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Against Calvinism (For and Against)

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  435 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Calvinist theology has been debated and promoted for centuries. But is it a theology that should last? Roger Olson suggests that Calvinism, also commonly known as Reformed theology, holds an unwarranted place in our list of accepted theologies. In Against Calvinism, readers will find scholarly arguments explaining why Calvinist theology is incorrect and how it affects God’ ...more
Paperback, 207 pages
Published October 29th 2011 by Zondervan (first published October 10th 2011)
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Todd Miles
Nov 15, 2012 Todd Miles rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
Olson brings up some good points in the book and I would have rated it 3 stars, but the tone of Olson's writing was frustrating. To be fair, he was charged with writing an "anti-Calvinism" book, so the tone is going to be negative. But Olson has proven once again that he is much more charitable to those who are to the left of him than those who are to the right of him. I could not help but think that Olson writes with a bit of a double standard throughout. Here is what I mean: He takes great umb ...more
Alex Stroshine
Feb 27, 2013 Alex Stroshine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Roger E. Olson's "Against Calvinism" is a lively and engaging critique of high Calvinist theology, the type of Calvinist theology spouted by the likes of R.C. Sproul and John Piper. Olson recognizes that this theology has captivated many young Christians but because of high Calvinism's inherent contradictions and conundrums, Olson is worried that many believers are being led astray. Olson admits that he has respect for many Reformed colleagues and friends and his intent in this book is not so mu ...more
Josh Skinner
Aug 17, 2013 Josh Skinner rated it liked it
I have become more and more convinced that only reading the thoughts and opinions of people you already agree with is a sure route to arrogance and ignorance. God's Word is inerrent but my interpretation of His Word is very susceptible to flaw and mistake.

I do not hide the fact that I hold to the doctrines of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners, and to Calvinism as a theological framework of Scripture. That being said, I am not inerrant. Calvin was not inerrant. Edwards, Owen, Berk
Nov 01, 2011 Paul rated it did not like it
Roger Olson wants his readers to know that he's not against Calvinists as persons, but he feels he needs to give their doctrines a strong "No!" His main target is identified as neither Reformed theology en toto, nor Calvinism en toto, but a subset of doctrines ostensibly recognized as Calvinism: TULIP (the acronym stands for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints). To be more precise, Olson does not even have the conjunction ...more
J. Rutherford
Feb 23, 2013 J. Rutherford rated it it was ok
I understand that polemics bring with them many difficulties, and as such Olson's book starts with a point by point rebuttal of a view. Still, it was not a well done rebuttal (See Luther's "De Servo Abitrio" for an amazing, though harsh, polemic).
Reading this book, after reading "For Calvinism", I was hoping for a scripturally based explanation of why Calvinism is wrong; instead it was mostly philosophical polemic against Calvinism based on the assumption of Libertarian free will. All of Olson's
Feb 03, 2017 Nathan rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
I wish I could give it 2 1/2 stars. While Olsen is helpful in explaining the finer points of Arminian theology, there is no exegesis to be found. There is the quotation of the Arminian big three (Matt. 23:37, 1st Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) but no exegesis at all. None of Romans 9 or John 6 either. So while the book was helpful to see the common objections Arminians have toward Reformed theology, it really never got off the ground making the case that the Bible teaches Arminian theology. This is a ...more
Josue Manriquez
Jan 10, 2012 Josue Manriquez rated it did not like it
It is my desire to know and teach God's Word, and so it is paramount that I know and teach sound doctrine. So I read this book to get a better understanding of what people (at least Roger Olson) have against Calvinism. Olson has definitely challenged me to think more about my beliefs. Nevertheless, some of his qualms against Calvinism can easily be turned against him as well. Moreover, his own beliefs seem to contradict each other at times. Well this "review" is not "professional," so I won't ta ...more
Daniel Lopez
Mar 16, 2013 Daniel Lopez rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
I was grateful for the flaws of Calvinism that Olson successfully and perhaps over-excessively pointed out. Nonetheless, this book was a very poor and un-scripturally grounded rebuttal to Calvinism. Olson affirms quite a few times that Arminianism is not a humanistic theology, but the fact that his most consistent plea against calvinism was an appeal to Gods love with no scripture to sustain him indicates otherwise. It seems that Olson wrote with a cup of coffee and a list of his logical argumen ...more
Keren Threlfall
Now, off to read "For Calvinism." May the best theology win. (J/k! :))
May 28, 2013 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
This serves as a review for both this book and its counterpart, For Calvinism.

Calvinism never really went away, but it has certainly grown in America with the “young, restless and reformed” movement. As a burgeoning seminary student, (not really that) many years ago, I was interested in Calvinism. It was a theology that I had never known growing up. I did some study on it, wrote a research paper or two on aspects of it. Over time I came to my conclusions and moved on. Or, I wanted to move on but
Glória Hefzibá
Oct 10, 2014 Glória Hefzibá rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cristãos em geral; seminaristas; estudantes de teologia.
Shelves: arminianism, 2015
"Contra o Calvinismo", apesar de ter sido escrito depois que "Por Que Não Sou Calvinista" (Joseph R. Dongell e Jerry L. Walls), foi traduzido para o português primeiro, suprindo a lacuna de um livro que, em profundidade e abrangência, criticasse honestamente o sistema TULIP.

Aliás, honestidade é marca dessa obra de Olson. O autor não ergue um "espantalho" do calvinismo para depois destruí-lo, mas trata franca e diretamente com citações de renomados escritores calvinistas, desde John Owen até John
Christopher Cole
Oct 28, 2014 Christopher Cole rated it it was amazing
The debate over Calvinism or Wesleyan/Arminianism has long fascinated me. I have grown up in the Wesleyan/Arminian holiness tradition my entire life, but was educated during my formative years at a very Calvinistic Baptist school. The debate itself always troubled me. It seemed to be fruitless and only cause more division. I will say though that I wish this book had been around when I was in school.

One of the first things Roger Olson regretted about this book was the title, as he wanted to be kn
Apr 19, 2012 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Olson claims to not be against 'Calvinists' and not given to polemics; however this volume is not quite as irenic as its companion volume, Michael Horton's For Calvinism. Perhaps it is fated to be feistier. After all a book 'against' something is forced to engage the fight a little more and a book 'for' something. And engage in the fight he does. Olson sees Calvinism as promoting a picture of God that is not good but cruelly plans every natural disaster and chooses some to be damned. He passion ...more
Luke Markham
Nov 20, 2013 Luke Markham rated it did not like it
I bought this book to act as a check and balance against my usual audio diet of 'New Calvinist' preachers and the old Calvinist writers (read, 'Calvin'!). I don't want to believe something just because I find the proponents writing or oration style attractive, and I wanted to gain some more knowledge of the Armenian objections.

I found the first few chapters to be pretty interesting, but once the meat of the book really got going I found it to be surprisingly gristly. As has been mentioned in oth
Noel Burke
May 16, 2016 Noel Burke rated it liked it
This has been the best case against Calvinism I have heard so far. I did not agree with some of his thoughts but I could respect his desire to honor God. The biggest thing that I kept having trouble with is his use of "innocent people". How could a loving God allow "innocent people" to suffer? That's actually a bad question. There are no "innocent people" because we all fall short of God's glory. There are no righteous, no not one. He based a lot of his argument on how it seemed that a loving Go ...more
Seth Pierce
Nov 20, 2012 Seth Pierce rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The author is very clear, well researched, and entertaining. He makes a strong case against neo-Calvinists who fail to resolve the issues implied by their adherence to TULIP. The author affirms Arminianism as well within the Christian tradition and how non-Calvinists are concerned with the sovereignty of God--but not at the expense of His character of love. Authors such as Piper and Sproul are dealt with and it is hard to believe some of the statements they are forced to make ...more
Jon Cheek
Feb 28, 2015 Jon Cheek rated it it was ok
Against Calvinism provides some strong arguments about the danger of the logical extremes of Calvinism, but the assumption throughout the book is that the reader has only two logical choices: “high Calvinism” or Olson’s version of Arminianism. One flaw in the book, then, is that it assumes that the reader must choose a system. Olson also fails to argue sufficiently against the Calvinist exegetical arguments for unconditional election, effectual grace, and total depravity/inability. His arguments ...more
Robert Balfour
Jul 21, 2014 Robert Balfour rated it it was ok
Hmm. He definitely threw everything and the kitchen sink at this one.

He made a comment in one place that the god of the Calvinists is a moral monster, and elsewhere that he can still worship with Christian Calvinists. Seems inconsistent to say the least. If people worship a moral monster, they are themselves monsters.

The big stumbling block for Olsen is God and evil. Wants to keep a goodly distance between God and evil. Could have used more scriptural arguments in his work. Unconvinced.
Eric Black
Dec 12, 2014 Eric Black rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
Olson comes across acerbic in what should be a great resource for those wishing to learn of a legitimate response to Calvinism. It's unfortunate. What is more unfortunate is that neither Horton or the publisher were agreeable to Olson having the opportunity to speak "For Arminianism." Instead, they put him on the defensive by requiring him to argue the negative position. It's awfully hard to be winsome when arguing the negative. Fortunately, Horton didn't make the most of his opportunity. Now, I ...more
Drew Miller
Jul 09, 2016 Drew Miller rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
Olsen's argument of Calvinism based on divine determinism (the foundation of his argument) was not convincing to me, thus the rest of his arguments (save limited atonement) fell apart pretty quickly. He did clarify some parts of Arminianism which was helpful and his chapter on Limited Atonement was thought provoking. If this is the first book you have picked up on Calvinism you may be swayed, otherwise I doubt you find this book that helpful.
Demetrius Rogers
Dec 14, 2014 Demetrius Rogers rated it really liked it
Shelves: bible-theology
This is a fascinating subject for me, and Olson does a good job of interacting with the TULIP system in a lively, yet respectful manner.
Greg Dill
Sep 18, 2015 Greg Dill rated it really liked it
I am a recovering Calvinist. I was, for about 12 years a staunch Calvinist. I wasn't Reformed. There is a difference. But, I was, for all intents and purposes, a full five-point Calvinist. I spent many years vigorously debating and defending it against my non-Calvinist friends. In fact, I even wrote a sizable paper defending all five points of Calvinism while in seminary to which I received a good grade. Nobody could convince me of any other way. I was a proud five-point Calvinist. However, as I ...more
John Martindale
Jun 29, 2013 John Martindale rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, audiobook
Well, it seems that Olson and I, are in a similar position; to those that might ask us "What if we could convince you that Calvinism is true and completely persuade you of its truth in scripture?" our response would be "we couldn't serve or worship such a moral monster."

I personally, almost feel it would be a moral obligation to resist, defy and endure the eternal tortures from the selfish, ego-centric, diabolical cosmic sadist (that from my perspective Calvinism makes God to be), rather than t
Jay Miklovic
Nov 23, 2011 Jay Miklovic rated it really liked it
In his book "Against Calvinism" Roger Olson attempts to prove that Five Point Calvinism runs contrary to scripture and reason, and runs especially contrary to the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Olson accomplishes his task admirably.

To be clear, I do think Olson runs amiss in many places in this book. The struggle I had with this book was that it did not allow for the possibility of God's love being different than what we has humans typically understand as love. In other words, there
Joe Cassada
Mar 26, 2016 Joe Cassada rated it really liked it
I should mention that I would be characterized by most as leaning towards Calvinism in my soteriology. I rated this book 4 stars ("really liked it") for the following reasons:

First, Olson does a fine job of showing the philosophical gotchas within the TULIP, and he does so without being derisive of Calvinists. I believe he showed grace towards Calvinists while maintaining a decidedly negative and condemning view of Calvinism. Most books against Calvinism that I have attempted to read are so full
David Harris
Jun 27, 2016 David Harris rated it it was amazing
This is one book in a two part set, "For Calvinism/Against Calvinism."

Roger Olson makes an effort to demonstrate the Scriptural eisegesis and logical inconsistencies of Calvinist soteriology. And he hits the mark. Some important examples that resonated with me follow:

1. To say that God is morally innocent while rendering certain and unalterable moral evil of men is simply wrong. If we say men who use their power for such uses are complicit in the crime (even if they don't fully understand the mo
Jason Poe
Feb 28, 2013 Jason Poe rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
This is a book that has a companion, Against Arminianism, written by a Calvinist, and I have not read that book.
I was looking forward to this book because much of my library consists of books from Calvinistic-leaning authors. I wanted to read the argument and see what the Bible said about the Arminian point if view. I thought it would take Calvinistic arguments in sections and give Bible verses and explanations against Calvinism. I was wrong. In fact, one of the drawing points to Calvinism is t
Corby H
Jan 07, 2015 Corby H rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology, borrowed
In his attempt to present the major fallacies of Calvinism, or more precisely, the "Doctrines of Grace" Roger Olson comes across as an angry synergist with a God-given mission to rid the world of such a detestable doctrine. Picture Rambo but with tats of John 3:16 and Wesley all over his chest, hipping a M-60 loaded not with scripture but with illustrations and allegories; and he is trigger happy; oh and his red head band has written on it, with cursive text, "Prevenient Grace"; did I mention he ...more
Matthew Robinson
Feb 11, 2015 Matthew Robinson rated it really liked it
Overall a well constructed and well argued critique of Calvinism. I don't think Olson was quite as irenic as he hoped to be, but you can tell from the text he's taken his share of attacks. I won't begrudge him a little defensiveness. It's difficult to be completely diplomatic on issues of fundamental importance, particularly when your counterpart considers your view bordering on heretical.

What I appreciated most about the book was his commitment to logic and reason, which for me Calvinism seems
Luke Miller
Jan 18, 2013 Luke Miller rated it it was ok
I'm sure Olson cares about exegesis. I just couldn't tell from this book. Most of the arguments are emotionally driven ("I can't imagine a God who would..."), and very frequently, his claims are made without any arguments at all. He just asks a bunch of rhetorical questions and expects us to share his incredulity and agree with his version of what is "common sense". At one point, he quotes a Calvinist theologian and simply responds with, "Huh?" It felt like he was more concerned with making emot ...more
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  • For Calvinism
  • Why I Am Not a Calvinist
  • The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?
  • Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey in and Out of Calvinism
  • God at War: The Bible Spiritual Conflict
  • Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study
  • Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
  • A Community Called Atonement
  • Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision
  • The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence
  • Four Views on Divine Providence
  • The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture
  • The Openness of God
  • Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
  • Four Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology
  • Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology
  • No Other God: A Response to Open Theism
Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is a prolific author whose volumes include The Story of Christian Theology and The Mosaic of Christian Belief. He is also coauthor of 20th-Century Theology.
More about Roger E. Olson...

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For and Against (2 books)
  • For Calvinism

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“If God’s love is absolutely different from the highest and best notions of love as we derive them from Scripture itself (especially from Jesus Christ), then the term is simply meaningless when attached to God. One might as well say “God is creech-creech”—a meaningless assertion.” 1 likes
“Someone has said that no theology is worth believing that cannot be preached standing in front of the gates of Auschwitz. I, for one, could not stand at those gates and preach a version of God’s sovereignty that makes the extermination of six million Jews, including many children, a part of the will and plan of God such that God foreordained and rendered it certain.18 I want young Calvinists (and others) to know and at least come to terms with the inevitable and unavoidable consequences of what this radical form of Reformed theology teaches. And I want to give their friends and relatives and Spiritual mentors ammunition to use in undermining their sometimes overconfidence in the solidity of their belief system.” 1 likes
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