Re: Thomas Talbott's Gauntlet

This link was brought to my attention: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2011/07/05/thomas-talbotts-gauntlet/

In it, Thomas Talbott thinks there are 3 statements where only 2 can be affirmed at a time. The denial of #3 will lead us to Universalism (which Talbott holds to). Why write about this at an apologetics website? Well, some think the existence of Hell is so repulsive that they could not be a Christian.  So, it does relate to the field. Here are those three statements:

1. God’s redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
2. Because no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he sincerely wills or desires.
3. Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.

There are at least two problems with Talbott’s thinking: scriptural and theological.
Factually speaking, the biblical characters thought there was something that involved everlasting punishment. Matt Slick of CARM has done the work for me on this one: http://carm.org/hell-eternal . Theologically, Talbott believes that “no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever” and that “he must believe (1) that not all humans in this life do believe and that, therefore, (2) some humans come to faith or are redeemed after death.” Here’s the problem with 2 and (2). Talbott supposes that God hasn’t made this world a world in which people do have the power to reject him eternally. So why should we think God has made the world in such a way that humans cannot reject him forever?

I stand with C.S. Lewis on this one, and give you his words from The Problem of Pain:

Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.

Now, from that link at the top of the post, you’ll realize you were sent to Scot McKnight’s page.  McKnight, at the end, thinks that if Universalism is held or argued for logically, then it must have biblical support.  I think McKnight is mistaken.  Conclusions of arguments do not need to be supported with evidence as premises do.  For example, with WLC Kalam deductive argument: P1) Anything that begins to exist has a cause. P2) The universe began to exist. C) Therefore, the universe has a cause.  It seems odd for people to then say, “Well show me evidence where the universe has a cause.”  It misses the reasoning of the argument.

Rather, what we need to do is show where the reasoning is flawed instead of thinking that it is valid but rejected on the basis that the conclusion may not have explicit biblical support.  And I think I’ve done that with Talbott’s thinking above.  Talbott needs to show that God hasn’t created this world as a world in which humans can freely reject him forever.

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Kurt Jaros is the Director of Operations at Apologetics.com, where he oversees various projects, including Real Clear Apologetics (which he founded). He holds a Master's degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and a Master's in Systematic Theology from King's College London. He teaches part-time at Naperville Christian Academy and also blogs at ValuesAndCapitalism.com, a project of the American Enterprise Institute.

1 Comment

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    edwardtbabinski - June 20, 2013, 11:16 pm

    Talbott also wrote the latest entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on “Heaven and Hell in Christian Thought”
    First published Tue Apr 23, 2013 [The new entry by Thomas Talbott replaces the old entry on this topic by the previous author.]
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heaven-hell/

    In fact, he approached me for some quotations from Jonathan Edwards on Hell, which he used!

    It’s quite an interesting piece!

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