Christ Triumphant, Part Three: Universalism Asserted on the Authority of Scripture

The previous four posts summarize the first two parts of Thomas Allin's masterful 1885 apologetics for "the larger hope," or universal reconciliation, which argue on the authority of Reason and of Tradition. This week and next week's posts conclude this series with a summary of Part Three, Universalism Asserted on the Authority of Scripture. The edition displayed at the right is a 2015 publication with a superb introduction and helpful annotations by editor Robin Parry. 

All italics are in the original 

Allin begins with a powerful theme that, in our own day, Robin Parry has extensively developed: "We shall find-and the fact is a striking confirmation for the larger hope-that the great verities of our faith grow into a living unity in the light of the great purpose of restoration. Creation, incarnation, resurrection, judgment, etc., thus assume their places as parts of one great whole, the 'one thought of the one God.'"

Universalism, Allin asserts, is implicit right from the beginning, in the story of creation "which the New Testament so closely connects with restoration (Col 1:16-20; Heb 1:2-3)." "Man is created in God's very image and likeness...It is (1) God's affirmation of universal Fatherhood; (2) God's assumption of the holiest duties towards every man; (3) God's investing every man with inalienable rights."

The universal fatherhood of God is indeed a linchpin of universalist thinking, and Allin scorns the notion that "God is not the Father of all men; he is only their Creator!" That God created man in His own image makes this notion absurd to Allin. 

Next, Allin turns from Creation to the Incarnation, where he finds the Scriptural references to Christ as the "second Adam" to be similarly decisive. " justify such a title, the incarnation involves the idea of the unity, absolute and organic, of the race of man." The Fall means that all humanity fell; and so all rise with Christ. Allin points out that those who believe in the traditional doctrine of hell often embrace the theory of penal substitution; but if Christ bore the penalty for all sinners, "it is wholly unfair to exact the penalty twice over, in any one case, in hell."

I note that editor Parry provides a footnote pointing out that Calvinists "for precisely this reason [developed] the doctrine of limited atonement...because the alternative, as Allin argues, would be universalism." This is a good time to observe that the weakest aspect of Allin's book is his failure to consider and take on the strongest arguments against universalism and for the traditional view. Writing 125 years later, and with the benefit of Allin's and others books, Parry's own The Evangelical Universalist, is especially strong in this regard. 

That we shall be judged Allin readily affirms; "For itself a part of the great scheme of salvation; and is curative, while, nay rather, because it is retributive." "[A]ll are to be made alive in Christ, but in due order and succession (1 Cor 15:22-23)."

Allin looks in detail at 1 Cor 15, noting that "the same relation subsists finally between the whole that between Christ and the Father--the same original word [hupotasso, subjection] is used of both...Finally, as the grand result--God is all and in all." And Allin provides quotes from several Church Fathers to support his interpretation. 

Allin next turns to examine "texts that speak of 'death' and 'destruction' and 'perishing' as the portion of the ungodly." He brings in various quotes from Paul and from Genesis to point out how "death" is often used in a way that clearly does not refer to either eternal pain or annihilation, along with our Lord's  own words, "'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but, if it die, it brings forth much fruit' (John 12:24)." "Death," Allin observes, "is, in fact, the crossing from one stage of our journey to another....[t]o teach that our training ends at death is to say that a child's education ends with the nursery." It makes no sense to assign "a limit beyond which Christ himself has no power or no will to save the obstinate sinner." "Why has the New Testament, with such varied illustrations, pressed on us this fact...that Christ has destroyed death, if death is ever to put a stop to his power to save?"

"It may be said," Allin writes, "is there not 'the second death?' Yes, assuredly. But though it were not the second merely but the thousandth death, yet is is but death: and death destroyed...or there is no real meaning in St. Paul's song of triumph (1 Cor 15:55)." 

And what about judgment? "In the first judgment recorded in Scripture, mercy goes hand in hand. If Adam is to die, mercy follows; the serpent's head is to be bruised (Gen 3:15). So, too, even the vengeance of eternal fire on Sodom ends in her restoration (Jude 7, Ezek 16:53-55). We thus understand the striking juxtaposition of mercy and judgment in God's revelation of himself to Moses (Exod 34:6-7)...[f]ew more beautiful illustrations of the view I am urging can be found than that afforded by the story of Achan, stoned by a terrible the Valley of Achor (Josh 7:24-25); for if we turn to Hosea 2:15 we shall find this promise, 'I will give her the Valley of Achor for a door of hope' -- words pregnant with suggestion." 

"The Prophets are full of similar teaching. Note Isaiah connecting the words of comfort and pardon to Israel with her having received 'double for all her sins' (Isa 40:1-2). So it is said, 'Zion shall be redeemed with judgment' (Isa 1:27)...this connection of judgment and salvation runs through the Bible....So in Ezekiel 24:13-14, it is said of Israel, 'You shall not be purged of your filthiness any more, till I have satisfied my fury upon you.'" 

Turning to the New Testament, Allin notes that "Very striking are the words of St. Paul which refer to the last judgment, and seem to show conclusively that that great day brings salvation to all who are judged. Turn to Romans 14:10--'We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,' must each render his account to God. But...[i]ts main and essential purpose is salvation....St. Paul here quotes from Isaiah 45:23, which runs thus: 'Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God...I have sworn by myself that to me every knee shall bow...The word is gone out and shall not return empty'; it must be fulfilled, i.e., God's purpose of salvation must reach effectually the entire race. But this prophetic assertion of a universal salvation is here quoted b the apostle, and is linked with the day of judgment..."

We'll continue our survey of Part Three next week!