The Patristic Era 

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The Early Church and Universalism 

Many in the Early Christian Church believed in the final restoration of all creation. Gregory of Nyssa believed that evil existed only through the improper use of our divine gift of freewill and that eventually, all will be restored to God because evil—being the opposite of good— cannot exist forever. Like Clement and Origen, Gregory of Nyssa saw eschatological punishment as having a positive purpose (should we expect anything else from God?) and this “purpose” was the restoration of mankind to God. According to Gregory, divine punishment is like the painful cures of medicine that eventually bring healing and that divine punishment is not administered to exact vengeance, but to bring restoration.

Patristic Universalism,

by David Burnfield


What about Hell?

God continues to evangelize to people even after they die (1 Chron 16:34; Isa 9:2; Matt 12:32; Rom 8:35-39; Eph 4:8-9; 1 Pet 3:18-20; 4:6) The main problem with the traditional view – and one that has never been satisfactorily addressed – is how can one “accept Christ” if they have never heard of Christ, or were unable to understand the message (i.e. too young, mentally handicapped, etc.). The traditional view seems much less appalling when viewed from the balcony of Middle America where there is a church on nearly every corner and Bibles available in multiple translations. 

 Given the environment most people live in throughout the world, a belief in post-mortem evangelism is the only view that makes sense. After all, didn’t Paul tell us that Christ is the God of both the living and the dead (Rom 14:9)?

Patristic Universalism, 

by David Burnfield

Wasn’t Origen Considered a Heretic? 

Origen’s belief in the remedial nature of hell and the salvation of all men was “steeped in the Christian Scriptures.” It was his view that the purpose of hell was medicinal, purificatory, pedagogical, and redemptive and that in the end, all would be saved.

Thus Origen’s view of the apokatastasis was a restoration back to the original condition prior to the fall when man shared unity with God. But this universal restoration would never violate freewill according to Origen.

"If then that subjection be good and salutary by which the Son is said to be subject to the Father, it is an extremely rational and logical inference to deduce that the subjection also of enemies which is said to be made to the Son of God, should be understood as being also salutary and useful; as if, when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood and consist. 

- Origen  

 Origen, De principiis, 3.5 as cited in Hanson, John Wesley, Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years (Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1899) p. 160