Hello. My name is Tom, and there I am, or at least there's part of me, to the left with a new friend found on a Mt. Rainier backpack. I'm a Professor of Philosophy at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and this website is a companion to my Willamette University website, which you can find by clicking here.
The above title for the website is also the name of a book I have written, and the purpose of the website is to provide some information about the book and to make portions of it available to a larger public via the magic of the internet.
I believe I can say without egotism that my book sets forth, however inadequately, a powerful and glorious vision of divine love, one that many Christians who share my evangelical heritage have never encountered before.
And the reason I can make such a grand claim without egotism is that the vision of which I speak in no way originated with me.
It goes back to some of the earliest church fathers, indeed to St. Paul himself, but the organized Christian Church has tried desperately to suppress it for over 1500 years. And in particular, the Evangelical Christian publishing houses of our day by and large want nothing to do with it.
Anyway, there I am again to the right with a young whipper snapper by the name of Josh Maier, a great high school soccer player, by the way. We're standing atop Little Giant (13,000') in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado.
Out here it's hard to think of the Creator as a petty tyrant whose sole purpose is to promote his own glory and to do so, at least in part, by subjecting the vast majority of humanity to the eternal fires of hell. And yet, that is just the distorted picture of God that one encounters in the doctrinal standards of many mainline Christian denominations.
What sort of gospel is that? The word "gospel" literally means "good news," and the early Christians preached the gospel as if it were the best possible news one could imagine. But we humans sometimes find good news hard to accept, and the history of the Christian Church in the West is a sorry record of how easily a message of hope can be twisted into a message of fear.
What could be worse, after all, than the crushing fear that God might in the end reject some of our own loved ones, who would then be lost to us forever? Is it any wonder that, in a misguided effort to protect their loved ones from a fate worse than death, so many Christian theologians have not only tolerated, but have even advocated, the use of violence against those whom they have judged heretical?
The fact is that the God of the New Testament, the one whose essence is perfect love, is as far removed from the vengeful monarch that so many Christians have learned to fear as heaven is from hell itself. There is indeed much to fear from a loving God who seeks our perfection, particularly if we want nothing more than to be left alone in our imperfections, but too many Christians are terrified of God for the wrong reasons.
Having no confidence in the love of God, they must endure an ever-present fear of eternal separation. They may fear, on the one hand, for their own salvation, worrying that God might reject them in the end, or they may fear, on the other, for the salvation of others, worrying that God might reject one or more of their own loved ones--a husband who dies "in unbelief," for example, or a son who leaves the faith, or a friend who commits suicide.
In either case, whether they fear their own damnation or that of another, the source of their fear lies in the destructive (but inbred) belief that, because God is ultimately untrustworthy, he might very well enforce an eternal separation between any one of us and the loved ones who give meaning to our lives.
So to all of those, especially those within the Christian tradition, who struggle with fear in their lives and yearn for something better than a form of religion that cultivates fear and despair, I have dedicated my book. You can get more information and view the first 25 pages, including the Preface, the Table of Contents, and the first chapter, at the publisher's website. And you can view additional chapters, as I reproduce some of them here in a PDF format. But to view them you will need a free Adobe Acrobat Reader , which you can download by clicking on the link just provided. After downloading the reader, it will activate automatically in your Netscape or Internet Explorer browser when you click on the relevant links below:
- Preface, Table of Contents, and Chapter 1 : From Universal Publishers
- Chapter 3 : A Legacy of Fear and Persecution
- Chapter 5 : St. Paul's Universalism
- Chapter 11 : God, Freedom, and Human Destiny
NEW BOOK: Universal Salvation? The Current Debate
Robin Parry and Chris Partridge of Paternoster Press in England have edited a book entitled Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, and this book has the following structure: In the first three chapters, I set forth and defend a doctrine of universal reconciliation as I understand it. Then, in eight subsequent chapters, scholars from various disciplines (New Testament studies, theology, philosophy, and church history) respond. And finally, I have a chapter in which I reply to my critics (though not all who respond are in fact critical). Paternoster Press has published this book in the United Kingdom, and Eerdmans has published it in the United States.
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Thomas Talbott - Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Willamette University
Mailing Address: 4645 Stauber Lane, Salem, Oregon 97317 - Phone: (503) 588-7083
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