Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Review of For Calvinism by Michael Horton

Michael Horton is a well-respected theologian and gifted communicator. I write this review as a non-Calvinist who has read a lot of books on Calvinism, and one of the common characteristics I've encountered from Calvinist authors is a sense of theological arrogance, almost as if anyone who doesn't hold to their belief system is unintelligent. In FOR CALVINISM, I didn't find that sense of theological arrogance from Michael Horton. In fact, Horton takes a humble and self-critical stance when exploring Calvinism's soteriology, commonly known as the five points of Calvinism or TULIP. Horton reveals his reservations about the name Calvinism, as well as his discomfort with the labels of Irresistible Grace and Limited Atonement, preferring Effectual Calling and Particular Redemption, respectively.

While Horton communicates with humility and a genuine desire to convince people that Calvinism reveals a loving God, I can't say that I'm any less convinced that Calvinism, when followed to its logical conclusion, doesn't reveal God as internally divided and the cause of evil because of God's determinism of all things. It also often seems like Calvinists are seeking to obliterate human will and personality to practical non-existence with the talk of needing God's grace to do anything good.

What I did like about the book was Horton's focus on church involvement as a means of sanctifying grace. Christians need the church to grow as believers, and Horton communicates that well. Horton also treats Arminians with fairness, something not often seen from a Calvinist perspective. Another element I appreciated was his pointing out that humans aren't free as it relates to sin; in other words sin enslaves us, not God.

Obviously, as a non-Calvinist, I found much to disagree with in FOR CALVINISM, particularly Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, and Effectual Calling. However, I also find Michael Horton to be a great thinker, and I enjoyed reading his thoughts on a very challenging subject. This is a great book for anyone who wants to know exactly what Calvinists believe and reach their own conclusions.

Zondervan has also released a companion to this book by Roger Olson called AGAINST CALVINISM, which I've also read and will be reviewing soon.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan.

What are your thoughts on Calvinism?


  1. Logically, every Christian who believes in hell limits the atonement of Christ - they just do it in different ways:
    One view limits the power of the atonement: Christ didn't really save anyone, he just made it possible for them to be saved.
    The other view limits the extent of the atonement: Christ secured the salvation of his bride, a multitude that no man can number.
    So, bottom line, does Christ love His bride any differently than he loves lost humanity?
    Does a husband love his wife no differently than every other woman in the world?

  2. Thanks for the comment. I hold to the
    singular redemption view of the atonement as outlined by Ken Keathely in his book SALVATION AND SOVEREIGNTY. Christ's death provided salvation for all, but its benefits are only applied to those who place their faith in him. For those who don't the atonement stands in condemnation of their rejection. Unbelievers are condemned in Scripture for their rejection of Christ, which means they were rejecting something that was genuinely offered to them. 2 Peter 2:1 is a clear example of Christ's atonement intended for the false teachers, but its benefits not applied due to their unbelief. Belief would change all that, yet it would be Christ alone who saved.

  3. Did not Christ die and pay for all the sins (past, present and furutre)? Wasn't it complete? Didn't his death pay for the sin of disbelief?

    How do you reconcile these two statements:

    1.- Salvation is applied to me because I placed my faith in him=I saved myself by having faith so God can't help but save me.

    2.- Christ alone saves=I'm unable to save myself because Christ ALONE saves.

  4. Great question. If you're in a relationship with someone and you betray them in a way that ends the relationship, can you do anything to fix it and undo your betrayal? Can you make the person you betrayed forgive you? Clearly, you hold no power in the relationship whatsoever. The ball is completely in the other person's court. They can forgive you or not forgive you, and there's nothing you can do to move their decision either way. It's completely their decision to make alone. Let's say this person extends forgiveness to you and an opportunity for a reestablished relationship as if the betrayal never happened. This is their gift to you, freely offered. By offering it, they are absorbing the betrayal so that they are paying for your betrayal rather than you. When gift is given, and salvation is described in the Bible as a gift, there is a giver and receiver relationship. By giving you the gift of reconciliation, the person you betrayed is also giving you the opportunity to accept or reject the gift. If you reject it, reconciliation doesn't happen even though it was genuinely offered. Ifyou accept it, reconciliation happens, but did you cause it? We've already established that you hold no power. If forgiveness isn't offered, there's nothing you can do to make it happen. If you accept, can you make the person you've betrayed keep their end of the offer? No, they still hold the control over their offer of forgiveness.

    God has declared salvation as a gift in Romans 6:23, and John 1:12 describes our receiver relationship. By believing, do we save ourselves? No, because we're not in control. We're not making God do anything. God is under no obligation to me to save me because I choose to believe in him. Faith would be completely irrelevant if God hadn't declared it as the condition of our receiving his free gift of salvation. So Christ alone saves. In this way, Christ alone is responsible for our salvation, and unbelievers are completely responsible for their condemnation. Hell is tragic because the people living there had their sins paid for and reconciliation offered, but they didn't accept the gift.