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Why I Am Not a Calvinist Paperback – April 26, 2004
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"An honest and polite articulation of why these two thinkers are not Calvinists. Useful reading and thought provoking." (Myk Habets, Pacific Journal of Baptist Research)
"Without the usual rancor, hysteria and triumphalism, Walls and Dongell offer a clear and forceful biblical and philosophical case for Arminianism. This book is a welcome and important contribution to the recent upsurge in discussions of Calvinism and Arminianism." (Kelly James Clark, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College)
"The biblical, theological and rational case against Calvinism has never been stated more clearly, concisely, irenically or convincingly." (Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University)
"Walls and Dongell present an exceptional blend of careful scholarship, readable presentation, uncompromising conviction, and graceful opposition in their forcefully argued book Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Points that make this a book well worth buying and reading include the following: The book demonstrates well the often overlooked fact that the issues between Calvinism and Arminianism are not primarily exegetical but theological and even philosophical. This task is ably accomplished by the combination of an exegetical scholar and a theological philosopher in the authorial team--an ideal amalgamation for such a book. The book clearly identifies and explains the most powerful problems for Calvinism--conceptual problems with the notion of freedom, logical consistency problems and problems of ingenuous application of Calvinist theology to Christian life. While clearly and unapologetically non-Calvinist, the authors are most assuredly not anti-Calvinist. Their treatment of Calvinism and Calvinists is always in the spirit of Christian love, acceptance, understanding and unity. The book is very timely, given the central debates in contemporary conservative and evangelical theology and the resurgence of pro-Calvinist sentiment over the last two decades." (Dr. James F. Sennett, Professor of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies, Lincoln Christian College and Seminary)
About the Author
Jerry L. Walls is professor of philosophy of religion at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. His annual C. S. Lewis seminar is one of the school's most popular offerings. He is also author of Hell: The Logic of Damnation.
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The maturity and wisdom of these authors is also indicated by the fact that they do not take cheap swipes against open theism (which sadly is the abused step-child of prideful Calvinist) even though open theism is fully compatible with Arminianism, Eastern Orthodox, etc. Calvinist must understand that God does not need to be in exhaustively detailed control when only His corporate goals necessitate accomplishment (i.e., there will be an Exodus, a Promise Land, a crucifixion, a resurrection, etc. but whether Joe the shepherd aligns himself with God or not is His own free will decision). As a practicing chemical engineering consultant I have been trained in and understand the management of "degrees of freedom" in complex processes. Calvinist would do well to study control theory in order to understand how corporate goals of product quality, throughput, pressures, temperatures, etc. can be achieved while individual molecules are behaving randomly. The creation is useful to understand God's "how did He do that"
Fundamentally, Calvinism is a "how question" which does not compromise an individual Calvinist salvation; however, Calvinist answers point toward a "immoral and illogical" God and thus do compromise their witness to unbelievers.
I think the biggest weakness of their books is beginning with a particular belief about God's love. Walls and Dongell cannot hold that a loving God could act as Calvinists hold. They did not even wrestle with how Calvinists consider God's love. I would indeed agree with them that our God is love. It is an essential attribute of his character. But the flip side of love is justice. They are two sides of the same coins and cannot exist independently from each other. But I am not to argue this here.
I endorse this book for all Christians to read. Philosophically, they make a compelling case for Arminianism.
Unfortunately, while they quote Calvinist authors, it seems that they do not really understand the Calvinist system at all. Walls admits as much in chapter 3 when he claims that his understanding of Calvinism is largely informed by the secular philosophies of hard and soft determinism. Too often his analytic approach evaluates Calvinism using definitions of terms that are foreign to the system itself.
At the end of the day, what I was hoping to read was a strong Biblical defense of Arminianism (more similar to the sister volume), but that is not this book. One wonders if Williams and Peterson's book should have been more like this one. Still, it is often more beneficial to show how one's own system of doctrine is true before trying to show that another is false, and this would be a much a better book for one seeking to engage this issue if they had put forth a strong defense of Arminianism.
A couple other notes: The epistemology is interesting. It is strong on analytic philosophy and weak on revelation. The a priori commitment to libertarian free will is the primary assumption underlying their critique. On another note, the tone in this volume is a bit more desperate. I believe this is due to the growing influence of SBTS in the Baptist churches. This is a serious current issue for Walls and Dongell. It is much more likely that an Arminian in their circles will bolt to Calvinism than a Calvinist in Williams and Peterson's circles would do the opposite. This, I think, also influenced their approach to this volume.