The Doctrine of Universal Salvation also known as Apokatastasis

I came across an article that references the Roman Catholic Church as teaching this doctrine. The article seemed very slanted in it’s presetation of the facts, particularly when quoting the Catechism and John Paul II documents even our Catholic prayers.

I called upon my former Pastor to explain this to me in layman’s terms. Here is his reply:

The bottom line is that according to Catholic teaching one may and indeed must hope for the salvation of all things (cf. Rom. 8:19ff.).  But that does not mean there can be salvation “against one’s will,” so to speak, nor against God’s will, either.  True, God wills (desires/wants) all to be saved (I Tim. 2:4—yet cf. I Tim. 1:3-11 for a balance).  But God has also created us with free will, and we can freely reject His love and gift of salvation.  Repentance & transformation will ever be pre-requisites for entry into the Kingdom (the 1st is our willingness to surrender, the 2nd is God’s power to heal).  But what if I reject God and His love?  God will not force Himself on me [love by definition cannot be forced, either in giving or in receiving]—and my state is that of one in hell—separated from Eternal Love.  

 A few years ago I wrote an essay “Is There Room In Heaven For Hitler?”  My conclusion was “Yes, but…”  I think it’s still in the archive section of “Pastor’s Corner” on the Our Savior web-site, Tim.  You might want to look at it. 

In the long run, we need not be concerned about anyone’s being in or heading toward hell other than ourselves.  To think that God somehow is compelled to welcome me, no matter what kind of person I am, is to tie the “hands” of God and make the sense of justice meaningless.  “Universal salvation” no matter what takes me off the hook for living the life of the Beatitudes or even the old Roman “cardinal” virtues of prudence, temperance, justice & courage.  In its own way, it is a version of Gal. 2:20-21—justification “through the law” here would become “justification, no matter what.”  Both would mean “Christ died for nothing.”  St. Paul was not happy with that conclusion, nor is the Church.

10 Responses

  1. Hello Tim,

    This one is pretty difficult to grasp for Protestants. Catholic theology makes a distinction btwn the objective and subjective Redemption of our Lord. The Objective Redemption is the work of wining the graces of the Redemption, which is what Christ offered up to the Father on the cross.

    The Subjective Redemption is the actual application of those merits to individuals. So a Catholic can in fact say Christ redeemed all of mankind, but that’s not the same as saying that all men will be saved they won’t.

  2. Yes, I was getting the idea that it is one of those both/and things. So the objective/subjective definition is right on.

    Thanks for the input, it’s really helpful.

  3. Good stuff. I like your pastors synopsis. As an ex-Catholic/atheist/Protestant I am constantly encountering the obsessive difficulties people seem to have with this. Good stuff, Tim.

  4. Thanks Christian.

    WOW! An ex-Catholic/atheist/Protestant huh? What a journey you have had!

    This issue had never made sense to me personally, but since I have a cousin who has “adopted” this belief system, I wanted to read up on it and see where it came from. As I started my research, I emailed my former pastor this question:

    I found out today that one of my cousins has come under the the influence of the teaching of “universal salvation.” I went to his website and was looking around and came across this link:
    It seems to me that again the teaching of the Church is being misinterpreted. The reference that states what the Catechism teaches only gives one side of the equation.

    So, my question is; This is bogus teaching, right? This is one of thoes both/and things…right? Man cooperating with God, so as to attain salvation through Christ…right?

    I’ll still be checking out these references, but I wanted your expertise also.”

  5. My sister is in the Catholic Church, and I pray every day that she sees the Truth as God intended it.

    To her, salvation is through works and paying the church to keep her deceased family members out of pergatory. This concept is not only wrong, but also severely unScriptural!

    First, there is no pergatory. Try to find it in the Bible. Secondly, paying ANYONE is a bribe that only goes into the pockets of the taker, and doesn’t do a thing for God, except make Him sad that His teachings are in vain.

    Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone;
    Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: (9)Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

    Works however, play a critical part in actually keeping one’s salvation intact. We can see this in the Book of James (chapters 1 and 2) as well as Hebrews 6:4-6, just to name a few areas.

    I am slightly confused however, Tim. What denomination are you? I see hail Mary’s on the sidebar, and some other things that would lead me to think you are Catholic, but yet I don’t sense that. I am just curious. 🙂

  6. Discerningtheword,
    Although I do not know your sister’s particular circumstances as to why she feels she must “work” for her salvation, I can tell you that is NOT the teaching of the Catholic Church. Pelagianism (works salvation) was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431.

    As far as “paying” the Church to keep her deceased family members out of purgatory; there was surely an abuse that was brought to light by Martin Luther and his famous “rebellion” called the selling of indulgences. But as history again shows, that not only was this practice condemned by the Council of Trent (meeting from 1545 – 1563) it was also being addressed by the Council of Lateran V (meeting from 1512 – 1517). 1517 by the way ,was the year Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg church. So the abuses were being addressed even prior to the Luther paper.

    I agree with you that the word “purgatory” isn’t in the Bible. But I see the “concept” of it. Just as I don’t see the word “Trinity” in the Bible, I see the concept of it. I do not see the word “Incarnation” in the Bible either, but the concept is there.
    Purgatory is NOT a “mini-hell” where we go because Jesus’ blood wasn’t powerful enough to cover our sins, it is a cleansing “state” like a refiner’s fire ( Zec.13: 8 -9, Mal. 3:2 -3) to “purge” us from the sins WE refused to let go of in this life.

    I would have to disagree with you as to your statement that “Salvation is found in Christ alone”. If you had said “Salvation is found in Christ”, I would say, “Amen!” But when you add “alone” to the statement, I have to disagree. The “concept” isn’t even in the Bible. Let’s take for instance the passage you quoted from Eph. 2:8-9, where’s verse 10? It says, “For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus FOR the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in THEM.” Paul also tells Titus the same thing (Tit. 2:8,14).
    Biblically speaking the only place in scripture that uses the words “faith” and “alone” together is found in James 2:24. So the biblical concept, and what the Catholic Church teaches, is that Salvation is offered through the grace of God, by His Son Jesus Christ and we must live out this grace, through faith. This faith being to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength AND to love our neighbor as ourselves. This sums up the law of love doesn’t it. Jesus said so (Matt. 22:40).

    By now, if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re not confused anymore as to whether I’m Catholic or not. 🙂

    I will pray for your sister, if it is as you say, that she would not be held captive to false teaching that is not of God nor His Church.

  7. The logic of Tim’s objective/subjective response (2/17/08), while it may be thought out, is very poor.

    Scripture states that we are sick from the top of our heads to the soles of our feet. According to Tim, if God were a doctor, he would set admit us to a state of the art hospital room with all of the finest medications and equipment needed to restore our health and then sit back and watch as we administered our own treatment.

    it is a poor argument, as is the traditional perspective of “free-will” being expressed by the “God is a gentleman” thing. Neither resonates with the story of redemption. If they did, the story of the crucifixion would have been preceded in Scripture by some universally unanimous petitioning of God for a Saviour, which of course it is not.

    The narrative of redemption states that God’s love instigated the manifestation of One whose unveiling was announced as the sacrificial offering that “…taketh away the sin of the world,” (not just believers or adherents).

    Thanks for the vine.

  8. since it isnt by our works we are saved(or anything we can do)why do people beleive that those that dont”accept” jesus will go to hell(arent they just not doing it at all”in their own strength?)i guess thats why we shouldnt judge?!or have we come up with religious so we can judge?i always thought the yoke was light-now going to church its getting pretty heavy.lot of fear ,im best and truly persuaded by love
    just my pov -blessings

  9. As far as I know the teaching of universal salvation is heterodox (meaning it is not an orthodox teaching, but it is not heresy or condemned by the Church). It was the belief of many saints (Gregory of Nyssa, Clemet of Alexandria, Julian of Norwich, etc…). So, there is room for the idea within tradition.

  10. Your argument of “tying the hands of God” does not hold water. In the first place it is God’s will to have not only mankind, but the entire universe restored to prefect order. He sent His son to be the redeemer and savior of all. Christ said that He came to do the will of the Father. Would that mean that Christ’s hands were “tied?” I think not. God’s will will always be accomplished. If, as John 3:17 says, Christ was not sent to condemn, but to save, then I believe that is what He accomplished when He said, “It is finished.” Death was conquered, and the gates of heaven were opened. We can believe through faith in the FINISHED work of Christ. As Martin Luther declared in 1518, “The law says, “do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “Believe this,” and everything is already done. Christ IS the Saviour. We cannot make Him anything else by any act or thought
    of our own. He IS the Saviour and the Redeemer, no matter what we say or do.

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