'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.' (Galatians 5:1)
Friday, June 10, 2005
Book Review: 'Why I Am Not an Arminian'
Robert Peterson and Michael Williams have done the Christian community a great service with their book Why I Am Not an Arminian. Despite the fact that it is an supposed to be an argument against Arminianism, its greatest value is in the clarity with which the authors put forward the theology of Calvinism. This alone makes the book well worth reading.
Proponents of Calvinism and Arminianism have been at loggerheads for centuries over the issue of salvation, in particular. Calvinism has often been summarised in five points: 1. Total depravity of man. 2. Unconditional election. 3. Limited atonement. 4. Irresistible grace. 5. Perseverance of the saints.
The most controversial of these are points 2, 3, and 4. Point 2 asserts that God has predetermined only some individuals to be saved completely independently of their own free will and left the remainder to suffer eternal punishment. Point 3 asserts that Christ's blood atonement on Calvary was limited only to the individuals that God has decided will be saved. And, finally, point 4 asserts that God's grace overpowers the will of those God has elected to save and they will inevitably accept God and be saved.
For those of us who tend towards the Arminian side of theology, these assertions are completely unacceptable. Arminians affirm free will, universal atonement, and the possibility of people refusing the grace of God. Peterson and Williams take up all these points in their book and show why, as Calvinists, they cannot accept them on biblical and theological grounds. The historical background to the Calvinist/Arminian controversy is also very interesting.
The book is also an excellent model for dialogue between those who disagree. The authors are respectful of their theological "opponents" and genuinely wish to engage with Arminian thought. Ultimately, I found the book unpersuasive. Some of the Arminian positions they describe I would not hold to so some of their arguments against Arminianism did not resonate with my views. There is a companion book to this one entitled Why I Am Not a Calvinistwritten from the Arminian point of view. (Read my review of this book here). Why I Am Not an Arminian makes for excellent, informative, thought-provoking reading.