Theological problems sometimes have a way of rising with urgent contemporaneity without any specific way of accounting for them. Many historical factors can contribute to their rise; the underlying spirit and mentality of a given era can form a point of contact with various specific ideas that are thrown out at that time. Recent discussions about universalism present a theological problem of this sort. The doctrine of universalism is also called the doctrine of apokatastasia, the restoration of all things and redemption for all men. This doctrine is at present high on the agenda of theological debate. It is urgent, as always, because it is a genuinely existential problem. Since it is concerned with all men, it includes us. This is why universalism has a certain compelling quality that touches us all.
Salvation for all men: this is the thesis of universalism. One day the bad dream of sin will be over. We shall all rise and go back to our father and home. There is, to be sure, a powerful resistance to the grace of God in the world. There is rebellion and a hardening of hearts. But sin’s rebellion shall be done away. This is not to suggest that sin and unbelief are not taken seriously in universalism. It is not to say that according to universalism man has not earned God’s judgment. It does mean, however, that the grace of God shall triumph in the end and break down all resistance. Universalism proclaims the glorious victory of divine grace. This is the thought that will not down. Though ancient forms, such as given by Origen, are rejected, the main motif continually returns to brace the human spirit. Contemplating the final end of the ways of God, universalists cannot imagine that there can be any other than this ...1
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