In the previous two posts, we began our survey of Thomas Allin's 1885 masterpiece, Christ Triumphant, by looking at Part One: Universalism Asserted on the Authority of Reason. This week we begin a summary of Part Two: Universalism Asserted on the Authority of Tradition. All italics below are in the original.
Allin's objective is to "show clearly how groundless is the widespread opinion that represents universalism as the outcome of modern sentimentality, and will establish clearly: (1) That it prevailed very widely in the primitive church...(2) That those who believed and taught it...were among the most eminent and the most holy of the Christian Fathers...(3) That it not only has never been condemned by the church, but is, far more than any other view, in harmony with the ancient catholic creeds."
Allin asserts that the universalism--the "larger hope"-- was taught especially "by those to whom Greek was a living tongue, was indeed their native tongue. It is a striking fact that the weight of opposition to universalism in primitive times is found in the Latin church, is mound most vigorous where, as in Augustine's case, the Greek language was never really mastered." Indeed, Allin sees Augustine's influence as disastrous: "...the dark shadow of St. Augustine's cruel and novel theology fell as a blight on the whole Western church."
The early Christians lived at a time of "moral rottenness...lusts the foulest, debauchery to us happily inconceivable...Thus it must have seemed in that age almost an act of treason to the cross to teach that, though dying unrepentant, the bitter persecutor, or the votary of abominable lusts, should yet in the ages to come find salvation. Such considerations help us to see the extreme weight attaching even to the very least expression...[of] sympathy with the larger hope."
Allin devotes six pages to the Church Fathers' use of the critical term aionios, citing numerous examples where the word is used in ways consistent with the larger hope. So, for example, "Domitianus says those assigned to eternal punishemt are saved...Leo (Augustus) says eternal prisoners were released from Hades by Christ...Origen calls...that fire eternal which he believed to be finite."
Christ's descent into Hades is discussed as the first in a series of "proofs" supporting universalism. Allin cites the views thereon offered by "the greatest names in the first four or five centuries," and concludes "If Christ delivered from Hades every soul of Adam's race up to the time of his incarnation...[if] every murderer...every blasphemer and adulterer, though dying unrepentant, were at last...evangelized and saved by Christ...then on what grounds can it be fairly...asserted that less mercy will be extended to that half of our race who differs in this, that by no fault of their own they were born after the incarnation?"
Allin offers quotes from and discussion of the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Athenagoras, Origen, St. Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, and many others. He features a quote from Gregory of Nyssa that is well worth reproducing here:
Next week we'll conclude our summary of Part Two of Christ Triumphant.