A Balanced and Cogent Defense of the Doctrines of Grace
Michael Horton according to Roger E. Olson (the author of “Against Calvinism”) in the forward of this book writes, “Anyone interested in reading the best case possible for Calvinism must read this book. It is informative, engaging, clear, and self-critical.”
I would like to use Olson’s own adjectives to give 4 reasons why Arminians, Calvinists, or the undecided should take the time to carefully read this book.
1) It is Informative – the author takes the time to clearly articulate the historical developments preceding the debates before the Reformation, and the resulting consequences leading to our very day. He concisely and cogently defines, describes, and exegetes the key figures, movements, and factors that brought about the distinct views that have come to be known (for better or worse) as Calvinism and Arminianism. The author does a fantastic of job of synthesizing the historical, philosophical, and biblical exegetical elements that make up what we call Calvinism today. Incidentally, Horton makes a great case for why we should call Calvinism the “doctrines of grace” and how this is really what the Bible, Calvin, and many reformers before and after him would prefer – because it isn’t about articulating one man’s “system,” but more about what the Bible says from Genesis to Revelation regarding God, man, sin, salvation, and consummation. There is more to Calvinism than the acrostic Tulip.
2) It is engaging – from tackling misconceptions and misperceptions, Horton pulls the reader into the controversy, but does a fantastic job of disseminating the truth and dispelling the falsehoods of both Calvinism and Arminianism. He has great integrity in seeking to focus on the best of Calvinism and the best of Arminianism and then honing in one what the Bible has to say about the crucial doctrines and how they are interpreted in both camps. I love how Horton develops what he says early on in the book, “It has become a habit to speak of ‘the Reformed faith,’ but properly speaking there is no such thing. There is only the Christian faith, which is founded on the teaching of the prophets, and apostles, with Jesus Christ as its cornerstone. It is better, then, to speak of the Reformed Confession of the Christian Faith.” In other words, Horton is seeking to articulate what the Bible teaches – the Christian faith – what all Christians believe – because it is merely the “faith delivered once and for all to the saints.” He is more concerned about Christians having a biblical theology, than merely adhering to a system of theology.
3) It is clear – Horton deals with an incredibly wide expanse of material and synthesizes it all with great theological insight, exegetical precision, and practical wisdom. One of the most outstanding features of the book is when he writes about the missional impact that true Calvinists have made and are making because of their understanding of, and desire to obey the great commission.
4) It is self-critical – Especially in the last chapter of the book Horton dissects the strengths and weaknesses of Calvinism throughout history and today. He is humble, honest, bold, and courageous in his personal and corporate diagnosis of modern Calvinism, and in rebuking and exhorting all believers to be balanced in their love of God, truth, other believers, and the lost.
I highly recommend this book in that it will do several things: it will help you understand theology better, it’s historical development, and it will help you to be a more careful interpreter of the Scriptures. I believe that it will be used to help Arminians, Calvinists, and the undecided to be careful students of the Word, of church history, and to be gracious toward one another in their pursuit of the truth as revealed in the Scriptures. It will help you to wrestle with doctrine and make you better equipped to know what you believe and why you believe it. It will help you to appreciate your salvation even more because of the heights and depths of a Holy God that has sought us, and bought us, with His redeeming blood. It will encourage you to share the good news with passionate precision of a Savior who has come to seek and to save the lost.