Monday, June 25, 2012

My Review of KILLING CALVINISM by Greg Dutcher



Photo Credit: Cruciform Press

Who the book is for: Calvinists
Rating: 4 out of 5

I should probably start this review by mentioning that I’m not a Calvinist. However, I don’t land in the Arminian camp either, though that often seems to be the catch-all category for non-Calvinists in the Calvinist mind. I do believe that God is solely responsible for any man’s salvation, but I also believe that man is solely responsible for his own condemnation by rejecting Christ. If I had to describe my theological position, I agree with about 90% of what Dr. Kenneth Keathley has to say in his book SALVATION AND SOVEREIGNTY. All that is really to say that I read KILLING CALVINISM by Greg Dutcher as a non-Calvinist who cares deeply about the interaction between Calvinists and non-Calvinists and the picture of God that is portrayed to a world that desperately needs him.

KILLING CALVINISM: HOW TO DESTROY A PERFECTLY GOOD THEOLOGY FROM THE INSIDE is a call for Calvinists to examine the common temptations that Calvinists can fall into that might cause people to be shut off to Calvinism. What I love about this book is that it was written by a Calvinist who was humble enough to acknowledge the shortcomings that those in the Calvinist camp often fall into. The specific ways that Dutcher mentions that Calvinists often kill their theological system were no surprise to me because I’ve witnessed every one of them in Calvinists I’ve known. But what’s great about KILLING CALVINISM is that Dutcher, as a Calvinist, has a heart to help other Calvinists be aware of the temptations they may face as Calvinists who are also fallen human beings, and his heart for this is about making sure the gospel is communicated freely and beautifully to a lost world without a theological system acting as a stumbling block on the path toward faith in Jesus. Let’s face it, it would be really hard for a non-Calvinist to convince a Calvinist that these things are often true of them, and therefore need to be changed. We’re much more prone to listen to someone within our own camp, so Dutcher has done a great service to Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike with this book.

So how does a Calvinist “kill Calvinism”? Dutcher describes eight ways:
1. By Loving Calvinism as an End in Itself
2. By Becoming a Theologian Instead of a Disciple
3. By Loving God’s Sovereignty More Than God Himself
4. By Losing an Urgency in Evangelism
5. By Learning Only From Other Calvinists
6. By Tidying Up the Bible’s “Loose Ends”
7. By Being an Arrogant No-It-All
8. By Scoffing at the Hang-ups Others Have with Calvinism

Dutcher spends eight chapters elaborating on each one and calling Calvinists to a humble, loving, and God-glorifying way of life.

Non-Calvinists reading this book need to be able to accept that Dutcher is a Calvinist and believes that non-Calvinists are wrong, but Dutcher is graciously calling Calvinists to act in love toward non-Calvinists and to even learn from them, even if they don’t agree on issues related to soteriology.

My hope for this book is that it will get into the hands of the many Calvinists who struggle with the temptations that Dutcher to describes. My hope is that it will change lives and that believers, whether Calvinist or non-Calvinist, will be able to love one another as fellow members of the body of Christ, as well as share the goal of reaching people for Christ, even if they don’t agree on exactly how Salvation is worked out.

I received this book for free for review from Cruciform Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

3 comments:

  1. Tom,

    I appreciate your concerns. However, if I may with all respect say, I don't think that you have adequately understood the Calvinistic position when you say, "but I also believe that man is solely responsible for his own condemnation by rejecting Christ." Calvinists affirm this. We are born in sin, and are sinners both by nature and choice, and stand condemned because of our sin (both original and actual), not because God didn't elect us. Election is always with a view toward sinners--toward those who stand rightly and justly condemned because of their sin. Thus, the only person that a condemned sinner can blame for not being saved is himself. The only one that a person can praise for his being saved is God and His grace and mercy alone.

    Blessings in Christ,

    John

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    Replies
    1. Again a Calvin-worshipper steps around the facts rather than face them honestly. “Calvinists affirm this” (that man is solely responsible for his condemnation by rejecting Christ). You say that we stand condemned because of our sin (both original and actual). You also state that we ourselves are to blame for not being saved. So then according to you;
      Though we are born in original sin not at our request and not as a result of our desire or choice, somehow we are at fault because God who sees the future and is in total control chose to create us knowing that Adam would sin; and from that choice would be created billions of sinners, over 98% of whom God intended to cast into Hell both for their sin-nature and for the sin that nature produced. You also intimate that though we have sinful natures and therefore cannot help making sinful choices - in fact we cannot choose salvation, we are rejected because we reject salvation – the salvation we can’t possibly choose or accept.
      Please tell us:
      Who made the basic, essential choices – the choices that would see this situation brought about – outside of time and creation?
      If “election is always with a view towards sinners”, why is God’s love, grace and compassion limited, and why does He command men to do what they cannot do because of their sinful nature, born into them according to His choice? Aren’t all of us sinners? Is His love truly as limited as you claim or are you blaspheming in order to adhere to your father Calvin’s teaching?
      Colin N

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  2. John,

    Thanks for the comment. Actually, I do realize that many Calvinists (though not all) would be comfortable making the same statement I made. However, I find one inconsistency. If God’s sovereignty in salvation is defined by the Calvinist system, then, yes, God is solely responsible for the salvation for any individual (which I would agree with). It’s also true that man is solely responsible for his own condemnation, but that’s not the whole story. If a man is saved only because God chose him in a Calvinist framework, then the ultimate reason why someone isn’t saved is not because of anything in him, but because God didn’t elect him. Biblically, I believe I have to leave room for election to be all of God, yet condemnation all of man, and I think consistent Calvinism can’t explain how those two fit together. I don’t claim to have it figured out. I’m on a journey like everyone else.

    Thanks again,
    Tom

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