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Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate [Paperback]

Robin A. Parry , Christopher Partridge

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Product details

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (25 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802827640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802827647
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,168,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A debate between Christian thinkers (biblical scholars, theologians, philosophers, and historians) about whether God will one day save everybody. Will God one day save all people through Christ's atoning work? That is the question at the heart of the debate in this volume. The book opens with a rigorous defence of universalism. Thomas Talbott argues that Scripture teaches the ultimate salvation of all people including those in hell. This is followed by two responses from biblical scholars (Howard Marshall & Thomas Johnson) who come to different conclusions on the merits of Talbott's arguments from the Bible. Then two philosophers (Jerry Walls & Eric Reitan) consider Talbott's claims and reach radically differing conclusions. Next a Calvinist (Daniel Strange) and a freewill theist (John Sanders) explain why, for different reasons, they think Talbott is mistaken. Two chapters tracing universalist teaching in Christian history in general (Morwenna Ludlow) and evangelical history in particular (David Hilborn & Don Horrocks) precede a final response from Talbott to his interlocutors. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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As a young man growing up in a conservative evangelical church, it never occurred to me even to question the widespread assumption that, according to the Bible as a whole, a host of sinners, including some of my own loved ones, would eventually be lost forever without any further hope of redemption. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heady, responsible treatment. 24 Mar 2005
By Israel Galindo - Published on
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.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable rescource for those willing to challenge long held dogmas. 2 Nov 2006
By Chad Zoller - Published on
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.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A light unto my feet. 27 Jan 2006
By llewdis - Published on
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.[]

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!

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evangelical and Universalist 22 Jan 2008
By Robert G. Leroe - Published on
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.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Must Read 18 Jun 2008
By D. Dean - Published on
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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