Universalism

Term used -usually in its adjectival forms: universalist(ic) – as a contrast term to egoism and altruism when referring to utilitarianism and similar topics.

It is summed up in the slogan of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), ‘Everyone to count for one and no-one for more than one’.

Philosophy

Universality

In philosophy, universality is the notion that universal facts can be discovered and is therefore understood as being in opposition to relativism.[4]

In certain religions, universalism is the quality ascribed to an entity whose existence is consistent throughout the universe.

Moral universalism

Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics applies universally. That system is inclusive of all individuals,[5] regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature.[6] Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor do they necessarily value monism. Many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist. Other forms such as those theorized by Isaiah Berlin, may value pluralist ideals.

Religion

Baháʼí Faith

A white column with ornate designs carved into it, including a Star of David

Symbols of many religions on a pillar of the Baháʼí House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois

In the teachings of the Baháʼí Faith, a single God has sent all the historic founders of the world religions in a process of progressive revelation. As a result, the major world religions are seen as divine in origin and are continuous in their purpose. In this view, there is unity among the founders of world religions, but each revelation brings a more advanced set of teachings in human history and none are syncretic.[7]

Within this universal view, the unity of humanity is one of the central teachings of the Baháʼí Faith.[8] The Baháʼí teachings state that since all humans have been created in the image of God, God does not make any distinction between people with regard to race, colour or religion.[9]:138 Thus, because all humans have been created equal, they all require equal opportunities and treatment.[8] Hence the Baháʼí view promotes the unity of humanity, and that people’s vision should be world-embracing and that people should love the whole world rather than just their nation.[9]:138

The teaching, however, does not equate unity with uniformity; instead the Baháʼí writings advocate the principle of unity in diversity where the variety in the human race is valued.[9]:139 Operating on a worldwide basis this cooperative view of the peoples and nations of the planet culminates in a vision of the practicality of the progression in world affairs towards, and the inevitability of, world peace.[10]

Buddhism

The idea of Universal Salvation is key to the Mahayana school of Buddhism.[11] All practitioners of this school of Buddhism aspire to become fully enlightened, so as to save other beings. There are many such vows or sentiments that people on this path focus on, the most famous being “Beings are numberless. I vow to save them all.”

Adherents to Pure Land Buddhism point to Amitabha Buddha as a Universal Savior. Before becoming a Buddha Amitabha vowed that he would save all beings.

Christianity

The fundamental idea of Christian universalism is universal reconciliation – that all humans will eventually be saved. They will eventually enter God’s kingdom in Heaven, through the grace and works of the lord Jesus Christ.[12] Christian universalism teaches that an eternal Hell does not exist, and that it was not what Jesus had taught. They point to historical evidence showing that some early fathers of the church were universalists, and attribute the origin of the idea of hell as eternal to mistranslation.[13]

Universalists cite numerous Biblical passages which reference the salvation of all beings.[14] In addition, they argue that an eternal hell is both unjust, and against the nature and attributes of a loving God.[15]

The remaining beliefs of Christian universalism are generally compatible with the fundamentals of Christianity[citation needed]

  • God is the loving Parent of all peoples, see Love of God.
  • Jesus Christ reveals the nature and character of God, and is the spiritual leader of humankind.
  • Humankind is created with an immortal soul, which death can not end—or a mortal soul that shall be resurrected and preserved by God. A soul which God will not wholly destroy.[16]
  • Sin has negative consequences for the sinner either in this life or the afterlife. All of God’s punishments for sin are corrective and remedial. None of such punishments will last forever, or result in the permanent destruction of a soul. Some Christian Universalists believe in the idea of a Purgatorial Hell, or a temporary place of purification that some must undergo before their entrance into Heaven.[17]

In 1899 the Universalist General Convention, later called the Universalist Church of America, adopted the Five Principles: the belief in God, Jesus Christ, the immortality of the human soul, the reality of sin and universal reconciliation.[18]

History

Origen, traditionally considered a 3rd-century proponent of Universal Reconciliation

Universalist writers such as George T. Knight have claimed that Universalism was a widely held view among theologians in Early Christianity.[19] These included such important figures such as Alexandrian scholar Origen as well as Clement of Alexandria, a Christian theologian.[19] Origen and Clement both included the existence of a non-eternal Hell in their teachings. Hell was remedial, in that it was a place one went to purge one’s sins before entering into Heaven.[20]

The first undisputed documentations of Christian Universalist ideas occurred in 17th-century England and 18th-century Europe as well as in colonial America. Between 1648-1697 English activist Gerrard Winstanley, writer Richard Coppin, and dissenter Jane Leade, each taught that God would grant all human beings salvation. The same teachings were later spread throughout 18th-century France and America by George de Benneville. People who taught this doctrine in America would later become known as the Universalist Church of America.[21]

The Greek term apocatastasis came to be related by some to the beliefs of Christian universalism, but central to the doctrine was the restitution, or restoration of all sinful beings to God, and to His state of blessedness. In early Patristics, usage of the term is distinct.

Universalist theology

Universalist theology is grounded in history, scripture and assumptions about the nature of God. Thomas Whittemore wrote the book “100 Scriptural Proofs that Jesus Christ Will Save All Mankind”[22] quoting both Old and New Testament verses which support the Universalist viewpoint.

Some Bible verses he cites and are cited by other Christian Universalists are:

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:22[23]
    • “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (ESV)
  2. 2 Peter 3:9
    • “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV)
  3. 1 Timothy 2:3–6[23]
    • “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL men—the testimony given in its proper time.” (NIV)
  4. 1 John 2:2
    • “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (NIV)
  5. 1 Timothy 4:10[23]
    • “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (ESV)
  6. Romans 11:32[23]
    • “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” (NIV)

Mistranslations

Christian universalists point towards the mistranslations of the Greek word αιών (Lit. aion), as giving rise to the idea of Eternal Hell, and the idea that some people will not be saved.[13][24][25]

This Greek word is the origin of the modern English word aeon, which refers to a period of time or an epoch.

The 19th century theologian Marvin Vincent wrote about the word aion, and the supposed connotations of “eternal” or “temporal”:

Aion, transliterated aeon, is a period of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself. […] Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting.”[26]

Dr. Ken Vincent writes that “When it (aion) was translated into Latin Vulgate, “aion” became “aeternam” which means “eternal”.[13]

Catholicism

The first use of the term “Catholic Church” (literally meaning “universal church”) was by the church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans (circa 100 AD).[27]

The Catholic church believes that God judges everyone based only on their moral acts,[28] that no one should be subject to human misery,[29] that everyone is equal in dignity yet distinct in individuality before God,[30] that no one should be discriminated against because of their sin or concupiscence,[31] and that apart from coercion[32] God exhausts every means to save mankind from evil: original holiness being intended for everyone,[33] the irrevocable Old Testament covenants,[34][35] each religion being a share in the truth,[36] elements of sanctification in non-Catholic Christian communities,[37] the good people of every religion and nation,[38] everyone being called to baptism and confession,[39][40] and Purgatory, suffrages, and indulgences for the dead.[41][42][43] The church believes that everyone is predestined to Heaven,[44] that no one is predestined to Hell,[45] that everyone is redeemed by Christ’s Passion,[46] that no one is excluded from the church except by sin,[47] and that everyone can either love God by loving others unto going to Heaven or reject God by sin unto going to Hell.[48][49] The church believes that God’s predestination takes everything into account,[50] and that his providence brings out of evil a greater good,[51] as evidenced, the church believes, by the Passion of Christ being all at once predestined by God,[52] foretold in Scripture,[53] necessitated by original sin,[54] authored by everyone who sins,[55] caused by Christ’s executioners,[56] and freely planned and undergone by Christ.[57][58] The church believes that everyone who goes to Heaven joins the church,[59][60] and that from the beginning God intended Israel to be the beginning of the church,[61] wherein God would unite all persons to each other and to God.[62] The church believes that Heaven and Hell are eternal.[63][64]

The Latin book Cur Deus Homo explains that God donate the soul and a guardian angel to any human being but he can’t donate the forgiveness of sins and the eternal salavation in Paradise to anyone, even baptized. In this sense, St Anselm of Canterbury defended the existence of the Purgatory, a place to which all the souls having one or more sins to be expiated are destinated for a limited period of time. Their forgiveness can be shortened by alternative forms of expiation like rituals (Suffrage Mass) and works of mercy which the living believers dedicate to them. The pain’s debt is payd by different creatures but it can’t freely remitted. St Anselm demonstrated that if God could forgive the human sins without any form of sacrifice, then the crucifixion of Jesus Christ God wouldn’t have been necessary for the eternal salvation of the human kind and God won’t be perfect.

Hinduism

Author David Frawley says that Hinduism has a “background universalism” and its teachings contain a “universal relevance.”[65] Hinduism is also naturally religiously pluralistic.[66] A well-known Rig Vedic hymn says: “Truth is One, though the sages know it variously.”[67] Similarly, in the Bhagavad Gītā (4:11), God, manifesting as an incarnation, states: “As people approach me, so I receive them. All paths lead to me.”[68] The Hindu religion has no theological difficulties in accepting degrees of truth in other religions. Hinduism emphasizes that everyone actually worships the same God, whether one knows it or not.[69]

While Hinduism has an openness and tolerance towards other religions, it also has a wide range of diversity within it.[70] There are considered to be six orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy/theology,[71] as well as multiple unorthodox or “hetrodox” traditions called darshanas.[72]

Hindu universalism

Hindu universalism, also called Neo-Vedanta[73] and neo-Hinduism,[74] is a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It denotes the ideology that all religions are true and therefore worthy of toleration and respect.[75]

It is a modern interpretation that aims to present Hinduism as a “homogenized ideal of Hinduism”[76] with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine.[77] For example, it presents that:

… an imagined “integral unity” that was probably little more than an “imagined” view of the religious life that pertained only to a cultural elite and that empirically speaking had very little reality “on the ground,” as it were, throughout the centuries of cultural development in the South Asian region.[78]

Hinduism embraces universalism by conceiving the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth, and therefore it accepts all forms of beliefs and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity.[79][80][81][self-published source]

This modernised re-interpretation has become a broad current in Indian culture,[77][82] extending far beyond the Dashanami Sampradaya, the Advaita Vedanta Sampradaya founded by Adi Shankara. An early exponent of Hindu Universalism was Ram Mohan Roy, who established the Brahmo Samaj.[83] Hindu Universalism was popularised in the 20th century in both India and the west by Vivekananda[84][77] and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.[77] Veneration for all other religions was articulated by Gandhi:

After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that [1] all religions are true; [2] all religions have some error in them; [3] all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.[85]

Western orientalists played an important role in this popularisation, regarding Vedanta to be the “central theology of Hinduism”.[77] Oriental scholarship portrayed Hinduism as a “single world religion”,[77] and denigrated the heterogeneousity of Hindu beliefs and practices as ‘distortions’ of the basic teachings of Vedanta

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