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Against Calvinism

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  228 ratings  ·  55 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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Alex Stroshine
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
Todd Miles
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
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
James Rutherford
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...more
Josue Manriquez
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
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
Seth Pierce
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
Luke Markham
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...more
Josh Skinner
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...more
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...more
Daniel Lopez
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
Robert Balfour
Hmm. He definitely threw everything and the kitchen sink at this one.

He made a comment on enlace 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 was God and evil. Wants to keep a goodly distance between God and evil. Could have used more scriptural arguments in his work. Unconvinced.
Michael Clevenger
"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."

Roger Olson, Against Calvinism, Pg. 25

Perhaps no one has taken a stronger stance against Calvinism’s doctrine of God’s providence...more
Adam Shields
Short review: I think this is a helpful 2 book series. I will post a review of For Calvinism next week. While Olson works hard to show his point, his attempts at being thorough lends itself to repetition. This could have been 50 or so pages shorter. But I am given 4 stars instead of 3 because of the general tone of the book. Michael Horton (author of the For Calvinism) did the introduction and started the book with a real sense of why we need to be civil and appropriate in our discussion.

That be...more
Jay Miklovic
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...more
John Martindale
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...more
Laura Dallas
Olson clearly explains what Calvinism is from Calvin through Piper. He distinguishes between forms of Calvinism and then argues against high Calvinism as expressed by its most dominant proponents. Although he sometimes lets his passion get in the way of the structure of his arguments, he raises many excellent questions about the logic of Calvinism and what its consequences are for the character of God. I found the alternatives to Calvinism, (fully explained in biblical interpretation, the study...more
I'm thinking that the only reviews to be read of this book and its companion volume are those with 3 stars. The 4 or 5 star reviews are likely written by already convinced Calvinists or Arminians depending on which book is in view. That's sort of a joke but nevertheless likely to be accurate, I think. I found this book to be a very engaging treatment/critique of 5 point (TULIP) Calvinism for the average lay reader. Some people have critiqued this book for what it is not (eg. In terms of exegesis...more
Jason Poe
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...more
Chris Hall
I'm neither a Calvinist nor an Arminianist. That being said, this book is helpful in that it explains Calvinism's 5-point soteriology (TULIP), carries points to their logical conclusions, and shows why Arminianists vehemently object to some them.

In short, Calvinist seek to preserve God's sovereignty in their systematizing of Scripture; Arminianists seek to preserve God's love.

Roger Olson is very readable and does a great job of presenting his disagreement and dislike of Calvinism, without putti...more
David Saxon
While I disagreed with almost everything Olson had to say in this book, his coherent worldview, his clear understanding of Calvinism and care to avoid misrepresenting it, and his winsome writing style made this a helpful read.

Of course, as much as he would cringe at my saying it, I believe his presuppositions philosophically dominated his discussion from start to finish. I found his exegetical support quite inadequate.
Daniel Dutton
After reading "For Calvinism" by Michael Horton, I decided to read this book in order to fairly and more deeply understand both perspectives on the issue of Calvinism. This book disappointed me. The arguments weren't fully thought out. And he didn't deal with enough scripture to prove his points in my opinion. He presupposes everything on his definition of free will and what God would be like if he was good and loving. At one point in the book, Roger E. Olson writes that if Calvinism were true t...more
Jason Keel
Roger Olson has done something that is very difficult. He wrote a fair and penetrating critique of Calvinism that does not paint Calvinists as enemies. Step by step he explains, fairly accurately with a few exceptions, what Calvinists believe and then using logic, emotion, and scriptural analysis attempts to disprove them. His logical and emotional arguments should give my fellow Calvinists some serious questions to ponder. This is the most powerful part of the book. However, in the end his scri...more
Dr. Olson provides a kindred companion to his earlier "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities". While some of the arguments are repeated, it is a much easier introduction to the issues for the layman. Olson's arguments against Calvinism are not based on vendetta but on research. He quotes Calvinist authors directly, leaving no question as to their defense of Calvinism. Every Calvinist should read this book to understand why non-Calvinist are not Calvinist. Every Arminian should read this book to...more
Steve Johnson
Olson, as always, makes a compelling argument against Calvinism. Sadly, this book is a bit too polemic for my taste. I guess I'll have to read his Armenian theology to see if he is less bitter. I haven't read any other reviewer's comments about this book but I would assume that many rate it low just because he is against Calvinism. That would be a shame because I believe Olson is correct. Calvinism has many holes in logic and in Scriptural support. As one of my seminary profs said all the time,...more
Danny Bennett
I read Against Calvinism after I read For Calvinism by Horton. The two books should be read together if one is seriously considering the positive and negatives to each theological system. Olson's basic point is that the system of Calvinism logically leads to the conclusion that God is the author of sin and evil. Olson admits that a lot of Calvinists wont say this or believe this, but are inconsistent in their denial of that conclusion. Olson really only critiques the middle three of TULIP and ha...more
Great presentation of Calvinism's weaknesses, to be read with the companion volume by Michael Horton, For Calvinism. If you have to read only one, though, choose the Against. If Olson kind of got the raw end of the deal (I mean, a cover with dead tulips, as opposed to Horton's cover with live tulips, and having to do negative theology, rather than explaining what he's for), he handles it well and manages to give some of his own explanations of various doctrines and Bible passages.

My biggest prob...more
Lindi Axon
Excellent challenge; firm in his own beliefs yet not hateful like so many books of its kind.
This book is excellent for uncovering some of the larger conundrums of the Calvinist theology. It isn't a full defense of non-Calvinist theology, but an argument that Calvinism is hard to accept if you take seriously the Biblical picture of a good and loving God. Although he is unashamed of firm rejecting Calvinist ideas, and names certain names in the process, I still think he treats his opponents with honor to a fair degree. My only beef with the book is that it is super repetitive. You could...more
Matthew Stephens
This book does a great job explaining multiple Calvinistic thoughts and approaches. Olson does a really great job presenting his case Against Calvinism. He also is respectable in that he often states that some things we won't ever know true answers until we get to Heaven.

Be aware that this book is very high intellectual speak and therefore might require that you look up a few words. I had to look up several words and thoughts for sure.

If you are a new Christian this book is NOT for you. Check...more
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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...
The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity Finding God in the Shack w/ Study Guide: Seeking Truth in a Story of Evil and Redemption How to Be Evangelical without Being Conservative

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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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