The Apostle John defined the spirit of Anti-Christ as that which would deny the Incarnation: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4: 2-3).
By extension, this spirit would deny the embodied and historical nature of Jesus Christ’s life and words, and the embodied and historical nature of His Body, the Church, in both its Old Testament and New Testament forms, as understood in Orthodox Christianity.
Today this denial comes often in the form of universalism in secularism, related to universalism in theology. Secular universalism does not believe in heaven or hell or an after-life and usually not in God, but rather in supposedly universal views of individualism and rationalism from the European Enlightenment, applied as if global truths.
It promotes a Western cultural type of radical individual autonomy onto the world at large, as if the individual floats in a placeless abstract space, free from God’s authority. Such atomistic Eurocentric anthropology encourages, paradoxically, totalitarian culture, according to the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt in her The Origins of Totalitarianism. Today it fosters a lonely globalism increasingly hostile to Christian tradition.
Universalism in religion as a Christian heresy historically claimed that all will be saved by God. It presumed to dictate the mystery of His love for mankind, and to limit human freedom. Secular universalism in cultural politics today likewise demands a common model for the good life, with increasing intolerance for dissent, and an underlying loneliness. Russian Orthodox Christian philosophy offers the antidote for universalism in deep spiritual unity at the intersection of mystical hierarchy and conciliarity, in the Church as the Body of Jesus Christ, called sobornost.
Below: Destruction of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow by the Bolsheviks (now rebuilt), and the Palace of Soviets they planned in its place with a mammoth statue of the mass-murderer Lenin atop.
Secular Universalism’s American Setting
Before converting to Orthodoxy, I grew up as a member of two historically universalist Protestant-related denominations, namely the Unitarian-Universalists and the Christian Scientists, on different sides of the liberal-conservative cultural divide in America. They both were offsprings of Puritan New England Protestantism. Both ended up arguably far from that tree, but shared traits with Puritanism’s vision of the “city on a hill,” an earthly utopia. Modern universalism was central to both, namely the belief that all will find salvation. The more conservative Christian Science faith had a teaching of “everlasting punishment” for “error,” but not for people. Both fled from ideas of hell and damnation as found in Puritanism, which itself is regarded as heterodox by Orthodox Christianity globally. Universalism and unitarianism traveled together because of their affinity for an impersonal God. The traditional mystery of the three Persons in One God of the Trinity, as the basis of humans made according to the image of God and thus not essential but relational in nature, came to be seen as an obstacle to autonomous individualism, and to the more homogenized concept of reality in an Enlightenment sense of universal space.
For those unfamiliar with the trajectory of these two small sects, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant in origin: 1. Unitarian-Universalism as a denomination has long been influenced by secular rationalism, mingled in recent generations with cultural Marxism and neopaganism, and an increasingly dominant element of social activism. One friend who is a former Unitarian and now an Orthodox priest referred to it jokingly as a political party operating as a church. In recent times it has served often as a kind of religious half-way house for those in mixed-faith households, intellectuals leaving a more traditional faith, and even radicals trying to build a kind of “legit profile” for fitting-in socially by being members of a church. 2. The once-influential but now nearly vanished Christian Science denomination had strands of puritanical rigor, emphasis on Bible study, kinship to “positive thinking” movements (Walt Disney was a fan), and opposition to medicine. It has a special service on Thanksgiving with a patriotic American tone and a newspaper The Christian Science Monitor rooted loosely in a mix of Wilsonian Democratic and Teddy Roosevelt-style Republicanism. That all made it less appealing over time to secular American intellectuals on the Left than Unitarian-Universalism, and its political heyday arguably was when Christian Scientists ran the Nixon White House.
But the unitarianism and universalism of both groups left enduring marks on elite religious and political culture in America, contributing to the erosion of first Theism and then Deism in Anglo-American elite religious cultures. A few nineteenth-century intellectuals in the West, such as the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (interested in founding a utopian American “Pantisocracy” not far from where I write in central Pennsylvania) and the philosopher Charles Peirce (the sage of Milford, Pennsylvania) bucked the trend, moving from Unitarian to Trinitarian beliefs. But they were exceptions proving the rule.
Many religious Americans in both the movements of the “social gospel” of the Left and the “prosperity gospel” of the Right, shared a propensity toward universalism in varying degrees, as now do the growing segment of “nones” not affiliated with a religious denomination. Many accept aspects of radical individual autonomy that fuel nihilism now rampant in American media, educational, and corporate elites. In it, consumerism weirdly melds with cultural Marxism. (“Cultural Marxism” here is used in its original sense, coined by adherents, as shorthand for atheistic intellectual efforts to change society through culture, rather than through economic class struggle as in Classical Marxism.)
John Adams, Puritan Unitarian
While the American founding father John Adams was a Puritan Unitarian, a type of Arian theologically denying the divinity of Christ, he was still far closer to traditional Christian beliefs as a Theist respecting traditional Christianity in its social role than twenty-first century American Unitarian-Universalism. Adams’ Congregationalist religious community officially became Unitarian near the end of his life. It wasn’t until 1961 that the Unitarian and Universalist denominations formally merged, although both shared universalist beliefs and a somewhat parallel trajectory.
Today’s secular universalists of all stripes, inspired by a mix of the European Enlightenment, Romanticism, and cultural Marxism, tend to view traditional Christianity as oppressive. Indeed, the actual Unitarian-Universalist movement, while fairly small, reflects the dominant “woke” political faith of elite America today.
Universalism and Cultural Marxism
The conservative political scientist Paul Kengor, a prominent author on issues of Communist subversion, mentioned to me that the Unitarian-Universalist denomination in 1950s America was often a refuge for American Communist Party members and allies who wanted to establish “normal” social credentials by membership in a religious organization.
Here’s a case study of the actual human complexities, though. My late father (a wonderful man) said that he joined the Unitarians to provide a religious home for his children different from that of his many Irish Catholic relatives in the Chicago area. But he also frequented Communist bookstores to which he took me as a child, giving me presents both of the Soviet Constitution and Mao’s Little Red book for my bedroom library. He had grown up in the now-vanished Chicago West Side Irish community that produced notables such as his cousin and childhood friend Leo Ryan, the liberal Democratic congressman from San Francisco who was killed at Jonestown. But he said that he had learned to dislike Catholicism as a child of a single-parent home in the Depression where his mother could not get a divorce and remarry, finding also the intellectual atmosphere of the Catholic schools he attended restricting. He told me one time of meeting his high school Catholic priest downtown in Chicago when he was wearing a red beret dressed like an early beatnik, and said he wondered if the priest didn’t think he had become a revolutionary. Maybe he had to some extent. But he went on to serve in the Army in World War II. After the war, he advocated for civil rights for African-Americans, once losing a teaching position for objecting to a diner not serving a Black customer in a Chicago suburb.
There was an aesthetic side to his joining Unitarian-Universalism, as well, and that was rooted in his love for the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Transcendentalist-Unitarian minister and writer, and his acceptance as a science teacher of a kind of pantheistic scientism. My father bemoaned how the Evanston, Illinois, Unitarian congregation where we attended had jettisoned its old small gothic-style building for a large concrete brutalist piece of architecture. There I attended Unitarian Sunday School in elementary school, which featured explicit sex education for junior high students, and instead of a saint’s feast United Nations worship day. I read the Bible on my own under the covers with a flashlight at night (along with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) before opting to attend Christian Science Sunday School, my mother’s background, heading into high school. I felt a call to faith in God in good part because of my sister’s chronic and ultimately fatal illness.
Raymond Aron’s classic book The Opium of the Intellectuals decried Western philosophical entanglements with international Marxism and its totalitarian expression.
Fast forwarding decades, Unitarian-Universalism today arguably is one of the few socially and intellectually accepted forms of religion for American academics, perhaps along with Americanized forms of Buddhism, also socially activist and universalist–and, to some extent, liberal Episcopalianism, which is universalist in tendency today also. Islam, itself unitarian, is politically supported by woke academics as a foil for Christianity, if not generally adopted — traditional Islam would be considered too restrictive on sexual norms and individualism for most denizens of American academia, and with its own non-secular take on the universal. There is also a Protestant social-justice gospel ghost still lingering over many American liberal arts institutions, morphing into today’s brand of secular universalism.
Unitarianism and universalism are dominant religious norms of our small college town’s elite culture, the late stages of the mainline Protestantism whose steeples still shape its skyline. Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, traditional Jews, and non-woke Evangelical Protestants have been socially marginalized minorities historically in town and campus. They remain so under “systemic secularism,” “secularness,” and “secular privilege’ now, although those aren’t terms that you’ll hear from those on the universalistic Left concerned with systemic ills.
It’s no coincidence that the French Revolution attempted to establish its own “Temple of Reason” in Notre Dame as an alternative to religion, and the Soviets did the same both in their atheistic education campaigns among youth and their support for a secularizing “Living Church” in an attempt to splinter Orthodoxy in Russia. Universalist-secular radical politics in America attack Christianity and biblical religion freely as racist and sexually oppressive. With the rise of the “nones” and the declining vitality of not only mainline Protestant but also Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in America among young people, a vague universalism hostile to traditional Christianity, “spiritual but not religious,” mainly atheistic, claims cultural dominance in America in our 2020 era of shutdown, civil unrest, and the now-open march through the institutions of cultural Marxism.
A recent talk at a protest in my area by a local elected official, who has identified himself as an Anarchist and Antifa-positive, began with him reciting a Unitarian-Universalist song lyric from his congregation, and asking the crowd to repeat it back to him. He organized the rally as a counter-protest to an earlier small neo-Nazi gathering. While supposedly non-partisan, it was clearly beneficial to Democratic Party organizers such as himself, and while supposedly non-sectarian its “civil religion” was his Unitarian-Universalist invocation. Universalism generically often flies its revolutionary politics under the false flags of “non-partisan” and “non-sectarian,” because truly all must recognize its universally applicable imposed truth. Likewise it often aligns with the atheistic materialism of neo-Marxism, claiming that targeting Christianity is “non-sectarian.”
In that same spirit, the Antifa movement targets Nazism (conflated with fascism, somewhat inaccurately from an historical standpoint), while giving Communism a free ride, often displaying the hammer and sickle at protests, clearly aligning itself politically with the Left. Both Nazism and Communism were evil systems deserving of condemnation, the two models of classic totalitarianism examined by Arendt for their common underlying elements. But Communism has killed tens of millions of more people globally, and is a living force in China and elsewhere, still appealing to Western intellectuals for what they see exactly as its secular universalism.
Anarchist and Communist symbolism at a 2017 American Antifa event.
As mentioned, our local Anarchist official began his talk at the counter-protest by quoting a Unitarian-Universalist (U-U) hymn. It invoked the vague “spirit of life,” to inspire all present to justice, rootedness, and connectedness, asking everyone to repeat the lyric back line by line. The message was of caring, in the context of calling Nazis “parasites” on democracy who should be treated as such. But the “spirit” invoked was not specified as the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed refers to the Holy Spirit as “the giver of life,” indicating His transcendent power, historically evident at Pentecost, and which continues to be invoked throughout the year at altars and high places of local Orthodox churches. The U-U “spirit of life” mentioned was unclear in nature and origin, but the chant required of everyone at a supposedly non-sectarian event was not inclusive of traditional Christians. The latter might ask: What kind of spirit is being invoked, among the many spirits in which we believe? Even Lucifer was the “original revolutionary” to radical activist Saul Alinsky, who famously dedicated his book Rules for Radicals–a book that incidentally is promoted by the Unitarian-Universalist Association–to Lucifer.
The Anarchist official went on to tell the gathering that anti-fascist and anti-racist protests should declare themselves “non-violent” but not “peaceful,” because using the term “peaceful” implied reliance on police and authorities in resisting “parasites” such as Nazi supporters and presumably haters generally, which is often an elastic category including those who oppose Antifa. The rejection of reliance on official law enforcement relates to a general jettisoning of traditional authority in universalist views. The idea of universal salvation and universalist identity of the self ultimately removes the significance of how one personally lives one’s life on this earth based on the choices one makes individually under the authority of God. In that lies its affinity with socialism, with a this-worldliness akin to atheism, and a down-playing of individual moral duty and responsibility to God — instead emphasizing collective ideas of social justice, in which the self finds a materialistic realization.
It’s no coincidence that one of the earlier advocates of what became Unitarian-Universalism in the U.S. was the chemist Joseph Priestley, who came from England to settle in central Pennsylvania. Priestley was an advocate of materialistic determinism in life, parallel to what became the Marxist view of historical determinism, and the progressive view of inevitable Progress with a capital-P. Interestingly, Priestley as a pioneering chemist also was an advocate of literal interpretation of Biblical prophecy, albeit mainly his own individual literal interpretation, unfettered by Church tradition. Those twin ideas of historical determinism and literal interpretation of Biblical prophecy ironically are foundational to American ideas of exceptionalism, first in terms of Manifest Destiny extending the American grid across the continent, and also in utopian efforts that now bear fruit in ideas that America is exceptional in its evil, due to its white nationalism, requiring a new utopianism to resolve that. In universalistic terms, if everyone is saved, the world is headed toward a better and better future. But everyone needs to be on “the right side of history.”
“Everything is Permitted”: Including Intolerance
Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s greatest novel developed the idea that without faith in God or the after-life, “everything is permitted,” with disastrous results. That’s how universalism sows the whirlwind: Removing accountability to the ultimate highest authority for our acts, and of duty to the unity of mystical hierarchy and conciliarity symbolized by the Cross, in His Body, the Church, accountability ultimately is reduced to one’s self.
With universalism ironically also often comes intolerance–of those who are not universalists and progressives. Thus the Anarchist speaker at the anti-Nazi protest had participated affirmatively in a local talk by an Antifa advocate promoting the idea of “pre-emptive self-defense” or “pre-emptive violence,” the idea that fighting fascism justified resistance by force against those promoting it, including an elastic definition of fascism as including Trump supporters. This may show also the difference between “peaceful” and “non-violent” as terms in radical rhetoric today. Under Antifa philosophy, “non-violence” presumably could include resisting fascism by force, since the latter is violence embodied and can grow suddenly from small things into huge oppressions. However, the definition of fascism again is elastic. Some scholars of fascism consider Nazism a racist movement of its own, not strictly fascist. The Anarchist and Unitarian-Universalist speaker mentioned above cited in his talk General Franco as an example of a Nazi-like fascist, although some historians of fascism place Franco as more a military dictator and not properly a fascist, but in a different non-totalitarian category from Nazism, opposing the totalitarianism of Communism. But such nuances can get lost amid the globalizing flow of secular universalism and its affinity for a kind of necromancy of Communist totalitarian spirit — as if summoning up a dead ideology from the Cold War for creation of new zombie-like armies of people who become interchangeable global cogs, in an internationalist machinery hospitable to consumerism and socialism alike.
To those who may object that intolerance was a function of earlier Christian societies, that sometimes was true. But that was nowhere on the scale of the lower-case secular universalist totalitarian systems of the last century, which left scores of millions dead in both racial and cultural genocides. Modern secular intellectualism encourages intolerance of difference in the name of its various universalisms, whether class, racial, or ideological, by serving a will to universal power. For example, a secular-Leninist university colleague considered himself a universalist in condemning me for “Christian particularism” and calling for my removal from the university as a professing traditional Christian.
Along those lines, a local Unitarian-Universalist pastor on social media called out mainly conservative Protestant Christians in our area for pretending to be “toothless lions” (referencing attending a meeting with them as going into a “den of lions”). Her language in effect dehumanized those holding different views from hers on proposed transgender legislation that would potentially limit their minority religious expression. The Anarchist elected official mentioned above supported that “metaphor” of his pastor, while wrongly characterizing the concerns of religious minorities about their freedoms in the borough as opposing rights of people identifying as LGBTQIA. He earlier had posted, on his podcast website at the political height of “Russophobia” and “Russiagate” scandal, the phrase “go back to Russia.” That had the effect of denigrating the local minority of those of Russian (and Russian Christian) identity, at a time of stereotyping and hate directed against Russia and Russians and Russian Orthodox Christianity. Another Unitarian-Universalist had participated in a discussion about how to reject secretly the candidacy of an otherwise qualified African-American job candidate because of his conservative Christian religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean that these folks are not more caring than me, or that everyone in my childhood denomination acts intolerantly. But it fits the paradoxically deep tensions between the broader culture of secular universalism today and pluralism of particulars, which roil American society, including the bigotry one encounters in casual conversations behind-the-scenes with elite universalists.
Orthodoxy versus Universalism
Human nature being fallen, people from all faith backgrounds do intolerant and terrible things tragically, as has been the case with my own included. And I am the worst of sinners. But secular universalism tends not to admit human fallenness, instead emphasizing unbounded human progress. Eurocentric secular universalism today also frequently bears the trait that the conservative Anglican philosopher Roger Scruton in his book Green Philosophy called oikophobia, a fear of home, or of the groundedness that for the Orthodox Christian is both spiritual and embodied, historically and in holy places, in the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church as the Body of Christ, as well as in the otherworldiness of Paradise, and on a mundane level in one’s region and country. The totalitarian-leaning placelessness of secular universalist spatiality manifested itself in both the Communist International and in Global Capitalist consumerism. The rootlessness of many modern academic, corporate, activist, and media institutions, and households rooted in them, and their anti-patriotic, anti-Christian, and globalist biases, evidences this tendency — along with their lack of understanding of those off its abstract conceptual grid, such as in the “flyover country” of central Pennsylvania where I live.
The late Roger Scruton, philosopher of place.
Universalism has a long trajectory in the growth of Western secularism, assuming different forms at different times in its development, from early roots. The late medieval Catholic Scholastic philosopher Duns Scotus both believed in the infinity of space and advocated for the Immaculate Conception, thus downplaying the human in a larger universalism that would, from an Orthodox standpoint, de-emphasize the humanity of the Virgin Mary, despite his apparent advocacy for particularity. (In the secular dimension, but in a similar paradox, modern Anarchism seeks to universalize the autonomous individual, thus losing the embededness of embodied self in the Incarnate Jesus Christ as the source of personal identity. A Russian saying indicates that Anarchism comes and Communism lingers. History has shown that happens.) In a different way, the Nominalist late-medieval Catholic Scholastic William of Ockham also ended up encouraging materialistic reductionism and ultimately a subjectified “universal” individualism. He did this by denying the reality of universals, wielding “Ockham’s Razor.” But that too fed autonomous individualism and secular totalitarian-style culture.
Orthodox Christian philosophy in focusing on spiritual unity as sobornost reunites those binarized sensibilities of nominalism and realism found in Eurocentric thinking, into incarnational and experiential union of “universal” and “particular” together, in the Body of Christ. Sobornost is a Russian term for this, which however draws on broader shared Christian backgrounds from the first millennium. In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, commonly the English translation refers to “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” where “catholic” has the meaning of “universal.” However, the Slavonic translation, which uses an adjectival form of the Russian Christian philosophical term sobornost, carries with it not merely the Latin sense of universality in space, but also that of solidarity, and the intersection of mystical hierarchy with conciliarity, evoked in the whole phrase on the Church from the Creed. Sobornost highlights nodes of hidden connections between human beings, related to God, as in by analogy the hidden root systems of a forest.
Orthodoxy’s recognition of particular differences of place and cultures through her local Church jurisdictions, and infinitely more with the particular but everywhere present Body of Christ, involves the practice of embodied oikophilia or love of place, with also a shared spiritual unity of human nature in sobornost. Thus the Russian Orthodox Christian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote of how we are all responsible for each other’s sins. In line with this, the true meaning of ecumenical, sometimes used as a synonym of universal, relates to the oikumene or inhabited earth, originally with meanings like that of “Middle Earth” in Old English and Norse (the inhabited region between different worlds), or the geography of the many-cultured world of the Christian empire of the Romans, from St. Constantine on into the Russian Empire, spiritually if not militarily including the Holy Land and ancient patriarchates. But that sense of habitation by different cultures in a shared habitable world, with a spiritual overlay landscape in which identity is formed in hierarchy of God, signifies the depth of meaning in “ecumenical” apart from any homogenization of cultures, countries, and peoples. The later easily turns into a potentially toxic secular brew of consumerism and cultural Marxism drawing on a paradoxically too narrow meaning of universal spatiality–too constrained and oppressive because it lacks otherworldiness.
“The Opiate of the Theologians”
One commentator has dubbed universalism “the opiate of the theologians,” and it certainly seems also to have affected some modern Orthodox Christian academics in the English-speaking world, despite the condemnation of it by the Fifth Ecumenical Council, Scripture, and other elements of Church Tradition. David Bentley Hart, a self-claimed Orthodox philosopher, has strongly advocated for universalism in his 2019 book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, arguing polemically against any Church authorities past or present that in his view were stupid enough not to embrace universalism (and that summary reflects the sharpness of his language).
The book received negative critiques from traditional Orthodox Christian scholars because of its inaccuracies and polemical over-reach, and the incompatibility of its message with the Tradition in which he claims to write. In my own research, I observe the weakness of his trying to enlist St. Maximus the Confessor in his cause, given the Confessor’s actual writings, as they also relate to those of the early Irish Christian philosopher John Scottus Eriugena, a focus of my work, who translated and was greatly influenced by St. Maximus’ work. Neither were actual universalists, but rather distinguished between the redemption of man and the cosmos in the General Resurrection, and the particular damnation of those who did not use their time on earth in struggle with grace towards theosis or union with God’s uncreated energies. In effect, to those who had not come to experience and practice true love from and toward God, God’s love in the after-life would be a painful rather than a joyful experience, given that they had objectified themselves and others while in their embodied lives on this earth.
This year, Dr. Hart became co-editor with Fr. John Chryssavgis, Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Throne (of the Patriarchate of Constantinople), of For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church, with a group of liberal theological scholars. Father Andrew Damick’s blog Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy provided a detailed critique of the document’s tendency toward a renovationist approach to Church Tradition. The text starts with a universalist’s error (not surprisingly, given Dr. Hart’s involvement): Claiming that man was made in the image and likeness of God, when the Bible states (Gen. 1:27) that man was made in the image of God. The likeness, according to Church Tradition, is a potentiality (Gen. 1:26) to be attained through a synergy of grace and ascetic struggle. By stating that man was made in the image and likeness of God, the document begins with an assumption oriented positively toward universalism.
Meanwhile, claims in the introduction to the document by the co-editors, about the text speaking for the Orthodox Church, run against Orthodox ecclesiology and offer a glimpse at how the tendency toward universalism among academics involved in the Ecumenical Patriarchate, such as Hart, ironically strengthens false claims of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to govern the Orthodox Church. That mirage-like “universal” Patriarchate scarcely exists today, given that its city is now Istanbul and not Constantinople, that the local Orthodox population there has all but vanished along with its seminary being closed, and that its greatest historic temple, the Hagia Sophia, recently has been converted back from being a museum into an Islamic mosque. It has relied materially on an alliance with both U.S. neoliberalism and neoconservatism since World War 2, and on wealthy Greek-Americans. But the universalist pretensions of the Patriarchate arguably reaped the whirlwind of dividing the Orthodox world by its interference in Ukraine in recent years, forfeiting the type of solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church that could have provided better traction for its opposition to the re-fitting of the Hagia Sophia for Muslim worship recently, as the Synod of the Russian Church noted.
Reconversion of the Hagia Sopia to a Mosque, 2020
By contrast, the Moscow Patriarchate’s documents on “Social Concept” and “Human Dignity” remain the gold standard for outlining an Orthodox Christian social ethos in the twenty-first century–from the largest “local church,” operating conciliarly with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition, not by decree of one man with a committee of academics. The tilt toward universalism among some Orthodox academics affiliated especially with the Constantinople Patriarchate, as in the secular world, invariably trends towards an openness to cultural Marxism, evident in views on allied websites and organizations of academics (including some apostates and some of other or no faiths). The Eurocentric triumvirate of Marx, Darwin, and Freud as prototypes of secular universalism in the West are in evidence in their works, and their fruits are not traditional Orthodox ones, but would remove remaining authority that restrains chaos–what the Apostle Paul called the katechon, in his second letter to the Thessalonians. Such removal of restraining power for traditional Christians foreshadows “the return of the king” in the coming of Jesus Christ again.
Freedom from Universalism’s Will to Power
Secular universalism has become the religion of global capitalism and woke cultural Marxism combined, a neocolonial effort of the secular consumerist West. The biggest marker of this universalist “woke” theology is the way in which its conclusions set the stage globally for Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s three principles of totalitarianism, as is the case with universalist politics generally: “Survive at any price,” “only material results matter,” and “existing in a permanent lie”–namely that perception is reality. The latter is the most ironic for academic universalist theologians who give up the universal truth of Orthodoxy, the sobornost of the intersection between mystical hierarchy and conciliarity in the Cross, and in the Body of Christ, for a subjective virtual reality unrelated to the incarnationality of our God in the Orthodox Tradition.
Significantly, Solzhenitsyn also wrote in Book IV of The Gulag Archipelago that he learned in Communist prisons that the line between good and evil runs “not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.” The tendencies of universalism described here are temptations to all in the modern world of any religion or non-religion in background, and ultimately stem from fallen human nature that affects everyone. Importantly, many proclaiming universalist beliefs may be much less wicked than those opposed to them.
But like the Grand Inquisitor in Dostovesky’s last novel, the ideology of secular universalism suggests on a global scale to young people today that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ should have given in to the three temptations of Satan: Materialism, trying to tempt God through self-will, and the will to power. True freedom from an Orthodox Christian standpoint lies in voluntary service to universal truth in the Person of Jesus Christ, found in the relational love of sobornost, not in assertion of a universal will to power. This is also the antidote to today’s global epidemic of universal loneliness, secular universalism’s self-induced bane.