A Good, New, Non-Arminian, Arminian Book!
by Roger Olson
If the header confuses you, the book’s lack of admission that it is promoting Arminianism should confuse you more. (As it does me.) So what’s the book? Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism edited by Southern Baptist scholars David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke. It contains 11 mostly excellent chapters by Southern Baptist leaders and scholars absolutely demolishing key Calvinist doctrines.
These chapters are versions of papers presented at the John 3:16 Conference held in Georgia in 2008. Some of the chapters are: “Congruent Election: Understanding Salvation from an ‘Eternal Now’ Perspective” by Richard Land, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal” by David L. Allen, “A Biblical and Theological Critique of Irresistible Grace” by Steve W. Lemke, “Was Calvin a ‘Calvinist’?” by Kevin Kennedy, “Reflections on Determinism and Human Freedom” by Jeremy A. Evans, and “Evil and God’s Sovereignty” by Bruce A. Little. The book is published by B&H Academic.
The is the best book against Calvinism that I know of in print right now. It suffers the weakness of being a multi-author, edited work, but individual chapters are excellent in that they are based on sound knowledge and present biblical and rational arguments against key Calvinist doctrines that should be convincing, I believe, to any open-minded person.
The only quarrel I have with the book is the editors’ and authors’ avoidance of the label “Arminian.” For the most part, their theologies are completely consistent with classical Arminianism. Yet, a couple of them criticize Arminianism and, in one case, I believe it is unfair criticism.
So what’s going on with that? In the South, especially, many Baptists are allergic to the label because it has come to be equated with denial of the doctrine of the security of the believer. As I argued in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, however, that is a doctrine about which Arminans can and do disagree. Arminius himself and the original Remonstrance never took a stand on this subject. I believe what one believes about it is not crucial to being Arminian (or not).
Until my own book is published sometime next year, I think this one stands as the best anti-Calvinism book in print. However, I would hesitate to recommend it to a student (e.g., undergraduate) because it is technical at points.
The title I have suggested to the publisher for my own book is: Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology. Of course, publishers assign titles to books. Authors can only recommend. The publisher will be a major Grand Rapids-based evangelical publishing house. A book possibly entitled Against Arminianism is to be released simultaneously with my book. It will be written by a leading scholarly exponent of high Calvinism. I just hope he gets Arminianism right! I don’t mind people disagreeing with my theology, but I rarely read or hear a Calvinist describing it correctly.
I don’t know about my book’s counterpart, but mine is popularly written, although based on my reading of numerous books by leading Calvinist scholars. I quote them throughout the book.
So some may wonder, why is Roger Olson, who says he values irenic discourse, writing a book against something–especially against a theology held by fellow evangelicals. I hope my book is irenic even as it is polemical. But it would never have occurred to me to write such a book before the rise of the “young, restless, Reformed” movement fueled by the sometimes furiously anti-Arminian rhetoric of some leading Calvinists who declared Arminianism “barely Christian,” “on the precipice of heresy,” “semi-Pelagian,” and not possibly evangelical. One can find Calvinists on the internet declaring Arminians not even Christians.
Well, that’s why I wrote Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. This forthcoming book was written as a follow up to that to counter claims by many Calvinists that it is more intellectually respectable, more biblical, more evangelical, more rational than alternatives. Some among the new Calvinists are claiming that five point Calvinism is simply “a transcript of the gospel itself.”
There was a time (in my own lifetime) when Calvinists and Arminians co-existed peacefully in the evangelical movement. While they may have engaged in friendly debates, there was no widespread attempt to marginalize either group. That has definitely changed and, in my experience, anyway, it has been mostly Calvinists who have attempted to persuade evangelical leaders that Arminianism is not authentically evangelical. I once worked under an administrator who was Arminian but began calling himself a “recovering Arminian” under the influence of leading Calvinists. Imagine how I felt about that as I worked under him.
I believe the time has come for a peaceful but powerful push back by Arminian evangelicals against the current wave of anti-Arminian sentiment among especially young, restless, Reformed Christians.
For original post, see http://rogereolson.com/2010/09/02/a-good-new-non-arminian-arminian-book/