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What is ultra-universalism?


Universalism, the belief that everyone will eventually be saved, can be subdivided into various theological types. One of those types is ultra-universalism, which expands on the teaching of universal salvation.

In Christian theology, universalism is the idea that all humankind will eventually be saved through Christ—everyone makes his or her way to heaven because Jesus died for everyone, and His sacrifice covered the sins of the whole world. Then there is inter-religious universalism, which holds that everyone will be saved and go to some type of heaven, although not on the basis of the cross—salvation comes apart from any connection to Christ.

Within Christian universalism, there are further theological divisions—some based on various views of the atonement. Some universalists believe that all non-Christians will be automatically saved in Christ, whether they know Him or not (a type of inclusivism). Others believe that salvation for each person will occur only after he or she makes a profession of belief in the lordship of Jesus Christ (a type of exclusivism). One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11); when that happens, say universalists who hold to exclusivism, everyone will be saved.

Another major division within universalism is based on the idea of torment after death. The question is, before ultimate salvation, will the unsaved have to experience hell or some kind of torment? Some who believe in ultimate reconciliation or ultimate restoration say that, yes, there will be a time of suffering after death for the unsaved, but everyone will eventually be released from hell and taken to heaven. In their view, hell is remedial, not punitive, and functions more as a purgatory. Ultra-universalists, on the other hand, believe there is no suffering at all after death. All people go straight to heaven when they die. Ultra-universalists (also called strong universalists) believe that all will be saved and that no one will experience punishment. In their view, no hell exists.

Universalism has never been an official doctrine of orthodox Christianity. According to Michael McClymond, author of The Devil’s Redemption, “Universalism seems . . . to be fundamentally out of sync with the New Testament narrative of God’s loving initiative in Christ provoking some to faith and others to offense and even hatred” (interview with Copan, P., “How Universalism, ‘the Opiate of the Theologians,’ Went Mainstream,” Christianity Today, 3/11/19). Ultra-universalism has even deeper problems, as it logically allows for antinomianism and severs all ethical connections between this world and the afterlife. If there are no consequences for wrongdoing, all present-day choices are drained of their moral impact.

Ultra-universalism is, of course, inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. Jesus indicated that some people will experience torment after death (see Luke 16:22–24). And He clearly taught an end-times judgment: “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41–42). In that furnace-like place, Jesus says, people will discover that “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

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This page last updated: May 24, 2022