A customer came into my store the other day looking for some quality books regarding the Calvinism debate. I pointed out two… well, technically three, but I’ll explain that in a bit.
Calvinism has been a hot topic over the last few years, and sadly, it seems lines have been drawn on both sides. What should be a civil discourse devolves into quasi-attacks and pedagogical diatribes. Instead of conversing, people lecture and attack, albeit politely. Stereotypes are promoted, insults hurled, theological pride grows, and the Bride of Christ divides, all in the name of God.
Whether you are a Calvinist, Arminian, or neither, I think we all should respect each other as fellow believers rather than indirectly try to run people out of denominations or create division among the body of Christ. Evangelists John Wesley and George Whitefield are great examples to follow when it comes to the Calvinism debate.
George Whitefield was preaching to miners outside of London, England, when God called him to begin preaching in the Colonies (what would become the United States). However, he couldn’t leave his current flock without a caretaker. So, Whitefield contacted John Wesley, inviting him to take over. Of course, Whitefield had already arranged for Wesley’s arrival prior to inviting him. John Wesley accepted the invitation from his friend, Whitefield.
Here’s the interesting thing: Whitefield was a Calvinist, Wesley was Arminian. The two disagreed on many theological issues, but they came together under the one banner of Christ for the gospel of Jesus.
Today, there are many who seek division in the name of God. Non-Calvinists refuse to associate with Calvinists, seeing them as some sort of theological cancer. Calvinists refuse to associate with non-Calvinists, seeing them as theological lightweights or even anti-biblical. Both views are nothing short of pride dressed up in the Bible. Even worse, this division slowly grows like a deadly tumor.
So, back to my customer.
She was looking for good resources to help her understand the debate, and I made two recommendations. My first recommendation was Debating Calvinism by Dave Hunt and James White. In this volume, each theologian argues for his position and against the other. This offers the reader a chance to see both sides without being biased toward one position or the other (e.g., Whosoever Will).
The second recommendation required purchasing two books: For Calvinism by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. Although each book can be purchased separately, I strongly recommended seeing them as a single item (each author wrote the foreword for the other, continuing Whitefield’s and Wesley’s camaraderie despite disagreement). Like the first option, by reading both Horton’s and Olson’s works, one would gain an appreciation for both views.
Two other resources that I didn’t think of at the time I was helping the customer are Why I Am Not an Arminian by Robert Peterson and Michael Williams, and Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongall. Again, like Horton’s and Olson’s books, these two should be seen as a singular work in two parts.
Whatever your theological perspective, I encourage you to be thoughtful and respectful of those who hold differing views. It’s fine to disagree, but don’t be disagreeable. Consider the other person’s perspective without condemnation, judgmentalism, and especially without theological pride. Show those with whom you disagree the love of Christ, for “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).