I loved Against Calvinism, but the author, Dr. Roger E. Olson, is just too nice. He gives Calvinists too much benefit of the doubt, exercises too much gentlemanly restraint, and suffers fools much too gladly. He carefully delineates the sundry factions and flavors of Calvinism and Reformed theology. He compasses land and sea to not misrepresent their views. He judiciously avoids the use of terms offensive to them. He even counts some of them among his friends.
Yet, he does not let them off the hook. You, too, will love this book if you've been waiting for some learned response to the outrageous claims of Calvinism. Dr. Olson has spent the better part of his life studying the primary sources of Reformed and Calvinist theology, both ancient and contemporary. Though an Arminian, Dr. Olson, as a graduate student, preacher, and professor for over thirty years, has made the study of Calvinism his passion. He has worked with Calvinists, voted to hire them and give them tenure, debated with them, and invited them to lecture to his students. When he says that John Piper merely repackages what Jonathan Edwards preached over two centuries ago, believe him. He knows of what he speaks. Against Calvinism does exactly what the author intended: to demonstrate “why Calvinism is not biblically, theologically, or logically tenable”(p. 101).
Dr. Olson especially aims his arguments toward New Calvinism and the “young, restless Reformed”(p. 16) leaders and preachers: John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Loraine Boettner, James Boice, and Michael Horton. As Dr. Olson says, “the Calvinist account of God's sovereignty ...makes God the author of sin, evil, and innocent suffering”, impugning His character. The Calvinist God is, “at best morally ambiguous and at worst a moral monster hardly distinguishable from the devil”(p. 84).
Dr. Olson pulls three petals off the TULIP and tramples them under his incisive and reasoned philosophical feet. Nothing is left of the “U” in the TULIP (which is unconditional election), the “L” (limited atonement), and the “I” (irresistible grace) once Dr. Olson exposes their inconsistencies and outright contradictions. He somewhat ignores “T” and “P” (total depravity and perseverance of the saints) probably for brevity's sake. He relentlessly points out how Calvinists cherry-pick their definitions of words to prove their points. He argues, “that high Calvinism falls into contradictions; it cannot be made intelligible” (p. 25).
No doubt, readers will learn of things they never knew existed, as I did. For example, Dr. Olson reveals that some groups who do not hold to the TULIP at all could be considered Reformed, depending on who is passing out the Reformed labels. Some hold tightly a petal or two and loosely a few others. Some see a difference between God's decretive will and His will of disposition (p. 143). What enthralled me was the discussion on scholasticism, infralapsarianism, and supralapsarianism.
Against Calvinism is aimed at preachers and lay people who are interested in such things anyway, so I'm not quibbling to say it's not an easy read. Yet, if there's anything lacking, it would be more of the common man's view of such a system of theology. Dr. Olson points out the “Piper cubs” love to imbibe such erudition and theologians like him must engage them on the philosophical battlefield using their terms and their proof texts against them. Those terms and arguments are a little lofty for most of us. I'm glad someone of the caliber of Dr. Olson has joined the battle for us. He lays out some simpler arguments that the rest of us can swallow and that, too, is welcome. – D. Wayne Wilson, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Calvinist theology has been debated and promoted for centuries. But is it a theology that should last? Roger Olson suggests that Calvinism, also commonly known as Reformed theology, holds an unwarranted place in our list of accepted theologies. In Against Calvinism, readers will find scholarly arguments explaining why Calvinist theology is incorrect and how it affects God’s reputation. Olson draws on a variety of sources, including Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, to support his critique of Calvinism and the more historically rich, biblically faithful alternative theologies he proposes. Addressing what many evangelical Christians are concerned about today—so-called “new Calvinism,” a movement embraced by a generation labeled as “young, restless, Reformed” —Against Calvinism is the only book of its kind to offer objections from a non-Calvinist perspective to the current wave of Calvinism among Christian youth. As a companion to Michael Horton’s For Calvinism, readers will be able to compare contrasting perspectives and form their own opinions on the merits and weaknesses of Calvinism.