Friday, June 29, 2007

Useful Resources on Universalism for the Exegete

My thanks to those who will respond to my forthcoming posts relating to certain exegetical claims by universalists in relation to Paul. I look forward to that exchange very much. I just need to write them now, and I'm otherwise engaged this weekend. Until then, here is a list of works relating to the exegetical questions surrounding universalism.

  1. The Inescapable Love of God, by Thomas Talbott (USA: Universal Publishers, 1999) – This is a good place to start. It is confidently argued and covers many areas clearly and concisely. The exegetical sections tend to be a bit uneven, but he makes a good number of very worthwhile points. THANKS to the mystery gift giver who purchased this for me!!
  2. The Evangelical Universalist, by Gregory MacDonald (pseudonym) (OR: Cascade, 2006). 'Gregory' summarised this book in a couple of guest posts on this blog already (cf. here and here). This is an extremely helpful and more humbly argued case for universalism than Talbott's, and some of his exegesis is extremely helpful and thought-provoking. If you could only buy one, this should be your choice.
  3. Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, ed. Robin A. Parry & Christopher H. Partridge (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2003). Talbott takes part in a discussion with a number of contributors from different perspectives. This includes a universalist-critical article by I.H. Marshall togetehr with an entire section devoted to exegetical issues.
  4. Paul, apostle of God's glory in Christ: a Pauline theology, by Thomas R. Schreiner (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2001). He has a number of pages devoted to the question of universalism. It is a succinct and helpful case against a universalist reading of Paul.
  5. Limited and universal salvation: a text-oriented and hermeneutical study of two perspectives in Paul, by Sven Hillert (Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell, 1999). The two perspectives in Paul were situational driven strategies.
  6. I wait with baited breath Jens Adam's Habilitationsschrift (assistant of Tübingen University's Hans J. Eckstein), which is finished and awaiting publication, I believe via Mohr Siebeck. He is a universalist who has focused his energies on the Pauline corpus.
  7. Also see the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters entry on universalism by Judith M. Gundry-Volf.
  8. For a list of blog posts and internet resources on universalism, click here for D.W. Congdon's list.

    "If we really believe in one God and in the Jesus Christ, in what He was and what He did, truly shows us what God's character and His attitude toward men are like, then it is very difficult to think ourselves out of a belief that somehow His love will find a way of bringing all men into unity with Him" – C.H. Dodd

    'Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-- none of these will inherit the kingdom of God' (1 Cor 6:9-10)


At 6/29/2007 2:22 AM, Anonymous dan said...

Well, I'll be damned! I just realised that 7 of the 10 titles used in 1 Cor 6 could have been used to describe me at various stages of my life (and I came pretty close to adding an eighth title -- male prostitution -- when I was wondering how to pay my way through bible college; thankfully, I decided to sell my body in others ways--i.e. manual labour).

At 6/29/2007 4:18 AM, Anonymous Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Thanks Chris for the list of resources. I do find Dodd's statement compelling. Yes you can read the NT in very exclusivist ways, as this citation of Paul demonstrates, but the question is one of God's determination that all might be saved -- why, I've always asked does that effort have to stop with the grave. Then there's the whole question of when the kingdom is present.

At 6/29/2007 9:25 AM, Anonymous Sean said...

Where is that Dodd quote from? Got a specific reference? Google doesn't help...

At 7/01/2007 11:51 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

I would add to such a list Robert Farrar Capon's book THE PARABLES OF JUDGMENT (universalist oriented).

Another great book is SALVATION AND DAMNATION by Dalton, a Jesuit biblical scholar, and published by the Clergy Book Service a few decades ago. He examines the different words that are all translated as "hell," and shows how each word and concept originated in the time before Jesus.

He points out that Jesus was a first century Jew and believed things that first century Jews believed and spoke in their language, including speaking about a literal creation account, a literal Adam, Eve, Noah, Flood, and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

Likewise Jesus spoke in terms of first century beliefs about a place of eternal punishment, but that does not mean that is necessarily any more literally true than Jesus's speech concerning a literal Adam, Eve, or Flood of Noah.

A theological hypothesis even Augustine used, called "accommodation," is useful in explaining how God could "become a man" and speak in terms of the language and culture he was addressing. This raises questions concerning whether or not a literal interpretation of "eternal punishment" is the true one.

My own view, being an agnostic, is that I'd certainly like to see what's what concerning the afterlife, God and Christ, since I don't see such things now. And it's frustrating when some Christians tell me that I will only get to see flames. I don't blame them of course for speaking like a first century apocalyptic Jew.

About universalism in general, I remain highly impressed by the social activism of Universalist men and women during the Victorian era. Clara Barton, Ellery Channing, Florence Nightingale, and others. The Unitarian Universalist webpage lists many other famous Universalists or Univeralist sympathizers in the past.

Edward T. Babinski

At 7/01/2007 12:23 PM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...


ROBERT MERRIHEW ADAMS and his wife MARILYN McCORD ADAMS -- both are universalists, and next to Plantinga, they are the best-regarded [Evangelical] Christian philosophers.

JASON PRATT -- An Evangelical, college student studying philosophy, and frequent contributing member of the Christian CADRE blog.

VICTOR REPPERT -- Evangelical, Philosophy Professor, author, blog owner of Dangerous Idea, argues for a "second chance" after death to choose the right side or not, after everything has been fully revealed. See his blog entries concerning God's "middle knowledge," titled, Gale, Adams, and universal salvation

ALVIN PLANTINGA -- A "non-exclusivist" who believes that more than just born-again or confessing Christians will be "saved." (Close to universalism, but not quite.)
There really isn't a firm quotable statement [regarding exactly what Plantinga's views are]. However, when I [Vic Reppert] used to attend SCP meeting on a regular basis, I would have to say that exclusivism was very much a minority position [so 'non-exclusivism,' appeared to be the majority view]."

At 7/02/2007 6:10 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Do people who have cut the knobs off still get into heaven?htt

At 7/02/2007 9:46 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Dan you sinner!

Hi Sean, I got the Dodd citation from the internet; don't know the source, sorry.

At 7/02/2007 9:49 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

*shakes a condemning head in Sean's general direction*

At 7/02/2007 9:49 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Edward, thanks for the book recommendation. I appreciate the 'accomodation' argument, and MaDonald employs it in his work. However, I tend to think that it may be fruitful to handle the judgment texts differently (ala Perimann, Card, Wright - though I am yet to be entirely convinced by their suggestions)

ANd thanks for the links and notes; very intersting!

At 7/03/2007 8:51 AM, Anonymous Steve Bishop said...

Another interesting book is by the Reformed pastor Jan Bonda The One Purpose of God (Eerdmans, 1998). There are some notes on it here:

At 7/04/2007 12:06 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Steve, Tübingen library only has the Dutch original, and, well, I couldn't be bothered to battle through that. I really should try to get a hold of an English translation.

At 7/20/2007 6:19 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

Actually, I'm not a college student, and haven't been for almost 15 years. And I suspect Victor Reppert (a friend of mine) is still at more of a Lewisian limited finality position. He and another friend, Lary Lacy (then professor at Rhodes in Memphis), debated Talbott back in the late 90s, against his position. (They get acknowledgment thanks in Talbott's book.) I think Victor has started taking Talbott's position even more seriously since my discussions on the relation of universalism to theological trinitarian orthodoxy, which Talbott (at the time anyway) didn't include in his _Inescapable Love_.

While I do post articles with some frequency on the Cadre site, and have commented regularly and extensively (including on universalism where applicable) on Victor's Dang Idea site, the articles I post on the Cadre site haven't advocated universalism per se, though I nudge up to it. When we aren't doing comments to posts, we try not to do main posts that will cause problems among us.

I ran across this mention by accident, but I'm glad to see it is relatively recent. (This is 7/20/07.) I'll try to check in to see what posts you came up with subsequently, too.



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