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Universal Salvation? The Current DebateEveryone saved in the end?

Not long before he died, my late colleague Bryn Jones admitted to me that he was leaning towards universalism, the view that, in the end, all will be saved.

He was not alone. This has become a topic of lively interest among many evangelical Christians and Universal Salvation? The Current Debate (edited by R.Parry & C.Partridge, Paternoster, 2003, ISBN 1-84227-199-7) is an attempt to pull together the various views on the subject.

Thomas Talbott puts an eloquent case for universalism, based chiefly on the Adam/Christ parallels in Romans 5 and 1 Cor 15. Dissenting views come from theologians and philosophers of various persuasions, then Talbott has the last word in responding to them. Universalism is probably not as 'way out' as you think; this book will broaden your mind—as it did mine, without quite convincing me.

Traditionally Christians have taken the hell texts as clear and have thus re-interpreted the so-called 'universalist' texts in such a way that they are not seen to teach universalism… Alternatively, one could take the 'universalist' texts at face value and then try to re-interpret the hell texts in such a way that they do not teach the everlasting fate of the damned but only a temporary one.  (pxxiii Intro)

If you simply take the Augustinian idea of God's sovereignty in the matter of salvation—that is, the idea that the Hound of Heaven cannot be defeated forever—and put it together with the Arminian idea that God at least wills, or desires the salvation of all, then you get universalism, plain and simple. [Talbott]  (p7)

So long as a single will remains in a state of rebellion against Christ, so long as a single person is able to cling to his or her hatred of God, at least one power in the universe—namely, the power of that person's will—is not yet in subjection to Christ. [Talbott]  (p23)

Universalists believe that the same God who commands us to love our enemies loves his own enemies as well. [Talbott]  (p27)

The weight of Christian tradition is difficult to evaluate. Some think that because a preponderance of church theologians in past centuries has held a particular view that this throws the burden of proof on those who would disagree. Yet it is unlikely that the Reformation would have occurred if the Reformers had not appealed to Scripture behind the tradition of the church. [Johnson]  (p78)

Those who are in hell continue to sin, incurring more guilt to all eternity. The divine sentence is, 'He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still' (Rev 22:11). In other words, those in hell become ever more guilty and accumulate ever more sin, which deserves increasing punishment. After countless ages, they have more to answer for than when they were first condemned. [Strange]  (p152)

Scripture presents us with a God who makes himself vulnerable to being hurt by creating beings who have the freedom to reject him. This God takes risks and leaves himself open to being despised, rejected and crucified. The creator and sovereign lord is one who suffers with, because of, and for his creatures. [Sanders]  (p174)

When Jesus declared: 'For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible' (Mat 19:25), he was speaking of salvation in a context where a person's own choices had made it seem utterly impossible, like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. And his meaning was clear: there are no obstacles to salvation in anyone, not even in the most recalcitrant will or the hardest of hearts, that God cannot eventually overcome. [Talbott]  (p249)

[For a more recent, and perhaps more persuasive, book on this subject click here]

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