Roger Olson Responds to the Dividing Line Review of His Book

Roger Olson just posted a blog that is clearly a response to my comments about his book (without, of course, naming me: nothing new about that, given, of course, that he “on principle” refuses to read anything I write—evidently he can listen to what I say, just not read what I write). Here is his response.

Now, let’s remember what he actually wrote in his book:

One day, at the end of a class session on Calvinism’s doctrine of God’s sovereignty, a student asked me a question I had put off considering. He asked: “If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?” I knew the only possible answer without a moment’s thought, even though I knew it would shock many people. I said no, that I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster. Of course, I realize Calvinists do not think their view of God’s sovereignty makes him a moral monster, but I can only conclude they have not thought it through to its logical conclusion or even taken sufficiently seriously the things they say about God and evil and innocent suffering in the world. Olson, Roger E. (2011-10-11). Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology (p. 85). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Now, unless words do not have meaning, it seems Olson’s view is clear, and the question was clear, too. The student asked Olson not “are Calvinists inconsistent in not thinking through their beliefs?” but “IF it was revealed to you in a way you couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?” The question is clear. And Olson’s response was “no.”

In his new blog article, Olson seems to be back-pedaling. He writes,

I don’t know if this will help at all, but I will clarify my statement this way: IF it were revealed to me that God is as TULIP Calvinism says AND as he must logically be if all the good and necessary consequences of TULIP are true of him, I would not worship him.

Now, of course, we found Olson’s reasoning on his “good and necessary consequences” to be significantly less than well thought out and compelling, but leaving that aside, what does this newly revised statement mean in light of the student’s actual question? It is hard to say. Olson simply does not have an accurate view of the position he denies, nor does he allow for the proper definitions we self-consciously use to stand when he engages in his criticisms. He writes,

I have been saying for a long time now that IF I WERE A CALVINIST I would have to believe things most Calvinists do not believe. Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc. I think some of the things they believe about God’s sovereignty flatly contradict those characteristics.

I.e., “I am much brighter than you folks. Though I ignore the vast majority of your exegesis and the deeper aspects of your discussions, I have actually thought this through far better than any of you ever have. I have gone deeper than Calvin, than Beza, than Zanchius, than Turretin, than the Westminster divines, than Owen, than Edwards, than Warfield, and so IF I WERE A CALVINIST I really wouldn’t be a Calvinist at all, because I would believe ‘things most Calvinists do not believe.'” Brilliant! I am glad we got that all clear.

The fact is the answer given to the question as it was asked flowed from the heart of a person unwilling to submit to the final authority of Scripture. Roger Olson has authorities outside of the divine revelation found in Scripture, and he has told God just how far he is willing to go for God to be worthy of his worship, and no farther. If he cannot see how God can decree that Joseph be sold into slavery in Egypt so as to save many people alive, establish the very heart and soul of the Jewish nation, its laws, and its prophetic witness to the coming Messiah, all because he cannot differentiate between a God who sovereignly acts in time with pure motives in the same actions wherein sinful men act upon impure motives, well then, so much for Roger Olson worshipping THAT God! Take that, Sovereign King! That’ll teach You!

Olson let his true feelings show (at least I am open and up front about my true feelings: Olson’s rejection of Calvinism is based upon shallow thinking and man-centered traditions, and the utter lack of even the beginning of serious interaction with historic Reformed writings, let alone the provision of any serious exegesis at all in his book, proves this) in concluding his blog article:

It seems to me that people who don’t understand what I mean when I say that if I believed what Calvinists believe I could not worship God are missing the point. They need to start over and hear me clearly and consider what I really mean and not what they jumped to the conclusion that I mean. Or maybe for some of them this is all just too deep.

Yes, it is just too deep! That is probably why he will never engage in serious defense of his claims in his book, especially his utterly indefensible statements about the Greek of 1 Timothy 2:4, against anyone who is his equal, or superior, in the field of Greek grammar and exegesis. If you are a Calvinist, you cannot get “that deep” by definition! I think we heard the original statements in the book quite clearly. If Dr. Olson would like to withdraw his statement and restate it, that is fine, but please, he should not accuse the rest of us of “missing the point” when his own words expressed themselves quite plainly.