Universalist Teachings of the Early Church

[About the teaching of Clement of Alexandria:] It is his lofty and wholesome doctrine that man is made in the image of God; that man’s will is free; that he is redeemed from sin by a divine education and a corrective discipline; that fear and punishment are but remedial instruments in man’s training; that Justice is but another aspect of perfect Love; that the physical world is good and not evil; that Christ is a Living not a Dead Christ; that all mankind form one great brotherhood in him; that salvation is an ethical process, not an external reward; that the atonement was not the pacification of wrath, but the revelation of God’s eternal mercy. . . . That judgment is a continuous process, not a single sentence; that God works all things up to what is better; that souls may be purified beyond the grave.

— John Wesley Hanson, Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years: With Authorities and Extracts, p. 126-127

Love and Justice

There is no necessity that God should be reconciled with humanity, for there is no schism in the divine nature between love and justice which needs to be overcome before love can go forth in free and full forgiveness. The idea that justice and love are distinct attributes of God, differing widely in their operation, is regarded by Clement [of Alexandria] as having its origin in a mistaken conception of their nature. Justice and love are in reality the same attribute, or, to speak from the point of view which distinguishes them, God is most loving when he is most just, and most just when he is most loving….

Clement would not tolerate the thought that any soul would continue forever to resist the force of redeeming love. Somehow and somewhere in the long run of ages, that love must prove weightier than sin and death, and vindicate its power in one universal triumph.

— John Wesley Hanson, Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years: With Authorities and Extracts, p. 122-123

Every Knee Shall Bow

“The Lord is the propitiation, not only for our sins, that is of the faithful, but also for the whole world (I John 2:2); therefore he truly saves all, converting some by punishments, and others by gaining their free will, so that he has the high honor that unto him every knee should bow, angels, men and the souls of those who died before his advent.”

— Clement of Alexandria, quoted in Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years: With Authorities and Extracts, by John Wesley Hanson, p. 121

God Never Gives Up

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, both taught by Jesus at the same time as the parable of the prodigal son, can be understood to mean that God never gives up on anyone until they come into a saving relationship with His Son Jesus….

Don’t you see it?! By telling these parables, Jesus was saying, “That’s how My Father is! That’s how I am! As long as there is one of My Father’s children, My brothers and sisters, who is lost, we are going to keep on looking for him UNTIL WE FIND HIM!” Does that sound as if He is going to give up on anybody just because he dies? No!! Look at the story of the prodigal. It should be called “The Story of the Father Who Never Gives Up on His Children”!

— Mark T. Chamberlain and Thomas Allin, Every Knee Shall Bow, p. 22-23

A Wider Hope

Some think that to believe in the ultimate salvation of all implies the escape of the wicked from all punishment and places the sinner on the same level as the saint. Let me reply once and for all that nothing could be farther from the truth. For the Christian Universalist or the believer in the wider hope, as it has been called, we believe that the very method God uses to bring those who die unsaved into a saving relationship with Christ is the severity of the divine judgment, the consuming fire, that burns up all iniquity. The wider hope teaches the certainty of punishment for the obstinate sinner, because it sees God’s judgment as the mode of cure. Unrepented sin leads to an awful future penalty, a penalty that is in proportion to the guilt of the sinner, and is continued until he repents. Christian Universalists not only accept but also emphasize the terrible warning of punishment to come, because they see punishment not as needless cruelty with no purpose, but as both justice and discipline that brings the sinner to repentance.

The main question of the debate is this: Can evil ever be stronger than God? Can a Father allow the endless, hopeless sin and misery of even one of his children, and calmly look on forever and ever, unmoved and unsympathizing? The Bible speaks in Acts 3:21 of a “time for restoring all things” and in 1 Corinthians 15:28 of a time when “God will be ALL IN ALL.” And in Collossians 1:20, it speaks of God reconciling ALL things to Himself through Christ! If these verses don’t teach the salvation of all, words have no meaning!

People always tell me that all chances for salvation end at a person’s death. But where is this taught? The only passage of scripture I have ever read or heard anyone try to use to prove this is Hebrews 9:27. Let’s look at it: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” How does this verse teach that there are no further chances for salvation after death? Where does it say in this verse that after the judgment comes eternal hell? Nowhere! If God wants to hand down a different sentence to each individual according to the light he or she had and the sins that have been committed, why can’t He? Jesus taught a parable in Luke 12:42-48 that appears to teach that very thing.

— Thomas Allin and Mark T. Chamberlain, Every Knee Shall Bow, p. 21