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Reflective people of all walks of life find themselves, from time to time, pondering what I refer to as "dark thoughts." What makes these thoughts "dark" is not that they are particularly macabre or especially sinister. Rather, it's that for most of us of post-college age, the activities of daily lifeâ€”working, caring for children or aging parentsâ€”occupy the preponderance of our time during the light of day, and it's only when the lights go outâ€”when our heads make contact with our pillows in the dark of nightâ€”that a space opens between our ears wide enough to accommodate them. The sorts of thoughts I have in mind are these: Is the life I am now living a meaningful one? Do I really believe that mom's multiple sclerosis has come to her from God's fatherly, providential hand? Given the religious pluralism that surrounds me, and the devout and sincere believers of other faiths that I know personally, is it really rational for me to continue to believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation? Except for people like me, who get paid to ponder and explore such questions in the light of day, these are thoughts that typically pay us a visit under the darkness of night, when we slip under our covers and wait patiently for sleep to come and usher us off to temporary rest.
The dark thought that I want to explore here is this: Could it be that God's saving love is so radical that, eventually, all human creatures are saved? For me this thought was most recently occasioned by the death of my best friend from college. Sam and I met at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 1987. We were enrolled in the same philosophy course with a professor who would become our favoriteâ€”Stephen Vicchioâ€”and with whom we would take many more courses. After graduating from UMBC I went on to do graduate work while Sam eventually made his way into computer programming. I loved Sam. He was raised Jewish, although his pilgrimage of honest and sincere truth-seeking led him to embrace ...