The power of Universalism

No doubt you’re already aware that this is a big year — the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Hosea Ballou’s monumental Treatise on Atonement, still the most influential of all books of Universalist theology. But you may not realize that Universalism still has the power to stir up quite a ruckus. Turns out two evangelical Quaker pastors from western Indiana, Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, published a book titled If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person back in 2003.

Just as happened with Hosea Ballou, Gulley and Mulholland’s thoughts on God’s love provoked lots of hate. Chuck Fager tells about the ruckus Gulley and Mulholland have raised in a review of their book in the online journal “Quaker Theology.”

I know you’ll want to read the whole article, but to whet your appetite, here are the opening paragraphs:

“Almost two hundred years ago, Hosea Ballou foretold what would befall two Quaker pastors in Indiana, Philip Gulley and his good friend James Mulholland, in 2002: ‘To profess universal salvation,’ Ballou wrote, ‘will subject some to excommunication from regular churches; others to the pain of being neglected by their neighbors; others to be violently opposed by their companions . . . and a man’s enemies will be those of his own house.’…

“Ballou wrote this about his own time, and the controversy generated by the ideas contained in his magnum opus, A Treatise on Atonement. In it Ballou, an early New England Universalist, made a case that Unitarian-Universalists [sic] today claim as one of their founding classics.

“That was in 1805. But Ballou’s words were indeed prophetic: Since Gulley and Mulholland put forth their work, all hell has broken loose in the Hoosier state….”

I’ve just ordered If Grace Is True, and their new book, If God Is Love, just out last year. Needless to say, I bought both books from the Seminary Coop Bookstore — thus supporting co-ops and independent booksellers!