July 5, 2023
Morwenna Ludlow on Universal Salvation in Christianity
Christian eschatology – the whole ‘what happens at the end’ question, whether that be the end of a human life, the end of all things, or both – has had, seemingly from the beginning or near the beginning, an important current of universal salvationism; that is to say, the teaching that all human beings, or even all of the creation from angels to rocks and mud, will be remade by God into a new, perfect, pure form at the end of the current dispensation. This is of course in strong contrast to the ‘eternal hellfire’ model of Christianity, which also has a long pedigree, and which has become the approved view in the Catholic and major Protestant denominations.
In this episode we try to take in the whole sweep of ‘universalism’ in Christian history with Prof Morwenna Ludlow, starting from the cryptic statements of Clement of Alexandria, taking in Origen and the Cappadocians (and especially Gregory of Nyssa, who just comes right out and preaches universal salvation), through the medieval period when universalism seems to have been a subterranean, esoteric current within both eastern and western churches, and into the early-modern period, which saw a vibrant rediscovery and rebirth of ideas of universal salvation in northern European Protestantism (of all places). Our itinerary finishes in the twenty-first century, making this episode a fine overall introduction to the historical arc of this important idea in Christian intellectual history.
Morwenna Ludlow is Professor of Christian History and Theology, and holds an honorary position as Canon Theologian at Exeter Cathedral. Her many published works include a monograph on universal salvation, a monograph on Gregory of Nyssa and many other writings in the history and theology of Christianity.
Works Cited in this Episode:
Paul of Tarsus, 1 Cor 15:28: ‘And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.’
For Gregory of Nyssa’s works, see the bibliography attached to podcast Episode 164.
John Behr. Origen: On First Principles. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2019.
Rob Bell. Love Wins: At the Heart of Life’s Big Questions. Collins, London, 2012.
Jean Daniélou. Platonisme et théologie mystique. Essai sur la doctrine spirituelle de Saint Grégoire de Nysse. Aubier, Paris, 1944.
Jeremiah White. The Restoration of all Things: or, A Vindication of the Goodness and Grace of God. London, 1712.
Mercy Upon All is a website run by Johannes Steenbuch devoted to all things universalist; it features loads of books in the universalist tradition available to download, including White’s Restoration of All Things, discussed in the interview, the Mystērion Apokatastaseōs Pantōn of the Philadelphian clergyman Johann Wilhelm Petersen, as well as what look like some brave and some kooky nineteenth-century position papers and suchlike.
David Bentley Hart. That All Shall be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT/London, 2019 [a universalist argument from a modern Orthodox perspective].
Morwenna Ludlow. Universal Salvation: Eschatology in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000.
Idem. Gregory of Nyssa, Ancient and (Post-) Modern. The University Press, Oxford, 2007.
Gregory McDonald, ed. All Shall Be Well: Explorations in Universal Salvation and Christian Theology, from Origen to Moltmann. James Clarke & Co., 2011.
Ilaria L. E. Ramelli. The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena, volume 120 of Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2013.
Anne Conway, Apokatastasis, Basil of Cæsarea, Cambridge Platonists, Cappadocian Fathers, Christianity, Clement of Alexandria, Esoteric Christianity, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Jane Leade, Metempsychosis, Origen, Origenism, Philadelphian Society