Universalism and the theology of Paul
This thesis examines the texts of Paul's letters which historically have been used to support the doctrine of universalism. Section One: Chapter I discusses Paul's judgement terminology (wrath, destruction and death) and concludes with a sociological study of group boundaries. These terms portend annihilation or hell because they contain no sense of eschatological reformation. Group boundaries confirm the exclusive nature of Pauline belief that there exist two classes of people, insiders who look forward to a glorious salvation with Christ, and outsiders who will be destroyed in the eschaton. Chapter II considers the possibility that a person might compensate for his sins by some form of postmortem remedial suffering; this is deemed unlikely. Chapter III examines the tension between grace and works and whether Paul would permit an unbeliever to be saved on the basis of his works. Paul requires a profession of faith to be saved, with one exception: Gentiles who earnestly seek after God. Section Two: Chapter I shows that salvation in Rom. 11:26, 32 is better understood as corporate mercy than individual salvation. Collectives (Jews and Gentiles), not individuals are promised salvation. Chapter II reads 1 Cor. 15:22 restrictively; only those who belong to Christ will be made alive. Reasons for this conclusion are derived from the context and from the possibility that Paul expected a resurrection of only the righteous. Section Three: Chapter I examines Rom. 8:19-23 and its Jewish background, the Renovation of nature. The text itself limits salvation to certain sectors of the cosmos. This agrees with the essential element of the Jewish Renovation which is a removal of the wicked. Chapter II investigates Eph. 1:10 and Phil. 2:10 f. Both texts set Christ up as divine ruler of the cosmos, but neither implies that cosmic lordship imparts saving benefits. The passages are better understood in terms of cosmic conquest than cosmic salvation. Chapter III argues that the cosmic scope of the reconciliation in Col. 1:20 is curtailed in the Pauline redaction of the hymn as well as elsewhere in Colossians. Conclusion: Paul's judgement terminology and his use of insider/outsider language strongly support particularism. This conclusion is sustained by the universalist texts themselves which often fit into particularist themes.