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on 30 July 2013
I see this as an introduction to Calvinism, I decided as an ordinary Christian to search for a small book that specialises in talking about Calvinism. I have always been uncomfortable with double predestination and have had a really hard time being called names and condemned by hyper-Calvinists. I heard various Professors and teachers criticising Calvinism, so I decided to study the subject more deeply. I originally came from a neutral position, not even knowing what's Calvinism, but now that I have read parts of Calvin's Institutes. I'd say this book is only introductory but it is very practical and readable. One flaw is that it lacks specific Scriptural citations, it's all reason in here. I love reason and think it's integral to Theology, but without the weight of the Word it still appears dry to me. On the other hand, if you are truly interested in the subject, Dave Hunt's WHAT LOVE IS THIS? is a much better bet. Roger Olson also pointed to a few other useful works in his "Against Calvinism" (which are beneficial to theologians and the curious alike).
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on 21 March 2016
Great little book that explains with great clarity some of the strange convoluted and unnecessary conundrums that arise out of a particular view of God that the scripture doesn't warrent. And that, it appears that in order to salvage the doctrine violence is done to scripture and harm to the character of God. Isn't God sovereign over how He deploys his sovereignty. Aren't we told, God is love? Well not if you follow what this books has to say that a particular popular type of Calvinism ends up saying today. I gave it only four stars as in some places it felt as if the author were repeating something he'd said in a previous chapter, or within the same chapter, but if I am honest even that seems harsh as I'd preferred to have given it 41/2 stars if I could. Anyway respectful well researched, clearly presented and utterly apt and well presented book.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2012
The title of the book tells you exactly where this book will take the reader. I thought that Roger Olson has done a good job with the explanation of non- Calvinist theology. There is a companion volume written by a different author which approaches this position from a Calvinist point of view. I feel that Olson's book is the more convincing of the two. Few Christians are entirely neutral about this issue so a convinced Calvinist would probably find many reasons to dismiss Olson's theological position. But the book is well organised, clear and a good read and I recommend it.
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on 20 March 2016
Reading this book from the standpoint of a convinced agnostic, it vividly illustrated for me the utter foolishness of believing that a 'god' can be comprehended by words - especially by the words of the bible or any so-called 'holy' book.
I doubt whether this was the aim of the author, but this book did more to convince me that any form of theology is a thorough waste of time than I believed possible.
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on 22 January 2013
This is the sister volume to Michael Horton's `For Calvinism', which I reviewed some time ago. Roger Olson has clearly drawn the short straw in this project: It is always more difficult to write a constructive critique of a view which you believe to be just plain wrong than to write an apologia for you own belief system. It might have been fairer to ask Olson to write something entitled `For Arminianism' but, of course, he has already written something very like that.

In the first two chapters, Olson explains the context for his opposition to (certain forms of) Calvinism and outlines the complexity of the Reformed and Calvinist family of Christian traditions. This is essentially a response to the Calvinism of the so called young, restless Reformed thinkers (e.g. John Piper) who have spearheaded the re-emergence of a radical high (or even hyper) Calvinism in the past three decades. Olson insists that they do not have a monopoly on the term `Reformed' (his own theological hero, Arminius, was also a Reformed theologian) or even `Calvinist' (Olson cites the Dutch theologian Gerrits Berkouwer as an example of a moderate Calvinist who would take issue with this new hyper-Calvinism) and challenges some of their more extreme statements about God's sovereignty. In his own words:

`I believe someone needs finally to stand up and in love firmly say "No!" to egregious statements about God's sovereignty often made by Calvinists. Taken to their logical conclusion, that even hell and all who will suffer there eternally are foreordained by God, 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, which attributes everything to God's will and control, makes it difficult (at least for me) to see the difference between God and the devil.' (p. 23)

In Chapter 3 he defines what is commonly understood as Calvinism today in terms of the five points of Calvinism (or the doctrines of grace). His basic argument is that Calvinism has to be inconsistent in order to avoid making God the author of evil, and he expands on this in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 4, `Yes to God's Sovereignty; No to Divine Determinism', affirms a `weak' view of divine sovereignty, namely that nothing happens without God's permission. He goes on to argue that a stronger view of sovereignty would make God the sole cause of all that happens and thus undermine the contingency of creation (p. 72). He traces this latter view from Zwingli through Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, R.C. Sproul, and Lorraine Boettner to Paul Helm and John Piper. As he sees it, this understanding of divine sovereignty is in tension with the goodness of God; taken to its logical conclusion it must lead to fatalism and an implicit belief that God is the ultimate cause of evil.

In Chapter 5, `Yes to Election; No to Double Predestination', Olson affirms the unconditional election of God's people as a whole and the conditional election of individuals. But he rejects the Calvinist notion of reprobation: in his view, that God pardons one sinner and condemns another who has committed the same sin makes God capricious rather than compassionate.

In Chapter 6, he argues that the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement is a deduction from other points of Calvinism (specifically unconditional election and irresistible grace), which lacks scriptural support. He maintains that it contradicts the love of God by making God partial and, indeed, actively antipathetic towards those he has not chosen. Olsen also devotes some space to refuting the Calvinist argument that the only alternative to limited atonement is universalism.

In Chapter 7, Olson questions Calvinist claims that any human contribution to salvation (synergism) reduces it from grace to work and again he devotes some space to correcting what he sees as Calvinist misrepresentations of synergism as covert Pelagianism.

Olson concludes his critique with a chapter summarizing the conundrums of Calvinism and a couple of appendices dealing with some Calvinist responses to his central criticisms and various Calvinist claims.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of writing a critique of any theological tradition is attacking the belief without attacking the believer. Roger Olson has done an admirable job of challenging the implications Calvinism while acknowledging that most Calvinists do not press their beliefs to their logical conclusion. He concludes that `evangelical Calvinists are some of the best Christians in the world. I just think they are terribly inconsistent and teach and believe doctrines contrary to scripture, most of Christian tradition, and reason' (p. 179).

This volume makes a very readable companion to its sister volume by Horton. Nevertheless, just as I remained unconvinced by Horton's very attractive presentation of Calvinism so I reached the end of Olson's text feeling more than a little uncomfortable about the Arminian alternative. Is it perhaps the case that both Calvinism (at least in its modern `restless' incarnation) and Arminianism are tainted by the Pelagianism that theologians like Kathryn Tanner and Colin Gunton have perceived to pervade post-Reformation (and certainly post-Enlightenment) Western theology?

(Perhaps I should add that I received this book free from Zondervan as part of their blogger review programme.)
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on 23 August 2014
Item arrived timely and as described. Very pleasant purchase indeed. Many thanks.
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on 13 March 2014
Yet another book attacking the sovereignty of God in rejecting the clear teachings of Christian doctrine. Arminianianism is a damnable heresy undermining churches throughout the world . By the Grace of God, some of us have been set free from this vile heresy . Arminianism.................Having been condemned by the Synod of Dordrecht (Dort) in 1618-1619, Arminianism is indeed a heresy, a serious departure from the historic faith of the Christian church. “Arminius, a theological professor at the University of Leyden, departed from the Reformed faith in his teaching concerning five important points. He taught conditional election on the ground of foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. These views were rejected by the Synod...” (from the introduction to the Canons of Dort in the Psalter Hymnal, 1959 ed.).

The Bible teaches that God elected His people in Christ before time began. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world...” (Eph. 1:4). This election was out of God’s mere free grace and love, with nothing in the creature as a condition or cause inducing Him to do this. “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)... So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:11, 16).

The Bible teaches that Christ did His atoning work on behalf of His elect people, and no others. “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). “I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:15). “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9).

The Bible teaches total depravity, that is, that man, in every part of his nature (intellect, emotions and will) is hopelessly ruined by the fall. Fallen man is dead in trespasses and sins and cannot give himself spiritual birth. Regeneration is entirely the working of our gracious, sovereign God. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13).

The Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign and all-powerful. “...the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.... and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:32, 35). “The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power...” (Ps. 110:2-3). “For who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6). If God’s will cannot be resisted, then His grace cannot be resisted either; His grace is irresistible.

The Bible teaches that Christ’s true sheep have eternal life and shall never perish. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:27-29).

Since the teachings of Arminianism are contrary to Scripture, they are manifestly false. They are serious perversions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one gospel, not two. Anyone who preaches any other gospel is preaching a false gospel and is accursed. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9).

Jesus Christ is the true and faithful witness (Rev. 3:14). Since He has chosen that His gospel be preached by fallible men (Ac. 9:15; Eph. 4:11), it is evident that there is no perfect preacher among the sons of men, born by ordinary generation. A true preacher might make an honest mistake, but he will not intentionally deceive or distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is the unerring discerner of men’s hearts who will infallibly judge the motivations of all His ministers at the final day. “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “damnable” as “worthy of condemnation” or “subject to divine condemnation.” Surely all false doctrine—including Arminianism—is both worthy of condemnation and will ultimately be subject to divine condemnation at the final judgment. Since the Arminian doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace are contrary to Scripture, they are false and worthy of condemnation: therefore damnable.

Is Arminianism a heresy? Yes.

Are Arminian preachers heretics? In a sense, yes, though most have not been condemned as such by a church council having the authority to make such a determination.

Can an Arminian preacher be a “damnable heretic” who preaches a false gospel of man’s free will instead of the true gospel of God’s sovereign grace? Yes, surely.

Is it possible for an Arminian preacher to preach the false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace, while still (inconsistently) calling upon his hearers to trust in Jesus Christ alone, to the saving of their souls? I believe so.

Is it possible to believe the false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace, while still (inconsistently) trusting in Jesus Christ alone for one’s salvation. Perhaps, but ultimately this is up to God to judge.

Is Arminianism a damnable heresy? Yes. The false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace originate in the pit of hell with the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). They are contrary to Scripture and worthy of condemnation. This is a serious matter. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1).

Are pastors who teach Arminianism damnable heretics who are not Christians and who will certainly go to hell? Ultimately, this is up to God to decide, and He surely will decide—on a case-by-case basis. The only ones who go to heaven are those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. It would seem to be very difficult, if not impossible, to be trusting in Jesus Christ alone if you hold to conditional election on the ground of foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. Those who hold to these false doctrines consistently must believe that their salvation depends, in part, on their own merit—and persons who are depending on their own merit instead of the merit of Christ are on their way to perdition. If you hold, for example, that God elected you because He foresaw that you would have faith, then why do you have faith, while someone else does not? Don’t you really believe that your faith is meritorious—you merited salvation by your faith, while your neighbor did not have faith, and thus did not merit salvation? If you hold this consistently you are not trusting on the merit of Christ alone but upon your own merit, and you are lost. The biblical Christian believes that salvation is all of grace; otherwise all men are lost. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
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