Paul among the Evangelicals, §3: The Argument (3.1)

3. The Argument over Universalism in Rom. 5:12-21

3.1. A Typology of Universalisms

Before laying out the case for universalism in Rom. 5, it is important to gain some clarity over the meaning of the word “universalism.” The word admits of multiple meanings, and at the risk of oversimplification, I will summarize the three types mentioned by Robin Parry and Christopher Partridge: (1) multiracial universalism, (2) Arminian universalism, and (3) strong universalism.[15] The first is taken for granted by Christians today and simply denotes the fact that people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) are included within the family of God. The second so-called Arminian position is universalist in that God desires every individual to be saved and in fact offers salvation to all—in other words, a universalism in potentiality. In concert with this universal offer of salvation, the Arminian position stresses a kind of libertarian free will which leaves the final outcome—salvation or damnation—up to each individual. The third category includes a few different sub-types: (a) non-Christian universalism, (b) “pluralist universalism,” of the kind advocated by John Hick, and (c) “Christian universalism.” Since the debate under discussion is among Protestant evangelicals who all agree that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation, it goes without saying that (a) and (b) are outside the scope of this paper. There are varieties of Christian universalism as well. Some Christian universalists accept the notion of hell, while others do not; some make an explicit declaration of faith in Christ constitutive for salvation (whether in this life or after death), while others do not. The unifying factor is that salvation is in Christ alone (solus Christus). To the arguments for and against universalism in Romans 5 we now turn.


15. Parry and Partridge, xv-xvii.


Aric Clark said…
Fantastic little summary here David. I look forward to you continuing your universalism series, though I'd also be curious to hear what you think about non-Christian and pluralist strands of universalism.
I don't really have any interest in non-Christian or pluralist forms of universalism, simply because I don't think they have any meaning. Without Christ -- the only true universal -- there is no salvation. I'm pluralist in the sense that I recognize and affirm the particularities that distinguish cultures and religions, but I am not a pluralist if that means thinking salvation is possible apart from Christ. Nothing happens apart from Christ: that's my view. In short, John Hick has nothing positive to offer, in my honest opinion.
Aric Clark said…
I'm essentially in agreement with you, though I probably wouldn't say Hick has nothing positive to offer. I am not generally impressed by Hick's version of pluralism.

Mark Heim seems to have more interesting things to say in that field, though.