Facets of Faith for July 23, 2011

Who enters heaven? Everyone?

Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and its questions about hell have caused a resurgence in people using the term “universalist.”

In Christian life, most denominations view the belief as a heresy, and the term is often used as a smear.

While the story on today’s page refers to an organization with the word Universalist in the name, the belief has been around a long time.

Almost every source describes Universalism as adoctrine that says all souls will eventually find salvation in the grace of God.

It has been found throughout the history of Christianity, perhaps earliest in the second and third centuries taught by Clement, Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa.

It is also associated with Gnostic beliefs.

The U.S. movement in the 18th century that eventually joined with the Unitarians was a reaction in the Enlightenment toward harsher parts of Calvinism.

The movement taught that a loving God wouldn’t limit salvation to a few but would restore others after a time when their souls were purified.

While most denominations teach universalim is a heresy, many Christians don’t believe it.

In its article “Can non-Christians be saved?, http://www.religioustolerance.org/ lists several polls that ask questions about who can get into heaven.

Depending on the poll, at least half of Americans feel that good people will be in heaven, not just people with a certain religious practice.

Other definitions

The Religious Tolerance website presents some additional definitions:

•“The belief that the God described in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is the deity for all humanity, rather than just for the ancient Hebrews.”

•“A concept in Judaism that God created the entire universe as a single entity, that all people were created for a common moral purpose, and that God chose the Jews to convey a moral message to all humanity so that the redemption available to all people through God might occur.’” (“On the theory of Jewish Universalism” at http://www.convert.org/book1.htm#1a.

Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms presents a related term, “hypothetical universalism,” which says Jesus Christ died for all people and all are capable of being saved. It is “hypothetically” possible for them to be saved, but this may not actually happen.

Your views

What do you think heaven and hell are? Will everyone make it to heaven?

Send your answers - aim for fewer than 100 words - to lenglish@theadvocate.com. Please include your full name and town.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica; Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell; Webster’s New World College Dictionary, fourth edition; Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Donald K. McKim; http://www.religioustolerance.org/

Send ideas to Leila Pitchford-English, The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or email lenglish@theadvocate.com.