Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thomas Talbott's case for universalism

A redated post.

This is a preview of Thomas Talbott's book The Inescapable Love of God.

37 comments:

exapologist said...

I love that book. The author-meets-critics book, "Universal Salvation?", is also very helpful in assessing Talbott's case.

Hallq said...

I'm not very familiar with Talbott. Does he hold to some form of inerrancy, infalliblism, etc. with regards to the Bible? If so this looks like a very interesting book. Otherwise it wouldn't stand out from a lot of other liberal theology...

exapologist said...

Hi Hallq,

I'm not absolutely sure if he's an inerrantist, but he's certainly not a liberal about the reliability of the Bible. He's closer to the right end of the spectrum than even the middle, though. He argues for universalism on *biblical* grounds -- it makes the best sense of the relevant passages, and of the overall themes of the Bible (he also gives a bunch of philosophical arguments, but they're informed by conservative theological assumptions).

Paul Manata said...

The essence of the argument:

"I had this a priori idea of God, and God had better be like that idea. God is not allowed to tell us what he is like, I'll tell him what he is like. If he's not like what I want him to be like then I like, just won't like him, man. If God doesn't conform to my view of love and justice, then he just can't exist. God bows to me and my reasoning. Heck, the fact that I'm sinful and fallen, seeking to "be like God" myself, doesn't matter. What matters is that I feel all comfy in my belief system. 'cause, like, we shouldn't expect God to actually challenge our humanistic presuppositions, right?."

A reason for me to believe is precisely due to the fact that the God is *not* what a human would make up. The God of the Bible flies in the face of humanism. People wouldn't make this kind of God up. Dr. Reppert should note that I find support here in Lewis.

exapologist said...

Straw men don't get much strawier than that! ;)

Paul Manata said...

EA,

Start on p. 12 of the linked to book. There's you'll find the motivation and essence of the argument. That it's "dressed up" later on in more theological and philosophical garb ios simply a veneer. Much like Darwin's scientific veneer he put on the thousands of year old philosophical idea of evolution (cf. Anaxamander et al).

Jason Pratt said...

Paul,

While I don't know yet to what extent I agree with Talbott's arguments (what little I've seen I wouldn't necessarily agree with); I can tell you that that would be a very straw-mannish way of critiquing _my_ conclusions, at least. {s}

(I have this a priori idea of God, commonly called orthodox trinitarian theism, gotten from, I dunno, somewhere; which informs my notions of love and justice; and God had better be like that idea of orthodox trinitarian theism. And if he's not what I want him to be, then I like, just won't like him, man.

Sounds familiar, come to think of it... {g})


Nor do I find, as a historical fact, that the generally expected notion of God is that He is going to persist in going the distance in saving His own enemies, much less ever start at all. Much the contrary. (This wouldn't exclude someone going against the nearly universal expectation--pun half-intended{g}--and trying to read out something else instead. But still, it doesn't seem to be the natural first expectation.)

JRP

Paul Manata said...

If EA wants responses to the authors attempts at justifying his anthroprocentric view of philosophy and theology, then I can cite, as one example out of many, his butchering of Romans 5.

The author thinks the "all" is talking about "all" humans in both cases. But, it's talking about "all" those who have either Christ or Adam as their federal head.

It's talking about the imputation of Adams sin vs. Christ's righteousness.

Adam represented "all men" and Christ, "those who believe." Not all men "believe."

Frankly, that EA would give such laudatory comments to the book is cause for concern. This is some basic theological stuff. Why is it that those who claim that they were Christians seem to have an abismal understand of that which they rejected?

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

The authors comments on p.12 pretty much seals the deal.

Now, was my recasting a bit rhetorical and sarcastic? Sure. but I think I hit the nail on the head.

~PM

Paul Manata said...

Btw, Jason, I wasn't critiquing his *conclusions,* I was pointing out his operating assumptions, the driving force of his argument, if you will.

exapologist said...

I find it very instructive how much you inferred about me from my statement that I love Talbott's book. The same goes for your unwillingness to admit fallacious reasoning when called on it. I also find it very instructive how quickly you assess a person's arguments relative to what you've read of them. Sort of speaks volumes about your methods of inquiry.

Jason Pratt said...

Quick report on Talbott’s preview material:

1.) The book does seem to be arranged in what I would consider to be an ack-bassward fashion. I think Paul Manata’s critique has some merit in that regard, fwiw. (I wasn't complaining about that Paul. I was just pointing out that not everyone goes that route to reach those conclusions.) Whether this is a reflection of what Talbott considers to be proper procedure, or whether he decided this was the best way to reach a popular audience, I can’t tell yet. By his own account, his positive case for a universalist reading of the NT begins no sooner than chapter 5, although it could be fairly said that some issues would need to be discussed before then in order to get a handle on the importance of the question and some preliminary considerations with fairness to all parties involved.

1b.) And where is the OT in all this? Aside from some quotes here and there, the answer from the preview material is "unclear, try again later." {G}

2.) Obviously the man is a great fan of George MacDonald; a theologian who was hardly a theological radical in other regards. Aside from some unfortunate composition in his wording on occasion, he’s quite theologically orthodox. (I’m well familiar with him myself.) That being said, he gets his universalism primarily from exegesis, not as a corollary to orthodox trinitarianism per se. Which I have no particular problem with, except that when apparent testimony appears to conflict, then there has to be standards of interpretation--and those standards can’t themselves be authoritatively coequivalent with the set in question. It comes down to metaphysics sooner or later; personally, I’d rather establish it sooner. Whatever his strengths, which are considerable, GMcD’s appeals to what amounts to metaphysical reasoning aren’t very technically rigorous (though correct I would say, as far as they go); and he never (in his main collection of texts, referenced by Talbott) tries to confront serious scriptural testimony apparently going in a different direction. (One does get the imrpession reading him that _he has_ in fact done such confrontation on his own study, but he doesn’t write about it.)

3.) Incidentally, this is now the second time, in as many months, that I have seen Karl Barth referrenced as being a proponent of universal reconciliation. I haven’t a single clue what _his_ grounds are, but I somewhat doubt that the man who was commonly recognized as being the foremost Protestant dogmatist and systematic theologian of the 20th century was working from a wish-fulfillment delusion... (Not impossible, but improbable. Or no more probable than any other major systematic exegete, perhaps I should expect.)

4.) Unlike MacD, Talbott looks prepared to wrestle with texts in public which are antithetical (or apparently so) to his view.

5.) Mental note to check on Lam 3:22, 31-33, the next time I’m where I can look over contexts. (I was already familiar with most of the citations he references in his preview excerpts--the first several pages of most chapters seem included--but this one was new to me. My initial expectation, to be fair, is that the prophet is talking about Israel; but if he’s calling on a general principle to be expected to apply to Israel, then that could count in Talbott’s favor.)

6.) Talbott is sensitive (at least in principle) to the danger of prooftexting by adducing snippets.

7.) He seems, at least tacitly, to be supporting scriptural infallibility. Personally, I would consider scriptural infallibility to be a category error, as well as incidental to the exercise: the texts may add up to doctrine X whether they are infallible or not. But of course they couldn’t add up to mutually exclusive doctrines X and Y and also be infallible. His presumption would seem to be to exegete in favor of infallibility, though that might also just be considered the principle of intellectual charity to texts. (I mention this since it was brought up as a question or at least a concern in the comments.)

8.) His 3-way doctrinal division illustration is fairly standard in the field, and is used by Calvs and Arminians, too (the difference being that everyone rejects a different doctrine as being truly taught or at least aimed at in the scriptures.) So that paradigm should be familiar enough ground.

9.) Talbott is correct to note that one of the (if not _the_) prime exegetical issues, is not _whether_ there are plenty of verses that appear to read in one of two ways, but _why_ one set of verses should be read subordinate in meaning to the other set.

10.) Talbott’s goal is not to argue against every conceivable anti-universalistic argument, but to illustrate a way of putting a universalistic argument together. I can’t tell yet if he has some principle applications that would be brought to bear on countervailing data, but it does seem to mean that someone may not see their particular argument addressed in this book--and given the importance of his topic, as well as the fact that he surely knows he’s bucking a trend, that may be unsatisfying.

11.) Is Loraine Boettner a guy? Um... well, maybe ‘he’ is... {shrug} Aside from a possible incidental gaffe there, Talbott does make a good and carefully qualified point about a subtle exegetical misuse there: ‘all’ or ‘every’ doesn’t necessarily mean comprehensively ‘all’ in every case, and therefore a universalistic doctrine cannot be derived simply from applying to a universal meaning of ‘pan’ in the texts. But neither does that mean, in itself, that we should ignore the possibility of ‘all’ being comprehensive, especially if the context points in that direction. (My own favorite example here is Mark 9:49-50. Since Jesus leads into this by talking about the unquenchable fire of God’s punishment in Gehenna, with reference to a prophetic claim at the tail end of the scroll of Isaiah, it would be kind of weird to complain that when He next says, “For [all] will be salted with fire”, with a subsequent explanation of what this salting is for, we’re just imagining or hoping groundlessly that He’s talking about the sinners in Gehenna, too! I can’t tell from the material given whether Talbott knows about this reference, btw.)

His principle comparison with genre uses here, was interesting, too--a new element I hadn’t considered myself. (i.e. Boettner’s examples of limited-all are all {g} drawn from narrative, where such things would be naturally more fuzzy in scope.)

This is aside from whether he is correct to read the ‘all’ in Rom 5:18 as meaning comprehensiveness in both cases, or even from whether he goes on to argue this in relation to that particular verse! I don’t have his book yet, and the preview cuts off before it gets that far. I notice that at the beginning he explicitly admits, “But our text is, of course, a single sentence, lifted from a context; and as we all know, we cannot finally determine the meaning of a sentence apart from the context in which it occurs.” Maybe Paul (Manata) has already read the forthcoming text, though, and knows that Talbott will proceed to butcher the immediate context. All I can say, is that he hasn’t done so yet by the time the preview breaks off.

(That, and if Adam is supposed to represent all believers, not all people, then St. Paul’s declaration would seem to jump categories pretty sharply, since the condemnation in _all_ men is presented as coming from Adam, to be compared with one man’s act of righteousness leading to justification and life for all. But maybe Paul (Manata or the apostle {s}) doesn’t believe in the original doom of all men. The conservative Protestant congregation known as the Church of Christ technically denies this, and would argue the apostle doesn’t teach it. {shrug} Talbott’s interpretation relies on original doom coming to all men inclusively from Adam. The comparative juxtoposition seems clear enough. Admittedly the larger context needs considering as well, but I’ll debate about that later. {g}})

12.) Incidental side note: kind of nice to see Larry Lacy reffed in passing! (I wonder how his wife is doing. Victor and I know Larry as a professor at Rhodes down in Memphis. She was very ill, last I’d heard, several years ago, and he was going to take a sabbatical to care for her.) Larry is referenced as an oppositional quote, btw; from a work back in 1992.

13.) Talbott’s handling of John 12:32 (“If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Me”), while certainly one of the right quotes, betrays what looks like willful ignorance of the opposition, when he mentions that “nowhere does [Morris] tell us where the Gospel envisions this possibility [that maybe Jesus won’t draw _all_ men to Himself].” That may be technically true regarding Morris, but really, even _I_ can come up with apparent references to the contrary that might at least suggest such a thing. (They’ve certainly been quoted to me often enough. {g})

14.) Similarly, Talbott looks to be engaging in similarly willful ignorance of the opposition when he rhetorically asks, “Just where in the New Testament do we find such an idea [as the everlasting punishment in hell]? Where is it clearly articulated?” How about every time the word ‘eonian’ is used with ‘krisising’ or something like that? {lopsided g} I may have some exegetical (not to say theological) issues with how such things are to be translated, but I’m not going to pretend like people are just pulling such a notion out of thin air. People like WLC and Geach (representing the vast majority of theologians across Christian history) treat it as if no reference needs to be made, because they think it’s obvious enough on the face of it.

15.) Talbott’s exposition on what it means for God to be love, though well-intentioned and (more-or-less) on the right track, is I think not nearly theological enough. It isn’t wrong, but it could be a lot better--it needs to be about God’s self-existence as the Trinity. Granted, this may be mentioned later in chapter portions beyond the preview, but still--if he’s going up against a mountain of influential theological heavyweights, this sort of thing needs to be fronted and emphasized. _Especially_ since in popular theological parlance ‘universalism’ has now been hugely tainted (in the West anyway--the Eastern Orthodoxy is another matter) by connection with the Unitarians. When most people think of universalists (even me, sad to say {wry g}), we think of a group whose president just decided last year that maybe their preachers ought to be allowed to mention ‘God’ from the pulpit again, in order to be relevant to their audiences! (GMcD would have had a cow...)

15b.) To which I will also add, an emphasis on trinitarian theism in regard to all this is absolutely necessary in order to answer complaints along the lines of Patrick McGoohan’s _The Prisoner_ (except on a cosmic scale. His famous spy series can be read as a critique of man’s usurpation of purgatory--not implausible from a devout Catholic, though it should also be remembered that he has consistently denied he intended any theological meaning to the series.)

16.) Which reminds me, I don’t know (because I can’t see yet) what exactly Talbott does with punishment, but he does have it on board, and devotes more than one chapter to it. Wrath and punishment are important to keep in the account (and frequently are rejected by mere ‘popular’ universalists.)

17.) Talbott rightly insists that justice and mercy are not to be considered antithetical to each other; and (I think) rightly recognizes that among Calvs and Arms both, they tend to be presented as being at odds.

18.) Talbott could stand to be a bit more careful about his treatment of omnipotence. It isn’t that God _couldn’t_ simply override human wills by divine fiat (in fact there are hints of Him doing just that in the scriptural stories, when the larger context requires it--something I would argue tactily points toward universalism or else God would be a worker of iniquity!), but that God can’t _force_ someone to _freely_ cooperate in fair-togetherness: it’s a mutually exclusive contradiction. I think Talbott understands this well enough; but either his wording is occasionally sloppy, _or_ he’s trying to go a little too far in his claim. Because (granting I can’t see all his book yet) he does seem to imply that we shouldn’t just hope and trust that God will never give up trying to save His enemies, but that we should consider some things said by St. Paul (primarily, if not elsewhere, too) to be revelation that God will certainly succeed with this. I think universalism requires the hope; I think orthodoxy requires that a person could technically stay unrepentant forever. These aren’t mutually exclusive options, and after all I would also say we should bet on God. {g} Plus I would certainly like to treat some things in scripture as prophecy in advance on this topic (as on others). And maybe Talbott would add (given what he writes elsewhere I can bet that he would!) that I should distinguish between a technical possibility and a revealed-in-advance result. I’m just saying, one way or another a bit more circumspection would seem appropriate.


Still, despite some reluctances from perusing his limited preview, the book looks a respectable enough attempt. I’m commonly asked what my opinon is on Talbott, to which my answer is usually something along the lines of, “I dunno, I never needed him, I can do that kind of thing myself. {s}” I should probably get the book, not only to see if he has some material I missed (like the ref from Lamentations), but to familiarize myself with his procedure so that whenifever people complain about something he does and try to attribute that to me, I can say, “Not thus.” {g}

JRP

exapologist said...

BTW,

My inference about Paul's method's of inquiry was an instance of the fallacy of hasty generalization. ;)

EA

Paul Manata said...

EA,

If you can show where I'm off in my assessment, I'mm all ears.

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

RE (11). Adam represents all men, Christ represents all believers.

Adam represented "his people" and Christ "his people." His people are "those who believe." Since not all believe, not all are "his people."

I think I've phrased that in a way even an Arminain could accept.

~PM

Paul Manata said...

Steve Hays had reviewd Talbott's book a while ago (as well as some other universalists):


http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/05/somewhere-over-rainbow-1.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/05/somewhere-over-rainbow-2.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/05/somewhere-over-rainbow-3.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/12/alls-well-that-ends-well-1.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/12/alls-well-that-ends-well-2.html

exapologist said...

Paul,

At some point, you're going to have to do your homework for yourself and actually internalize the arguments of people with whome you disagree. Now is as good a time as any. I shouldn't have to point this out to you, since you're supposed to be an apologist, but as with and issue on anything re: scholarship, if you want to get into a position where you can responsibly appraise Talbott's position, you have to go and read and internalize Thomas' book, and his articles (at http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/). Also, read his author-meets-critics book, "Universal Salvation?" (edited by Parry and Partridge). Then come back here and explain and defend Talbott's position. At that point, I'll be confident that you're in a position to accept or reject his position in an informed way, in which case we can talk about it. But I'm not going to set aside my dissertation, paper, revisions, teaching load (let alone time better spent on family, friends -- or even errands) to spell out Talbott's case. You see, this is how *informed* opinions are formed, and how actual scholarship is done -- as opposed to reading 12 pages of a book that conflicts with your currrent opinions, and a bunch of conservative Christian book reviews of it, in order to ensure that your views remain "safe" from change). Your method of forming and retaining beliefs (if what you've said in this thread is any indication) has a low probability of gaining true and reasonable beliefs and dropping false ones. I've mentioned this to you before, but for more help, below is a post I've written that gives a sketch of what a more reliable method might look like.

But for the record:

1. No, Talbott's argument can't be summed up by reading p. 12 of that book, for the simple reason that he gives a set of interconnected arguments from exegesis, broader arguments based on an overarching bibllcal theology, as well as a bunch of philosophical arguments that (believe it or not) are not on p. 12. You're going to have to read and grasp these (as well as the author-meets-critics stuff) before you're in a position to come to responsible conclusions about Talbott's views. But I don't have to tell you that, since this is how you normally come to hold your beliefs, right? ;)

2. I don't hold Talbott's evangelical universalism (partly because I'm not a christian at all, but also because) his case isn't fully persuasive. What I gained from his book (and his articles) is that his case for universalism, when compared with the case for other positions, shows that the data for *any* position underdetermines just which account is correct. This comes out especially when you read the back-and-forth debates he has in philosophy of religion and theology journals, and in the Parry and Partridge book.
______________________
On Caring About and Pursuing Truth

Aiming at having true beliefs is important for a number of reasons. Here’s a fairly obvious yet important one: truths accurately represent the way things really are; falsehoods do not. If so, then since our thoughts, feelings, and (ultimately) actions are largely governed by our beliefs, believing falsehoods can lead to thinking, feeling, and (ultimately) acting in ways that are not in the best interests of ourselves and others, since they’re not tailored to the way the world really is. And as we all know by experience, this can hurt us – sometimes badly. Think of those who buy automobiles and houses, and those who marry (let alone those who set foreign and domestic policy) on the basis of false information. Thus, at the very least, we should care about having true beliefs, if for no other reason than that it’s in our own best interests to do so.

If it’s important to aim at having true beliefs, how can we increase our chances of having such beliefs? Well, choosing what to believe on the basis of flipping a coin doesn’t seem to be an effective method. What, then, is effective? Speaking in the most general terms: sensitivity to evidence; that is, listening to (and reading) the best evidence and arguments we can get our hands on, and forming our beliefs in the light of it.

Now as we all know, the truth is often hard to find when it comes to matters that go beyond the ordinary events of common experience. Thus, there is a corresponding wide range of opinion on issues with respect to, e.g., politics and religion. Unfortunately, the implications and consequences of such issues are often so momentous that we can’t afford to suspend judgment, and we are thus forced to come to conclusions on such matters. How, then, are we to proceed? Clearly, if our aim is truth, and this requires a sensitivity to evidence and arguments, then we must carefully and critically listen to the evidence and arguments from all the major “camps” with respect to a given issue. Just listening to the arguments of the “camp” that we’re antecedently attracted to radically diminishes the probability that we’ll have true beliefs (Note: this includes the vice of forming one's opinions of opposing views merely on the basis of the commentary and book reviews of thinkers within one's favorite “camp”!). Thus, increasing our chances of having true beliefs requires sensitivity to evidence, as well as to all of the competing theories that attempt to explain the evidence.

But this isn’t the whole story. For one can listen to all the evidence and all of the competing theories, and yet fail to properly evaluate them. What sorts of things do we need to properly evaluate theories and evidence? Well, we need good critical thinking skills; so it’s a good idea to develop these to the best of our abilities. Logic and critical thinking courses are of course especially helpful.

But again, this can’t be the whole story. For we all know plenty of people who use logic purely for sport, e.g., to debate issues merely to seek “victory” in a contest of wits. Thus, one can listen to all the competing theories about a range of evidence and arguments without the attempt to discern truth. This naturally leads us to see the need for certain intellectual virtues. Here are some examples that I think are fairly uncontroversial:

Intellectual humility: realizing my finitude and fallibility, I acknowledge that I may be mistaken -- even about matters that are deeply important and fundamental. This leads to a willingness to genuinely listen to others, a lack of concern for “winning” a debate, and a keen interest in finding the truth. It also leads to a desire to find out where one is mistaken or otherwise unjustified in one’s beliefs, in order to correct them.

Intellectual honesty: Applying the same rigorous standards to one’s cherished views as one does to the views one finds unattractive. Acknowledging, to yourself and to those with whom you disagree, problems and objections to your views for which you lack a solid answer.

Intellectual charity: giving your interlocutor the best possible hearing. When reading arguments and positions different from your own, you aim at mastering and internalizing them. When these have weaknesses, you attempt to make them stronger.

Intellectual tentativeness: Permanently leaving your beliefs open to revision, should new evidence come to light that conflicts with them.


At this point, we have what looks to be a fairly reasonable and effective plan for increasing the likelihood of gaining true beliefs. However, we’d probably all agree that our chances can be increased yet further if we can participate with others in the pursuit of truth: collective, evidence-sensitive inquiry. Thus, ideally, we would have a group of others (the more the merrier!) participating in the democratic exchange of ideas. This nicely provides for an extra level of rigor and scrutiny: the all-important factor of peer-review. Thus, we have a complete and attractive vision for the pursuit of truth: the free, friendly, open, charitable, and frank exchange of ideas and arguments, where we see each other as friends and cooperators in a meaningful and exciting joint venture in the pursuit of truth (as opposed to seeing each other as adversaries and competitors in a battle for victory, which unfortunately happens too often, and diminishes terribly our chances of grasping the way things are).

Paul Manata said...

EA,

I appreciate the sermon and the brow beating episode, but you've totally missed the boat.

Your intro: This was mostly a sophitic attack. It totally fails to deal with the reasons I cited from his book. If I'm wrong, care to show me where?

My comments were predicated upon this quote by Talbott,

" "Here, at last, was a religious
writer [George MacDonald] who seemed to appeal not to fear or guilt or mean-spiritedness, but to the very best within me. ... Whereas the mainline theologians that I had read -- Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and the like -- all asked me to believe things about God that violated my own sense of justice..."

Or, here:

""I knew instinctively that I could never worship a God who is less kind, less merciful, less loving that my own parents…And I could not imagine my parents refusing to will the good for anyone…There were no favorites, period; we were all equal objects of our parents love and equally precious to them. So it is perhaps not surprising that I should have found myself unable to worship a God who, unlike my parents, was quite prepared to play favorites" (8-9)."

Your claims about what you've tried to teach me before ring hollow, especially considering how you've faired so far, not even dealing with my argument. Oh, and where have you said these things to me? Last I remember I sent you back to apostateland with your tail between your leggs because you chose to open your mouth about preterism, showing how unstudied you were on the subject. Ironic looking back, isn't it?

Re (1): I fully recognize that his arguments can't be "summed up" from those pages. I nowhere claimed that they could. But, I cited the *driving force,* or *presupposition* of his argument. And that fits quite nicely with my first comment in this thread. Care to show me where I'm wrong or were you just going to confuse categories like "summed up" with "essence?" You shoudl do better especially since you're going to be the next Dawkins.

Re (2): This is just blabbering. it does not refute my point. You're running away from my initial point.

Talbott can't believe that God would send others to hell because "it doesn't resinate with HIS sense of justice."

Frankly, that you can't see this shows how poor of an atheologian you are.

I don't know what's so hard about admitting the obvious. The guy's forming arguments to back up his a priori assumptions about who god is and what he's supposed to be like.

Try again next year, EA.

best,

~PM

P.S. You might want to engage Hays' reviews since they pretty much blow your opinions out of the water.

exapologist said...

Paul,

If you use the implied principle of interpretation choice in the MacDonald passage quoted at the bottom of p. 12 (and you take considerable, perhaps wildly uncharitable liberties), you can get an argument to the effect that one should prefer a non-Augustinian to an Augustinian interpretation of certain passages.
The principle of interpretation there, very roughly, is that when there is more than one possible interpretation of a passage, and one of them entails that God isn’t morally perfect and the others don’t, then one ought to go with one of the latter sort -- in fact, it’s of the devil go with the former. The basis for doing so (if one gleans from the other passages you quote) would be because it conflicts with one’s fundamental moral intuitions. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

In a previous comment, you said, roughly, that the fact that the Christian god is not of the sort that one would make up is one of the reasons why you think he’s the real god, and (with an appeal to Victor) that C.S. Lewis agrees. But if I recall correctly (and I may not), Lewis said this because the Christian God makes strong moral demands -- a life of holiness, a life where God requires total commitment, an abandonment of the self-centered life, one in which God will not stop fussing with you until you are conformed into the image of Christ. But this point isn’t relevant here. Talbott is rejecting the Augustinian (let’s just say “Calvinist”) conception of God, not because he demands holiness, sanctification, and a God-centered existence, but rather because the character of the Calvinist god conflicts with our moral intuitions at a fundamental level. In fact, I think Victor’s sympathies lie with Talbott on this point, and not with you.

But in any case, the meat of Talbott’s case (at least if you care about biblical considerations) occurs in chapters 5-7, with some crucial preliminaries about exegesis in chapter 4. There, he deals with the relevant biblical passages, and responds to what he takes to be the best arguments for opposing interpretations. Whether or not Talbott’s case is motivated by his fundamental intuitions is neither here nor there, since (as you should know, but apparently don’t) it’s fallacious to infer the truth of a person’s views from their motives. Again, you’re going to have to actually read chapters 5-7 and internalize them before you can come to a responsible assessment of whether his biblical/exegetical case is persuasive. In my own case, I had to read his journal articles and the author-meets-critics book before I felt comfortable making an assessment.

Re: your reply to my (2) in my previous comment: Of course it doesn’t refute your point; I wasn’t trying to refute anything. Nor am I running away from anything. Rather -- and I imagine others saw this as obvious – I was trying to disabuse you of the idea that I endorse Talbott’s case for universalism. Apparently, you inferred that from the fact that I said that I love Talbott’s book. I’m curious: do you love only those books that you agree with? As I pointed out in my (2), the reason why I appreciate that book (or rather, one of the reasons – Talbott’s writings are characteristically full of penetrating insights) is because it shows that the theories (in this case, general theological systems) are underdetermined by the data (in this case, the Bible).

And I don’t recall myself “running away with my tail between my legs” due to our discussion of eschatology and the historical Jesus. I thought (and still think) it’s clear that the mainstream view on those issues is correct, and that you’re arguments were, on the whole, pretty terrible (if I recall, your case amounted to little more than a rambling and convoluted summary of Sproul’s arguments from his book, The Last Days According to Jesus). Rather, I got exasperated by things like (i) having my words intentionally, routinely, and systematically distorted, (ii) receiving long, bizarre strings of gibberish from you that I’d have to wade through and respond to (which was extremely frustrating, closely analogous to when I have to set aside a couple of hours to comment on a confused and confusing term paper), and (iii) coming to the realization that I was wasting my time in a fundamental way. For I had read and internalized a large and representative sampling of the apologetic literature on the reliability of the New Testament, the Christology of the NT, the historical Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus (starting with McDowell, as most young apologists do, but continuing on through F.F. Bruce, Moreland, Craig, Blomberg, and then on to Witherington and Wright), and then on to standard works on source, form and redaction criticism, followed up by a representative sampling of works on the historical Jesus across the spectrum of opinion. Although our discussion began by an angry tirade on your part, my goal was to discuss the case for the mainstream view of Jesus as (fundamentally) an apocalyptic prophet with someone who had a similar background in the literature, but who nonetheless had an opposing view. But when I found out that I was dealing with someone whose background consisted in little more than a few apologetics books on the matter, plus some conservative commentaries and Sproul’s The Last Days According to Jesus, I lost all motivation to continue. I suspect that this experience isn’t unique to me.

Paul Manata said...

Read EA's revisionism and then read Talbott,

"I knew instinctively that I could never worship a God who is less kind, less merciful, less loving that my own parents…And I could not imagine my parents refusing to will the good for anyone…There were no favorites, period; we were all equal objects of our parents love and equally precious to them. So it is perhaps not surprising that I should have found myself unable to worship a God who, unlike my parents, was quite prepared to play favorites" (8-9)."

I "could not imagine."

God "could never be like that."

It's plain that my original recasting of his argument (first post in this thread) hit the nail on the head.

regarding his revision of our debate on preterism, I recall that he mentioned Jesus not coming back via bodily during that generation was wone of "the" number one reasons he couldn't believe.

I gave an interpretation which said that Jesus did come back, though it was not like the sci-fi, American understanding of biblical literature that is all too common with left behind types.

If I remember correctly, EA just poo pooed my argument and name called preterism.

Notice above he simply thinks he can dismiss arguments by hand waving. Put his comments about Sproul's book and preterism next to his comments on me regarding Talbott. Strange indeed.

Furthermore, I haven't read Sproul's book on the matter. So, looks like EA is, per usual, wrong again.

Of course fortunately no one needs to take either of our words for it. The debate was public and one can see just how poor an atheologian exapologist really is:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/pretty-clearly-christianity-is-true.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/on-biting-off-more-than-you-can-chew.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/one-of-main-reasons-i-think.html

And here is how EA took the arguments forced upon him,

"and you and the rest of the Homer Simpsons over here in apologetics kindergarten have the nerve to criticize me? I can’t believe I wasted my time. **I am through with you**. You are all banned from my blog. Just stay over here in the kiddie pool and leave me alone."

No wonder the guy posts anonymously.

What a megalomaniac.

How dare we criticize "him!"

We are "banned!"

best,

~PM

exapologist said...

Paul,

I'm not sure what else to do if you're unable to follow a discussion, or understand basic principles of a lower-division critical thinking course.

Re: following the discussion: Revisionism? You said to go back and look at p. 12 for "the essence of the argument". You also quoted a passage in which Talbott said that the Augustinian picture of God violated his sense of justice. Based on these texts, I tried to be charitable (to you, not to Talbott), and try to piece together something that tolerably resembled an argument. In reply, you point to the other passage you quoted on p. 8, which has to do with Talbott being unable to accept a God that was less loving or merciful. I chose not to use that in my reconstruction of the argument because I was trying to be charitable to *you*, because that would be to put on your lips an argument that is transparently fallacious. But I guess you wholeheartedly want me to. This brings me to my next point.

Re: critical thinking 101:
Nothing whatever follows about the *truth or falsity* of Talbott's case for universalism (the core of which is stated in chs. 4-7, and I note that you still haven't dealt with them) from Talbott's *motives* or *psychological states*. This is just an instance of a circumstantial ad hominem. If you can't see this, then there's not much else to say, except perhaps to recommend that you go back to school. Talbott could be possessed by the devil himself, or have an otherwise strong revulsion of the Calviniistic picture of God that makes him constitutionally unable to accept it, and yet for all that, he might be right, and his arguments in chs. 4-7 are all sound. So you haven't made even the slightest impact on Talbott's case for universalism (which, to reiterate, I do not find persuasive).

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I'm an atheist. Perhaps this is another one of your impressive "inferences"?

1. EA is not a Christian.

So,

2. EA is an atheist.

I feel bad about the "Homer Simpson" and "Intellectual kindergarten" remarks, but you're not really helping to disconfirm those characterizations here.

Paul Manata said...

All EA has is rhetoric.

Re 1: My point, which has been proven by the quotes, is that Talbott's a priori assumption is that God must be like Talbott imagines God to be. You've conceeded that this is Talbott's assumption.

Regarding 2: I never said that his other arguments were wrong because of his other remarks. I simply said that he has presuppositions. A driving force. An a priori reason to go and *find* arguments that support his a priori committment to an athroprocentic deity.

So, you've totally dropped the ball here. My point was never to say that his *other* arguments were false because of his presuppositional commitment to anthropocentric theology. I never even implied that.

Regarding the *other* arguments, well they've been sliced and diced in the links I provided by Hays. Again, my only point was to bring to light his bias and presuppositional commitment.

Therefore, you're not even touching my points. You're totally failing to live up to your preaching above. You look like a hypocrite. You can't even afford me the courtesy of understanding my points yet you're all too quick to impute motives and arguments to the other side that haven't even been made yet.

And, by the way, his arguments are not "sound" as you say. That means true premises and valid form, but since you don't agree with his case, then you must not think the premises true, and therefore you don't think his arguments are "sound."

Now for three: Since I linked to those debates on preterism, and it's clear that the image you painted above doesn't comprt to reality, will you apologize?

best wishes,

PM

exapologist said...

Re: your (1) and (2): Of course, that's the whole point. You appealed to some of Talbott's motivations and aversions, and I pointed out that nothing whatever follows about whether Talbott's right or wrong in his conclusions. It may be an interesting exercise in playing amateur psychologist, but it's utterly irrelevant to whether his conclusions are correct or not. So to go on and on about it is a pointless exercise. They have no bearing at all on whether Talbott's case for universalism is sound. You have to actually read them and assess them on their own merits. In other words, your point *has* no point from a logical point of view.

Paul Manata said...

EA,

Now you're backpeddaling. You're telling us that you've been critiquing stuff that I never bothered to bring up. And then you tell us that I somehow was bringing up things that warranted your responses. You've been barking up the wrong tree and you try to blame it on me.

Your response, if you care ot remember, was that I created a strawman; now you admit I'm correct, but that my mentioning his presuppositions didn't disprove his arguments. But when did *I* ever say anything liek that/ You jumped the gun, EA. You're too proud to admit it. That's sad.

And, btw, my points do have relevance. You see, though his arguments may be correct (but they're not because I *also* linked to posts where I agree with the arguments given against Talbott found in the links), it is useful to see that he *first* starts with the assumption that God can't be a big meanie (where big meanie is defined as: being as nice as Talbott's parents), and then seeks to find arguments in the Bible which support his a priori biblcial assumption.

Take his opperating assumptions away, you take away the motivation for his to find "arguments" in the Bible for his position.

I mean, if I argued that atheism just couldn't be true because a cold, impersonal universe doesn't fit my desire to have a caring, loving being watching out for me and my family, I'd be laughed off the stage.

I maintain that his "arguments" are ad hoc responses which seek to bolster the basic presupposition he shares on pages 8,9,12, etc.

As far as his *arguments* go. Did I not link to critiques I agreed with? So, I'm actually innocent of all the charges you've filled against me. I furthermore gave *one* example of his weak argumentation by critiquing his analyssi of Romans 5. So, I've not *just* referred to his opperating and guiding presupposition, now have I? At least be honest.

It must be embarrassing for someone so smart as you, who has to teach the little ones like me, to constantly get your comeuppances (e.g., here and the preterist thread).

I'll quote you just so it's clear:

"Re: your (1) and (2): Of course, that's the whole point. You appealed to some of Talbott's motivations and aversions, and I pointed out that nothing whatever follows about whether Talbott's right or wrong in his conclusions."

But that's not what happened, was it? I pointed out his basic presupposition, and you oppened your mouth about strawy straw men, didn't you EA?

That's just like what happened in the preterist debate. You started off arguing that Jesus was a *failed* eschatological prophet, and then when I refuted that, you changed tune and said you were simply pointing out that he was an "eschaotlogical prophet," minus the "failed." I then showed you that according to your own words, that indeed was not what you had originally argued.

I'm beginning to note a theme with you. You are the goal post shifting master. It's very rude to treat people that way, EA. If I may suggest something: from what I know, a guy who gets a Ph.D needs to be able to stick with an argument, represent others correctly, and not play sophistic tricks where you try to shuffle around the field when you're getting beat. Just lose graciously.

hope that helps,

~PM

Jason Pratt said...

Paul,

Btw I have a paragraph composition gaffe back up there somewhere. I didn’t think you meant that “Adam was supposed to represent all _believers_ not all people”. That would be Christ, duh. Rewrites got me threre.

I was going to make a serious comment about the logic of the verse vis-a-vis your explanation, but the thread seems to have deteriorated wildly; so I guess I’ll pass and go eat some pizza instead. Sigh. (Oh well, I was hungry anyway...)

JRP

exapologist said...

You're still here? There are now 25 posts in this thread, all because you're unwilling to admit something as trivial as that you straw-manned Talbott's argument, or that Talbott's motives have not the slightest effect on whether his arguments are any good. What's the big deal?

Paul Manata said...

EA,

You still can't admit that I didn't straw man anything but simply stated the basic guiding presupposion of Talbott.

Nice!

You begin by saying I straw-manned him, now you hedge your bets by saying, "You either straw manned him or made comments that don't disprove his exegetical arguments."

You still can't admit that you blundered.

The straw man wasn't a straw man since my point is precisely the case, as you yourself admit.

Your point about my comments not affecting his exegetical arguments were ad hoc (designed to throw attention off your blunder) and likewise miss since I never claimed that my citing of his presuppositions disproved his exegetical arguments.

So now what?

To orthodox scholars, especially those committed to the primacy of revealtion and God's thoughts and say-so over ours, my bringing to light his presuppositions was most certainly a blow against Talbott. That you don't share those orthodox committments, so what? All that matters is that *your* ranting against me has been shown to be entirely groundless. Again EA loses. Thanks for playing.

It's sad you see no problem with this position:

God must be the kind of god that fits my humanistic assumptions and standards of justice, since I want to be a Christian it is prima facie problematic that the Bible would not present God as this sort of god, therefore I'll show that the Bible can be reinterpreted to fit with my a priori assumptions. Nevermind that making the Bible fit within my philosophical assumptins is not serious exegesis but, rather, eisogesis at its finest."

But, I guess that explains your apostacy. God wouldn't budge, so someone had to. EA's way or the highway, huh.

Oh and sorry for the "psychologizing."

cheerio,

~PM

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

No problem. Keep in mind that I barely scrathed the surface of an argument for how Romans 5 should be understood. It's safe to say, though, that Romans 5 makes it obvious that the "all" in Adam is not the "all" in Christ. Christ is the head of "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness."

exapologist said...

Paul,

Please pull yourself together.

Paul: Your response, if you care ot remember, was that I created a strawman; now you admit I'm correct, but that my mentioning his presuppositions didn't disprove his arguments. But when did *I* ever say anything liek that/ You jumped the gun, EA. You're too proud to admit it. That's sad.

Me: You did create a straw man. You said that your little thing about his aversions, moral intuitions, and "a priori concept of God" as "the essence" of his argument. Well, it's not the essence of his argument, but rather a caricature of it. And that *just is* what it is to commit a straw man argument. Again, his biblical and theological arguments occur in chs. 4-7.

Now you later back off from this claim, and start talking about it being the motivation *behind* the argument (after I and Jason call you on it). I then point out that his motivations are irrelevant to the soundness of his arguments, and to reject them on that basis is to commit a circumstantial ad hominem.

Being the charitable fellow you are, you take my agreement *that Talbott has aversions to the Calvinist concept of God* and conflate it with an agreement with you *that your charicterization of his main argument is accurate*, and thus not a straw man. Thanks, I appreciate that. Maybe it was uninentional, though, and you just made an innocent mistake. I'm sure that must be it.

Paul: And, btw, my points do have relevance. You see, though his arguments may be correct (but they're not because I *also* linked to posts where I agree with the arguments given against Talbott found in the links), it is useful to see that he *first* starts with the assumption that God can't be a big meanie (where big meanie is defined as: being as nice as Talbott's parents), and then seeks to find arguments in the Bible which support his a priori biblcial assumption.

Take his opperating assumptions away, you take away the motivation for his to find "arguments" in the Bible for his position.

Me: this is just breathtaking. This goes back to my point about critical thinking 101. Sorry, but the fallacy of circumstantial ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance: they have no relevance to the truth or falsity of the conclusion of an argument. As such, they certainly do *not* take away the motivation to find to evaluate his arguments on their own merits. For the motivation may be bad, and yet the arguments may be sound, in which case you're on the other side of the truth as a consequence for ignoring them. Please tell me that this isn't a part of your normal methods of inquiry.

Paul: I mean, if I argued that atheism just couldn't be true because a cold, impersonal universe doesn't fit my desire to have a caring, loving being watching out for me and my family, I'd be laughed off the stage.

Me: I suppose so (unless you added an inductively supported premise that entities exist that correspond to our deepest desires -- then you'd have an argument from desire for the existence of a god). But that's not relevantly analogous to the case at hand. Here, offers independent *arguments* for his position. In the latter case, but not the former, one can't just "laugh off" or otherwise ignore the person's claim; rather, you have to go and evaluate the arguments on their own merits. To do otherwise is to commit a circumstantial ad hominem.

Paul: I maintain that his "arguments" are ad hoc responses which seek to bolster the basic presupposition he shares on pages 8,9,12, etc.

Me: Again, whether or not this is so is neither here nor there. To stop at the level of his motivations and ignore his arguments in chs. 4-7. To do otherwise is to commit a circumstantial ad hominem.

As far as his *arguments* go. Did I not link to critiques I agreed with? So, I'm actually innocent of all the charges you've filled against me. I furthermore gave *one* example of his weak argumentation by critiquing his analyssi of Romans 5. So, I've not *just* referred to his opperating and guiding presupposition, now have I? At least be honest.

Me: Yes, you did -- *after* you were called on the straw man attribution by myself and Jason. But I'm having trouble reconciling your denial of a need to look at his arguments for their own merits (after all, you've found sinister ulterior motives for why he's inclined to accept the views he does), and your arguments about how to interpret Romans, and your links to Steve's critiques of Talbott's arguments. If I didn't know better, I would say *that's* hedging.

But suppose you're not. Then either you think the point about ulterior motives warrants rejecting his independent arguments or you don't. If you do, then you commit a circumstantial ad hominem. But if you don't, then why did you go on about motives at all?

exapologist said...

Whoops! Looking back, I see there's two ways to interpret the passage I quoted from Paul with the type re: "taking away operating assumptions":

I read it as Paul saying that taking away Talbott's operating assumptions also takes away the motivation of *others* to look at his arguments on their own merits.

But I think that construal may be incorrect. He may have mean that taking away the assumptions also takes away *Talbott's* motives to seek independent arguments for his position.

In either case, my basic point is the same: it doesn't take away the motivation to find independent arguments for his position. For the motivations can't affect the soundness or unsoundness of an argument -- which of course is just an elementary point of logic.

exapologist said...

Paul: You still can't admit that I didn't straw man anything but simply stated the basic guiding presupposion of Talbott.

Nice!

You begin by saying I straw-manned him, now you hedge your bets by saying, "You either straw manned him or made comments that don't disprove his exegetical arguments."

Me: Of course, this is a mischaracterization of my point. I’m not hedging, but rather summing up my criticisms of the different ways in which you present your point.

In your first comment, you state what you take to be the “essence” of Talbott’s argument viz., that the Calvinistic conception of God conflicts with Talbott’s moral sensibilities, his concept of God, etc., and that therefore a non-Calvinistic conception should be accepted. Call this ‘construal 1’. The “straw man” Disjunct applies to construal 1.

Later on, after Jason and I pointed out that this is a straw man of Talbott’s main argument, you changed your language from the “essence” of his argument to his motivation behind his argument. Call this ‘construal 2’. The “circumstantial ad hominem” Disjunct applies to construal 2.


Paul: You still can't admit that you blundered.

Me: I’m happy to admit I’ve blundered if I’ve done so (though of course I’m not willing to accept the blame for someone else’s blunder in order for the latter to save face, at least if the latter is trying to assassinate my character or score a cheap point at my expense). I’m a finite, fallible human being, who has made his fair share of blunders (just ask my wife –- or my dissertation advisor). But gosh, is that really an accurate characterization of what’s going on here? I’m not so sure. See below for details.

Paul: The straw man wasn't a straw man since my point is precisely the case, as you yourself admit.

Me: See my comment about this in my previous post. You’re taking my agreement *that Talbott has aversions to the Calvinist concept of God* and conflate it with an agreement with you *that your characterization of his main argument is accurate*, and thus not a straw man.

Paul: Your point about my comments not affecting his exegetical arguments were ad hoc (designed to throw attention off your blunder) and likewise miss since I never claimed that my citing of his presuppositions disproved his exegetical arguments.

Me: This is a mischaracterization of what’s going on here. If you go back and look at the discussion, this is how your comments play out:

Phase 1: “The essence of Talbott’s argument is this: the Calvinistic conception of god conflicts with my moral sensibilities, a priori concept of what god should be like, etc., … so, not-Calvinistic conception.”

Phase 2: “That’s not the essence of the argument, but rather the motivation behind it.”

Phase 3: “In any case, I and Steve have independent critiques of his actual arguments.”


Whether or not you changed your views from construal 1 to construal 2 after Jason and I raised the straw man objection because you were backpedaling, or you intended construal 2 from the get-go I don’t know, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter. But you’ve got to admit that it at least looks like that’s what you were doing (and I imagine that others agree with me), and so it’s uncharitable to take my shift from a critique of construal 1 (straw man) to my critique of construal 2 (circumstantial ad hominem) as a strategic dodge to avoid owning up to missing the mark on a single construal, as opposed to offering different critiques for a moving target.

Regarding the second half of your comment: See my previous post. Either you thought construal 2 undercuts or rebuts Talbott’s biblical arguments or you don’t. If you do, then you commit a circumstantial ad hominem. But if you don’t, then why bring up his motivations at all?


Paul: To orthodox scholars, especially those committed to the primacy of revealtion and God's thoughts and say-so over ours, my bringing to light his presuppositions was most certainly a blow against Talbott. That you don't share those orthodox commitments, so what? All that matters is that *your* ranting against me has been shown to be entirely groundless. Again EA loses. Thanks for playing.

Me: I’m not seeing how circumstantial ad hominem ceases to be an informal fallacy when it pops up in the context of biblical arguments. Either his arguments for his interpretations are sound, or they aren’t. If they are, then the orthodox position (whatever that is) is orthodox in name only, being based on a misinterpretation of scripture. If the orthodox position is to have any point, it’s the one that’s an accurate reflection of the teaching of scripture. But then to reject Talbott’s arguments from the get-go on the grounds that they’re unorthodox is to beg the question at issue: if his exegetical arguments are sound, then his position is the orthodox position. So you have to look at the arguments.

Paul: It's sad you see no problem with this position:

God must be the kind of god that fits my humanistic assumptions and standards of justice, since I want to be a Christian it is prima facie problematic that the Bible would not present God as this sort of god, therefore I'll show that the Bible can be reinterpreted to fit with my a priori assumptions. Nevermind that making the Bible fit within my philosophical assumptins is not serious exegesis but, rather, eisogesis at its finest."

Me: This makes it sound like you’ve been advancing construal 1 all along, but let that pass. Of course, I do see a problem with this position. Also, this isn’t Talbott’s position, either. Again, his exegetical arguments don’t contain premises about how he would like God to be – they’re logically independent of them. You seemed to allow this a moment ago, when you said, “I never claimed that my citing of his presuppositions disproved his exegetical arguments.” I don’t know how you could assert this unless you think his “presuppositions” don’t enter into the premises of his exegetical arguments.

Paul: But, I guess that explains your apostacy. God wouldn't budge, so someone had to. EA's way or the highway, huh.

Me: Of course, this doesn’t explain my apostacy. Rather, it had to do with the fact that an examination of the data relevant to the assessment of Christian theism convinced me that it’s without rational support.

Sam said...

Hi,

Shame that good debates regarding theology almost without exception turn bad.

Jason - I appreciate your very even evaluation of Talbott's initial chapters. I have read, like yourself (and Paul, I guess) only the chapters available online - and was very impressed (and have put in an order with Amazon).

I'm new to this notion of universal salvation, but Talbott seems consistent to me. Although I can't keep up with some of the arguments on this page (being only in my first year of a PG Diploma in theological Studies), I have a couple of comments/questions that anyone, of course, is free to respond to.

1) Paul seems to have a problem with Talbott's explanation that He couldn't allow himself to worship a God that seemingly acts contrary to the very nature that He reveals Himself as having (absolute love). I don't see a problem here; in fact, surely that is a good place to start - I mean, you could end up worshipping Satan, right? I understand Paul's concern that we might "read in meaning" to the scriptures, but I think that chapter 5 (available on Talbott's website) is a frank and honest evaluation of the Scriptures, and Talbott seems to be quite conscious of the fine line you tread when interpreting the Bible.

As a side note, Talbott argues in an article available on line:

http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/false.html

that we should "test the spirits" of the doctrines we accept to make sure that they line up with God's nature, revealed to us through scripture (and I would argue, the Holy Spirit). Most of the content is in opposition to the presuppositions of Calvinist thinking, which leads me to the next point.

2) Surely, surely we all have motives and presuppositions that we hold, whether consciously or not, that allow us to interpret any information, and particularly Scripture. Of course Talbott has a "motivation"; why else would he write such a book?(!) I don't see how this negates the credibility of the book - Paul?

3) I think that Paul has misunderstood Talbott's core idea. He has not enforced his point of view to shape God (as Paul suggested in the straw-manning of his first post); rather, he has started from the point of knowing (by acquaintance) God's character (love) and has found that many of the assumptions that mainstream protestant theology hold to run against the grain. He's then looked for evidence for or against in the Bible and found them both, but seems to take the position that "one set of verses should be read in subordination to the other" as Jason outlined in point 9 of his enlightening response. Maybe I've misunderstood something there, anyone?

3) Does anyone know what Talbott supposes happens to sinners when they go to (temporary) hell? Does he still think it is a place of torment, torture, gnashing of teeth etc? Or how the reconciliation takes place (in a kind of Sheol, purgatory, judgement room etc.). With God or separate from God?

I don't know if this thread is still active, hope it is. Look forward to the banter.

Regards,

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, that EA would give such laudatory comments to the book is cause for concern. This is some basic theological stuff. Why is it that those who claim that they were Christians seem to have an abismal understand of that which they rejected?"

Thanks for your exposition of Romans 5 but here are a few experts opinions you may want to consider. Perhaps they have yet to master the theological "basics" like your good self and the boys on your blog.

Professor Richard H Bell (Nottingham University)

"Rom 5.18–19 summarises Paul's view of condemnation in Adam and salvation in Christ. Since Paul believes that all human beings participate in Adam's sin and in Christ's ‘righteous act’, a universal salvation is affirmed."

"How can christs work be less effective, less cosmic, than Adam's transgression? The whole point of the the comparison between Adam and Christ is that the effects of Christ's saving work (all shall be made alive) match the cosmic effects of Adam's primal transgression (all die). How could it be otherwise if God is to be "all in all"?

There can be no doubt here that Pauls words signify universal salvation, even if here too there have been repeated attempts to suggest that is not what Paul really means."

The continuum History of APOCALYPTICISM
Professor M.C. De Booer pg.166

Karl Barth, in his book Christ and Adam, Man and Humanity, wrote concerning Romans 5 (p. 109), "But in vv. 12-21 Paul does not limit his context to Christ's relationship to believers, but gives fundamentally the same account of His relationship to all men. The context is widened from church history to world history, from Christ's relationship to Christians to all men. ...What is said here applies generally and universally, and not merely to one limited group of men. Here 'religious' presuppositions are not once hinted at. The fact of Christ is here presented as something that dominates and includes all men." On page 112 of the same work: "vv. 12-21 are revolutionary in their insistence that what is true of Christians must also be true of all men."


Rev.Dr. Neal Punt :

Romans 5:18 and its immediate context place no limitation on the universalistic thrust of the second "all men".

"Upon all men. The whole race...Came upon all men eis pantas anthroopous. Was with reference to all men; had a bearing upon all men; was originally adapted to the race. As the sin of Adam was of such a nature in the relation in which he stood as to affect all the race, so the work of Christ, in the relation in which he stood, was adapted also to all the race. As the tendency of the one was to involve the race in condemnation, so the tendency of the other was to restore them to acceptance with God. There was an original applicability in the work of Christ to all men--a richness, fullness of the atonement fitted to meet the sins of the entire world, and restore the race to favor...

"...Perhaps there could not be found a more striking declaration anywhere that the work of Christ had an original applicability to all men; or that it is, in its own nature, fitted to save all. The course of argument here leads inevitably to this; nor is it possible to avoid it without doing violence to the obvious and fair course of the discussion...Calvin concurs in this interpretation, and thus shows that it is one which commends itself even to the most strenuous advocates of the system which is called by his name."

Rev.Dr. Albert Barnes


Lucky we have you to do our exegesis for us eh? Otherwise we'd still be struggling along with those chaps.

steve said...

Exbrainer (I mean, exapologist) acts as if Manata exists to impress exbrainer.

Exbrainer also awards himself to lots of rationalistic rhetoric about critical thinking skills, but then immediately excuses himself from having to rationally defend his tendentious assertions cuz he's got more way important things to do with his time. So here we have a guy posing as an intellectual who keeps taking intellectual shortcuts.

Jason Pratt said...

Well, it's been several years since this thread started; and several years since I was able to read Talbott's Inescapable Love of God in total (not only in abstracted fractions toward the beginning). So for the sake of more completeness, I will try to make a more accurate report.

Not starting on page 12 of the book (which is already 11 pages into a multi-chapter autobiographical essay), but going back to page 1 (the beginning of the introductory autobiographical essay) and working forward: Tom grew up in a Calvinistic church, accepting its doctrines, though apparently without having yet come seriously face to face with the implications of some of those doctrines (possibly because he considered himself one of the "elect" and so, hey, what's the problem?) He learned his ideas of God, and of God's love and justice, from his preachers, teachers and parents (especially from his parents), as they expounded and (especially in the case of his parents) lived the teachings of the scriptures. He also read and loved C. S. Lewis (hardly a Calvinist of course.)

His first shakeup came from coming to admire the intellectual acumen of a philosophical professor at undergraduate college, who (as far as Tom could see at the time) undermined a belief in any traditional idea of God by means of deploying arguments from evil and suffering.

Tom went back to the Christian teachers he had been taught to also admire for their interpretations of scripture and doctrine, from modern (like Gordon Clark) back through Augustine, looking for ammunition to combat the argument from evil; and in doing so Tom came to what was, for him, a far worse conclusion: not only did they not sufficiently address arguments from evil, but he now noticed that they were at direct odds with the idea of God's love and positive justice which (this is important to keep in mind) he had inherited from his church and devoted Christian family.

It wasn't simply "his own" ideas of this, as though he had invented them ad hoc or something like that. It wasn't even "his own" ideas of this, as though he had reached them independently of the religious authorities in his life. They were "his own" ideas only in the sense that he held and agreed with them, having been taught to believe them by his church and Christian family.

The conflict, consequently, was between what he had been taught to believe by his Christian teachers and what he now found they were also teaching. Seeing no way to hold both sets of ideas at once, he chose which of the two sets of ideas he would keep holding to that they had taught him.

The same would seem to be true for going back beyond his teachers to the scriptures. He only talks during the autobiography about his depression at sitting down to read Romans 9 (through the interpretative lens of Gordon Clark and other Calvinists, which he was willing to accept at that time as being accurate to the intents and meanings of St. Paul); but there are other allusions in the first few chapters (and many outright quotations in the subsequent chapters where he presents his actual arguments, for better or for worse) to scriptural teachings on God's love and justice. Tom's problem with Romans 9 would certainly have been that he couldn't figure out how to reconcile that with, say, 1 Cor 13; and he didn't think his Calvinist teachers (and other authors not strictly Calvinist, like St. Thomas Aquinas, but who still were in that line of theology back at least through St. Augustine) were doing a good job reconciling those teachings from the Bible either. (He points out, by the way, that these were men with much more sophisticated understandings of revelation and inerrancy than what he had held; so an overly-simple idea of biblical inspiration wasn't the problem either.)

Jason Pratt said...

So, although it might be argued that Tom Talbott just wasn't (and isn't) competent enough to understand and appreciate how the great Augustinian/Calv thinkers do in fact reconcile the points that Tom came to consider contradictory; and although it might be argued that his preachers, family and teachers (in a super-conservative private religiously focused high school) failed to train him properly (so that he grew up accepting a skewed idea of Christian truth by only accepting one part of it, and so was unprepared to deal with other parts of it), it isn't fair to represent a critique of his book as amounting to some willful insistence on his part to hold to some idea of love and justice that he merely invented ad hoc, or merely asserted for his own self-convenience, or even derived in some logical fashion independently of scriptural authority. To harp on his use of phrases like "my own" as though they mean something like this, is to take them entirely out of context of his presentation.

Now, that in no way diminishes the value of any critiques of positions actually taken and presented by Tom in his book. But critiquing him for positions he isn't taking is (at the very least) not accurate.

(And I wish I had had more of his book handy back when this thread first started several years ago, so I could have made that point back then. {s})

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

{{it isn't fair to represent a critique of his book as amounting to}}

Eh, compositional blip; I changed sentences mid-composition.

That should have read: "...it isn't fair to critique his book by representing his argument as amounting to..."