Thursday 19 May 2011

Roger E. Olson on Reforming the Reformed

A few posts back, I referred (here) to a new book by Kenneth J. Stewart – Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition (Nottingham: Apollos, 2011).

Though not himself a Calvinist, Roger E. Olson has written a largely sympathetic review of the book for Christianity Today, saying: ‘I find Stewart's approach refreshing; it gives me hope that both sides can be self-critical and fair as they discuss their differences.’

As Olson notes:

‘[Stewart] has not abandoned Calvin, predestination, or TULIP. He affirms Calvin as a major part of the Reformed tradition while arguing, like many of his Reformed contemporaries, against slavish imitation. He embraces the doctrine of predestination as unconditional election of all individuals, either to heaven or hell, while contending for enough breadth within the Reformed tradition to favor single predestination. And he criticizes TULIP mainly for its ungenerous language and extreme interpretations, preferring, for example, “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” to “limited atonement,” because the latter seems to limit the value of Christ’s death.’


‘By correcting contemporary Calvinist myths about Calvinism, Stewart intends to overcome a “self-imposed ghettoization” that may evidence “an unacknowledged remnant of the fundamentalist era of the early twentieth century.” He calls for all Calvinists to be more historically aware, to stop thinking of Calvinism as a system derived straightforwardly from the pages of the Bible... Stewart concludes that the new Calvinists need to recognize how their movement “stands in succession to and dependency on … earlier movements.”’

Olson concludes that ‘Young, restless, Reformed Calvinists – indeed, all of Geneva’s progeny – ought to heed the sage advice of this Reformed theology professor and scholar of Calvinist history’.

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