Ben Henshaw, Review of F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation

, posted by SEA

Classical Arminianism is one of the best resources available for those who are interested in Arminian theology. F. Leroy Forlines is a senior theologian from the Free Will Baptist camp and this volume represents Arminian theology from a tradition that follows closely to the writings of Arminius himself. This book is an edited version of Forlines’ systematic theology, The Quest For Truth, minus the material that is not directly related to soteriology from the Classical Arminian perspective.

Forlines’ writing style is conversational and easy to read and understand even while exploring difficult exegetical, theological and philosophical concepts. Forlines masterfully argues from an “influence and response” model of God’s relationship and interactions with man as opposed to the Calvinist “cause and effect” model. Forlines frames the debate on the nature of free will in the context of what it means to be a person. For Forlines, the Arminian accounting of free will is essential to personhood.

Forlines extensively quotes and interacts with numerous Calvinist writers on philosophical and exegetical grounds. The book is primarily concerned with exegesis of the primary texts addressing justification, atonement, foreknowledge, election and predestination. Forlines goes head to head with John Piper on Rom. 9 and demonstrates that the Calvinist interpretation of Rom. 9 is not in harmony with the overall context and misses the point of Paul’s main concern in Rom. 9-11. He navigates numerous passages that Calvinists appeal to in trying to establish unconditional election and shows that these passages do not provide the evidence Calvinists need to support their assumptions. Worse yet for the Calvinist, Forlines shows that many of these passages work against any concept of unconditional election and actually establish conditional election instead.

Forlines argues for the penal-satisfaction model of atonement and does a great job showing that the satisfaction model is compatible with Arminian theology and universal atonement. Indeed, Arminius was a strong proponent of penal-satisfaction atonement. Forlines sees justification as being grounded solely on the imputation of both Christ’s active and passive obedience and righteousness.

Forlines also has a great section arguing for conditional perseverance and the real possibility of apostasy from saving faith. He sees apostasy as irrevocable and sees a strong connection between the act of apostasy and the presumptuous sin of the Old Testament. Sadly, while Forlines’ detailed appendix on this important connection can be found in The Quest for Truth, it is missing from this edited volume.

While I do not agree with Forlines on everything (e.g. in my opinion he rejects the corporate view of election too hastily, largely based on a misunderstanding of all that the view entails), his work has had a tremendous influence on my thinking and can easily be classified as one of the most important works on Arminian theology in the modern era. Arminians will be encouraged and enriched by it, and Calvinists will be challenged by it. It is one of the first books I would recommend to anyone looking to gain a firm grasp on what Classical Arminian theology entails. Forlines’ irenic style also stands as a tremendous example for all of us in how to engage a heated debate with the utmost respect and Christian charity. I highly recommend this work.