Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Refuting Against Calvinism (Part 9 and Conclusion)

Here is the final installment of the series reviewing and refuting Roger Olson's book Against Calvinism:


Olson in his book trumpets the fact that God is love. Indeed, God is love, but what has that to do with us per se unless Scripture informs us so? For if we just take the fact that God is love, then God who is loving AND holy hates that which is unholy and therefore must hate us sinners. Olson here makes a categorical error in not differentiating between God's intra-trinitarian characteristic of being love, and God's love towards us. The former is necessary, the latter is not. Just repeating the fact that God is love does not help us one bit, for we as sinners are justly the objects of His wrath. It is only through the shadow of the Cross that we can be the subjects of God's love manifested towards us, a love that is freely given us in Christ. Apart from Christ, the love of God is only present as a generic kindness to creation which is not what we Christians normally call love. Olson's primary objection therefore fells flat. God's love must only be sought in the person of Jesus Christ as God's righteousness to us, not in some Platonic ideal of "love."

With this, let us finish off our review with a look at some of Olson's distortion of Bible verses. It must be stated that the best treatment of these contested verses can be seen in James White's book The Potter's Freedom [5], which Olson unfortunately did not interact with.

Distortion of Bible verses

The "All" passages

Olson made a big fuss over the places where the word "all" is found, and continually emphasize that "all" means "all. In his own words, "there is no way to get around the fact that 'all people' means every single person without exception" (p. 190). Olson however provides no exegetical argument for his position. Given the way the word "all" for example in Mt. 3:5 is used, one wonders if Olson think that Mt. 3:5 actually teaches that every single person without exception in Judea came to John the Baptist for baptism, and the Pharisees since they did not go to John were probably non-entities, non humans!

The fact is that the extent and usage of the word "all" is defined and circumscribed by the context of the text. Just mentioned the word "all," "all people" etc does not prove anything with regards to whether the "all" is extensive or intensive in nature; "all without distinction" or "all without exception."

Lk. 19:40-41

Olson misquotes this verse. As Dr. James White has pointed out in his book on the parallel passage in Mt. 23, Jesus desires to gather the children, but the Pharisees is the subject who "would not" allow the children to come to Christ. The one who would not come are NOT the ones whom Jesus desires to gather.

John 3:14

On page 52, Olson claims that Jn. 3:14 teaches that belief in Jesus will accomplish the necessity of being born again, therefore proving that "there is really no way to reconcile this passage with belief that regeneration precedes faith." Olson gives no exegesis as to why such should be the correct interpretation of the texts. The fact of the matter is that verse 14 does NOT teach that belief in Jesus will accomplish the act of being born again or regeneration. It merely says that the one who believes has eternal life, but eternal life is NOT regeneration. It is simply astonishing that Olson can read his idea of regeneration into the text in such an obvious distortion of it.

John 3:16

Olson states that the word "world" here means the "whole human race" (p. 134), and cites "AT Robertson as quoted by Jerry Vines" — a secondary source. This is sloppy interpretation since not only is the word and verse not exegeted from the original text, but a secondary source is used. One doubts that Olson has even checked the primary source to see if Vines has actually portrayed Robertson correctly. Be that as it may, Robertson is interpreting the text too, so Olson's authority is thrice removed from the context of Scripture. To say that is sloppy exegesis is an understatement, with Olson not even bothering to check the Greek BDAG lexicon.

John 6:44

Olson states that the "drawing" of John. 6:44 cannot be irresistible because the same word is used in Jn. 12:32 where Jesus draws all men to Himself. The problem with Olson's eisegesis, beside ignoring the immediate context of the verse, is that the phrase "all men" can means "all men without distinction" and thus the meaning of "draw" in the sense of irresistible drawing could be preserved without the embrace of Universalism. Olson here read his own idea of "all" into the text, which is very unfortunate.

1 Tim. 2:4

Olson claims that "the Greek of 1 Tim. 2:4 cannot be interpreted any other way than as referring to every person without limit" (p. 68). On pages 112-113, Olson continued discounting the Reformed interpretation by saying it "hardly fits the language of 1 Tim. 2:4." All these hardly counts as exegesis at all.


In conclusion, Olson's Arminianism is the emperor without any clothes. As we have seen, Olson's arguments are fallacious, his starting point and hermeneutics is contrary to the spirit and teaching of Scripture, and his exegeses of the relevant biblical texts are either shallow or absent. While Olson brilliantly portrays the standard Arminian arguments, the content (as like Arminianism) has no real biblical truth and substance to them. The book can therefore be read for study and understanding of one scholarly view of Arminianism, but it is not recommended for true understanding of the biblical text, remembering how Olson has imposed an a priori framework before even dealing with what the biblical texts teaches.


[5] James R. White, The Potter's Freedom (Calvary Press, 2010)

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