought you might appreciate what I call The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven (http://wp.me/PNthc-i6).