In his book, Against Calvinism, author Roger Olson strawmans his way through 192 pages of the worst misdirection, misquotation and misrepresentation I can recall from any author in recent history. Take, for instance, his story about the middle-aged psychology PhD who informed Olson that he had no problem with double predestination, because he believes the non elect are like puppets. Olson knew the whole time he was telling us this story that Calvinists from every Baptist and Presbyterian denomination would disagree with this man’s understanding of God’s sovereignty, and yet he uses the story as a gotcha moment anyway. That fact alone makes the story irrelevant to Olson’s point. The story is nothing more than Olson’s attempt to sneak in that tired, old Arminian argument about Calvinism turning man into a puppet. It is Olson telling us, hey I didn’t say it folks, but I know who did, and now that the idea is in your head . . .
Olson claims to know the difference between high and low Calvinism, and he claims his intent is to prove the high Calvinist position is unbiblical, yet time and again throughout his book he debates the low Calvinist/infralapsarian arguments. Piper is no high Calvinist! Neither is Sproul and Palmer and Frame. Why then argue with them if your aim is to challenge high Calvinism? Why not take on Gill or Toplady or Crisp or Hoeksema instead?
Yes, he does mention Hoeksema’s name, but then he presents an argument against Piper as though this is supposed to address Hoeksema.
Furthermore, he overlooks the glaring problem which he defines as part of Arminianism. On page 67, third paragraph, speaking of Wesley and prevenient grace, he writes –
“the illuminating, convicting, calling, and enabling power of the Holy Spirit working on the sinner’s soul and making them free to choose saving grace or reject it.”
Making them free to choose the saving grace or reject it? That’s not grace! Arguing that God gives me the grace to choose or reject a grace that will save me if I accept it is not grace! It is an attempt to co-opt God into helping me establish my own righteousness instead. It is exchanging the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for God even while maintaining the same belief in the serpent’s lie. In other words, I can establish my own righteousness by choosing to do the good that I will come to know about rather than the evil.
And then, oh my goodness, the same, tired, empty-handed Arminian assertions that have for centuries upon centuries been answered and addressed. Such as, Romans 9 is about nations, sovereignty is the same thing as occasionalism, 1 Timothy 2:4-6 means every person without distinction, and yes, even the big why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem.
“Most of all, it cannot be reconciled with the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ, who wept over Jerusalem when its inhabitants did not accept him as their Messiah.” (Against Calvinism, Roger Olson, pg 108)
Mr. Olson, the text does not say oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often I would have gathered you. Rather, it says how often I would have gathered YOUR CHILDREN. Is there an Arminian anywhere out there who can actually quote the Bible accurately?
Olson’s chapter on the atonement is even worse. Not only does he continue to rely on the same silly game of bait and switch – I’ll mention this high Calvinist’s name, but then I’ll argue against something a low Calvinist said instead – but he also engages in what can only be described as pouting. Such as when he attempts to answer John Owen by asserting that Owen’s argument is so easily turned aside that he won’t even bother doing it. Yes, that is his answer! Your argument is so easily beatable that I won’t even bother beating it!
Later, he compounds this silliness by answering one of Sproul’s arguments with a quote from Vernon Grounds, in which Grounds argues, and I paraphrase, “it’s this way because I say it’s this way and if you disagree with me then you’re a doody head.”
He finally gets around to trying to address Owen on page 149, but his answer is still just more of the same. He writes, speaking against Owen’s argument that objective atonement necessarily includes subjective, personal salvation —
“. . . (this) is logically absurd. It simply ignores the possibility that Christ suffered the punishment for many people who never enjoy that liberation from punishment.”
There you go, folks. John Owen is wrong, because he ignored the possibility that what Roger Olson says is right.
That is not an argument, Mr. Olson! It is a pout! Arguments are not refuted by insisting the argument be invalidated because it disagrees with your opinion.
As for his governmental view of the atonement, this is just plain old Fullerism (see my essay on Fullerism over on Mark Mcculley’s blog here: http://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/faith-competing-with-christs-death-against-andrew-fuller-by-david-bishop/ ). It is a denial of original sin and the imputation of the sinner’s guilt to Christ.
In short, Olson is just another Arminian ignorantly ranting against what he doesn’t understand. But the most tragic part of this book is the preface, written by none other than Michael Horton. Yes, that Michael Horton of White Horse Inn, who goes on to encourage the readers of Olson’s book to give the book some weight. No wonder it took only two days for the administrators on the White Horse Inn website to ban me from leaving any more comments.