Build a Profession, part one

In his Universalist’s Book of Reference (1901 ed., “revised and enlarged”) E. E. Guild was able to identify twelve distinct theological propositions in the Winchester Profession, though I’m not quite as hopeful as he was, neither would I call all twelve essential to Universalism. Indeed, I believe the first edition of Guild’s work come out in 1853, and I’ve seen versions of his twelve principles that reflect other stages in his thinking. For your reflection, one of these stages — the ten point “Bible Creed” — is found at
the True Grace Ministries website.

Without a doubt, the sine qua non of Universalism is the
belief that all persons (variant: all sentient beings, if one believes in angels or, nowadays, alien intelligences) will be, in time, saved; that is, we will be “holy and happy” in this life and hereafter. There was a great reluctance to say how this happens, or when, or exactly how: indeed, pick that too hard and you would have found how many ways Universalists diverged on these matters.

This essential principle was, by 1901, described by E. E. Guild in part by the twelth proposition on his list:

That the DESTINY OF MAN, IN THE PURPOSE OF GOD, IS HIS ATTAINMENT AND ENJOYMENT OF HOLINESS:

God’s plan with regard to man was formed before creation was begun. It was shadowed forth in the promise and prediction given after the first transgression, and was often announced with more or less
distinctness in the Old Testament; but its most complete revelation is made in the Gospel. (Titus 1:2; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 2:2; 45:22-25; John 3:35; 6:37-40; Acts 3:19-21; Galatians 3:8; Ephesians 1:9,10;
Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:19, 20; 1 Timothy 2:1-6.)

In announcing God’s purpose the inspired writers do not ignore the presence and power of sin, ignorance, or perversity, but declare that none of these can be insuperable barriers. Nor is there any hint that the operations of divine grace are confined to this life; but on the contrary, that whatever Jesus has to do by the appointment and purpose of God for men living upon the earth, that he has also to do for those whom we call the dead, and that in his name all shall be subdued and won. (Jeremiah 32:17; Romans 8:18-25; 11:25-36; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 8:10-12; 1 Peter 3:18, 19; 4:6; Revelation 4:9-13; 5:9-13.)

(A word about the appearance of supercessionism in the above: I don’t think it is there, but rather that God’s promise begins with one nation (Israel) and is unfolded through the Gospel to all nations. Israel is not negated. Indeed, concern about the salvation of Israel seems to lead some people, first to Paul, then to universalism. See Jan Bonda’s The One Purpose of God for an elaboration.)

Whew! How we can sensibly put these beliefs into words is part of my long-term work. Until then — look! — after about a week and a half we have a glimmer of sun.

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Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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