Saturday, December 31, 2011

Against Calvinism

I have become more and more convinced that only reading the thoughts and opinions of people you already agree with is a sure route to arrogance and ignorance. God's Word is inerrent but my interpretation of His Word is very susceptible to flaw and mistake.

I do not hide the fact that I hold to the doctrines of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners, and to Calvinism as a theological framework of Scripture. That being said, I am not inerrant. Calvin was not inerrant. Edwards, Owen, Berkhoff, Horton, Piper and even Sproul (GASP!!) are not inerrant. They very well could be mistaken on many aspects of truth, and I felt it would do me well to consider the opposing view on important matters.

Enter Roger Olson and his new book, Against Calvinism(published in pair with Michael Horton's, For Calvinism). I have heard of Olson from friends and trusted that this would be a readable introduction to Arminian objections to Calvinist doctrine.

Praise God, I was correct. This was exactly what I thought it would be. A concise, readable and fair(if a bit caricaturistic at points) counter to "radical reformed"(Olson) thought.
Olson takes the reader through the U,L and I of the Calvinist TULIP, spending most of his time arguing against the Calvinist doctrine but also littering in some proactive arguments of Arminian interpretation of these issues.

I want to commend this book to the inquiring reader, but I do have some reservations I want to put forth first. At times, Olson's tone feels condescending. I am not sure if it is simply because I disagree with a majority of what he is saying, inserting a negative tone where it is really not. Also, it feels at time like he purposely misses the point of a Calvinist interpretation so he can further propulgate a misrepresentation(something he accuses Sproul of doing not 3 paragraphs after one transgression of his own).

Beyond this, Olson seems to hold opponents to a higher standard in their use of analogy than he does himself and elevates certain aspects of God(ie, love) over all others while accusing the "radical reformed" of doing the very same thing. Olson does not seem willing to embrace the fact that his own theology has shortcomings, but I am not sure if this is an indictment of the book because it may be simply beyond the scope of the text to engage any pitfalls in Arminianism.

The greatest shortcoming of the book is the shortcoming I see in Arminian theology. In it(the book and Arminianism), God seems bound to the will of man and God's revelation seems bound to human understanding. Both of these are great stumbling blocks to me. However, Olson does highlight some issues in "radical reformed" thought that are worth investigating and possbibly reforming.

So, all this being said, please read this book. If you are completely unfamiliar with Calvinism, maybe Horton's For Calvinism would be a prerequsite to better know where the author interprets facts rather than just reporting facts. But read it.

Read it knowing the author has an agenda. Read it knowing the author is a believer and is very educated in reformed thinking. Read it and test the claims by Scripture, not emotion or logic, but by God's very Word. Against Calvinism, even in the areas where I believe it is greatly flawed, is well worth the time you will invest in reading it.