Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU


I haven’t read this yet (I’m about to go to bed) but it discusses both Parry & Talbott & feels significant, so I thought I’d post it:

, Gerald R. McDermott"]Will everyone one day be saved? Is hell only temporary, if it exists at all? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the historic Christian commitment to the conversion of the world to Christ would appear to be somewhat silly. Why go to such effort and expense trying to persuade people that Jesus is the only way if they all will see that eventually anyway? Why risk offending people—especially those who follow other religious traditions—with the presumption that their way is insufficient without knowledge of Jesus Christ if we will all one day enjoy the full truth in peace and joy?

For most of the twentieth century, belief in universal salvation was found primarily among liberal Protestants or otherwise-orthodox Protestant and Catholic thinkers influenced by Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Recently, however, evangelicals have started to make their own proposals to advance this view. This article outlines the arguments of the major proponents of universalism in the last century and then critically analyzes them. It closes by briefly commenting on the danger of universalism.


The author does at least appear to have done some homework but his engagement with the universalist arguments of Parry, Talbott and others is shallow. The objections he raises have all been dealt with more than adequately by Robin in the second edition of The EU and by many others on this forum. Gerald McDermott is simply reassuring his friends inside the conservative bubble that they are right and those horrid backsliding universalists are wrong.


Why make such an effort to save a drowning man? He’s eventually going to die anyway.

I think the main reason for leading people to Christ is that they might glorify God and experience the wonderful presence of Christ in their lives, just as we enjoy it.

However, if someone insists that we must save them from something unpleasant in order that our efforts be worthwhile, consider this:
The severe mercy of God—his loving correction—may be very uncomfortable. Is it not worth saving people from this discomfort?
However, if they will not submit to Christ in this life, such correction will be necessary. Yet, our God of Love will give them only the discomfort that will be necessary to bring them into relationship with Himself, and not a whit more.


And lo, I accomplished many comments, and the number of the comments were as the sand in the sky or the stars of the sea or words to that effect. :ugeek:


Rock on, Jason er, I mean, Sabreman. Can’t wait to read your comments.

McDermott actually works within walking distance of my office. I bumped into him once in the pew behind me at my old church, with his Greek New Testament in hand. He’s also apparently an occasional running partner of a friend of mine. I’ve a had a lot of respect for him as he has brought some great speakers to Roanoke College including NT Wright, Church Historian Mark Noll, and Regent College professor John Stackhouse. One of his books was influential in my spiritual development: “Can Evangelicals Learn from Other Religions” (He says yes). That was where I first encountered the explicit division of Evangelicals into the exclusivist/restrictivist and inclusivist camps: on page 40), and realized that I was an inclusivist. (Hadn’t ever heard of EU at that point).

McDermott is also an expert in Jonathan Edwards, as well as an Anglican Priest who assistant pastors at a Lutheran church.

I had wondered until recently where he stood on the issue of EU, when I saw his comment on this article in First Things:
[Brief UR essay on

Eagerly looking forward to reading your comments more in depth, Jason.


So he really is an Arminian?

That would explain why his main theological problem seemed to be the same as Jerry Walls. In that case I guess the TGC posted his article because, even though he thoroughly rejects the idea that we can be assured of God’s salvation of sinners from sin, hey at least he doesn’t believe in assurance of God’s salvation from sin like those heathen unbiblical universalists. :wink:


:laughing: You certainly did! I wonder if anyone will respond …



And you get that he is an Arminian because he is Anglican? I don’t know where he stands in that regard.


Jason, in point 4.4.5 you refer to Ezekiel 25, but I think you mean Ezekiel 34. Also, where in the text of Ezekiel 34 do you get this: " making a new covenant of peace with all His rebel flock thereby."


And I actually read them all! :wink: Well done.


Which is a welcome improvement from TGC last engagement :slight_smile:

Good point. I’ve posted a comment saying that.

Thanks Jason for posting a comprehensive reply! I just finished reading them. [tag]Cindy Skillman[/tag] & [tag]Caleb Fogg[/tag] anyone else who reads the his comments, please make sure you “like” them (press the up arrow under the comment), as this will show the author that the comments are appreciated & when people sort the comments by “Best”, it will push them to the top.

I hope so!

I think it’s time you bumped into him again, & discuss EU over a coffee :smiley:

Great point Paidion.


poor guy :laughing:
being pounced on by a stoning of heretics (i looked up the collective noun :laughing: )


Uh, no, I thought you said he was helping pastor a Lutheran church.

That plus his repeated criticisms about how we just can’t be sure God will save those he intends to save: that’s a typical Arminian complaint, and really only a complaint from one kind of Arminian, not something a Calvinist would normally complain about (since it would completely undermine Calv assurance by the same token).

Relatedly, he never once complained about the scope of God’s intention being too wide. His reply to scope verses like from 1 Tim (where God apparently loves everyone with saving love) wasn’t that the scope was wrong but that God’s saving love doesn’t mean people will certainly accept it. Again, a typical Arminian reply. Calvs would deny 1 Tim is referring to God’s saving love for everyone or that it’s talking about God’s saving love at all (appealing to secret vs decretive will or perhaps some other distinction.)

It would be strange for a typically Calvinistic group to post an article from an Arminian heavily criticising one of their own doctrines (shared with us); but it would be even stranger for a Calv theologian to undermine his own doctrinal focuses in such a way.

Granted, I see crazy self-contradictive things happen opposing Christian universalism all the time, so… :wink:


Luke asked in reply to my brief comments about Matt 25: “Aiônios is used to describe the fate of the both the righteous and the unrighteous in Matt 25:46, is the “Eternal Life” of the righteous temporary as well?”

I posted the following as an answer:


From 34:25 and surrounding contexts. “And I will make a covenant of peace with them” referring to the flock whom God will judge one sheep from another, between the rams and the male goats (v.17).

God wouldn’t have to be making a covenant of peace with them if they weren’t estranged from Him to start with, and the reason God has to break the bars of their slavery (v.27) is because He delivered them into slavery as punishment for their ongoing rebellions.

Of course, the people specifically in view in Ez 34 are rebel Israel, not the Gentiles per se (Edom the land of Esau is the chief pagan nation in view for zorching in chapter 35 right afterward for example); and God is criticizing the poor, false and exploitative shepherds of Israel. But the false shepherds are still themselves rebel Israel, too, part of God’s flock.


Robin has posted a brief reply of his own now over at his blog: … motts.html


Dr. McDermott,

Thank you for providing a classic critique of evangelical universalism. My perception is that you emphasize that the Bible says mankind’s division will be “final,” but offer no text that calls God’s horrific judgments “final.” You only assert that ‘aionios’ seems to “clearly” mean “forever.” But I know of no serious study which finds that this definition can consistently apply. You add that ‘heaven’ can’t be endless, unless hell also is, without offering any rationale for why the nature of resurrection life must depend on its’ duration being specified in Matthew 25’s parable.

You claim that Romans 5’s “all MEN” “will be made righteous” must be the language of huge exaggeration because it also calls them “the many.” But you ignore Paul’s parallel grammar that would mean this is the very same “many” who “were made sinners” in Adam. Thus, unless Paul is careless with language, it appears strained to deny that he believes (as in Colossians 1:20,16) that the “all” to be “reconciled to God” by Christ’s blood" is indeed in context the “all that were created” by God.

I believe that such questions can’t be settled by citing authorities who share the traditional fears that such a hope of God’s sure victory would mean that our costly evangelistic efforts won’t change the number and experience of those saved. This charge is often used to repudiate Calvinists. But I think evangelical differences here must be grounded in exegetical discussions of the Scripture itself.


First order of business before coffee with Dr. McDermott would be “coming out of the closet” re: my universalism with my pastor. :confused:


Oh, ah, yes… I see that makes things a little more complicated.


Tom Talbott has weighed in on the conversation: