Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moltmann, Barth and 3 Types of Universalism

 I've noticed a declining trend these days in regards to the identification of Universalism, and it's variants in the theological spectrum. Most people immediately leap to speculations involving "no hell" to "no atonement and no hell" and even utilizing the 'p' word; pluralism. Now there are certainly pluralists who consider all religions of equal standing, and some Universalists veer towards this viewpoint. However, within evangelicalism, there exist several stripes of this view.

For example a universalist could be an excusivist (ala Robert Peterson and the majority of evangelicals) or an inclusivist (ala Clark Pinnock). They could be Reformed or a Calvinist (Barth; yes I think Barth was a universalist) or a combination of Reformed and Arminian (Tom Talbott). When I was a universalist, I believed in the 4 points of Calvinism, with an Unlimited atonement (ala Arminianism). This logically lead me to universalism. What changed my mind is outside the scope of this post.

Needless to say, it is usually best to just ask a universalist their opinion and methodology. They will likely talk your ear off.

Jurgen Moltmann in his wonderful book "The Coming of God" lays out four varying positions in competition, with three of them being universalistic in varying ways.

1. Particularismus verus (true Particularism). Moltmann identifies this with Beza and Gomarus in 1618, and Augustine over a millennium before. He wraps it up in 'double predestination' and his critique of the view is that is made up of antitheses and juxtaposition. It is 'negative' salvation.

2. Universalismus hypotheticus (hypothetical Universalism). Jurgen suggests that Moyse Amyraut developed the idea of the general proclamation of the gospel, even though he foreknew that only some would be saved. God's intent is universal, but the outcome is particular.

3. Universalismus verus (true or real Universalism). Moltmann brings out the (in)famous Friedrich Schleiermacher, a Calvinist theologian. Schleiermacher, argue Moltmann, sees that the eschatological goal of God is universal salvation. The human being cannot eternally maintain his unbelief contrary to God's love. God rejects in order to elect.

4. Open Universalism. Here, Karl Barth fulfills Moltmann's example. God elects all men in Christ, and consequently, God's resolve is universal, whether you know it or not. However, Barth resists symmetry in his theology and does not embrace universalism because of his high view of God's freedom.

Moltmann's own theology is wrapped up in the Descent into Hell, and the need for reconciliation not only between God and humanity, but for humanity to be reconciled to itself. His experiences in the prison camps, where guards and slaves fought, would ultimately be undone in God's liberative love.

Much of this can be found in Moltmann, 235-255.



  1. Thanks for writing this.
    I am still a universalist.
    It just makes sense to me.
    My universalism is a combination of 3 and 4.

    None of us knows what will happen in the end.

    It is imperative that we love all.
    If we would do just that, God would be happy, I think:P

    What has been the reaction you've gotten from most eu's since you came out in favor of annihilationism? You were pretty involved in that circle.

    1. Honestly, not much. Some disappointment but otherwise indifference. ;)

      Thanks Juan.