Gnosticism And Christian Universalism

Universal salvation (or universalism) seems to have first emerged as a distinct religious doctrine among Christian gnostic teachers in or around Alexandria, Egypt, during the early to mid-second century CE, several decades before the influential and well-known Christian author Origen (ca. 185-251)… Two leading historians of Christian universalism During the nineteenth century, Hosea Ballou II and Richard Eddy, both claimed the second-century gnostic thinkers of Alexandria, Egypt, as their forebears. Eddy, who like Ballou was both a universalist himself and a historian of universalism, wrote: “As early as 130 A.D., we come upon the first notice of Universalism, after the days of the apostles, in the writings of the Basilideans, Carpocratians, and Valentinians, the more prominent sects of the Gnostics. The ultimate purification of the race was, according to their theories, by means of the discipline of the souls of the wicked through transmigration.”

Michael McClymond,The Devil’s Redemption: A New History And Interpretation of Christian Universalism 2 vol. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018), 1.1, 2–3.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. I found that some of puritans, — Peter Sterry (1613-1672) and Jeremiah White (1629-1707), both were Cromwell’s chaplains — became Universalists, and in the same time, they are stay Calvinists. Also, I heard about one rare Primitive Baptist Church of Appalachia (known as “No-Hellers”), that also was universalistic and calvinistic. So, it seems that being calvinist and universalist is not oxymoron?

    It is very interesting, what they must believe about the Double Predestination…? In their systeme, Decree of reprobation (they must not deny this sort of God’s decree at all, if they are stay calvinists) must be just a temporary decree, extended only on the time of earthly life of reprobated persons. And sub specie aeternitatis, there is only one predestination must be – for holyness of all and for God’s universal reconciliation of all.

    • Ihor,

      “Calvinism,” if by that one means “Reformed theology,” isn’t defined by sociology but by ecclesiastical confession. There were colorful radicals associated with Cromwell. Their existence doesn’t change or norm Reformed theology. So, though they may have been predestinarians they weren’t “Calvinists.”

      “Calvinist Universalist” is most certainly an oxymoron. The Reformed Churches universally confess that God elected particular people to eternal life (contra the Remonstrants) and that Christ obeyed on behalf of and died on behalf of particular people (contra the Remonstrants and the Amyraldians).

      You may explore some of the Reformed confessions here:

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