So what do Universalist Christians believe, today and historically?
The Rob Bell controversy has brought out some affirmations of universal salvation on the ‘net, both within and (largely) outside the Unitarian Universalist Association. And with it — as if we returned to antebellum America — sharp and untrue denunciations of Universalism, and claims about what universalist do or don’t believe, and whether universalism is a fundamental heresy.
You, constant readers, know where I stand. But since we’ve returned rhetorically to 1835 or 1870, it makes sense to list some of the important statements of faith.
So, for the record, here are key documents. Links will take you to the full enacting resolution or supporting documents:
The 1790 Philadelphia Articles of Faith
Section 1. OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to contain a revelation of the perfections and will of God, and the rule of faith and practice.
Section 2. OF THE SUPREME BEING We believe in One God, infinite in all his perfections; and that these perfections are all modifications of infinite, adorable, incomprehensible and unchangeable Love.
Section 3. OF THE MEDIATOR We believe that there is One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; who, by giving himself a ransom for all, hath redeemed them to God by his blood; and who, by the merit of his death, and the efficacy of his Spirit, will finally restore the whole human race to happiness.
Section 4. OF THE HOLY GHOST We believe in the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to make known to sinners the truth of their [this] salvation, through the medium of the Holy Scriptures, and to reconcile the hearts of the children of men to God, and thereby dispose them to genuine holiness.
Section 5. OF GOOD WORK We believe in the obligation of the moral law, as to the rule of life; and we hold that the love of God manifest to man in a Redeemer, is the best means of producing obedience to that law, and promoting a holy, active and useful life.
The 1803 Winchester Profession, the standard profession of American Universalism
Article I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.
Article II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
Article III. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.
The 1899 “Five Principles” (“Essential principles of the Universalist faith”)
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.
The 1935 Washington Declaration, the theological portion of the bond of fellowship
… we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority of truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of good-will and sacrificial spirit to overcome evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God….
There are also local adaptations — almost always interpreted as an interpretation of the Winchester Profession — from the nineteenth centuries and later. (The newest of these was adopted by the Universalist National Memorial Church.)
Two worth particular note are:
1865 Rhode Island Convention Catechism
We believe in one God, the Creator of all things, and the Father of Mankind; in Jesus Christ his Son, who is the true Teacher, Example, and Savior of men; in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; in the certainty of retribution; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of all men from the dead; and their final holiness and happiness in the immortal life.
An 1903 unofficial Universalist Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty and Universal; and in Jesus Christ his Son, the true teacher, example, and Savior of the world. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the quickener and comforter of men. I believe in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as a revelation of righteousness, truth and love. I believe in the Holy Church Universal; in the communion of saints; in the certainty of punishment for transgression; in the forgiveness of sins; in the life immortal; in the final triumph of goodness and mercy; and in the union and harmony, at last, of all souls with God.