Another book is hitting the shelves aimed at the Reformed faith, this one by well known Arminian author Roger E. Olson, who teaches at Baylor University. Against Calvinism evidently is part of a two book series, Michael Horton having written For Calvinism. I am sure we will be hearing all about the book over the next few months. I have kept an eye on Olson’s writings for a while, and to be honest, I do not expect a great deal from this book. His arguments are primarily philosophical, and given his less-than-conservative bent, he is really not in a good position to make a major impact upon most Reformed folks, at least those who are Reformed by conviction. (I am assuming Reformed by conviction includes a very high view of Scripture and even the dreaded “i-word,” inerrancy). But I was directed to his announcement of the forthcoming book having arrived (a pre-publication copy), and I found two of his comments interesting. Here is the first:
September 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm
True. But if they are real Calvinists (and I explain what I mean by that in the book) they believe a doctrine of providence called “divine determinism” (I explain that in the book also) that absolutely rules out an conditionality of either election or reprobation. Besides (as I also explain in the book) IF election to salvation is absolutely unconditional, God COULD elect everyone to salvation. If he doesn’t (but could) he’s a moral monster. The only way around that is to believe that both individual election and reprobation are conditional.
It sounds like this is a summary of his main argument. Let me put it in plain language. IF God is completely free in the matter of salvation, and IF God exercises His freedom in the salvation of those who actually deserve nothing but His just wrath, and IF God’s freedom includes His ability to save or to justly damn, THEN God is a “moral monster.” Miss the leap over the massive chasm of reasoning there? Me too. But it is not the first time I have seen that kind of reasoning, and it will not be the last. Whether there will be any meaningful interaction with the necessary discussion of primary and secondary causes, creaturely freedom vs. autonomy, etc., we will see (I have placed the Kindle edition on the Ministry Resource List, and should someone obtain it for me, I will get through it on a long ride, unless it doesn’t come out before I leave for Australia, then all bets are off). Of course, the real question is, “Where is the exegesis?” That is where I think we will once again be left wanting.
A little later in the comment thread we encountered this:
Daniel Ashworth, Jr. says:
September 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm
I look forward to reading the book. I was wondering, did you read Norm Geisler’s “Chosen but Free” and James White’s response “The Potter’s Freedom” in your preparation for your text? I’d be interested in your thoughts on these two texts.
September 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm
Nope. Haven’t read either one. As a matter of principle I don’t read anything by Norman Geisler or James White. :-)
While there is a “smiley face” at the end of this statement, I confess I have no idea what he means. It is too vague a statement to really understand. It could be sarcastic, as in, “Of course I have,” or it could be serious. I have left a comment asking, but as of this evening, it has not been approved, or replied to.
My question has been deleted without response. I have written via e-mail, but again, no response. James Anderson, a Oneness advocate, also asked If Olson just does not read apologists. Olson responded, “Not at all. I have read and occasionally still read apologetic literature.” So it remains a mystery as to why Olson made this comment. I am wondering if, perhaps, the fact that both Norman Geisler and myself are ardent inerrantists might be the issue (Olson would hardly qualify as a strong conservative).