Thursday, November 10, 2011

Refuting Against Calvinism (Part 2)

This is the second part of my review of Roger Olson's book Against Calvinism:


What is considerably worse however is Olson's attitude towards the whole issue which inform his exegesis of Scripture. Olson in his book claim to operate with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, where Scripture is the "primary source and norm of theology," tradition is the "normed norm," reason is the critical tool for interpreting Scripture and weeding out absolutely incredible theological claims that contradict each other," and experience is "the inevitable crucible in which theology is done" (p. 24). First of all, his professed method is rationalistic, since reason is NEVER meant to weed out incredible theological claims at the start, but rather to be utilized only AFTER revelation is premised. Reason reasons after truth, thinking God's thoughts after Him. Only after God has spoken can reason come in to systematize truths, not before (cf 1 Cor. 1:25; 2:6-7,14-15).

Olson's rationalistic attitude however goes even further. On page 85, Olson wrote:

One day, at the end of a class session on Calvinism's doctrine of God's sovereignty, a student asked me a question I had put off considering. He asked: "If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn't question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?" I knew the only possible answer without a moment's thought, even though I knew it would shock many people. I said no, that I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster.

Here, we see Olson's fundamental attitude towards Scripture and biblical truths. Olson is a thoroughgoing rationalist. A true Christian who truly loves God will not answer in this manner. If a Christians loves God, they will accept God regardless of who He actually is. No doubt of course God's being is co-terminus with His attributes [1], and therefore if a being does not possess certain divine attributes, that being cannot be God. But the question as phrased deals with our personal conception of God, not whether a being that calls Himself God does not possess certain divine attributes pertaining to God. If the true God is not who we conceive Him to be, the Christian response is to jettison our errant beliefs and worship God, not reject Him because He does not fit into our preconceived mold of what God must be like.

Olson betrays his basic rationalism with the shocking admission above. In Olson's rationalistic scheme, the attributes of "love" and "moral goodness" as understood by him and other synergists ARE the primary lens through which Scripture and God is to be interpreted. Instead of God defining for us who He is and what He is like, Olson insists that God must be what Olson thinks is the "ideal being" or He is not God at all — truly a theology from below.

Such an unbiblical view of God taints Olson's hermeneutics. As Olson remarked during the conversation held at Biola which this reviewer attended, the texts of Scripture that seem to teach Calvinism cannot mean what it means because they contradict [Olson's view of] who God is. In other words, the attribute of "love" and "moral goodness" as understood by Olson is THE hermeneutical lens through which the Bible is to be read. Verses must be interpreted in light of this a priori, or re-interpreted if their meaning is fundamentally at odds with the attributes of "love" and "moral goodness."

Looking at the exegesis of verses of Scripture therefore is almost a waste of time, for Olson deals very surfacely with the actual texts of Scripture in their context, some of which we will look at later. The actual meaning of these texts are after all not important for him, for his a priori commitment has already pre-determined what the verses cannot say. It is extremely disappointing for those who desire biblical exegesis and interaction at the text level, for Olson does not do anything more than a surface treatment of these texts in question.


[1] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2: God and Creation (Ed. by John Bolt, Trans. by John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), p. 173

No comments: