Saturday, November 12, 2011

Roger Olson, Calvinism and Vincent Cheung

It is not difficult to find Calvinists on the Internet (e.g., bloggers) who boldly state that Calvinism requires confession that God is the author of sin and evil. One such person is Vincent Cheung, who writes about Calvinist as a Calvinist ... Like many others one can easily find on the web, Cheung ridicules fellow Calvinists who say that God is not the author of sin . He then says that "when someone alleges that my view of divine sovereignty makes God the author of sin, my first reaction tends to be 'So what?' .. there is no biblical or rational problem with him being the author of sin." Cheung goes on to argue that the typical Calvinist account of God's absolute sovereignty necessarily leads to God as being the author of sin in any ordinary sense of "author."

— Roger Olson, Against Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), p. 59

I would like here to comment on one part of Olson's book which I did not cover in my review, because it deals with a proclaimed Calvinist and Internet figure Vincent Cheung.

As it can be seen, Olson is using Cheung as a case study to prop up his attack on Calvinism. The sad thing is that Cheung with his language is a ripe target for attack. Cheung in his publication The Author of Sin claims that the word "author" merely refers to someone who ultimately controls the action of sinning. This is supposed to be the normal definition of "author." But is this really the case? Olson of course couldn't really care less what the definition of "author" is, as long as he can taint Calvinism with evil. But what does Olson desire his readers to think? Olson wants his readers to think that in Calvinism, God directly creates sin and make people sin. If God is sovereign in the sense of controlling everything, then God must make people sin, which is intolerable and make God a "moral monster."

The problem with Vincent Cheung is that his provocative tone and language is stumbling people more than it helps to add light to the subject. By refusing to emphasize the distinction (if he even thinks it is important) between primary and secondary causation, his views tend towards making God responsible for the action of sinning itself. Merely claiming that whatever God does is good by definition does not solve the problem for such is a triumph of extreme Nominalism. Such an argument can be used but it cannot be used alone, for God does not work in a manner contrary to His attributes and therefore a more biblical argument must be given.

I realize of course that Olson will try to find any wacky person on the Internet if doing so would aid him in his emotional argument against Calvinism, and there are many such people including hyper-Calvinists of all stripes on the Internet, not necessarily Vincent Cheung. That said, many hyper-Calvinists are much easier to spot as they embrace such nonsense as Eternal Justification which is so far removed from the truths of Scripture that it only makes sense when one embraced that type of Rationalistic system. Cheung's bombastic rhetoric makes it harder for people to see his Rationalism as being distinct from the rational reasoning of confessional Calvinism, and makes it easy for Olson to either drive people away from Calvinism, or towards his version of it , both of which are not desirable.


Anon said...

Interesting. I agree to a large extent about distinguishing between primary and secondary causation.

Wonder what Vincent Cheung's fans will have to say. ;)

PuritanReformed said...


I wonder too, but then Cheung does not have a habit of being polite towards his opponents real and imagined, and I doubt his fans would have that too.

wakawakwaka said...

but Vince Cheung doesn't even believe in free-will
" I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense.” The Author of Sin, p. 16
I mean even Matt Slick from CARM believes there is "limited" free will

PuritanReformed said...


it depends on what you mean by "free will."

wakawakwaka said...

i meant free will as in human have the power to make autonomous decisions

PuritanReformed said...


if by autonomous you mean free from God's providence, no Reformed person will say that Man has free wil

Jekris Certeza said...

Just came upon this blog recently. Definitely interesting. My question is why do you disagree with this?

"God directly creates sin and make people sin. If God is sovereign in the sense of controlling everything, then God must make people sin"

I just don't understand why you find that objectionable, when I don't see any inconsistencies with that statement and your view that man has no freewill and God's absolute sovereignty. Thank you!

PuritanReformed said...


the statement is objectionable because you are thinking on a one-dimensional plane. God's will and Man's will are not univocal; God has divine freedom and Man has human freedom, and they operate on different planes. God's will works in and through and despite Man's will, such that God is totally sovereign and Man has free agency to decide for himself what to do.

Jekris Certeza said...

Thanks for the response! What you say makes sense and is what I believe in. But it seems different from what I understand of the reformed position. Are you saying that God doesn't determine the will and actions of man?

Also, I don't know if I'm reposting a bunch because when ever I publish my post I don't see it in the comments. I apologize if I have posted the same things over and over again.

PuritanReformed said...


we differentiate between "free agency" and "free will." Man has the former but not the latter. Man is free to do anything he pleases, but the will of Man is shaped by all manner of forces sub-consciously and unconsciously, both in the immediate environment and outside. God is sovereign over all these forces, and therefore Man is always under the sovereignty of God.

PuritanReformed said...

So whatever Man does, God has either positively decreed or negatively permitted it

Unknown said...

The only problem with Vincent Cheung for hypo-Calvinists is that Vincent Cheung is closer to Calvin's writings and thought than most "Calvinists" today. You just can't stand the fact that Calvinism is as horrible as Vincent Cheung accurately portrays it to be.

PuritanReformed said...

"Hypo-Calvinists"? You prat about stuff you're ignorant of. The WCF is clear that God is NOT the Author of sin for example.

When was the last time you read the Canons of Dordt or the WCF?

The reality is that Cheung will be charged with heresy in an earlier age, and convicted. Calvin would throw him out of Geneva for sure; even without considering his Anabaptism and belief in continual revelation, beliefs that would cast him way outside the pale of the Reformation.