Finally arrived–Against Calvinism!

Finally arrived–Against Calvinism! September 23, 2011

I hold in my grubby little hands the first ever copy of Against Calvinism (outside the publisher’s warehouse).  I received my author’s advance copy yesterday.

You know, when you’ve worked on a book for two years (and actually longer if one includes the years of preparing to write such a book) and gone through the ordeal of reading the edited manuscript and answering editors’ questions and making revisions and reading page proofs, etc., etc., the arrival of the book itself is kind of anti-climactic.  I finished the manuscript well over a year ago and submitted to the publisher.  It doesn’t usually take that long to get a book published, but for some reason….

During the year leading up to my writing of the book (which took nine days) I read numerous books by Calvinists about Calvinism and Reformed theology.  I totally immersed myself (I am a Baptist after all) in solid Calvinist literature.  I wanted to make sure I knew Calvinism inside and out and so read many books that repeated each other looking for that one morsel of something distinctive to one Calvinist author–perhaps an explanation of a murky point of Calvinism other authors don’t explain.  It was quite the exercise in cognitive dissonance!  Nothing I read even slightly caused me to re-think my stand against Calvinism.

The book is itself not very impressive looking.  That’s on purpose.  We (the publisher and I) want it to be the kind of book that doesn’t intimidate anyone.  It’s just over 200 pages (with somewhat small print,unfortunately) and paperback and cheap.  My whole purpose was to write a book that young people attracted to Calvinism could afford and read with ease.  But I didn’t want to write something shallow and easily shot down, either, so it’s not written in too popular a style.  I quote Calvinists a lot and go fairly deeply into underlying issues such as nominalism versus realism (always explained, of course) and different views of free will such as compatibilism and non-compatibilism.    I realize those sections may turn some readers off, but if I didn’t cover them critics would score me for those omissions.  It was a delicate balance and I hope I achieved it.

I had several trusted people read the manuscript and comment on it.  Some of them were not theologians, but all were aware of the issues.  I revised parts of the manuscript they pointed to as too technical or difficult to understand to make everything accessible to people not trained in theology.  All of them had the same reaction–that my book absolutely devastates high federal Calvinism (“decretal theology” of the TULIP variety) UNLESS one is willing to worship a God who is at best morally ambiguous and at worst a moral monster OR embrace sheer contradiction.

I have no illusions about my book convincing dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists.  I hope it will raise questions in the minds of many attracted to Calvinism who haven’t realized its “good and necessary consequences” (a phrase borrowed from the Westminster Confession of Faith).  And I hope it will help pastors, youth pastors, parents and friends talk with young people (and others) attracted to Calvinism.  My goal is not to abolish Calvinism; I don’t even envision that as a possibility.  My goal is only to point out good arguments against it so people will know it is not a theology without problems.  (I admit mine is not without problems, either, but so much has been published about the “problems” of Arminianism and so little has been published by major publishers pointing out the most serious problems of Calvinism.)

I anticipate some critics will accuse me of being divisive with this book.  It’s not “nice” to write books with the word “against” in the title, right?  (Unless it’s against a cult or false worldview such as secular humanism.)  What those critics need to take into account is that MOST books about Calvinism by committed five point Calvinists INCLUDE arguments AGAINST Arminianism even if that’s not part of the titles.  Almost every book I read explaining and defending Calvinism by a Calvinist included harsh attacks on Arminianism–often unfair ones.

One thing I hope to have accomplished in Against Calvinism is fairness toward a view with which I strongly disagree.  I bent over backwards not to accuse Calvinists of believing things they do not believe.  What I do say, however, is that IF they were being consistent they would have to say those things.  I don’t say (as some Calvinists do with Arminians) that they do actually believe those things (e.g., that God is the author of sin and evil).  What I say is that their beliefs about God inexorably lead there even if they don’t all go there (some do).  But their views of God still injure God’s reputation by strongly implying that God is the author of sin and evil (as Zwingli, for example, openly admitted and had no qualms about defending).

My one request to my friends and supporters is that you read the book and then post favorable reviews of it at and other sites like that.  I full expect that some Calvinists will post negative reviews there to try to keep people from even reading the book.  (Within a few days after Finding God in the Shack was published one Calvinist blogger posted an extremely negative review at  Unfortunately, it was the first one and may have convinced some people not even to read the book.  I’m convinced he didn’t even read the whole book because he implied that I had no criticisms of the book and swallowed its depictions of God whole.)

Of course, I invite discussion of Against Calvinism here.  Read it and feel free to post comments; I’ll respond as much as possible.

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  • Patrick


    I honestly think the “Calvinist view” is a pagan view of Yahweh. Their understanding is how Ba’al would have acted, not Yahweh.

    BTW, I read once where Calvin himself did not teach the “over riding sovereignty” view, his successor did that.

    • rogereolson

      I disagree–about Calvin. He most definitely did teach divine determinism. Read my book. 🙂

      • Timothy

        Is it possible for Calvin to have both taught divine determinism and denied it? On the issue of limited atonement, FF Bruce cites Calvin as saying when Christ died for many it means all, something rathr at odds with limited atonement. As Calvin was both a noted theologian and a noted exegete, is it possible for him to have taught one thing in his theology and another in his commentaries?
        I realise that I am accusing him of inconsistency but this is a common failing and may have been one of Calvin’s.

        • rogereolson

          See my discussion of this in Against Calvinism. I am satisfied that Calvin never taught limited atonement.

          • Bryan Cruz

            John Calvin at least in his commentary on Scripture teaches a limited propitiation, a limited reconciliation and an unlimited redemption with a limited intended application in reading his expositions on those passages. It can said he by no means embraced the Arminian form of ” unlimited atonement ” in their understanding of it . So I find it a waste on Arminians to try and enlist John Calvin on that when he was not their sin on the most basic issues which divides Calvinism and Arminianism in the over all picture. I consider John Calvin as outside the range the debate over the extent of the atonement since it was not an issue in his day.

          • rogereolson

            Well, good for you. But what if it could be shown, say, that Arminius or Wesley believed in limited atonement. Don’t you think Calvinist would be more than anxious to point that out–whatever its relevance to other subjects of their theologies? I think so.

  • As for the divisiveness of the title: I think folks will be much less likely to find it objectionable if they know that Zondervan is also coming out with a somewhat similarly covered book (by another author) entitled FOR CALVINISM. (Though I wouldn’t have found your title at all objectionable anyway.)

    • rogereolson

      And the author of the similarly-titled book (For Calvinism) wrote the Foreword to my book and I wrote the Foreword to his.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    Congratulations on your new book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • If you want to generate sales and far-reaching discussion of it, just make a hipster/emergent promo video… 😉

    • rogereolson

      It won’t be very hipster, but a promo video should be appearing soon.

  • I pre-ordered this like 3 months ago, so I will be looking forward to getting a copy i the mail here really soon!

  • Beakerj

    I just pre-ordered you! I’m looking forward to this book, I’m so tired of so many judgemental Calvinists (which aren’t all Calvinists) saying that Calvinism IS the gospel & that anyone who disagrees is basically a heathen half-wit. I also love the pic of the tulips losing petals…As I whinged to someone the other day, ‘ Why a tulip? Why not a mould or a fungus?’ 🙂

    Looking forward to the discussion. Thanks Roger.

  • All of them had the same reaction–that my book absolutely devastates high federal Calvinism (“decretal theology” of the TULIP variety

    The vast majority of Calvinists I know hold an extremely inconsistent view; they seem to believe that while election is unconditional, reprobation is somehow conditional. I think that it’s by adhering to this view that they shield themselves from some of the more forceful criticisms of Calvinism.

    • rogereolson

      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.

      • fidgetwidget

        The problem with an argument like “if he could save everyone but doesn’t then he is a monster” is that it leaves you just as vulnerable to the atheist arguments for their being no God at all (because if he cannot save everyone, then he is not omnipotent).
        I was hoping a book that argues against the problems of Calvinism would do so by pointing out the danger of idolatry (including making an idol of doctrine) and would take the simple route of “love Jesus” over “arguments about words”.
        None the less, I hope it does well for you and those that read it.
        Grace and Peace.

        • rogereolson

          How can you know what my book does unless you read it?

    • Ronnie: I’ve had similar experiences with those promoting a “single predestination” version of Calvinism–and like you find it very problematic. I wrote about it a bit here:

  • Steve

    Can’t wait to read it. I have spent a lot of time in Calvinism over the last few years due to a church split and other very un-Christian things happening around here. I had to get to the bottom of it all. I am under no illusions now that Calvinism in at least scripturally unsound and a lot of people do not really understand what it all means. Many people adhere to these things without doing the hard yards to check it out and also once they become sceptical find it hard to stand against those that push it. Imagine if you have been a part of a group for years and then this comes in. You have to make some big decisions. Maybe too big. I know familiea that are effectively split over it all. Thanks for your work.

    • rogereolson

      That’s a major reason for the book. Over the last decade I have heard of many churches (mostly Baptist but also some Evangelical Free) where Calvinist pastors have come in and attempted to impose five point Calvinism on everyone.

      • “…where Calvinist pastors have come in and attempted to impose five point Calvinism on everyone.”

        What would this look like? Would I be wrong to suppose it looks very similar to the “imposing” of default libertarianism that marks all of man’s religions?

        • rogereolson

          I think a pastoral candidate should be absolutely up front with the congregation about his or her theological orientation before accepting the call. From what I hear, many Calvinist pastors hide their Calvinism until they are firmly ensconced in the pulpit and then attempt to impose it on the congregation. That is leading to splits of many Baptist congregations especially in the South.

  • David Hess


    I’ve been so looking forward to the release. I’ve had my copy pre-ordered for my Nook for about a month now.

    Thanks for what you are doing in defense of the Apostolic faith that was perverted by Augustine and his descendants theologically. For children of the Reformation, God is using you to put the word “Good” back into the Good News of the Gospel.

    David Hess
    Kuwait City, KUWAIT

    • Bryce Lechelt

      I think Augustine should be given a little more credit for his work against Pelagius, and no doubt this could have caused him to be much more one sided in his treatment of salvation. Not to mention that Augustines doctrine of salvation was and still is accepted by the Roman Catholic church, and most other denominations that came out of the reformation at that time. Those poor Anabaptists…

      • rogereolson

        Well, actually…. The Roman Catholic Church does not accept Augustine’s double predestination. See The City of God, Book Twenty-two, chapter 24 where Augustine says (speaking about temporal blessings) “What will He give to those whom He predestined to life, who has given such things even to those whom He has predestined to death?” (Dods translation, Hendrickson Publishers, 2009, p. 770). The Second Council of Orange (529) condemned belief that God predestines to evil. Augustine’s talk of “free will” should not confuse anyone; he did not believe in power of contrary choice. His “free will” (especially in his later writings) is compatible with divine determinism.

        • Bryce Lechelt

          “Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will . But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God’s precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by preforming them he might obtain the promised rewards”. -Augustine (On Grace And Free Will) Chapter 2.

          “Now against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it.”-Augustine (The City Of God) Book V, Chapter IX: Concerning The Foreknowledge Of God And The Free Will Of Man, In Opposition To The Definition Of Cicero.

          “It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former , that we may believe well; the latter that we may live well.” -Augustine (The City Of God) Book V. Chapter X: Whether Our Wills Are Ruled By Necessity.

          I do not deny Augustines affirmation of predestination, but Augustine in these writings seems pretty fair to me. Reading through On The Predestination Of The Saints, I have to conclude that Augustines focus on the action of God in salvation does not revoke what he had said previously of the will of men in The City Of God. It might on the surface seem so, but that is due to Augustines focus on only the action of God in that book coupled with the mystery of God regarding predestination and the genuine free offer of the gospel, isn’t the transcendence of God just a mind-boggler… Sorry about the mistake on Augustine and Catholic doctrine. Do you have many thoughts on the reformed doctrine of compatiblism?

          • rogereolson

            I conclude that Augustine’s definition of free will is compatibilism. See T. Kermit Scott’s detailed discussion of this in Augustine: His Thought in Context. I do not think compatibilism is a viable concept of free will; it destroys responsibility and makes God the ultimate sinner. You’ll have to read my Against Calvinism for my fuller explanation of all that.

          • Bryce Lechelt

            I may have to buy your book then. And look up Scotts book as well…
            But I do wonder how predestination fits into the scope here. Would it not have to then be a predetermined group of people and not individuals? If God has predestined certain individuals, then they can truly do no other. Even if the predetermination is based on foreknowledge of that individuals faith, it is as good as fate. The individual does exactly what he wishes, but can still do no other right? So unless predestination is defined as predestination of a group (those who place faith in Christ(it also must remain impersonal then, because it is the individuals who decide whether they are in the group or not)) autonomous free will is an impossibility, at least in an pure sense. However the individual himself would notice nothing, his perception of choice is still genuine, for he is a time bound creature who moves horizontally through time. However, if we’re looking for a genuine autonomous free will I’d have to say that only process-theologians and open theists have a genuine answer to that ‘fate’ problem. Yet for Arminians, Calvinists, and Hyper-Calvinists, Autonomous free will is a philosophical impossibility. At least in a true sense of the word. Or am I going to have to read your book to get the answer to this question? lol…

          • rogereolson

            I leave that in the realm of mystery. I do not know how it is possible for us to have power of contrary choice and God foreknow what we will freely choose in the future. He just does. It’s a mystery I can live with. All alternatives seem worse to me.

          • Bryce Lechelt

            sorry I forgot to give you how I define autonomous free will. This might help clarify. I would define autonomous free will as the ability to not only do what one wants to do but also whatever there is to do. In this sense the illusion of three doors makes an individual think there is three choices and he may do all three, but if the future in determined then the doors are only illusions, and the option to chose them does not exist any longer. For it is impossible for the individual to chose them. However the individual does feel genuine choice because every option he chooses he can do… Which means there is absolutely no way to find out if there are options he can’t chose.

          • rogereolson

            Well, true. We can’t prove power of contrary choice, but it is the only view of free will consistent with what else we believe and do in everyday life–such as holding people accountable, responsible and even guilty for their choices.

          • Bryce Lechelt

            If however we define autonomous free will as uninfluenced then the situation changes drastically.
            One interesting thing here is that influence can be said as two things, conscious and unconscious. we are aware of conscious influence, the pressure from our mothers to clean our rooms is a good example of conscious influence. A good example of unconscious influence would be human nature. We do not experience physical urges to fly in the same way as birds do. We also are born with an innate sense of right and wrong, which is also a part of our nature as humans.
            All our decisions are made consciously, and because of this all subconscious influences do not appear to us as influencing our choices. Do people honestly feel that not having an innate urge to fly is hampering their daily decisions? Most people who have thought about that question before would say no, those who have not, might reply yes from time to time… However we would recognize that our subconscious does not appear to our conscious as consciously affecting our decisions.
            Because of this, Autonomous free will then would be true, if our conscious was not aware of influence, if our subconscious is influenced is inconsequential. For indeed we know that if humans have a nature, and if subconscious influence was counted as influence, autonomous free will is an impossibility, for every school of thought.

            The question then is, does the change of the subconscious, work itself out noticeably to the conscious? If there is a drastic change to the subconscious, does the conscious realize something is different as it makes choices which are now inherently different than before? We would respond with yes, if not immediately, at least in hindsight a large change in the subconscious would be noticed. Im also hoping people would agree that salvation is a large change to ones being. and that this change is noticed, especially in those who are saved in mid life. This taken into account, we can say two things. First, if there is a large change in the subconscious of an individual, that may or may not be noticed, however in time it will be seen. Second, that this definition of Autonomous free will is impossible, if salvation is considered as a large change. If not a large change then not only would the individual experience no change, but also their assurance of faith would also be rather small, for they see no change within them. A large assurance of faith is indeed the individual looking back on their life and seeing the differences God has made to them as an individual.
            Im assuming these posts are far too long, and I’ll watch my word counts in the future…
            However I do want to read your book.

          • rogereolson

            I hope you do read it. But it won’t clear up all the mysteries of free will. The greatest minds in the world are still working on that! It’s as Augustine said about time–When you DON’T ask me what time is, I know very well, but as soon as you DO ask me I have no idea.” So with free will. However, I, for one, do not talk about “autonomous free will.” No human being is autonomous. Free will, even as power of contrary choice, is always at best “situated free will.”

          • Bryce Lechelt

            Well Ive never heard of situated free will before so I’ll have to look at that.
            I also wanted to say thanks for the conversation, it’s rare to have a cordial talk on free will, it’s been appreciated. I enjoyed your book The Story Of Christian Theology. It’s been helpful in my studies, and was my text book last year. Now I have your Mosaic Of Christian Belief is one in a current class of mine.

  • I don’t have the time and money to read all the books I want, but I’ll put this one on my list…

    (along with McKnights ‘King Jesus gospel’ of which I’ve been reading good reviews…)

  • Roger,
    I am so excited to get my hands on this book. I went to a bible college 10 years ago that taught strict Calvinism as the only intellectually credible interpretation. They painted a more Arminian leaning as heresy, fat-free Christianity and for people who didn’t believe in the authority of the Word of God.

    I’d always had a problem with their sloppy handling of the context of scripture and demonizing of the other side. I used to ask myself all the time “if these teachings are called the Doctrines of Grace, why does it make people so ungracious?” I’m am now convinced of the richness, high view of scripture and faithfulness to the text that classical Arminianism holds to. I also believe this understanding leads to a more gracious disposition.

    I will be buying you book.

  • Timothy

    Federal Calvinism also comes for some heavy shelling from Douglas Campbell in his book The Quest for Paul’s Gospel: A Suggested Strategy. But I don’t think that he does so from the viewpoint that divine determinism is wrong (although he probably does). He objects to it on purely exegrestical grounds based upon Romans.
    His inspiration for his assault seems to have been James Torrance.

  • Dr. Roger,

    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.



    • rogereolson

      Nope. Haven’t read either one. As a matter of principle I don’t read anything by Norman Geisler or James White. 🙂

      • Nelson

        Hello Dr. Olson,

        I can’t wait for your book to arrive at my front door. Your book on “Arminian Myths” was fantastic as it addressed the issues clearly and precisely.

        Have you read White’s blog on his premature objection to your book…he apparently had nothing else to go on but what you stated on “September 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm”.

        I realize you’d rather not read White but I hope you will change your mind as far as responding to any substantive future comment he may make on you book in the future. If you ask me, his exegesis of Biblical texts is lacking and he makes too much emphasis his style of exegesis.

        • rogereolson

          What you said…. 😉

      • “As a matter of principle I don’t read anything by Norman Geisler or James White.”

        Which principle? Have you previously found them to be [consistently] very bad in handling scripture and/or making bad arguments to the point that you stopped reading them?

        • rogereolson

          Sometime I’ll compose a post explaining my principles for deciding what theologians and authors/speakers I pay attention to and what ones I ignore.

          • looking forward to reading that post – i always wonder which criteria i should use in determining which authors deserve my attention and which doesn’t.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    “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.”

    Roger: congrats on the publication of your new book! I’m looking forward to reading it. Does the book tell us the difference between Calvinism that teaches Christ died to redeem only the select of the elect while the rest of humanity (the majority) are reprobate and consigned to hell, as apposed to Arminianism that teaches all have a chance to be saved (the ball is in their court) but most of humanity will end up in hell? This question is asked in all sincerity.


    Waco is a ripe field of non-calvinist studies now with Jerry Walls teaching in the philosophy department (aythor of “Why I’m Not a Calvinist”-IVP). Non Calvinist should set foot in the city limits without their theological dukes up.

    • rogereolson

      To the best of my knowledge Jerry does NOT teach at Baylor. He is rather at Houston Baptist University–two quite different institutions. I would be happy to have Jerry as a colleague, but it isn’t the case.

  • Patrick

    As a Calvinist, I look forward to reading your book. I don’t find the title “Against Calvinism” to be unnecessarily divisive at all. Rather, it’s refreshing that the title doesn’t beat around the bush. Mature Calvinist and Mature Arminians should be able to openly dialog and the fact that Michael Horton has written the forward is good evidence that “Against Calvinism” will be a serious look at the actual issues and not the typical venomous rhetoric that often erupts on both sides of this “theological fence.”

    • rogereolson

      I hope it lives up to your hopes and expectations. Mike and I respect each other.

  • Ivan Song

    How is it just of God to pre-ordain humans to be born in different times, in different places, where many don’t get to hear the gospel and be given a chance to choose?

    • rogereolson

      There are assumptions there that I don’t necessarily accept.

  • My favorite English teacher used to wear a t-shirt that said ‘so many books, so little time.’

    I’ve got the book: Against Calvinism on my WishList at Barnes&Noble online and look forward to getting around to it. Honestly, I am still digesting the Kierkegaard posts and debating launching into one of his tomes right now (UnScientific Postscript / Fear & Trembling).

    Your suggestion of the Rowan Williams book this summer was great. As you can see, your suggestions on this site have been pretty influential on my own personal reading list. By-the-way, I am still looking forward to an aforementioned book on Pietism (as well as some aforementioned posts about Barth). Thanks for keeping my life and mind busy with all of the worthwhile theological insights.

    Congrats on the new book!

  • Joshua Penduck

    Considering that ‘Against Calvinism’ and ‘For Calvinism’ haven’t even come out on the shelves just yet – and I haven’t even had the chance to read them! – I feel rather cheeky asking, but I must anyway: is there any chance of a hypothetical parallel duo of books: ‘Against Arminianism’ and ‘For Arminianism’ possibly on the horizon? I know you’ve previously written an apologetic for Arminian theology, but I’m vividly imagining this lovely little quartet on my bookshelf already…

    • rogereolson

      Mike Horton’s book was originally to be “Against Arminianism,” but he changed it and the publisher agreed.

  • I also wanted to add that I appreciate how you collaborated with Michael Horton on your respective books. It is a great gesture of how advocates of different Christian traditions can respect each other while at the same time disagreeing (and not resort to mudslinging).

    I have been blessed by a lot of great books and resources from the Reformed Tradition but find myself in a theological camp that is fundamentally different theologically. Instead of jettisoning everything that hints of Calvinism – I would much rather be in dialog and work alongside theologies of all stripes towards articulating as full a revelation of God as is possible.

  • Congratulations. I enjoy and have been edified by your writings Dr. Olson. I have been looking forward to reading this one. I am confused as to why you wouldn’t read anything White or Geisler would write. Is it because they are apologists?

    • rogereolson

      Not at all. I have read and occasionally still read apologetic literature.

      • Steve Noel

        Dr. Olson,

        My guess is that you don’t read Dr. White or Dr. Geisler because of your aversion to fundamentalism. Dr. White has also mentioned your “less-than-conservative bent” ( Will you be responding to / interacting with Dr. White on this topic?

        Many Arminians would stand with Dr. White in opposing your post-conservative views. Do you see the Calvinism / Arminianism debate as intertwined with the Conservative / Post-Conservative debate? Is it possible to separate the Conservative / Post-Conservative debate from the Calvinism / Arminianism debate?

        Last question, which Dr. White also raises: Does your book contain exegesis of the scriptural text?

        • rogereolson

          Why don’t you read it and find out? 🙂

          • Steve Noel

            Will do. I have most of your other books as well. I love your writings on historical theology, but I have not really seen a lot of exegesis from you thus far. Looking forward to your book.

    • Just a theory: Norm Geisler led an effort to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society over parts of a Matthew commentary that Geisler didn’t like. He’s doing something similar right now. Dr. Olson likes to think about theology, but some people try hard to police such thinking.


  • Trevor Young

    Moderation must be a lengthy process? Well I understand if you prefer writing books to having interaction with those that disagree as there is no cross examination when writing books, even if you and another write books with opposing views you still do not have to directly answer the tough questions.

    • rogereolson

      Wrong. On October 15 I will be appearing in public with a well-known evangelical Calvinist to discuss my book.

  • Brooks

    Can’t wait to read my copy! Have it pre-ordered 🙂

  • John

    I simply want to thank you for taking these issues up. I have read many of your books and they have been extremely helpful and encouraging to me. Please keep writing them.

    I am a member of a very large Reformed church. I am there because I can associate with people who love Jesus there. I’m old enough…and have been a believer long enough….to know which hills are worth dying on so to speak. I’m into Jesus…and reaching those he loves. I can work with all the other issues that are not specifically outside the bounds of the Nicene Creed and related.

    At heart, I’m a thinker and a philosopher…and that is where I get myself into trouble at church I’m afraid.

    I am at times treated suspiciously for holding contrary views….or even asking contrary questions. I have attempted to be irenic in my approach, but its very difficult to get past the suspicions to genuine understanding.

    I think most I dare to interact with on the topic (and there are scarce few since I would have a Scarlet Letter on me for certain and be accused of being divisive) think that hopefully I will “get it” someday. “Johns such a nice guy…too bad he can’t get past his own small views of God and see God as the King He truly is, etc etc”. I once said that I thought Open Theism posed some interesting questions about a number of texts in the bible. I did not affirm it in totality, only noting that their are complex issues regarding foreknowledge and such that it attempts to address. You would think anything bible related would be a welcome discussion. Not so much. If I was living in the 17th century I would have feared being burned at the stake given the response.

    I am old enough to not get sucked into arguments with younger people with ‘little time on the trail’ so to speak. That said, these issues must be addressed. I am excited to see a growing body of literature to provide a balance to the sheer weight of the Reformed literature on one side of the scale. I may not agree with all their conclusions, but I will give the Reformed side this…they sure have pumped out the material over the years!

    I appreciate my church because they take a high view of the bible…and frankly many churches that take an Arminian perspective unfortunately have a more popular ‘folk’ view of many texts. But your body of work helps to build a solid foundation for a balanced viewpoint….in my view the perspective the Church Fathers more likely had in mind pre Augustine. It is sorely lacking… I would wish for an “Olson’s Institutes of the Christian Religion”!

    Keep writing…you are making a difference.


  • Mark

    Dr. Olson,
    Congratulations on the book being published. I had a very staunch Calvinist professor recommend Arminian Theology this past summer, and I have been excited to read it (on a Christmas wish-list). Until I stumbled upon your blog, I did not know Against Calvinism was even in the works. Though I hope to read both works eventually, I was curious if you would recommend reading one before another? Is there significant overlap between the two?

    • rogereolson

      I suggest Against Calvinism first and then Arminian Theology.

  • “Read my book”…no fee. Free for the asking–Genesis through Revelation–even in Swahili–always on the most read list. Salvation is of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing–hearing the Word of God.

    Beware: the wolves dressed like sheep, packing Bibles.

    “Repent and do the first work.”



    • rogereolson


  • Sorry Roger, I am from the fringe of Jacobus Arminius and Jon Chauvin students. I sometimes try to communicate in convoluted inuendo.

    I believe mankind has the same free will given to the first man–Adam; and just as Adam chose to disobey God, all men choose to disobey God because their free wills are enslaved to their depraved nature to sin. Not only does God graciously save all of His children but He keeps them pointed in the right direction and preserves them through the end–often in spite of their free moral agency. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us; if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    These truths were taught long before Jon C. and Jacob A. See Ephesians Ch. 1.



  • Brent

    I do intend on picking this book up when I have the chance. I found your book Arminian Theology by luck in Family Christian, and I love the book… it’s great to read, and an amazing resource. People like you and Steve Gregg have really encouraged me to dig deeper into the Word, and understand what Biblical Arminianism is. I definitely intend to pick up this book, but to also intend to buy the counterpart to it as well, just to understand the side of Calvinism as well, and know what both sides say in respect to one another

    Thank you for your hard work and dedication.

  • Drew

    Just curious, do you get into a detailed exegesis of John 3:16 in your book? I don’t know greek, but in my understanding of the Bible as I read it in context in the English “world” certainly seems to mean every person pretty clearly…Do you think that’s clear or am I ignorant because of my lack of knowledge of Biblical languages?

    • rogereolson

      Of course, “world” (kosmos) is capable of different meanings in Greek, but in John 3:16 it is pretty clear that it means everyone. But, if one needs a supporting verse, look to 1 Timothy 2:4. There the Greek is absolutely clear–it can only mean “all people.” The typical Calvinist interpretation of John 3:16 is convoluted. They say by “world” it means “all kinds of people” or “people of every tribe and nation,” etc. To the best of my knowledge, no early church father interpreted it that way (until perhaps Augustine who is the real father of Calvinism!).

  • Drew

    I also am wondering if your book addresses this concern: If God really does “love the world” in the sense that he died for every man John 3:16 and wants “all men to be saved 1 Tim 2:4, then I also would expect him to make salvation possible for every person. Of course salvation is conditioned upon repentant faith correct? If so then it’s pretty hard for a person to believe who is living in a place, say the jungles of Africa, or wherever else to be saved since they have nobody to preach to them the good news. So my question is, when God determines the times and places where people are born as it says in the book of Acts, do you think he does this in his forknowledge of who will respond to the Gospel? Is it possible that the reason I was born in America, a country saturated with the gospel is because God wanted to place me during a time and in a place where I would certainly be able to hear and believe and thus be saved? Does your book address this? I haven’t read much that addresses this. Thanks!

    • rogereolson

      At this point, rather than responding to every question of what I address in the book, I will just have to suggest people buy the book and read it.

    • rex

      How about a practical example? In my country(phils), Muslims dreams of Jesus Himself then directs them.

      That’s their testimony though.

      You must have heard similar stories from your country?

  • Although no comments have been made for a more than a couple of months on this particular subject in Dr. Olson’s Blog, on that rare occasion someone may click unto this again, here is something that, in a response to what James White stated on his blog criticizing Dr. Olson’s exegesis of 1 Tim 2:4, might be of interest to those who may comments here:

    This might be of especial interest to Daniel Ashworth, Jr. (Sept 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm) and Steve Noel (Sept 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm) since they both mentioned White; and, maybe, Drew (Oct 1, 2011 at 12:17 am) since he makes reference to 1 Tim 2:4.

    As it stands, it seems to me that White’s “exegesis” of the text both in his book or on his blog, in addition to being faulty, is as in-depth as Dr. Olson’s (in spite of the fact the former is more wordy).

  • Jim Potts

    Roger; I have not read your book but will soon after I order it today. I have read many of your articles and I find them so refreshing.

    I first visited Calvinism’s doctrine on limited atonement when I became a Chrsitian 49 years ago and rejected it. In the early 70’s as a Sales Manager for a religious publishing company I worked the various seminaries from DTS to Princeton and everything in between. I had a chance to once again explore the Calvinist doctrine with various teachers and students. One of those actually worked for me, Jim Garlow, now pastor of Skyline Church in California.

    Then last year I learned that many in my own Church in NW Arkansas were of the Calvinist persuasion and I set up a few sleepless nights trying to once again revisit this doctrine. Three strikes and they are out and I am sincere. I will not revisit this doctrine which I believe is against the very essence of Christianity. Ok, perhaps that is a bit strong, but I have moved from believing they were to Anti-christ to now just misguided brethren.

    Thank you so very much for helping me understand why I am not a Calvinist. The Holy Spirit was not going to allow it, now my mind is catching up.


    • rogereolson

      Interesting testimony, Jim. Mine is that I never felt any attraction whatsoever to Calvinism, but read widely and deeply in it just to make sure I was understanding it correctly. I think I’ve done all that I can do to assure that I know it forwards and backwards and it still doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Lee

    Dr. Olson,

    I am a beginner on Systematic Theology. Pardon me if I ask stupid questions.

    I have a copy of your Arminian Theology book. (I haven’t ordered the new Against Calvinism although the preview tells me that it would be a good read. Congratulations btw! ) Arminian Theology helps me a lot in knowing more about the true Arminians or the Arminians of the heart. Thank you for your writing and also this platform for comments and responses. That’s excellent!

    I understand that the key distinctive doctrine of Arminianism is prevenient grace. You’ve indicated that it is a biblical concept assumed everywhere in Scripture. Perhaps I have missed something but I can’t find any specific scripture references that clearly point us to this concept. Would you mind helping me on that? Would appreciate very much if you could provide at least one or two places in Scripture that support this concept.

    Thank you.

    • rogereolson

      Everywhere the Gospel of John (and other portions of Scripture) talks about God “drawing” people to himself. I do discuss this in Against Calvinism.

  • Lee

    Dr. Olson,

    I came across a powerpoint presentation on Calvinism vs Arminianism from The ppt is under the Warnings+ page.

    They say that both Arminianism & Calvinism are true and proven through scripture. The two just apply to different parts of man. Calvinism represents salvation of the spirit and Arminianism represents salvation of the soul.

    I’m curious to know what your view is on such analysis.

    • rogereolson

      I have no idea who they are or what their theological orientation may be. The distinction between “spirit salvation” and “soul salvation” is totally unfamiliar to me.

  • Aaron Garcia

    So, I just found out about both yours and Michael’s book. I’m quite eager to read them, especially yours. I, myself have come unto the doctrines of grace just last year- very beginning of my freshman year in college. I have been saved at the age 16 through a church (still partake, have membership in, and love) that does not hold to such doctrines. They never really taught much on deeper theology, but it was understood and highly stated that it is “your choice.” I know that you are tired of saying, “just read my book, it talks about it”, but I do have one question that I would like to know your answer to, in which I’m sure you have heard before and might have answered it, but I don’t want to have to wait to get the book and read it . But, if you do believe in the “once saved, always saved”, how is that not a restriction on our absolute free-will? If we have absolute free will, then can we have the free will to choice to become unsaved once we are actually saved?

    • rogereolson

      Over and over and over I have repeated that I do not believe in “absolute free will.” I’m glad you are going to read my book; hopefully it will clear things up. I am a strong believer in the doctrines of grace!

  • Joshua W.

    Dear Roger Olson,

    Tomorrow in my Systematic Theology II class we will be exploring your book, as well as Michael Horton’s book “For Calvinism”. Our professor has the Arminians (or those who are not Calvinist) defending the thesis of Horton’s book, and the Calvinists defending the thesis of your book. Though I was assigned to read Horton’s book (I consider myself to be more toward Arminian theology) I also wanted to read your book. My hope was to read both books to have a fuller understanding of the conversation that will be taking place tomorrow. I have some points I’d like to make about your book.

    1. I found it absolutely fascinating that you talked about some of the logical conclusions in Calvinism that I myself came to before reading your book by following Calvinism to its logical conclusions.
    2. The Calvinists in my class are not convinced by your book. God bless them.
    3. I, however, absolutely loved your book, and I thought that you did an excellent job of showing how the Calvinistic doctrines ultimately lead to God as morally ambiguous, a belief in divine determinism, and more.
    4. I just want to thank you for taking the time and effort to write this book. There are many books out there that speak out against Calvinism, but I thought that this book was particularly powerful. I will (hopefully) be speaking at length about your book tomorrow in the discussion that will follow the presentations of both sides. It is my hope that, with the aid of your book and other sources, I might present a reasonable case against Calvinism.

    Thank you so much. God bless you. 🙂


    • rogereolson

      Thank you and you’re welcome. Good luck in class.