Evangelical Universalism: an oxymoron?

Graham Watts, Derek Tidball, Robin Parry and Nigel Wright

Graham Watts, Derek Tidball, Robin Parry and Nigel Wright at the conference

Sadly this is not my own title, but that of Robin Parry’s excellent opening presentation at yesterday’s conference Is Universalism an Evangelical Option? at Spurgeon’s College.

I’m afraid this isn’t really a proper post, though disappointingly it’s not a very improper one either. I was hoping to do a brief write-up of the conference but as I ended up taking 23.5 A4 pages of barely-legible notes, summing it up may prove more challenging, time-consuming and error-ridden than I’d imagined. A brief look at my notes has me puzzling over intriguing sentences such as ‘In the ed God will camomile all pupils to lively through Chris’s atomic wok’. Quite an original line of thought there, I think you’ll agree.

For me it was a completely fascinating – even thrilling – conference (I’m odd like that), and has furnished me with enough material for blog posts from now till just short of kingdom come (so long as that’s not any time this week).  It’s also added another book to my list, which means that I’m currently trying (and failing) to read four books at once (The Evangelical Universalist by ‘Gregory MacDonald’ aka Robin Parry; Colossians Remixed by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh, Prayer by Philip Yancey and The Truce of God by Rowan Williams. Gaaah.)

I’m also off to Kenya with family and church friends for a couple of weeks very soon, which will both provide loads more blogging material and also probably prevent me from actually doing any writing for another few weeks. Double gaaah.

But in the meantime, on behalf of the esteemed Mr Parry I would like to say that the surprising answer to my (and his) title question is apparently ‘no’. At least, that’s what he argued very persuasively and I’m inclined to agree; the other speakers also broadly conceded the point, so long as ‘universalism’ and ‘evangelical’ are both defined in particular and nuanced ways. (Universalism, it was pointed out, is not the same as either Inclusivism or Pluralism, in case that makes things any clearer. Universalists simply believe that God will ultimately save all people; Christian Universalists that God will do this through Christ.)

Evangelical Universalists, I don’t know – whatever next, Evangelical Liberals? Ridiculous!


About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
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7 Responses to Evangelical Universalism: an oxymoron?

    • Harvey Edser says:

      Thanks Terry – you provide a very interesting and fair summary. I will definitely be writing up and posting at least some of my notes as soon as I can – I’m just not sure how soon that will be!

      At this stage I haven’t quite got as far as accepting definite (‘dogmatic’) universalism with Robin, but I’m definitely in the ‘hopeful’ camp. I found Robin’s arguments (and their starting points) considerably more persuasive than Derek Tidball’s, but I think I concur with Nigel Wright that it may be more helpful for us not to ‘close the circle’, since Scripture does seem to leave the tension perhaps deliberately open.


    • harveyedser says:

      PS if you look closely at the right-hand edge of the photo on this page, you can just spot your fingers and phone!


  1. Alex Smith says:

    Thanks for the comments on the conference Harvey. I’m glad it was such a success!


    • harveyedser says:

      I thought it was a fantastic day. I’m guessing from where your name links through to that you’re involved in the Evangelical Universalist conversation?


      • Alex Smith says:

        LOL, well spotted 🙂 Yes, I’m one of the administrators for “The Evangelical Universalist Forum”. It’s a Christian forum for discussing Evangelical Universalism. We’re blessed with both Robin Parry & Thomas Talbott as guests and some non-EUs to keep us on our toes!


  2. smellofburntwiggle says:

    I particularlylike
    ‘In the ed God will camomile all pupils to lively through Chris’s atomic wok’
    ON the strength of that I think I should go along to the next conference too


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