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92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heady, responsible treatment., March 24, 2005
By 
Israel Galindo (Richmond, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
Ambiguity is the devil's volleyball, said former President of Yale, Kingman Brewster, Jr. Robin A. Parry and Christopher H. Partridge's book, Universal Salvation? gives us a well matched game of back and forth with the theological hot potato that is at the heart of the book's "debate." While the writers in this volume are articulate and responsible in handling this (again) current hot topic among evangelicals, if there is one null theme the critical reader may pick up is that the debate is fueled, in part, by the inherent ambiguity of the concept in the biblical text that all sides claim for their points of view. Biblical ambiguity is the one reality few seem ready to confess when conceding an opponent's point on the issue.

The volume's "debate" opens with three chapters (Part I) by Thomas Talbott, a professor of philosophy at Willamette University and an advocate of the universalist position (in effect, Talbott argues that Scripture teaches the ultimate salvation of all people, including those in Hell). His treatment and defense for this position is thorough, reasoned, and responsible. Though Talbott's case for universalism includes arguments from theology and a Pauline interpretation of relevant texts, the strength of his argument is philosophical. His logical treatment of theological thoughts on the subject is exemplary and rigorous. Neither Talbott nor the writers who respond adversarial to his views shy away from claiming the authority of the Bible, or the primacy of Scripture to inform theology, tradition, and reason to put forth their arguments.

The remaining part of the book (parts II to V) consists of rebuttals to Talbott's arguments by other evangelical scholars. The issue at hand receives treatment from biblical responses (I. Howard Marshall and Thomas Johnson), philosophical responses (Jerry Walls and Eric Reitan), theological responses (Daniel Strange and John Sanders), and historical responses (Morwenna Ludlow and David Hilborn & Don Horrocks). In these rebuttal chapters the writers evaluate both the strengths and weaknesses of Talbott's position, but also expand the conversation beyond the parameters of Talbott's original arguments. They provide a case for their own position on the issue of universal salvation. Some chapters bog down in minutia and pedantry, which is always a danger when treating a subject as complex as universal salvation-not to mention the ambiguous textual evidence for it. For those who are "set in their thinking" on the matter, exposure to that reality may prove unsettling-and indeed, these are scholars who are honestly wrestling with the ambiguity-though not silence-of Scripture on this issue of critical concern. But then, as Freud said, "Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity." Some of the authors fall on one side of the argument or another, and others offer a mediating stance, proof enough that there is room for more dialogue on the issue.

The book closes with a final chapter in which Talbott replies to his "interlocutors." He is responsible, and gracious, in responding to the counter arguments and criticisms of his view from all fronts, theological, textual, historical, and philosophical, but takes full advantage in having the last word on the matter, at least in this volume. This is one of the most thorough and responsible treatments available of the issue of universal salvation-and its related issues-by evangelicals. A solid resource, highly recommended.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable rescource for those willing to challenge long held dogmas., November 2, 2006
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
I am coming from this as one who first began considering Universal Salvation 4 years ago, shortly after graduating from a fundamental Bible College. In my circle of pastors and friends you didn't even debate that God's love stopped at death for 90% of humanity, so it took me sometime to find the rescources to frame the argument. I wish I'd had this book in my hand then! While it doesn't endorse one view over another I think the arguments speak for themselves. It will also provide the reader with further theological rescources to extend the study.

Here are a few quotes from the book both Pro & Con:

"For even as many Augustinians are utterly convinced that God's salvific will cannot be defeated forever and many Arminians are utterly convinced that God at least wills the salvation of all human sinners, so I am equally convinced that both claims are true." - Thomas Talbot

"As Reymond notes: 'God loves himself with a holy love and with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, that he himself is at the centre of his affections, and that the impulse that drives him and the thing he pursues in everthing he does is his own glory.' - Daniel Strange quoting Reymond

"Talbott is indeed correct that if Christ died for everyone then everyone will be saved." - Daniel Strange

"I am convinced of the doctrine of particular redemption!" - Daniel Strange

"In this era of intense ecclesiastical scrutiny of Christian belief -- particularly through instruments such as Inquisition -- it is perhaps not surprising that an unorthodox idea like universalism appeared only in extremist and sectarian groups who rejected the authority of such ecclesiastical powers." - Morwena Ludlow

"If the penalty for human sin has already been paid by Christ, how can justice be an impediment to his mercy and His love? Did Christ's atonement only atone for the sins of some human beings, or some but not all sins? - Eric Reitan

I hope this review helps you as you search out the height and depth of God's love for yourself! Remember, as Paul says in Romans, not even death can separate you from the love of God.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A light unto my feet., January 26, 2006
By 
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
This book was my follow up read to "If Grace is True," and I couldn't have chosen a better read. While I enjoyed "If Grace Is True," by page 124 I was searching for something else. My review is under the name "llewdis" and it expresses my views very well.[http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0062517058/ref=cm_cr_dp_2_1/104-7881007-0259964?%5Fencoding=UTF8&customer-reviews.sort%5Fby=-SubmissionDate&n=507846]

This book on the other hand has been as exercise in logic. I hate to admit that I was a philosophy major. Many Christians seem to dismiss this pursuit as frivilous or unecessary, but this book enabled me to center myself once again. It is balanced, and well written. I would encourage all people of the Christian faith to read this book. It is a teatise that shoud be read by all those who are interested in this debate. Secondly, this book reenforced a core belief of mine that was fostered by an author Wendell Barry. I also enjoyed and was persuaded by a book by the author of "Better Off" that espouse a vision of the world centered around personal interaction and intimate community that I feel is so lacking in the world around me.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has struggled with this topic, even though we may ultimately disagree. I have no interest in persuading you the reader (that is the authors job!), I would simply encourage you to seek!

llewdis.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evangelical and Universalist, January 22, 2008
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
After studying theology for over thirty years, I was blindsided by what I'd always dismissed as a liberal perspective, namely Christian Universalism (which I considered an oxymoron), presented in this book as a theology of hope in the ultimate victory of God and the death of death through the atonement of Christ. The congenial dialogue/debate among the scholars assembled is an intellectual banquet that will stretch anyone's thinking. For someone like myself, who hasn't been exposed to the arguments, this seems an excellent place to start.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Must Read, June 18, 2008
By 
D. Dean (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
I purchased this book after reading Thomas Talbott's "Inescapable Love of God". Talbott's arguments were very compelling, so I wanted to see a critique of what others thought of his arguments. I was not disappointed. Understanding both sides of an issue is very important to me, and this book gives a very comprehesive look at universal salvation. The thing that struck me most about the book is the gracious approach that all of the individuals took in examining Talbott's arguments. Even though several of the individuals disagreed with some or all of Talbott's assertions, I thoroughly enjoyed reading their analysis as it was very fair and even handed. Only two individuals (I. Howard Marshall and Daniel Strange) rejected all of Talbott's arguments, one individual (Eric Reitan) agreed with all of Talbott's arguments, and the rest were somwhere in between. The beauty of the book is that it gives the response to universal salvation from the eyes of a Calvinist (Strange), Quaker (Thomas Johnson), Arminian (Jerry Walls), Freewill Theist (John Sanders), and a Universalist (Reitan). Although Talbott addresses these individuals and their objections at the conclusion of the book, the book is truly designed to give a balanced view of this increasing popular issue. It is well worth the price of the book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Universalism? Start Here., November 29, 2010
By 
Kevbo (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
I earned my Master of Arts in Religion degree in December 2009. For my thesis, I did a critical review of this book.

The notion that God can, wants, and will save the soul of every human being that He ever created is not a far-fetched idea. Also, it is quite Christian in its context - almost exclusively so.

Prior to the ministry of Jesus Christ in the Roman Empire, polytheism was all the rage. While the "world" back then was what the Romans called their empire, they were nevertheless as polytheistic as the eastern folks, albeit with different understandings and philosophies on things. But henotheism - where one god rules many - was the closest thing to monotheism there was in popular theology.

Well, of course, there were the Jews. This zealous and non-conformist bunch took their faith to the grave. Since Moses and through to Abraham and to Christ, the Jews have been in communion with the One True God. (Historically, Adam, Eve, Noah, and others were also in communion with God, of course.) Amidst the many-god religions, Judaism was seen as rebellious in the ancient world.

And then came Jesus Christ...

It is hard to think of a more revolutionary figure than Jesus of Nazareth, though His intention was surely not to rebel against God but against sin. Hence, the sinners would want nothing to do with Him but to kill Him!

As stated in this book, Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate, in the two history chapters, the Christian message is that God, acting through or as Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, was to save both Jew and Gentile. This is radical theology amongst the Jews, of course, because the Jewish religion had developed, over time, into a very exclusivist kind of culture and religion. With Jesus Christ coming out of that religion and culture and proclaiming the Word of God to be salvation through Grace (God's free will that supercedes any human activity), Jesus made it known that God intended to save everyone simply because God loves everyone. In fact, that is why God created us in the first place! To love us. Hence, salvation is more of a human term referring to being saved from the eternal cycle of sin; yet God had already planned to take us from this universe at the death of our flesh. So from the mortal standpoint, salvation is the second or third step in a process; whereas from the infinite standpoint, salvation from sin was already worked into the Creation.

Again, the history chapters of this book point to the fact that Christianity's roots are in universalism, and those roots remained strong up until the imperialized period of Constantine in the 4th Century. Furthermore, after the fall of Rome in the 5th Century, Christianity sort of reverted back to its roots a little (the non-imperialized version) up until Charlemagne established his later-to-be-named "Holy Roman Empire" in 800 AD. Again, Christianity would be imperialized, and universalism - where God will save all due to His immense love and purpose for Creation - would again take a backseat. (With fear of legal punishment!) That is, the imperialized churches of Christianity throughout history always seemed to bring the religion into a direction or understanding similar to "if you do what the king and/or pope says, then you will be in favor with God." And so the meritocracies were developed.

Besides the history of universal salvation/reconciliation, this book puts the other ten chapters (twelve total, with the history ones at chapters 10 and 11) into the philosophical debate surrounding Thomas Talbott's propositions on the universalist faith in Christianity. Talbott begins with the first three chapters with his exposition of logic, philosophy, theology, and academic rigor. And then a bunch of academics respond to him in chapters 4 through 9.

Talbott, over time, developed a rubric for universalism that really has revolutionized the way that ordinary folks (non-academics) can think of their faith in God and perhaps eschatology (the end times, as it were.) He proposes this model:

1. God's redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that He sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.

2. Because no one can finally defeat God's redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption He sincerely wills or desires.

3. Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.

Out of those three propositions, two must be true and one must be false. Talbott ascribes the Arminian view to hold #1 and #3 to be true; the Augustinians (or Calvinists) to hold #2 and #3 to be true; and the universalists to hold #1 and #2 to be true. Hence, both the Arminians and Augustinians believe in an eternal separation, hell, and torment that exists parallel to the redemptive, justified, loving, and eternal heaven. (And in this book, all of the detractors essentially admit that their views fall within this rubric and also state that they are not universalists simply because they believe in an eternal separation from God, along with the corresponding doctrines that revolve around that belief.)

Besides the philosophical arguments that both Talbott and his detractors make, theology, of course, makes an entrance in each of the responses and in Talbott's propositions. The Bible clearly states a universalist message - that God will reconcile all things to Himself. This is provided all over the place, and it seems readily believable to any reader of the Bible. However, there are also texts that can be utilized to describe a final, tormenting place of eternal separation from God (what we call hell). Talbott and others argue that such an eternal hell is both deserved of humanity and defeated by Christ. The detractors believe that hell never really goes away, and that God's victory over sin, evil, and death is (inferentially) somewhat dubious. That is, what happens to those unrepentant souls after God finally defeats Satan, sin, evil, death, the armies of darkness, etc.? One detractor (Johnson) provides the Annihilationist viewpoint: that God simply zaps people out of eternal existence. But Talbott reminds us that the stress of losing a loved one would make heaven unbearable for those who remember the zapped soul. But the open theist detractor (Sanders) says that there is some mechanism whereby we all just accept that people are lost and that we are not. (I have always felt that the most evil and arrogant belief is the one where we are conveniently saved and others are conveniently not. The fact that God saves all is not an evil or arrogant belief at all, and the convenience of His omnipresence is not to be downplayed, in my view.)

In the end, the detractors - be they the Calvinist, Arminian, open theist, annihilationist, or philosophic - never seem to fully present a really good case for upholding the imperialized, mainstream, traditional views of hell and eschatology, simply because the traditional, mainstream views are wrong. Defending tradition is like holding water - at least some always seems to seep through. Yet I believe that traditionalists are holding back a flood of information in order to prop up the facade that eternal separation from God (all, coincidentally, as the result of "free human will" empowerment amid humanity...) is a GOOD thing. That is, eternal hell is just a part of God's good justice, but that we cannot blame Him for such a thing. (Even if God actually has the power to stop such a horrendous thing!)

My, oh my.

It seems that another big turn-off to traditionalists is the seemingly "convenient" argument that God saves everybody. After all, these folks want to earn their way into heaven - to merit holiness (sanctification), justification, forgiveness, and salvation. But universalism and any theologies opposing the Free Human Will empowerment movements are threats to these meritocracies. While Talbott does not get into this practical aspect in this book, the reader will indeed bring this question to mind.

In all, this has become one of my favorite books of all time, just because Talbott is so friggin' eloquent, while the other authors make you "scream at the television," if you know what I mean. In the end, it seems that one must defy the very human logic that God instilled in humanity in order to believe that human wills can defeat God and His Will, as well as to think that eternal hell or eternal annihilation can coexist with eternal bliss and Heaven. Universal reconciliation is a concept that is natural, right, true, and (amazingly) convenient, especially when one thinks it through to its conclusion. But the underpinning point is that all souls are saved not by our own choices or wills, and that salvation comes AFTER many trespasses. In other words, God knows what He is doing, and God wins. THAT is eternity, folks. Believe it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny!, December 6, 2008
By 
Miguel G. (Bucaramanga, Colombia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
This book provide a fair and thoughtful overview of the Universal Salvation debate. It is definitely of a scholarly nature and not just opinion-based. I highly recommend a thorough reading of the works referenced in this book to gain an even better understanding of the opposing views. This one has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Christians should read this book!, July 16, 2007
This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
A book of this type has been sorely needed for a long time. It presents an argument for universal salvation at the beginning, then presents replies both for and against from other bible scholars and philosophers. Even if after reading this book you remain unconvinced that God will save all, you will at least be better informed of the discussion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a refined sword fight, January 6, 2011
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This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
having read Talbott's masterpiece and aptly titled ''the inescapable love of GOD'' ,I was keen to read this follow-up work ''universal salvation'' not only as some what of a continuation, but also for the variety of positions taken by the other qualified scholars and how they would deal with Talbott's exegetical ,philosophical and theological thesis

you know when you read the introduction and your still digesting it an hour later it's going to be a rewarding read.

Talbott is a pleasure to read and posits a rather strong position that isn't easily dismissed , I was unconvinced by some of the respondents even though they raised some good and reasonably [in the weak sense of the word] arguments .
h.Marshall didnt really deal with the issue in a solid manner and one of his arguments I found to be misleading
d.Strange was painful to read and from memory quoted all of about 3 scriptures ,he mostly quoted other calvinists to try and bolster his position ,he offered no satisfactory answers [and really why even argue as a calvinist logically speaking according to the model of GOD they hold to GOD has caused me to believe this and you that ,so why argue?]
Reitan offered an interesting argument in support
John Sanders [who I'm fond of because of the open view] didnt really offer[sadly] any solid arguments against the position either
Walls and Johnson were enjoyable to read and had some good points
M.Ludlow gave some good but somewhat biased reflection on the historical aspect [I find this particularly telling of early christianity in support of the position]
this work should attract a wide audience and while it's philosophical in nature most Christians should be able to make their way through it and be all the more satisfied for it too,enjoy
Talbott's argument at the end is almost better than his starting arguments as he deals honestly with rigorous logic to some of his respondents [read Talbott's book before this one]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough, honest, respectful discussion, July 29, 2011
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This review is from: Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate (Paperback)
Although Thomas Talbott actually makes a stronger and more thorough case for Universalism in his book "The Inescapable Love of God," I think he does a fine job here. And for me, the breadth and structure of the responses in this book is a model for how to discuss controversial theological issues. Well done.
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Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate
Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate by Robin A. Parry (Paperback - March 25, 2004)
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