UNIVERSALISM - ALTERNATIVES TO ORTHODOXY, 1959
Hundreds of religious liberals live in communities where there is no
Universalism is a liberal religion whose churches give men an alternative to
the common orthodoxies.
Compare basic beliefs between Universalism on the one hand, and orthodoxy and
fundamentalism on the other.
No Universalist Church in your community? A Universalist Fellowship of ten or
more persons can give you a "church" to which to belong -- a faith which can be
shared with other men and women who likewise expect their religion to be
compatible with the facts of life.
Most of the people who reject religion seem to be rejecting practices and
beliefs they have long since outgrown. What they have in fact rejected is not
religion, but orthodoxy and fundamentalism. They have not been introduced to the
alternative --Universalism. Read through the basic principles of orthodoxy,
fundamentalism and Universalism below.
Fundamentalism says that
1) The Bible is infallible, that every word and phrase is literally true and the
recora of God's creation and control of the universe and the log of man's
history and future;
2) Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and is divine and part of the Godhead;
3) Christ, through his death, achieved a "substitutionary atonement" for the
sins of man;
4) Christ was resurrected bodily from the tomb and ascended directly into
5) Christ will come again to establish his "kingdom;"
6) The message of the Bible is one of eternal blessedness for those accounted by
God as righteous because of their faith in Christ and his "substitutionary"
7) Eternal punishment awaits the wicked, among whom are those who do not believe
in "the saving blood" of Christ.
Orthodoxy says essentially the same thing, but its tenets may be
reduced to four major dogmas:
1) Man is a chronic sinner;
2) Christ atoned for man's sins through his death ("God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto Himself');
3) The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God (some orthodox recognize the
possibility of human error in transmission).
4) The ultimate revelation of the "word of God" was in Jesus Christ.
Universalism does not agree with any of the pessimistic dogmas of
orthodoxy or fundamentalism. Instead, Universalism is a religion of hope and
joy. Basically it says:
1) Man is an evolutionary creature, literally lifting himself out of the dust
of an animal past toward fulfillment as a mature and rational being.
2) Man is not a "fallen" sinner needing to be saved by miraculous saviours; he
is a struggling being striving to remove the attributes of a brutish past. His
"salvation" will be accomplished by his own good works and as he comes to
realize that wholeness is achieved through love, charity, justice and freedom.
3) We view Jesus as a teacher of such ideals, a remarkable human being esteemed
along with Gandhi, Buddha, Lincoln and others.
4) The universe is viewed as one natural process, always in flux, dynamic and
growing. Man is a part of this natural process, a co-partner in its evolution.
5) The Bible is seen as one traditional point of view, not always accurate or
inspirational. The Universalist selects from its pages what appears to him to be
of worth and adds it to other writings, the large and ever-growing accumulation
of which is his "sacred" literature.
6) Certain questions are recognized as unanswerable: the existence of
after-life-realms, the nature of "God, " and so forth. Universalism does not
dogmatize on that which it cannot know. Such beliefs are left to each individual
to reason out for himself.
7) One life-at-a-time, however. Universalists are engaged in creating in this
life, on this earth that thing which men have variously called "the Beloved
Community, " "the Kingdom of God, " "the Commonwealth of Man. "
If you believe that religious philosophies must harmonize with the findings
If you believe that theology must "square" with your own experiences and
observations about life;
If you believe that religion must be engaged in creative activity directed
toward solving some of the world's ills;
If you have outgrown your former associations and find in Universalism a
point of view compatible with your outlook but find no Universalist Church
nearby, -- then
You may want to know how to gather a group of fellow liberals -- how to
discover those in your community who think similar thoughts -- how to set the
stage for a coming together of liberals at regular intervals.
Send for pamplets and information about Universalism,
Read them and share their ideas with your neighbors.
Discuss them and add your understandings to them.
Then, if you would like to organize a Universalist Fellowship, write to the
Director of Extension at the address below requesting 1) promotional material,
2) organizational guide, 3) program guides and so forth. Ask him to plan a visit
You need not be a Universalist by yourself. There is an alternative to
orthodoxy and fundamentalism.
Department of Extension
THE UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF AMERICA
16 BEACON STREET, BOSTON 8. MASSACHUSETTS