What is Patristic Universalism?
Before we accuse someone of being in error because they believe in Universalism, we need to do our homework and understand one very important point.
Not all Universalism is the same. Not nearly.
There is Patristic Universalism, Gnostic Universalism, New Age Universalism, Unitarian Universalism, Evangelical Universalism, and several more. They all have WIDELY divergent views about HOW and WHEN one enters Heaven. The only thing they do agree on is that ultimately ALL people end up in Heaven.
To group them together into one homogenous belief system is unlearned, unwise, and unfair. I have seen several posts recently attacking ALL Universalism because (allegedly) ALL Universalists believe that faith in Jesus Christ is NOT necessary to enter Heaven.
That could not be farther from the truth.
Before we attack something, let’s do our best to first fully understand the nuances of the terms we use.
Patristic Universalism (aka Apocatastasis), to which I subscribe, believes that one must be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and that this rebirth comes solely from an extension of interpersonal faith in Jesus Christ. It simply holds that this conversion can come in this age (which is far better) OR in the heightened crisis of the postmortem ages to come.
In other words, even after our deaths, God will continue to woo us, convince us, and vibrantly confront our issues until we finally see and embrace the irresistible truth– that Jesus Christ is the one true light and love, and in Him alone our salvation lies. The church fathers believed that “God’s fire was wise” in purging and pruning our diseased souls back to a place of healthy receptivity.
This form of Universalism believes in a God who would never give His children the keys to a cosmic car with which they could crash, burn, and destroy themselves eternally. Rather, our dear Abba has installed spiritual guardrails, airbags, and safety equipment into the postmortem cosmos which will keep our souls from destruction no matter how hard we may have wrecked them during our earth lives.
Simply put, Patristic Universalism believes Jesus will win all people back, come Hell or high-water. God, through Jesus Christ, will ultimately rescue and convince ALL to receive their rebirth, even if it is after (in some cases) much “gnashing of teeth,” prolonged emotional anguish, and stubborn mental resistance. Many will hold out for extended periods of time, but all will eventually see that against an irresistibly virtuous God there is no eternal defense. As the lies are burned away, every soul will come to itself and behold this champion truth– Jesus Christ is God’s rescuing love.
He will heal all the rebels of their rebellion.
He will cure all of His haters with His relentless love.
He will save ALL His lambs by going after them wherever they have fallen lost.
He will boast as He meets every tearful prodigal on their return journey home.
How long in the ages to come will God continue to woo and convince His children to receive the light and love of His Son? …..As long as it takes.