by Roger Olson
I know I’ve talked about this before here, but many of my subscribers and readers are new since then. So, before my book Against Calvinism comes out about one month from now I want to make clear (as I do in the book) what the title means and doesn’t mean.
First, I am not “against Calvinists,” except insofar as some of them misrepresent other theologies and/or claim that Calvinism is the only authentically evangelical (or Christian) theology.
Second, I am not against Reformed theology. I demonstrate in my book that “Reformed” and “Calvinist” are not strictly synonymous. I cite many Reformed theologians who are not Calvinists in any traditional sense of that word. The World Communion of Reformed Churches includes many denominations that are not Calvinist. (For example, the Waldensian Churches and the Remonstrant Brotherhood.)
Third, I am not against modified, moderate, inconsistent Calvinism, except insofar as it is inconsistent.
Fourth, when I say I am “against Calvinism,” I make no value judgment regarding the quality of Calvinists’ faith or spirituality.
Fifth, I am “against Calvinism” that is “high, federal Calvinism” of the TULIP variety (including double predestination or what James Daane called “decretal theology”), because it either falls into inconsistency or implies that God is a monster (or both).
Sixth, even with regard to that theology, I am not against it in its proper settings (e.g., confessionally Calvinist churches), except that I disagree with it, which is one of the reasons I don’t belong to them. But in this sense of “against” I am no more against it than I am against, say, episcopal church government.
Seventh, the Calvinism I am against is that high, federal Calvinism with its decretal theology that bleeds out of confessionally Calvinist churches into churches and Christian organizations that are not confessionally Calvinist and attempts to impose itself on them as necessary to fulfill Christian faith. (A very frequent occurrence these days).
Eighth, when I say I am “against Calvinism” I do not mean I would use whatever influence I have to exclude Calvinists (even high, federal, decretal Calvinists of the TULIP variety) from multi-denominational evangelical organizations. I would only attempt to persuade them to re-consider their theology as I assume they will do with me.
Ninth, I am not against any Calvinist students or colleagues; I just reserve the right to not be Calvinist and to attempt to persuade them to reconsider their Calvinism, without in any way demeaning them or using any form of coercion in the process.
Tenth, and finally, I am “against Calvinism” that is unreflective, which is the case with many of the “young, restless, Reformed” young people. They are being swept up in a movement without seeing its weaknesses or flaws, and without knowing there are good reasons equally committed Christians don’t adopt Calvinism, and without knowing there are other theological options that are biblically sound, traditional (in terms of the ancient churches before Augustine), reasonable, and that are consistent with evangelical spirituality (e.g., petitionary prayer).