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Universalism (though in a different

Universalism (though in a different form than Bell’s and for different reasons) has been present
in the church since Origen, but it was never in the center of the tradition. Origen’s theology
was partly anticipated by his fellow Platonist Clement of Alexandria and later shows up in the
Cappadocian Gregory of Nyssa. But according to William Moore and Henry Austin Wilson in the
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series, Gregory’s theology of hell is hard to pin down. He makes
much of God being “all in all” and evil being eradicated, but he also warns of the final judgment and the flames ready to engulf the wicked (NPNF ser. 2, 5:16). Whatever Origen’s influence on the Cappadocian fathers (and it was considerable), Origen’s views were later refuted by
Augustine and, as Bauckham notes, condemned in 543 in a council at Constantinople

Bell also mentions Jerome, Basil, and Augustine because they claimed many people in their day
believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God (107). But listing all the heavyweights
who took time to refute the position you are now espousing is not a point in your favor. Most
egregiously, Bell calls on Martin Luther in support of post-mortem salvation (106). But as Carl
Trueman has pointed out, anyone familiar with Luther’s creedal statements and overall writing,
not to mention the actual quotation in question, will quickly see that Luther is not on Bell’s side Universalism has been around a long time. But so has every other heresy. Arius rejected the full
deity of Christ and many people followed him. This hardly makes Arianism part of the wide,
diverse stream of Christian orthodoxy. Every point of Christian doctrine has been contested,
but some have been deemed heterodox. Universalism, traditionally, was considered one of those
points. True, many recent liberal theologians have argued for versions of universalism—and this
is where Bell stands, not in the center of the historic Christian tradition.

Kevin DeYoung

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