Monday, February 13, 2012

My Review of GRACE, FAITH, FREE WILL by Robert Picirilli

Photo Credit: Randall House

GRACE, FAITH, FREE WILL by Robert E. Picirilli compares and contrasts the soteriological teachings of Calvinism and Arminianism. Specifically, Picirilli advocates a specific branch of Arminianism he calls Reformation Arminianism, showing that James Arminius' thoughts about salvation were very much in the tradition of the Reformation. Picirilli takes a careful look at exactly what Arminius himself said in response to Calvinism, as well as articulating some of the most important implications concerning salvation from Arminius' teaching. The strength of this book lies in the book's layout. The topics covered are:
1. The Plan of Salvation
2. The Provision of Salvation
3. The Application of Salvation
4. Perseverance in Salvation

Picirilli carefully lays out the Calvinist framework for each of these topics before exploring the Reformation Arminianism perspective, providing clear and insightful contrasts on what each of the two sides believe. He also includes some exegetical work of key Bible passages to close out each topic.

I really resonated with Picirilli's handling of God's divine foreknowledge and the distinctions between certainty and necessity. Essentially, God knows certainly what anyone will do before the foundation of the world, but he doesn't know it as a necessity. This shows how humans can have true freedom. He also covers an unlimited atonement and the nature of faith as the condition of salvation.

The most significant point that I part with Arminianism on is the concept of conditional perseverance or the ability of a believer to “lose” their salvation. Picirilli does a fairly detailed look at a key passage in Hebrews 6:4-6. While I've looked at this passage about the impossibility of an apostate to be restored to repentance countless times, due to several other passages that seem to make eternal security certain, I question what the writer of Hebrews meant by “impossibility.” It seems obvious to me that there lies no impossibility with God to save anyone, so why does the writer say it is impossible to restore to repentance? It seems to me that Hebrews 6 is a call to persevere in very stark language, as well as a call to continue in spiritual growth. It's about forward movement rather than backward movement. I don't believe that libertarian free will requires the ability to lose salvation, and that God intends to finish when he started. Picirilli spends a lot of time refuting many of the verses that I would turn to point to eternal security. However, I'm still not convinced, but it does move me to study this particular issue more in depth.

One of the parts about this book that I enjoyed the most was the short biographical sketch of James Arminius included near the beginning. It's interesting to see how Arminius' thoughts developed and how influential he was in getting people to rethink the implications of Calvinism.

GRACE, FAITH, FREE WILL is another important book in the divine sovereignty/human freedom debate with some incredible insights and ways of formulating some of the most difficult theological concepts. Anyone wanting to wrestle with the issues should include this book in their research.

I received this book for free for review from Randall House

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