Diane Perkins Castro’s book “Confessions of a Tomboy Grandma: On the Eternal Destiny of the Human Race” is an excellent resource for anyone interested in a more conservative, evangelical presentation of Christian universalism. “Confessions” is a good book that contains many short chapters touching on different aspects of the theology of universal salvation. It is easy to understand, draws from the author’s personal experiences, her rational deliberations, her understanding of Christian tradition, and her knowledge of many different theological works—but the primary reference point throughout the book is certainly the Bible itself.
Perhaps a strength of the book is that, although there is a common theme relating to universal salvation throughout, the chapters are largely independent of one another as far as the specific points being made. So, the chapters do not, for the most part, have to be read in order and the book could be picked up and read briefly and occasionally by a busy person without getting lost in the intricacies of a lengthy doctrinal formula. There are a number of logical arguments laid out, of course, but none that are very long or complicated.
As a minor critique, however, the independent nature of the chapters also means that there are a few overlaps in the content presented and that the same points are brought up a number of times throughout the book. There are also an excess of block quotes from various authors and long chains of Bible verses quoted to make a point. The lengthy citations could be tedious to some, but valuable to others who would like to see the various biblical passages laid out before them (and not simply referenced in a footnote, for example) that might be plausibly utilized to advocate for this or that point related to universalism.
Perhaps one of the larger problems, from somewhat of a “marketing angle,” which admittedly should not be one of the primary concerns when writing a theological work, is that the title does not clearly express what the book is really all about. “Confessions of a Tomboy Grandma” sounds like a book that might be filled with personal family anecdotes (although, in fact, there are a few) and perhaps advice on how best to educate, play with, or interact with one’s grandchildren. It is only once we read the subtitle, “On the Eternal Destiny of the Human Race,” that a clearer picture of the theological content of the book emerges.
Despite those marginal criticisms, I believe “Confessions” would be one of the best works around to give to any person who considers themselves an evangelical Christian and is open to considering (or at least learning more about) Christian universalism. Diane Perkins Castro’s book is an excellent example of an evangelical universalism. She is concerned with many of the same things that evangelical churches and organizations often focus on—such as evangelism, in-depth Bible study, and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus.
As she states,
Like most Evangelical Universalists, I hold a very high view of Scripture, a very high view of the character of God, a very high view of the Person of Christ, a very high view of the cross, a very strong view of sin and judgement, a very strong desire to live a godly life, and a very strong desire to share the gospel. I have made every effort to base my beliefs not on my own thoughts or wishes but on God’s revealed Word. (From Chapter 37)
These are all things that evangelicals can heartily agree with! And, countering the common critique that universalism will lead to a stifling of evangelistic fervor, Castro writes that belief in universal restoration can actually encourage evangelistic efforts:
Knowing that every individual is loved by God and eventually will be in His kingdom softens our heart toward those who are now in rebellion and makes us want them to come into the kingdom now. It makes sharing the gospel much more joyful—we have truly good news not only for those who hear but also for their loved ones. We can share the gospel more freely because we don’t have to worry about somebody asking the sticky questions, like “How could God be so cruel?” “Your religion says that most of humanity is damned—why are you so intolerant and exclusive?” “How can God be fair if He creates people, makes them suffer on earth, and then sends them to hell for not believing in Him?” (From Chapter 50)
So, Diane Perkins Castro’s book “Confessions of a Tomboy Grandma: On the Eternal Destiny of the Human Race” is another strong addition to the growing collection of works by Christian universalists that have been published in the 21st century. While it may not be as deep or intricately argued as the works of Hart or Talbott (and by no means intends to be), it can serve as a wonderful introduction to Christian universalism for people who just want to learn more or want to hear some good answers to the common criticisms of the universalist position. I highly recommend the book for those who are seeking a solid presentation of evangelical universalism.