A few quotes from the book:
“A cardinal doctrine of Christian faith is that God, being a loving Creator, is at work in the world redeeming sinners…But Christians have often disagreed among themselves about the extent and the ultimate success of God’s redemptive activity, and those disagreements reflect surprisingly different conceptions of the divine nature. The conceptions are so different, indeed, that some might wonder whether all Christians in fact worship the same God.
Here is a relatively easy way to understand these issues and to organize our thinking about them. We begin with an inconsistent set of three propositions:
1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to himself.
2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world.
3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign then to a place of punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence altogether.” (pg 43)
Talbott comments that there are Bible verses that seem to support each of these propositions.
Talbott comments further that each of the three main streams of theological thinking in the church reject one of these three propositions – and thus a proposition that seems to have Bibical support!
Augustinians (and Calvinist and the Reformed) reject the first proposition, believing that God has elected a select group of people for salvation. Propositions 2 and 3 stand, because Gods will to save some cannot be thwarted and hell is real.
Arminians (evangelicals) reject proposition 2. God does want to save everyone, but because people have a free will, they are free to reject God’s salvation. God is thus not able (or He limits himself because of man’s free will) to save everyone.
Universalists reject proposition 3. God does desire to save everyone, and He will accomplish His redemptive purpose. An eternal Hell with no hope of restoration cannot exist.
I quote again:
“So here, then, are three quite different pictures of God: According to the Augustinian picture, God’s redemptive purposes are not thwarted, but He is limited in in love; according to the Arminian picture, God’s love is unlimited, but His redemptive purposes are thwarted by factors over which he has no control; and according to the universalist picture, God’s love is unlimited and his redemptive purposes are unthwarted as well. Accordingly, a question that may now arise is: “Which of our three pictures best preserves the praiseworthy character and glory of the divine nature?” And, two additional questions: “Which picture, if true, would provide the firmest foundation for hope? – and which seems the most likely to cultivate our fears?” (pg 48)
Pretty interesting stuff. I'd be interested in what you think.