Book Review: Against Calvinism by Roger Olson

In a for and against series of books, Dr. Michael Horton and Dr. Roger Olson both came out with a book on Calvinism. I read Dr. Michael Horton’s book first and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was a solid defense of Calvinism. I wish I could say that Roger Olson’s critique of Calvinism was as solid as Horton’s defense, but I’d be lying if I did.

On Page 23, Dr. Olson writes:

“I believe someone finally needs to stand up and in love firmly say “No!” to egregious statements about God’s sovereignty often made by Calvinists…God is thereby rendered morally ambiguous at best and a moral monster at worst. I have gone so far as to say that this kind of Calvinism…makes it difficult(at least for me) to see the difference between God and the devil.”

As if no one has ever came at Calvinism before. There are non-Calvinists from all denominations and walks of life that critique and/or are hostile towards Calvinism. Olson was definitely not the first to step up nor will he be the last. Olson’s confusion on the identity of the Calvinist God is an old argument, at least as old as John Wesley, who made the same objection. Olson reasons that because Calvinists “attribute everything to his will and control” then it would be hard to tell the difference.

Calvinists of old have already addressed this issue, but it deserves to be said again. Some theologies hold too high of a view of the devil. We are not in some gnostic manichaeism, where God and the Devil are in a conflict dueling it out in some type of dualistic battle. In reality, the Devil is nothing but a pawn in God’s chess game.

You will often see those with a high view of the Devil attribute things to him that the Bible never does. I’ve seen social media posts blaming the devil for pretty much anything. While I don’t think Dr. Olson would blame the devil if he dropped his hot pocket, I think his objection is cut from the same fabric of this type of thinking.

On Page 24, Dr. Olson states:

I have no interest in man-centered theology; I am intensely interested in worshiping a God who is truly good and above reproach of the Holocaust and all other evils too numerous to mention.

This ladies and gentleman, is what we call an appeal to emotion. While Olson says he has no interest in man-centered theology, he is obvious that his standards of “good” and “above reproach” are entirely based on a humanistic understanding of these terms. How does the Arminian escape the evil of the Holocaust? Is the God who valued free will more than the Jewish people (and others) more worthy of worship?

The rest of the book consisted of Dr. Olson talking about some key figures of Reformed theology (Calvin, Beza,  Edwards) and going through why he disagrees with the five points of Calvinism. To avoid making this post very long, since this is a book review and not a robust theological debate: Dr. Olson on page 140 states:

Steele and Thomas claim support for limited atonement in biblical passages…however, even a cursory glance at these passages reveal they do not limit the atonement but only say it is for and applied to God’s people.

Newsflash Dr. Olson, that is limiting the atonement in one way or another. Unless the assumption is that every single person is “God’s people”, when you say it is applied for God’s people (with the implication that those who are not God’s people are excluded) you’re limiting it to those who God has elected. The debate is to be had on the conditions (or lack thereof) on which God elects people.

Dr. Olson’s book was filled with emotional rhetoric and he didn’t really bring any new objections to Calvinism.

More Amygdala Than Cerebral: A Response to Evan Minton

A few days ago, I responded to an article written on Cerebral Faith by Evan Minton. He has now responded to my response, so I will now respond to his response of my response. Under the subheading of “preliminary issues” Evan merely restates some basic Arminian presuppositions on John 3:16 but concedes that “All I’ll say is that “world” and “all people” or “everyone” can indeed mean less than all humanity when the context warrants or indicates it.” (bold his.)  He then goes on to presuppose a universal salvific will, a one will view and the intentions of God into atonement, admits to doing so and then says the verse fits in this pre-made theological box and therefore sees no reason why John 3:16 would fit in with a limited atonement scheme. (Hint: How about those folks who are already condemned in John 3:18?)
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Wiggling Out of An Arminian Trap: A Response to Cerebral Faith

Evan Minton, of cerebral faith has a great zeal for the Lord, he is a studious man and I believe he really thinks what he writes on his blog. Evan and I go way back, when I use to blog on a blogspot platform too! Evan had mentioned a few times personally that he didn’t want to bother with Calvinism much anymore, giving me the impression he was ready to agree to disagree, which would be fine with me. However, to my dismay, he came out with an article that sounded more like a diss track than an engagement over theological disagreement.
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Shut Up, Wesley!

“Shut Up, Wesley!” [1]

John Wesley, the 18th-century Anglican preacher, was one of the best Arminianism ever had to offer. For awhile, I thought Wesley was tame in his rhetoric when it came to Calvinism. However, I was very wrong, despite Wesley being a very intelligent man, he sounds like a rabid internet Arminian in several areas. Now, far be it from me to judge someone who said something while they were angry or ignorant of something, but Arminians always flaunt the holiness of John Wesley, showing that Calvinism cannot produce someone as good as him. His rhetoric and arguments against Calvinism were so bad though, I had to check to make sure that they weren’t falsely attributed to him. Before I go into the quotes, I do believe John Wesley was a Christian, the goal of my post isn’t to smear Wesley’s character, but to address his arguments. Despite the hostility towards each other, George Whitefield said of Wesley

One of Whitfield’s followers (who obviously still held great animosity against Wesley) said to Whitfield, “We won’t see John Wesley in the heaven, will we?” Whitfield humbly replied “Yes, you’re right, we won’t see him in heaven. He will be so close to the Throne of God and we will be so far away, that we won’t be able to see him!”[2]

So, with that out of the way, let’s dig into Wesley’s quotes about Calvinism.

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Open Theism: The Consistent Arminianism

“The only consistent Arminian is an Open Theist” – Dr. James White[1]

While the quote above may sound like just a bit of Calvinist rhetoric, there is actually a lot of truth to that statement. Now, anyone can say X belief leads to Y belief, but I think there is a convincing case that the Arminian wants to have his cake and eat it too in his objections to Calvinism. My first observation is that they tend to be objections to Christianity in general. When they employ these types of objections, it’s like they forget that they believe that God is omniscient. A few examples should suffice.
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Arminian NOT Armenian

One of the most frequent annoyances I have with theological debates is not necessarily the debates themselves, but the lack of proper usage of descriptors for theological positions. Calvinism being confused for fatalism being first and foremost in my mind. However, even some of my fellow Calvinists find a way to do something just as ridiculous, perhaps even more so. That ridiculous act is confusing “Armenian” with “Arminian.”
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