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.[ citation needed ] 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. [1]

Willamette University private university located in Salem, Oregon

Willamette University is a private liberal arts college in Salem, Oregon. Founded in 1842, it is the oldest university in the Western United States. Willamette is a member of the Annapolis Group of colleges, and is made up of an undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and post-graduate schools of business and law. The university is a member of the NCAA's Division III Northwest Conference and was featured in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives. Willamette's mascot is the bearcat and old gold and cardinal are the school colors. Approximately 2,800 students are enrolled at Willamette between the graduate and undergraduate programs. The school employs over 200 full-time professors on the 60-acre (240,000 m2) campus located across the street from the Oregon State Capitol.

Salem, Oregon State capital city in Oregon, United States

Salem is the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city. The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood of West Salem is in Polk County. Salem was founded in 1842, became the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851, and was incorporated in 1857.

Trinitarian universalism

Trinitarian Universalism is a variant of belief in universal salvation, the belief that every person will be saved, that also held the Christian belief in Trinitarianism. It was particularly associated with an ex-Methodist New England minister, John Murray, and after his death in 1815 the only clergy known to be preaching Trinitarian Universalism were Paul Dean of Boston and Edward Mitchell in New York.


Universalist argument

Talbott has offered three propositions which many traditional Christians consider are biblically based but Talbott considers 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. [2]

Arguments against Talbott's views

However those objecting to Talbott's view note that there are multiple biblical verses describing hell as the fate of the wicked. Traditionally;

Hell mythological place of, often eternal, suffering

In religion and folklore, Hell is an afterlife location, sometimes a place of torment and punishment. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as eternal destinations while religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations. Typically these traditions locate hell in another dimension or under the Earth's surface and often include entrances to Hell from the land of the living. Other afterlife destinations include Heaven, Purgatory, Paradise, and Limbo.

  1. Arminians resolve this by disagreeing with #1. Some people will resist the grace of God and choose a life-path that results in everlasting separation from God.
  2. Calvinists resolve this by disagreeing with #2. God graciously elects some to be saved and either passes over the rest in their sin (single predestination) or elects others to be damned (double predestination)—those who are to be everlastingly punished according to the doctrine of double predestination.
  3. Christians who believe in Christian mortalism and conditional immortality, for example Seventh-day Adventists, typically disagree with #3, and propose the doctrine of annihilationism as an alternative solution to Talbott's proposed problem.

Problem of evil

In the September 1987 edition of the periodical Christian Scholar's Review, [3] Talbott sought, as he explains in a more recent comment, "to make some ideas then current in the philosophical literature available to a wider audience of non-philosophers." [4] He sought to explain, for example, how Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense had transformed the way in which contemporary philosophers approach the so-called problem of evil and why, in particular, even atheistic philosophers came to abandon the claim that evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of God. But at the end of this article, Talbott also ventured into more controversial territory, suggesting ways in which even the tragic suffering of innocent children might contribute, in the end, to the future blessedness of all people (including the children who suffer). In accordance with his affirmation of universal reconciliation, he thus expressed the hopeful belief that "every innocent child who suffers will one day look upon that suffering as a privilege because of the joy it has made possible: the joy of knowing that one has been used by God in the redemption of others, the joy of that final union or reunion in which love's triumph is complete and all separation from others is finally overcome. I would ask but two things of those who [might understandably] reject such a view: first, that they resist the temptation to moralize, and second, that they consider the alternatives carefully." [5]

Alvin Plantinga American Christian philosopher

Alvin Carl Plantinga is a prominent American analytic philosopher who works primarily in the fields of logic, justification, philosophy of religion, and epistemology.

The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God. An argument from evil claims that because evil exists, either God does not exist or does not have all three of those properties. Attempts to show the contrary have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy. Besides philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is also important to the field of theology and ethics.

Others have, not surprisingly, roundly criticized and even ridiculed such a view. According to John Beversluis, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Butler University, for example, Talbott's view 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." [6] But in an equally hard-hitting reply, Talbott dismisses this claim by comparing it to a more precise claim of the following form: "If Talbott is right in accepting [proposition] p (where p is specifically identified), then Talbott is logically committed to q." He then points out that a cogent argument in the present context would require two things of Beversluis: "first, that he identify a relevant instance of p, and second, that he make some attempt to deduce q from p. But Beversluis," Talbott insists, "does not so much as identify the proposition that he claims logically commits me to the moral obligation he alleges; much less does he make the required deduction." [7]

Butler University private university in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

Butler University is a private university in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Founded in 1855 and named after founder Ovid Butler, the university has over 60 major academic fields of study in six colleges: Lacy School of Business, College of Communication, College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Jordan College of the Arts. It comprises a 295-acre (119 ha) campus located approximately five miles (8.0 km) from downtown Indianapolis.

Talbott acknowledges, however, that his optimistic view could be regarded as a case of wishful thinking. But he goes on to contrast hope with despair, arguing that, unlike despair, hope is compatible with a healthy skepticism. [8] For whereas despair typically rests upon a set of dogmatic beliefs about the future, hope does not.


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.


  1. Edited by Jerry L. Walls. Pp. xviii + 724. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN   978-0-19-517049-8
  2. Talbott, Thomas. The Inescapable Love of God.1999.ISBN   1-58112-831-2.
  3. Christian Scholar's Review Home page
  4. Thomas Talbott, "John Beversluis and the Problem of Evil," "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  5. Talbott, Thomas (September 1987). "C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil". Christian Scholar's Review. 15 (1): 50.
  6. Beversluis, John. C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2007. pp. 246-7
  7. Talbott "John Beversluis and the Problem of Evil," "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  8. See The Inescapable Love of God, pp. 212-216

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