Thomas Talbott

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Thomas Talbott is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He is best known for his advocacy of Trinitarian Universalism. Due to his book The Inescapable Love of God and other works he is one of the most prominent Protestant voices today supporting the idea of universal salvation. The 2003 book Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate presents Talbott's "rigorous defense of universalism" together with responses from various fields theologians, philosophers, church historians and other religious scholars supporting or opposing Talbott's universalism. Talbott contributed the chapter on Universalism for The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology.



[edit] Universalist Argument

Talbott has offered three propositions which are biblically based but can not all be true at the same time.

  1. God is totally sovereign over human destinies.
  2. God is entirely loving and wills that all people be reconciled to Him in relationship.
  3. Most people will experience endless, conscious torment in hell.[1]

Traditionally, Calvinists resolved this by disagreeing with #2. God elects some to be saved and passes over others, who are to be damned for their sin in the doctrine of double predestination. Arminians resolve this by disagreeing with #1. Some people will resist God and choose eternal damnation. Universalists disagree with #3.

Since there are multiple biblical verses (in some translations) about people experiencing eternal conscious torment in hell, Universalists must either refute or reinterpret these verses.

[edit] Problem of Evil

In the September 1987 edition of the periodical Christian Scholar's Review, Talbott mounted a vigorous but controversial defense of Christianity against the famous problem of evil. Talbott criticized the typical skeptics' formulations of the problem, upholding instead the view that the suffering and pain humans feel in the world is not just a necessary consequent of free will, but in fact a positive force for good. Though the ideas that suffering could be good, and that a universe without suffering would be inferior to this one, were controversial enough, Talbott delved into even more explosive territory with a paean to the positive effects of evil:

"Now I find it easy to believe that the universe as a whole is a better place because of the suffering of children. Pictures of white racists attacking innocent black children virtually guaranteed the end of segregation of this country; pictures of mangled children in Vietnam brought home, in a way nothing else could, the sheer horror of modern warfare; pictures of children buried in the rubble of Mexico City and of children starving in Ethiopia brought the world together in compassion and melts the hearts of the arrogant and the powerful.... I believe that every innocent child who suffers will one day look upon that suffering as a privilege because of the joy it made possible: the joy of knowing that one has been used by God in the redemption of others."[2]

Talbott's view has been roundly criticized and even ridiculed by other philosophers, including John Beversluis, who says Talbott's view that suffering is better than the alternative is "so outrageous...that I will not dignify it with a reply....If Talbott is right, he is logically committed and morally obliged to oppose everyone dedicated to alleviating world hunger, ridding the world of terrorism, finding a cure for cancer...and so forth."[3]

[edit] Works

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Talbott, Thomas. The Inescapable Love of God.1999.ISBN 1-58112-831-2.
  2. ^ Talbott, Thomas (September). ""C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil"". Christian Scholar's Review 15 (1): 36–51. 
  3. ^ Beversluis, John. C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2007. pp. 246-7

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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