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1 Stars Out Of 5
September 7, 2016
This is not very well done, actually. The overview of Calvinism is acceptable, if a little simplistic, but the presentation on Arminianism isn't overly accurate. It is said, for instance, that Arminians reject total depravity, which isn't entirely true. Most significantly, however, the "balanced" perspective that Chuck Smith claims to aim for between the two views is oddly indistinguishable from Arminianism. What he does, in effect, is cite a bunch of proof-texts - the very texts whose meaning is disputed in the debate - and just leaves it at that. He does not expound at all upon these texts, which allows him to make a presentation that might appear to differ from both views (in that he pulls from texts that are referenced in the arguments of each), but in reality does not actually present an interpretation on the subject matter at all. "Balance," therefore, is confused with ambiguity. And "unity" is confused with a refusal to meaningfully interact with important distinctions. Save your $3 and go use Google. Most mere blog posts on the subject will treat the issue with greater depth and clarity.
I do want to say something further about the publisher's description that really irked me:
"In the midst of this tumultuous debate, it is easy to ignore the plain statements of the Bible and to believe we have the ability to fully understand God's ways."
This is a loaded statement. Let me consider two things that are said.
"Easy to ignore the plain statements of the Bible." What's meant by this is that the Bible is being ignored if you go beyond merely quoting it and venture into the realm of interpretation. That's the only way to make sense of this statement, because referencing Scripture without expounding upon it is all that Smith does. Further, to accuse either Calvinists or Arminians of ignoring the plain statements of the Bible is disturbingly disrespectful and dishonest. Both these positions exist because of a sincere pursuit to increase in our knowledge and appreciation of the Scriptures. The Word of God is not appreciated when it is treated with a shallow refusal to mine its depths.
"The ability to fully understand God's ways." Oh, the good old you-put-God-in-a-box argument. What's interesting about those who make this accusation is that they will often take offense at doctrinal claims that do not explain or present God in a way that is acceptable to a human understanding of things. "But man can't be held responsible for his sins if God has determined all things; that just 'doesn't make sense'." It is such appeals to reason that put God in a box, and demand that His ways can only comport with what is acceptable to our understanding. Ironic, isn't it? Set aside your expectations about what God must be like, and let's simply go to the Scriptures. That's the nature of the debate dismissed in this booklet. So if you sympathize with these concerns, you better appreciate the need to discuss the issues.
This twenty-page pamphlet gives an excellent overview of Calvinism and Arminianism, both historical and theological. It is concisely and comparatively written making it easy to understand the general philosophies of both ideologies. Chuck does not set out to prove one theology right over the other. Rather he says up front, Calvary Chapel has been known for striking a balance between extremes on controversial theological issues that have often caused division rather than unity in the body of Christ. (p.5.)