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The Devil's Redemption, 2 Volumes

A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism

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Will all people eventually be saved? Will all evil finally turn to good, or does some evil remain fully and stubbornly opposed to God and God's goodness? Will even the devil be redeemed?

The question of the devil's final salvation has been continuously debated since the time of Origen. This comprehensive book surveys the history of Christian universalism from the second to the twenty-first century and offers an interpretation of how and why universalist belief arose. Michael McClymond explores what the church has taught about universal salvation and hell and offers a critique of universalism from a biblical, philosophical, and theological standpoint. He shows that the effort to extend grace to everyone undermines the principle of grace for anyone.


Volume 1
0.1. Uncovering a Gnostic-Kabbalist-Esoteric Tradition
0.2. Linking Esoteric Universalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
0.3. Two Christian Strands: Origenism and Böhmism
0.4. The Theme of Divine Self-Alienation and Self-Return
0.5. Contrasts between Esoteric and Exoteric Christian Theologies
0.6. Theological Issues: Preexistence, Wisdom, Punishment, and Rationalism
0.7. The Late Twentieth-Century Tilt toward Universalism
0.8. Divine Drama in Bulgakov, Barth, Balthasar, Tillich, and Moltmann
0.9. Scripture, Reason, and Experience in Universalist Argumentation
0.10. A Theological Irony: Universalism's Eclipse of Grace
1. Final Salvation: Church Teachings and Newer Views
1.1. Mainline Protestants: The Turn toward Universalism
1.2. Roman Catholics: Traditionalists versus "Hopeful Universalists"
1.3. Eastern Orthodoxy: Official Teachings and Private Opinions
1.4. Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics: Newcomers to Universalism
1.5. Should Everyone Be Told? Universalism as a Secret Gospel
1.6. Christ's Descent to the Dead and the Larger Hope
1.7. The Old Catholic Purgatory and the New
1.8. Protestants Debating Hell: From the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries
1.9. Recent Catholic Discussions of Death and Hell
1.10. British Evangelicals and the Debate over Conditionalism
1.11. Summary and Conclusions on Church Teachings
2. Ancient Afterlives: The Gnostic, Kabbalist, and Esoteric Roots of Christian Universalism
2.1. Near Eastern and Greco-Roman Cultures: From Shadows to Immortal Souls
2.2. Jewish Afterlives: Bodies, Souls, Resurrection, and Judgment
2.3. Evidence for Second- and Third-Century Gnostic Universalism
2.4. Medieval Gnosis: Catharist Universalism
2.5. Core Concepts of Kabbalah
2.6. Universalist Tendencies in Kabbalah
2.7. Early Christian Cabala: Guillaume Postel
2.8. Dutch Jews in the 1600s: The Morteira-Aboab Debate on Eternal Punishment
2.9. Multilevel Heavens in Swedenborgianism and Mormonism
2.10. The Universalism of Sadhu Sundar Singh
2.11. Gnostic and Esoteric Models for Reunion with the Divine
2.12. Summary and Conclusions on Gnostic, Kabbalistic, and Esoteric Universalisms
3. "The End Is Like the Beginning": Origen and Origenism, 200-410 CE
3.1. The Modern Rehabilitation of Origen and Origenism
3.2. The Question of Origen's Texts
3.3. Clement of Alexandria and the Question of Universalism
3.4. Origen's Intellectual Backdrop and Cosmic Vision
3.5. The Vexatious Issue of Preexistent Souls
3.6. Origen's Theology: God, Souls, Angels, Demons, Salvation, and the Eschaton
3.7. Origen's Biblical Interpretation and the Cleansing Fire of Conscience
3.8. Debated Issues on Origen and the Arguments of the Anti-Origenians
3.9. Gregory of Nyssa's Revised Origenism
3.10. Final Confluence in Evagrius of Pontus
3.11. The First Origenist Controversy, I: Beginnings under Epiphanius
3.12. The First Origenist Controversy, II: Conflict in Egypt under Theophilus
3.13. The First Origenist Controversy, III: The Jerome-Rufinus Debate
3.14. Summary and Conclusions on Origen and Origenism, 200-410 CE
4. "That God May Be All in All": Origen and Origenism, 410-1700 CE
4.1. Fifth-Century Coptic Anti-Origenism: Shenoute of Atripe
4.2. Non-Universalist Syriac Authors: Aphrahat, Ephrem, Isaac of Antioch, and Narsai
4.3. Augustine's Conceptual Analysis and Critique of Origen
4.4. Hierarchical Neoplatonism: Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
4.5. Stephen bar Sudaili and the Book of the Holy Hierotheos
4.6. Bar Sudaili and Thirteenth-Century Mesopotamia: Bar Hebraeus, George Washnaya, and Simon the Persecuted
4.7. Sixth-Century Origenism in the Letters of Severus of Antioch and Barsanuphius
4.8. Maximus the Confessor's Critique of Origenism
4.9. The Universalist Theology of Isaac the Syrian
4.10. The Speculative System of John Scotus Eriugena
4.11. Thomas Aquinas as a Critic of Origen
4.12. Soundings in European Origenism, 1200-1650 CE
4.13. Origenism in Seventeenth-Century England: Rust, Parker, and Conway
4.14. Origenism's "Swan Song": The Bayle-Le Clerc Exchange
4.15. Toward Universalist Rationalism: Andrew Michael Ramsay and David Hartley
4.16. Summary and Conclusions on Origen and Origenism, 410-1700 CE
5. "In Yes and No All Things Consist": The Theosophic World of Jakob Böhme and the Böhmists of Germany, England, America, France, and Russia
5.1. Jakob Böhme: Life and Legend
5.2. Divergent Interpretations of Böhme's Thought
5.3. An Outline and Summary of Böhme's Theology
5.4. The Böhmist Shift to Universalism
5.5. Böhmist Receptions: Sectarian, Churchly, Esoteric, Literary, and Philosophical
5.6. Johann Georg Gichtel and the Early German Böhmists
5.7. Gerrard Winstanley, Jane Lead, and the Philadelphian Movement in England
5.8. Johann and Johanna Petersen and German and German-American Pietistic Universalism
5.9. British Böhmism: William Law, George MacDonald, Andrew Jukes, and Thomas Erskine
5.10. Universalism against a Backdrop of French Illuminism, Esotericism, and Occultism
5.11. Martines de Pasqually and the Emergence of French Martinism
5.12. Martinism under Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin
5.13. The Rise of Russian Böhmism prior to Solovyov
5.14. Summary and Conclusions on Böhme and Böhmist Universalism
6. A House Divided: The Rise and Fall of the Anglo-American Universalists
6.1. Sectarians and Pietists: German Roots of American Universalism
6.2. George de Benneville and Paul Siegvolck's Everlasting Gospel
6.3. Caleb Rich and Body-Soul Dualism
6.4. James Relly and Calvinistic Universalism
6.5. John Murray and Rellyan Universalism in America
6.6. Elhanan Winchester and Transatlantic Restorationist Universalism
6.7. From Calvinism to Universalism to Unitarianism in Britain
6.8. Hosea Ballou and the Restorationist Controversy
6.9. Internal Tensions and Contradictions in Anglo-American Universalism
6.10. Summary and Conclusions on Anglo-American Universalism
Volume 2
7. German Thinkers: Kant and Müller, Schleiermacher and Hegel, Schelling and Tillich
7.1. The Kantian Legacy of Transcendental Selfhood
7.2. Müller's Quasi-Origenist Non-universalism
7.3. Schleiermacher on Universal Election and Human Solidarity
7.4. Hegel as Rationalist and Esotericist
7.5. Hegel and the Consummation of Absolute Spirit
7.6. A Theological Critique of Hegel's Thought
7.7. Schelling's Speculative Reinterpretation of Creation, Fall, and Redemption
7.8. Tillich's "Half-Way Demythologization" of the Fall and Restoration of Souls
7.9. Summary and Conclusions on German Thinkers
8. Russian Thinkers: Solovyov, Berdyaev, Florovsky, and Bulgakov
8.1. The Russian Background, I: Orthodoxy, Idealism, and Böhmism
8.2. The Russian Background, II: Freemasonry and Esotericism
8.3. Vladimir Solovyov and the Roots of Russian Sophiology
8.4. Solovyov's Universalist Vision of "All-Unity"
8.5. Nicolas Berdyaev and Hell's Irresolvable Paradoxes
8.6. The Metaphysical Foundations of Sergius Bulgakov's Dogmatics
8.7. Bulgakov and Florovsky in the Sophiological Debate
8.8. Bulgakov's The Bride of the Lamb and the Arguments for Universalism
8.9. Summary and Conclusions on Russian Thinkers
9. Debating Universal Election: Karl Barth, Barth's Interpreters, Jürgen Moltmann, and the Post-1970s Kenotic-Relational Theologies
9.1. Interpretive Prologue: Post-1960s Interpretations of Barth's Theology
9.2. Biographical Prologue: Barth and the Hellfire Preacher in 1916
9.3. Barth on Election: An Overview
9.4. Barth on Israel's Election and the Jewish People
9.5. Barth on Election in the New Testament and Christian Tradition
9.6. Barth on the Logos Asarkos and Eternal Godmanhood
9.7. Barth on Nothingness (das Nichtige) and the "Impossibility" of Sin
9.8. Barth's Interpreters on the Question of Universalism
9.9. Barth's Ambiguous Legacy: From the 1950s to the 1980s
9.10. Jürgen Moltmann and the God-with-Us in Suffering
9.11. Evaluating Moltmann's Universalist Theology
9.12. The Rise of Kenotic-Relational Theologies since the 1990s
9.13. Apocalypse Now: Congdon's Neo-Bultmannian Universalism
9.14. Summary and Conclusions on Barth, Moltmann, and Post-1970s Theologies
10. Embracing Universal Hope: Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the Inclusivist, Plurocentrist, and Universalist Turns in Roman Catholicism
10.1. Henri de Lubac and Catholic Debates on Nature and Grace
10.2. Karl Rahner's "Anonymous Christians" and Post-Vatican II Theology
10.3. The Ambitious and Ambiguous Cosmology of Teilhard de Chardin
10.4. The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar: A General Sketch
10.5. Balthasar's Roots: Church Fathers, Russian Thinkers, and Karl Barth
10.6. Balthasar's Theological Relation to Adrienne von Speyr
10.7. Balthasar's Theo-drama and the Idea of Urkenosis
10.8. Balthasar on Eschatology Generally
10.9. Balthasar's Dare We Hope? and Universal Salvation
10.10. Summary and Conclusions on Roman Catholicism and Universalism
11. New Theologies in the New Millennium: The Variety of Contemporary Universalisms
11.1. Character of the New Millennium Universalist Literature
11.2. Liberal and Esoteric Universalism: Gulley, Mulholland, and Pearson
11.3. The Philosophical Universalism of Thomas Talbott
11.4. The Evangelical Universalism of Robin Parry
11.5. Evangelical Revisionism in Frank, Bell, and Kruger
11.6. Pentecostal Preachers of Grace: Dunn, du Toit, Rabe, and Crowder
11.7. Summary and Conclusions on Contemporary Universalisms
12. The Eclipse of Grace: An Appraisal of Christian Universalism
12.1. The Cumulative Argument: A Survey of Preceding Chapters
12.2. The Problem of God in Christian Universalism
12.3. The Problem of Grace in Christian Universalism
12.4. The Problem of Belief in Christian Universalism
12.5. Christian Universalism and the Challenge of Evil
12.6. Christian Particularism and the Call to Hope
Appendix A: Gnosis and Western Esotericism: Definitions and Lineages
Appendix B: Zoroastrian Eschatology
Appendix C: Anti-Origenist Declarations in the Early Church: From Alexandria, Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople
Appendix D: Ramelli's The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis (2013)
Appendix E: The Sefiroth: A Kabbalistic Diagram
Appendix F: Universal Salvation in Islamic Teaching
Islamic Eschatology and Qur'anic Teaching
Philosophical Foundations in Ibn al-'Arabi
Hell's Cooling and Final Salvation in Ibn al-'Arabi
The Universalistic Theology of Jalal al-Din Rumi
The Jurist Ibn Taymiyya and His Pupil Ibn Qayyim
Appendix G: Types of Christian Universalism
Appendix H: The Cosmic Saga: An Esoteric View
Appendix I: Ultra-Dispensational Universalism
Appendix J: Words and Concepts for Time and Eternity
Appendix K: Mormon Teachings on God, Cosmos, and Salvation
Appendix L: Barth and Bultmann on Romans 5
Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Subjects


"The Devil's Redemption is an ambitious, wide-ranging theology of universalism in the Western tradition and its analogues elsewhere. The impressive scope of the work is supported by rigorous analysis and interpretation and aided by clarity of style and presentation. McClymond gathers many different intellectual strands across time and space and weaves them into a coherent statement about the nature and scope of evil and redemption. Without question, the book will establish itself as a standard work of scholarship in the field, and for that McClymond deserves the gratitude of the guild."

Lamin Sanneh†, D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity, Yale Divinity School, and professor of history and professor of international and area studies, Yale University

"More and more evangelicals seem to be willing to consider the possibility that, because God is love, each and every person who has ever lived will eventually be saved. What are we to make of this soteriological mission creep? McClymond's magisterial study provides both a thorough historical investigation of the ancient and modern roots of Christian universalism and a thoughtful theological evaluation of their presuppositions, claims, and consequences. He shows that what on the surface appears to be not simply good but the best news--if universal salvation is indeed better than the traditional good news of salvation in Christ for those who have faith--on closer analysis ends up undermining the logic of the biblical gospel and of Christian orthodoxy. It turns out that grace that is necessary is no longer grace, but that to which creatures are entitled. Important issues require important books, and McClymond has produced what I suspect will be the definitive treatment of Christian universalism for years to come."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"The question of universalism seems to be a rather simple controversy. On the one hand, if the eternal, all-good God has the power to save all His rational creatures, then surely He would do so; on the other hand, Scripture and Tradition speak explicitly against universal salvation. In this magnum opus, Michael McClymond tells a different story, one that exposes universalism's extraordinary historical breadth and complexity. This is a page-turner that both sides will have to read."

Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"This book is indeed a tour de force, everything you wanted to know about Christian universalism and more. Meticulously crafted and copiously referenced, this will set the standard on the subject for years to come."

Allan H. Anderson, University of Birmingham (UK)

"As Michael McClymond demonstrates in this timely magnum opus, the overwhelming majority of Christians down through the ages have rejected universalism. However, very few Christians know the history of this rejection--not to mention the reasons some have favored universalism and often suffered for it. This book is now the best place to start learning this history. It is a tour de force of historical theology."

Douglas A. Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Erudite! Encyclopedic! Exhaustive! A universal discussion that leaves no stone unturned, no stream uncharted, and no argument untouched. Even as McClymond is unflinching in defending the historic orthodox consensus against the idea of universal salvation, his is a generous orthodoxy, the persuasiveness of which undoubtedly rests at least in part on his having taken time to listen to marginal voices and seriously grapple with the broadest extent of their claims within local and even global contexts. It will be a long time before universalist theologians will be able to make a compelling case that is as comprehensive as that of The Devil's Redemption."

Amos Yong, professor of theology and mission, Fuller Theological Seminary

"A timely and fascinating book on a crucial topic that probably only an omnicompetent historical theologian like Michael McClymond could write. McClymond shows that while the notion of universal salvation has attractive features, it does not have a very encouraging spiritual or theological track record in the history of the church."

Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"This tome by Michael McClymond is a theological bombshell. The first-ever complete history of the doctrine of universal salvation, it is a devastating demolition of the supposition that universalism can be sustained with exegetical or systematic integrity."

Gerald McDermott, Beeson Divinity School; author of Everyday Glory: The Revelation of God in All of Reality

"Why would one write a treatise on universalism as large as this one? The answer is simple: universalism is a widespread and increasingly popular notion not just in Christianity but also in Judaism and Islam. Moreover, its affirmation affects everything in the Christian faith and ultimately renders grace meaningless. With immense erudition, the author traces the notion of universalism through the centuries; introduces us to its proponents from the Christian fold and elsewhere; and convincingly shows that it relies on a nonliteral interpretation of Scripture and a substantial rejection of church tradition, freely borrowing from other sources such as the paranormal and the esoteric. These two volumes provide us with a wealth of insights, an enormous amount of carefully laid-out material, and important conclusions."

Hans Schwarz, professor emeritus of systematic theology and contemporary theological issues, University of Regensburg

"The Devil's Redemption is an outstanding work, covering the development of Christian universalism from the second century to the twenty-first and not forgetting its connections to its Jewish and Islamic counterparts. The book's erudite investigation is sustained by a solid and consistent philosophical-theological background that allows the author to make his main points in a straightforward way. McClymond makes an extremely strong case against universalism, revealing its weak metaphysical presuppositions as well as its historical failures. This is certainly a must-read book not only for specialists but also for every educated Christian in a time like ours, when universalism has an unparalleled appeal."

Claudio Pierantoni, professor of medieval philosophy, Universidad de Chile

"McClymond's study is an in-depth historical and systematic theological critique of Christian universalism--the idea that not only are all people saved but that they are all saved through Christ. This book is a stunning achievement in several ways. First, it takes seriously the arguments in defense of Christian universalism by examining how biblical exegesis, church tradition, rational argumentation (both philosophical and theological), and personal experience enter into these arguments. Second, McClymond shows the interconnection of the issue of universalism with everything the Christian faith has to say about God's love and justice; human nature; sin; freedom; Jesus's life, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension; the Holy Spirit; the nature of the church; and the second coming of Christ. And if that weren't enough, McClymond provides a rich historical perspective on Christian universalism by discussing its representative proponents and critics. Offering an extraordinary opportunity for critical dialogue in our current culture of universalism, this book simply could not have come at a better time."

Eduardo J. Echeverria, professor of philosophy and systematic theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

The Author

  1. Michael J. McClymond

    Michael J. McClymond

    Michael J. McClymond (PhD, University of Chicago) is professor of modern Christianity at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. He previously held teaching or research appointments at Wheaton College, Westmont College, University of California-San...

    Continue reading about Michael J. McClymond


2018 Book Award Winner, The Gospel Coalition (Academic Theology)
Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2019

"It's not uncommon to hear some book touted as 'definitive' or 'magisterial.' Usually the hype is overblown. Every now and then, it's not. This is one of the exceptions. The Devil's Redemption truly is, as the back cover states, 'the definitive treatment on universalism for years to come.' Nearly 1,400 pages, McClymond goes wide and deep to survey the history of universalist ideas. He shows how universalism necessarily impinges on other doctrines, and he exposes the tragic irony that universalism, far from preserving grace, eclipses it."

The Gospel Coalition

"An exceptionally thorough, verging on magisterial account of universalism in Christian thinking. . . . Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."

R. Ward,


"No reader of this text could call McClymond's treatment of this vital question [universalism] superficial, and scholars of every eschatological persuasion will benefit from his work. Simply put, there is no other book like this. Monumental is one adjective which comes to mind, given the more than one hundred and fifty thinkers spanning nearly two millennia who come in for analysis. It is the sheer ambition of its scope which is most impressive: McClymond takes readers everywhere from sixth-century Palestinian monastic settlements to Dutch synagogues in the 1600s to Vatican II and beyond. This historical survey, compendiously researched, along with McClymond's multiple appendices treating sundry issues associated with debates on universalism not just in Christianity but in multiple religious traditions, will serve as a welcome resource to be consulted and re-consulted in future studies on universalism, whether broadly considered or with respect to the myriad individual thinkers whose thought McClymond details and engages. . . . . These two sweeping volumes inform and challenge."

Roberto J. De La Noval,

Modern Theology