Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 11:2 (Fall 2014) p. 80
Against Calvinism. By Roger Olson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism is by design the companion volume to Michael Horton’s For Calvinism.1 To their credit, both authors are irenic in spirit while disagreeing on the issues. The titles in this intentional pairing of books, while attractive for marketing purposes in highlighting the pros and cons of the Calvinist perspective, is unfortunate. Presumably, Horton is primarily for Christ and Christianity, not for Calvinism; likewise, Roger Olson is not really “against” his Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ.2 A similar pair of books with equally negative titles (Why I Am Not an Arminian by Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams and Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph F. Dongell)3 was published seven years earlier. Another concern with this particular pairing is that it privileges Calvinism by making its doctrines the “issue.” The publisher might address this asymmetrical imbalance by publishing a similar pairing of books entitled For Arminianism and Against Arminianism. Furthermore, this dialog would be greatly enhanced by offering other alternatives to this polarity—including the perspective of the majority of Baptists and other evangelicals who are neither fully Calvinist nor Arminian.4 Since so many theological topics and thinkers are addressed in each of these companion volumes, both texts would have been enhanced with the addition of an index.
Olson was Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Seminary at the time of writing the book, and was reared in the Open Bible tradition within Arminianism, which fits neatly within neither the Reformed nor Wesleyan streams of Arminianism. Olson’s writing is more focused than Horton’s because he is not called upon to describe or defend his own position (as he does
JBTM 11:2 (Fall 2014) p. 81
in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities). In this volume, Olson is focused on pointing out concerns with Horton’s Calvinism. And, for the most part, he does an effective job in doing so.
The first three chapters provide a helpful overview of historic and contemporary Calvinism. In chapter one, Olson addresses why the discussion of Calvinism is important. He surveys the impact of “New Calvinism,” with its “Piper cubs” who are “young, restless, and Reformed” (
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