Is Universalism Heretical? Part 1
One not infrequently hears the claim that universalism is heretical. More often than not those making such claims simply mean that the doctrine is, in their opinion, both wrong and dangerous. But sometimes they mean that the doctrine was formally condemned as heretical by an Ecumenical Church Council. As the declarations of early Ecumenical Councils were taken as binding by both eastern and western churches they set the standard for orthodoxy in all mainstream Christian churches—Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. If universalism was formally condemned by such a Council then it is, strictly speaking, unorthodox. Not merely unorthodox in the sense of “unusual” but in the sense of “not conforming to Christian faith as understood by the Church.” That might not worry some sectarian Christians but this is a genuine concern to Christians who seek to remain within the bounds of orthodox Christian faith. Even Protestants, though they do not see the decisions of the Councils as utterly beyond question, will still seek to take them very seriously. So the issue does matter. I am no patristics scholar but I will say a few words about how I see the issue in a four-part extended post.