Saturday, May 3, 2008

Is the UK more open to universalism than the USA?

OK - here is a weird thing. My book seems to be getting more attention in the UK that the USA (that is an observation not a complaint). Weirder still is the fact that this has been the case since the beginning when only a US edition was available. So what's the score here? Are Brits more open to universalism than Americans and if so why? Here's my guess - they are suckers! (That was a joke!)
Feel free to comment with your reflections on this puzzle.


Richard said...


As a Brit who picked up the US version I won't comment on any reasons for the difference but just to say (as a non-universalist & non-evangelical) thanks for the book; it is an excellent and stimulating piece of writing that if asked I will recommend as an introduction to universalism.

Anonymous said...

Well you could be right, I guess: we're suckers :-)

But if we're suckers, I'd say it's for a worthy cause. Maybe it's because we live on a small island that such things concern us: we don't have the luxury of space like you guys. We're running out of landfill sites: we desperately need to recycle. We can't have garbage heaps that just grow and grow for ever.

Being forced to re-examine our own lifestyles, our attitudes to such things as product packaging and wastage, maybe we're subconsciously applying the same logic to our concepts of God and eschatology? Yes, God may have a tad more space and time available than us, but what kind of deity would create a universe where so much goes wrong, where so much — if we accept the prevailing evangelical eschatologies — will ultimately go to waste but never cease to exist? What kind of God would preside over an eternity in which billions of people are in everlasting torment? Not a deity I'd ever trust: not one I'd want to share eternity with.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Here in England, we believe in a God who walks amongst us. We have to tidy up, not just for ourselves but for God. So we like to tidy up our theology too. Can't have loose ends to trip up on and see the whole thing come unravelled!!

Anonymous said...

Is it it because evangelicalism has a stronger authority structure in the US. Through its seminaries, colleges, leaders, theologicasl fan clubs, media it is able to sway the theological climate. Evangelicalism is broader in the UK due to less control. I guess this is both a positive and negatiev thing. Do you agree?

Gregory MacDonald said...


Maybe. I just don't know. It never felt to me that evangelicalism was less organized in the UK than the US but then what do I know?


Anonymous said...

Its more a hunch than a researched point of view. I was chatting with some fellow ordinands last night and they were in agreement. We tried to come up with an agrred list of 10 famous and influential uk evangelcials. We couldn't do it. When we tried to do the same with U.S it was easier....
I like what you said in your post about 'universalist churches'..

Anonymous said...

americans are dumb..joking. Interesting, but I am thinking they are more willing to listen and open to the gospel than americans.

Rene said...

Ok, at least 10 famous UK Evangelicals:

1. John Wesley
2. Charles Wesley
3. George Whitefield
4. Hudson Taylor (OMF)
5. William Booth (Salvation Army)
6. Dr. Martin-Lloyd Jones
7. John Stott
8. JI Packer (Canadian/British)
9. CS Lewis
10. NT Wright

11. James Dunn
12. Steve Chalke (Oasis)
13. Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Course)

British Evangelicals roots are different to American Evangelicals...

John Wesley (Arminian) vs. Jonathon Edwards (Calvinist)

The founder of English Evangelicalism, John Wesley was influenced by the Universalist Moravian Missionary, Peter Böhler, which George Whitefield (Calvinist) didn't like.

The founder of American Evangelicalism, Jonathon Edwards, believed babies would burn in hell forever, and that 'Jehovah himself' will hold them over the flames of hell in his tongs of wrath.

Just different roots, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I have had the sense that Christian conviction is often (but not always) considered more of a private matter in the UK, whereas it is very public in the US. Unfortunately, this public-ness has the downside of people feeling susceptible to outside influences (church, school, local community, etc.) in the US, so less individual evaluation of issues occurs (e.g. "I can't read this book because my pastor might find out about it and chastise me"). Again, I don't know how accurate this is - just a thought.

p.s. I live in the US, and have noticed this fear personally.