At first glance, American Universalism seems to have been one of the clearest manifestations of the rational spirit of the revolutionary era, and with its bold assertion of salvation for all, the Universalist movement was shocking even in an atmosphere charged with challenges to orthodox Calvinist doctrines. In the nineteenth century, Universalists became even more closely identified with rationalistic dissent. Drawing upon eighteenth-century evangelical Calvinism on the one hand and Enlightenment liberalism on the other, Universalism emerged as an attempt to nourish piety through rational conviction. Reason, Universalists argued, dictated that a benevolent God would redeem all of creation; the doctrine of universal salvation was God’s way of influencing human affections and turning naturally self-centred human beings to the love of God and the greater creation. This chapter traces the early development of the movement and the notable figures involved.
Keywords: American Universalism, Calvinism, communal redemption, Enlightenment liberalism, evangelical Calvinism, Hosea Ballou, Jonathan Edwards, piety, redemption, salvation, scholasticism, Unitarianism, universal salvation
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