The Evangelical Universalist Forum

2009 Glenn and Tom dialogue -- gallery comments


I’m quite serious, too. :slight_smile:

In fact, one of the points on which I’m most sympathetic to typical Arm concerns about universalism, is that it can often look even more like behavior-twaddling from The Omnipotent Experimenter. I’m convinced one of the points to Patrick MacGoohan’s The Prisoner is to criticize the assumption of God-like rehabilitation prerogatives by humans on other humans–I’m also convinced the man, a devout Roman Catholic, was also basically illustrating the point to Lewis’ Abolition of Man Riddle Lectures–but then, why is God not like #2, or #1 for that matter, when doing purgatorial action?

I do think I know what the big differences are; but it’s close enough to the worst kind of mind-control tyranny that I often “lampshade it” as a trope in my novels, both in how some characters reject God (more or less validly, as far as they understand Him) as a devious tyrant, and in how characters (including some of the same characters) compare beneficent character inspiration with maleficent character manipulation. They sure can look awfully similar at many points.

It certainly was a gut reaction on my part to a ‘flash’ vision of annihilation as I read this latest part of the debate (though equally applicable to ECT).

One of the difficulties that the concept of UR seems to solve for me is the ultimate responsibility of God for the actions of his created beings. No amount of talk of ‘free will’ absolves God from this responsibility. I’m not talking here about any personal responsibility by the creatures for their actions but God’s responsibility in ‘causing’ a situation which might result in damaging behaviour - especially if God does indeed ‘know for a fact’ that that damage will occur.

I like the OT reference to the liability of a person in the case where they allow an Ox to cause damage either to a neighbour’s crops or to the neighbour himself. The owner of the Ox is liable - even though the Ox ‘decided’ to do the damage. The Ox is responsible but in a lesser way than the owner because of it’s lesser cognative abilities (it just doesn’t understand the world to the extent that its owner does). I also like the reference to the liability of a man who doesn’t put a safety rail on the roof of his house. This man is liable if someone falls off the roof - now this case doesn’t involve the man pushing the other off the roof - he is liable if the other gets too close to the edge and just falls off. Now the owner of the house here has even more cause to defend himself by pointing out that the other fell of his own free will (in other words because they decided to get too close to the edge) but under God’s law that was no defense.

These OT laws were hints and shadows of the nature of God - his very character enshrined (and hopelessly abused by the people). These illustrations to me say that God accepts the responsibility for his creatures and discharges this responsibility by ultimately reconciling all things. In comparison to God we have an Ox’s understanding of the universe we inhabit (we see through a glass darkly - but then face to face to know as we are known). In the law quoted the Ox was also liable for its actions but in a lesser way than the owner.

And of course, "which of you, on a sabbath, if his sheep fell into a pit, would not immediately go and pull it out!?

How much more is a man worth, then, than a sheep!!"


One of the several things Calvinism has going in its favor is that it does try harder than Arminianism tends to do, to keep the overarching authoritative responsibility of God in the account. The backhand, though, is that the Calvinist either then has to acknowledge God as the authoritatively final doer of iniquity (which rightfully few Calvinists will feel at all comfortable doing, even if they think the logic has to point that way); or else they’ll have to turn around and try to divorce God from actually having final authoritative responsibility for sin after all (because they rightfully understand that God is not in fact a doer of iniquity, but dang there’s a final hopeless iniquity over there, so… so it can’t really be God’s doing, He’s just hanging back and letting that go on its merry unregenerate way… ACK, NO, THAT DOESN’T COUNT AS GOD’S OWN CHOICE EITHER, NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Or words to that effect.)

Which of course is why Arms try to solve for the ranges in some other way that manages to still keep the hopeless existence and punishment of at least some sinners in the account. But this tends to involve sacrificing God’s sovereignty sooner or later (as well as His love)–which the Calvs, at least in regard to God’s sovereignty (if not His love), are in theory trying to properly keep in the theological account as an essential characteristic that cannot be set aside in regard to anything.

Or, as that Baptist hidden universalist Beth Moore reportedly said, “The Calvinists and the Arminians are both right about what they affirm, but are both wrong about what they deny.”


(PS: I still haven’t been able to confirm that she did in fact say this. But it tickles me extremely to hope that she did.)

IMHO, (if I’m understanding Glenn) Glenn seems to reject Talbot’s argument that if God does not will the best for all then God cannot be loving, based on grounds that it is logically possible to do so.

I think this is the debate at this point. Talbott’s claim seems to be that of illusion or shall I say:* it SEEMS possible to do so because it appears people do it all the time.*

So I’m wondering is Dr. Peoples arguing that though they are acting under an illusion and in sin it can be done.

Would Glenn be willing to argue:
1 John 2:9 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” is logically possible? Is it logically possible to be in the light and hate your brother? I’ll assume Glenn’s answer would be yes.
another example would be:
Hebrews 11 “And without faith it is impossible to please God,”

Is it logically possible to not believe in God and please him?

But what exactly would that prove. Scripture is right in some abstract way?

Scripture draws out that it’s simply impossible to not have faith (believe in God) and please him because without believing he exists, how can one embrace God.

If I understand Talbott correctly he’s arguing with a set of rules built from scripture rather than mere experience. In other words when John writes 2:9 Talbott equates that into his moral logic and thus promotes that people who believe they can hate their brothers and worship (love) God fool themselves. And if their loving SOME qualifies them to be “a loving person” than as he stated earlier - Ted Bundy loved his mother and thus is a loving person; all meaning of “love” gets lost.

Of course the debate seems to hinge more upon the topic, is it possible for God to do things we cannot. Can God hate his enemies while we are commanded not to?


Maybe I really am so immersed in the rapid pace, quick shallow answer dynamic of our current frenetically paced culture/world that it’s hard to follow completely this thread. But from what I DO see, this in incredibly fascinating stuff. Yes; the pace seems very slow. But maybe that’s good! Slow down and savor the nuance and flavors. And I just love your observations of God’s taking responsibility for His creation JeffA! The irony of an agnostic being so supportive of my faith is just too delicious for words! (Thanks!) But that is a huge point which I doubt Glenn and Tom will every get to. No matter: I’ve got Jeff to keep reminding me.

And Auggy-b-d: your comments are very much to the point as I read this thing. Very pertinent observations. Thankx.

Fool that I am, I often venture to defend UR with my Christian friends (when my nonChristian friends hear my belief in UR – THEY are among the most understanding! Why is that??) and they are just so certain that the love of God is so superior to ours that He is able to make these careful distinctions about whom to save and whom to annihilate (remember, we SDA’s are annihilationists so it further interests me that not too many years ago I would have been siding with Glenn here big time!) and that, in part, is what makes Him God. So I ask them to tell me right now, which of their kids they are willing to give up to the forever damnation of annihilation. Go ahead be brave; you’ve just asserted God will do it so, given that we are lesser parents than God surely it will be easier for us to give a specific child up. Pick one now. To date, NOT ONE parent I’ve ever spoken to has been willing to make the choice. Then I point out that if God is a BETTER “parent” than we are (hardly a difficult “sell”) perhaps the choice for Him is not easier, but in fact harder!

So to be honest, and valuable as I find this discussion, I find Glenn P is so far behind that I’m doubting if (let alone when) we will every get there… (At some point does not Dr P need to defend and explain how and why some are loved but not worth being saved? IS he not obligated to disconnect love from salvation at some point?? How will he do that??)

And isn’t it interesting that a discussion of Universalism comes down to a definition of “love”!! Glenn seems to be arguing that love and desire for what is BEST for that person are somehow NOT connected!! He seeks to place the burden of proof into Toms court; as if he himself need not answer the same question. Yikes… For me, it is obvious that yes, love DOES seek the best for all in it’s realm; and what is “best” is also not too negotiable. That is, it’s a deeply flawed argument to insist that it might be “best” to annihilate rebellious person X. I’m guessing that the flood story was a precise repudiation of that kind of thinking. Simply killing rebels (which might be how you or I would run an empire) is so far from how God does it that we need not ever go there again.

But patience Bob(x3) and listen to the dialogue as it evolves. And great sighs and prayers for Toms wife and the breast CA. And blessings too on our brother Glenn P.
And thanks for these faceless friends of the internet, Jason, and Jeff and auggy and on and on….

The TotalVictory is God’s – and we are honored and privileged to witness and celebrate it with Him. And so great is this TotalVictory, that all are swept up in it’s power.


JeffA and Bobx3; Great observations!

I personally like Martin Zender’s approach to this topic; that by trying to clear God of the ultimate responsibility for the presence of sin, we end up making Him the very thing we’re trying to avoid making Him; a sinner.

That’s a fine way to put it. {nod}

Dr. Peoples seems to argue that it’s not necessarily logical that destroying our child would conflict with a parent’s true interests. Am I crazy to think that most Christians and people recognize that Scripture’s central call is an ultimate value: a love that seeks others’ welfare? Does Dr. P. think that thoughtful people doubt that this is what love means, or don’t intuitively know this to be true, as well as we could be sure that anything makes coherent sense?

Dr. P. also appears to object that our calling to love even enemies this way does not logically mean that God should, since some things are only proper for God. Of course. But he rightly says that then Scripture must decide whether there is a logical parallel in this issue. And it appears to argue that our obligation to love this way is based precisely on imitating that this is what God does (Luke 6:32-36).

Instead, Dr. P. says the Bible’s requirement that we reject universalism is what determines what is most logical. That seems circular, since it assumes essentially what is being debated, but it does provide a nice invitation to compare the varying interpretations concerning God’s ultimate plans and purpose. Does Peoples think that the judgment passages demand that we somehow believe that God’s glory and love for us could be exercised and enhanced by a selective choice to annilhilate a child that he gave us to love (perhaps because the contrast between our gracious salvation, and the appropriate fate of our child would magnify our own good fortune)? I was taught that in seminary, but I have always found it unbelieveable, unloving, and never a character trait that I could exalt.

I think Dr. P is only trying to say that if there is a failure to decide one way or another on metaphysical rationales (via general revelation; and he considers Dr. T to have failed on that), the discussion ought to turn to the testimony of special revelation now–and since he thinks the exegetical case for annihilationism is vastly overwhelming to the point that there should be no further reasonable question at all on the topic, then he accepts annihilationism as being the most logical option (completely aside from whether he is or is not able at this time to perceive the logic via general revelation).

Jason, I understood Dr. Peoples’ perception in the same way, though of course I think there remains much in the logical and exegetical arguments that needs to be sorted out.

For sure I’m awaiting Tom’s response on this.

At it’s core, it seems to me that somehow Dr. Glenn P is arguing (maybe I’m getting just a bit ahead and anticipating) that there is a valid definition of “love” which says things like this:
– I killed him because he would not be “happy” in heaven or,
– he was irrevocably set in his ways; fixed forever in his iniquities… or
– I got a deadline here; I’ll only wait so long. When times up it’s up and that’s that. (My own tradition is big on this) or
– what is “best” for THIS child is annihilation…

Except hold on a minute; the basis of this whole coming to God thing; this salvation deal; this comprehending who God is – revolves around this concept of love. It is on this basis that God calls and woos us, and it is only a response of Love from us that seems to satisfy or please God! So it only seems logical (doesn’t it??) that we have at least SOME basic comprehension of love – if that is the basis of our choosing?? ie How silly of God to say, in effect, that we are to choose Him in and through love, while at the same time implying there is an aspect of love that we simply don’t get; and it is this aspect which “allows” Him to employ a whole different definition of “love” which in effect runs entirely counter to the very concept by which we are to choose Him in the first place!!!

I’ll just say it straightaway; that is absurd. Plain and simple. Christians of all stripes do it; it remains absurd.

Which of course brings us to the idea (boy do I hope Tom and Glenn get here eventually!) God is forced, by the very nature of our “freedom” to let us go our own way and is somehow powerless at this point. Which will take the conversation to where I’d like to see it go (after dealing with definitions of love of course) and that is the limits of freedom. Are we in fact “free” to chose annihilation?

Except what might the nature of such a “freedom” be? For me, it is clear that is not freedom at ALL – but is captivity. Captivity to illusion, and distortion, and is the product of pain and the bondage of deceptions. Why on earth would God let decisions made in that horrific milieu stand for eternity? Didn’t Christ say He’d come to FREE the captives? Which must mean, at least it makes sense to me, that they are returned to a “right mind” – a mind which is now capable of seeing God for who He really is. A mind that will be free to respond in the ONLY logical way; ie love and redemption and reunion with the Father.

Guess I’m not really getting where Dr G P is coming from.


Well my hope rests in God being infinitely more capable than we can even imagine. If, as the gospel story says, God is even able to do the impossible (or near impossible) for men i.e. save a rich man (regardless of whether that darn camel is passing through the eye of a literal needle or a very narrow gate that once lead into Jerusalem) then UR should be a snip for him :smiley:

One problem I have with the Christian view of perfect parental love is the insistence that agape love has no touchy-feely aspect to it at all. No pulling in of the loved one and hugging them so close that they almost suffocate in it. Instead we are told that it is the kind of love shown by Victorian men to their sons. They provided food, clothing, education and in order to build character beat them heavily every so often. Their sons were never allowed into their father’s studies (except for a beating) and the father never showed them anything approaching affection. BUT - they loved them and that’s why they treated them like they did so their offspring would grow into morally strong characters - it was in their best interest.

Well - that doesn’t do it for me - I didn’t know my dad for very long and yes he gave me the odd clip about the ear when I did something wrong - BUT he was always ready to hug me and play football with me (proper football I mean not that American rubbish :smiley: ) .

And even God in the OT laments the times he would have gathered Israel up under his wings as a mother hen does with her chicks (but they would not).

Quite right Jeff:

My instincts to come to the defense of “Christians” is, sadly, tempered by how badly the Christ followers do “p-r” for God. I’m with you: the God who stands remote, arms folded perhaps, and maybe with a scowl on his face, waiting for we miserable ingrates and reprobates to show some twitches of sanity and morality just doesn’t cut it for me.

And it seems that was not at all the way Jesus spoke of the Father either. Instead, Jesus seemed to portray the Father as:
– a foolish shepherd willing to leave the entire fold to search for that one lost – and carry him back slung across his shoulders (well – that’s the way it is in the picture anyway!!!)
– and we see Jesus bidding the children to come and listen and sit on hip lap. (maybe another picture??)
– and my favorite; that of a noble and aging man, tossing His “dignity” to the wind and running down the road to welcome home His rebellious son – who surely must be in need of a good meal after all that time away from home!!

My God hugs: and seems yours does too. A God who MADE us with the sensate needs we have (needs like hugs) and does not MEET us there, is really not much of a God in my estimation.

But, lest we forget, he often seems to deputize US to give those hugs on HIs behalf… Gulp – that’s a challenge.

As for your comments on football; afraid you are right. Friend of mine (an agnostic no less) forced me to sit through a match between Spain and Canada some years ago and I’ve been hooked on it’s beauty and subtleties ever since. A game which starts and flows and ebbs and explodes – all without need for those periodic “breaks” every few seconds or so. (Though trust me – I do love our football too! – just that “football” is a very poor description. Maybe something like “crazyball” would suffice??)




I do love American Football in principle, even though (like most sports) I can’t watch it for prolonged periods of time.

On the other hand, Soccer (Euro futbol) has wild taunting between the teams. (“Two World Wars and One World Cup”-- Chant by English fans when they play Germany.) So there’s that. :smiling_imp:

American football, rugby and soccer (but especially the first two) definitely go back to medieval Western European (probably Celtic and especially British) football games, some of which are still traditionally played in England. Don’t be surprised if something very much like this shows up in my novels eventually. :mrgreen: :ugeek:

…what was this thread about, again?

How did this conversation go from Theology to sports in .04 seconds.

I don’t mind people talking sports but only if it’s correct and the correct answer is american football. They need the armor because linebackers are 280 lbs of muscle and run the 40 in 5 seconds.

Long live John Elway and the Denver Broncos!

:blush: Ok hands up to gratuitous mickey taking of other people’s sports. Actually I record the American Football every week and fast forward through the stoppages; but as a Welshman through and through it’s rugby football that has my true allegiance :smiley: and today we take on the mighty New Zealand All Blacks! :astonished:

Actually, auggy b-d, since I find myself thinking about both subjects a lot, I find there are lots of places of intersection!

Consider the question asked by purists: WHY do we play?

Answer, to WIN the game! The games beauty, or intrigue, or athleticism play only secondary roles. Which then means of course that winning is not even conceivable unless there are ALSO —

— Losers.

And I’ve never ever in my life heard anyone brag “We’re Number TWO!!!” – even if they are still ahead of the other 30 NFL teams (for example) #2 = Loser.

And being a “winner” or a “loser” carries profound baggage with it; ideas of superiority, and domination, and inflated worth – all of which deftly and subtly lend to arrogance and pride.

Yet this is precisely the mindset ingrained into entire cultures – and is easily embraced by traditional articulations of Christianity. Winners get saved to paradise; losers get annihilated or burn in hell forever. So it’s as if winning has no meaning unless there are losers against which they can be contrasted!

Imagine the absurdity of the championship game, say maybe the Superbowl, and “my team” beats your’s 100 to nil. Except at the awards ceremony, not just the losing team joins with the winners on their elevated platform to receive the trophy but so too do all the other 30 teams that didn’t even MAKE it to this big game!

Yet that seems to me precisely the absurdity we Universalists embrace when we hold that with God in control, everyone is a winner. This seems the very absurdity that Jesus was embracing as the workers hired just before quittin’ time ALSO received the full days wage!

Now realistically, I shudder to think how my football team, or my business for that matter, would “perform” on the field if they lived and worked this ethos.

It’s a more perplexing problem than we often admit and, in many ways I think, is at the heart of our fellow Christians rejection of Universalism.

I’m also thinking that this dichotomy is playing a role (perhaps unconsciously) in Dr G P’s assertion that true love really does have “winners & losers.”

Just musing here…


You are correct in drawing out such a strong analogy. Often we see sportsmanship and it means SO much to us for some odd reason. A linebacker takes out the running back with a punishing blow and the RB gets hurt. The LB lends a hand to help him up and when we all see that our hearts for some reason break because it is the good of God in man. Chritian theology has us pinned with threats of blasphemy or heresy that a man is only saved if he says the sinners prayer and if he treats others wrong well, he’ll get in but by the skin of his teeth.

I disagree scripture seems to say you won’t get in by being evil to others. It is imperative that we re-think our theology concerning the Love of God and I can’t thank Thomas, Gregory, Bob Wilson, Joel Green for helping me with that. Had Bob not read Talbott’s work I never would have come to the Jedi.

Interesting note about lucas…Yoda constantly stated “Forever will it dominate you” (regarding the darkside). But in the end He gets saved :slight_smile: If others are talking sports, then I’ll talk Star Wars :slight_smile: Sort of like the Adam and Eve Question on eternal life.