Chapter

Universal Redemption and Social Reform

Ann Lee Bressler

in The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780195129861
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834013 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195129865.003.0005

Series: Religion in America

Universal Redemption and Social Reform

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By the 1850s, when their denomination faced serious conflicts over its identity and direction, most Universalists tended to regard Hosea Ballou as a grandfatherly figure, a benign symbol of their heritage, and his death in 1851 occasioned a genuine out‐pouring of grief among his spiritual heirs, who respected him as a great religious reformer. However, for a growing number of adherents, the doctrine of universal salvation was becoming less the crucial core of a saving faith, as it had been for Ballou, than a call to orderly moral reform in the light of the brotherhood and perfectibility of humanity. This shift, in many respects a natural consequence of restorationist belief, manifested itself not only in theology but also in the participation of Universalists in various programs of social reform and in the expanding roles of women within the church. There was, nevertheless, no inherent or inevitable connection between Universalism and reform activity. Indeed, a survey of their involvement in social organizations and movements beyond their church shows that nineteenth-century Universalists shared few, if any, common assumptions about the social imperatives of their faith.

Keywords: American Protestantism; American Universalism; Hosea Ballou; moral reform; penal reform; redemption; religious reform; restorationism; salvation; spiritual democracy; universal redemption; universal salvation

Chapter.  10520 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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