A Universalist Catechism, part five

Table of Content

So, back in 2004, I set out to type out the 1921 Universalist Catechism, but gave up because I found the theology modernist and dreary. Recently, I read a reference to it, and tried to search for a copy online — only to find my suspended series. (That happens more that I care to admit.) So, I knew I had a copy and have dug it out. Now, I'll finish the series: my theology has changed in fifteen years, and if not that, at least voice recognition software has improved.

The previous parts of this series:


What is God's will towards all men?
He wills that all should be saved.

Can God's will be defeated?
No. He is sure to be victorious.

Will God give up His purpose because men do not find the right way to live in this life?
No. His life is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, in this world and in all worlds.

What becomes of man at death?
His body dies and wastes away. His spirit lives on.

Why is it reasonable that men shall live after their bodies die?
Men are children and heirs of the Heavenly Father.

Do all Christians accept this faith you have described?
Not all.

Why do you accept it?
Because it exceeds agrees with reason, is supported by the Bible, and is the best expression of Christianity that I know.

What is the name given to the church that teaches this faith?
The Universalist Church.

What are its essential principles?
The Universal Fatherhood of God,
The spiritual authority and leadership of His Son Jesus Christ,
The trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God,
The certainty of just retribution for sin,
The final harmony of all souls with God.

When were these principles first taught?
These principles are found in the teaching of Jesus Christ. They were explicitly taught by the early Christian Church.

When does Universalism disappear from the teaching of the Church?
In the sixth century, when it was condemned as heresy.

Where was the first organized church of the Universalist faith?
At Gloucester, Mass.

Who was the first minister of this church?
John Murray, who came to America from England in 1770.

Who is called the father of Universalist theology?
Hosea Ballou, because he first stated many of the doctrines of the Universalist Church.

Where is the oldest Universalist church building?
At Oxford, Mass.

In John Murray's time, upon what was the principal emphasis of Universalist teaching?
Upon the truth that all men will be saved.

Upon what is the chief emphasis to-day?
Upon the Universal Fatherhood of God, implying universal brotherhood among men; and upon the certainty of retribution for sin.

Why has this change taken place?
Because men have come to see the importance of applying faith to life.

What is mean by what is meant by applied Universalism?
The application of the principles of Universalism to the problems of daily life.

Who really believes in the Fatherhood of God?
He who lives as if God were his Father.

Who really believes in the leadership of Jesus?
He who follows Jesus Christ and helps to make his ideals real.

Who really believes in the Bible?
He who uses it as a guide-book to life.

Who really believes in retribution for sin?
He who stop sinning and tries to cure the sins of society.

Who really believes the final triumph of good?
He who works untiringly and unfalteringly for that triumph.

Is it enough to apply Universalism to the life of the individual?
No. It must be applied to every problem of society.

What is the duty of every Universalist?
To understand fully the teaching of his Church, to try to apply that teaching to life and its problems, and to win others to the same faith and conduct.

4 Replies to “A Universalist Catechism, part five”

  1. “What becomes of man at death? His body dies and wastes away. His spirit lives on.”

    Spirit not soul? Also has all talk of general resurrection disappeared by this time?

    “Why do you accept it? Because it exceeds agrees with reason, is supported by the Bible, and is the best expression of Christianity that I know.”

    Typo I think? ‘exceeds’ seems out of place.

    “Where was the first organized church of the Universalist faith?
    At Gloucester, Mass.”

    Poor James Relly. Yes, I know what they’re saying, but still.

    “In John Murray’s time, upon what was the principal emphasis of Universalist teaching? Upon the truth that all men will be saved.

    Upon what is the chief emphasis to-day? Upon the Universal Fatherhood of God, implying universal brotherhood among men; and upon the certainty of retribution for sin.

    Why has this change taken place? Because men have come to see the importance of applying faith to life.”

    Poor John Murray, not realising he should apply his faith to life.

    It is interesting though that the gap here doesn’t appear to be so much between Murray and Ballou, but between both of them and this. There isn’t any concept here of *grace*. Everyone sins, everyone is punished, all is proportionate and reasonable. God, the strict but fair pater familias, gives everyone their just deserts. God the school teacher, and Jesus the head prefect.

  2. I think it was Anne Lee Bressler in her Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 who identified the abandonment of the early genius of Universalism (she points to Ballou) for Victorian moralism, though his view of God would have shared the paterfamilias tone you note. This takes a social gospel bent here, perhaps to compensate for earlier individualism, but isn’t in any case attractive.

    I think you’re right about the typo. Will check.

  3. At 1921 I would have expected this sense of smug Victorian moralism to be a bit long in the tooth – replaced by something more insecure and weary, but WW1 doesn’t seem to have had the impact on the US that it did on Europe and Britain/Australia.

    It was Anne Lee Bressler’s book which helped me make sense of Ballou’s Treatise, which unfortunately for the modern reader is written essentially as an amendment to an existing New England belief structure.

    I’d be very interested in an honest attempt to reframe/recommunicate Ballou’s approach for a modern audience, whether generic Christian or generic post-Christian secular, but I don’t know of anyone who has tried.

    I find him fascinating if not entirely convincing – I see it as a genuine alternative blending of faith/reason to that stream which ended up as mid-Twentieth Century liberal Protestantism and which is now dying around us.

  4. A part of liberal Protestantism failing fortunes, particularly the Unitarians and Universalists, was that they did not respond to the post world war 1 trauma and the same way as others. So they ended up talking to themselves.

    Late 19th century progressivism doesn’t wear very well, and that’s what we’re talking about here. also it’s through that lens that so many writers wrote about Ballou and others so it’s hard to get a sense of the original.

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