A Review: The 5 Dilemmas of Calvinism

October 23, 2009

Doctrines of Grace

5 dilemmasLook, if you want a tome on Calvinism, go elsewhere.  But, if you want a refreshing, lucid treatment of some basic elements, go no further.  Craig Brown considers some challenging questions, but keeps the theology and explanations well within the grasp of anyone who has a basic understanding of the reformed tradition.  Short in page count, this book reads like a well balanced essay. 

Considering the massiveness of the subject matter, this book, which functions as a primer, has several things going for it.  First and foremost this book is scripture saturated.  Going beyond what is needed to prove a point, Mr. Brown lets the beauty of scripture make the arguments.  Second, the book is framed with the skill of a seasoned craftsman.  He gives us enough church history and he gives us enough information about the “tulip” of Calvinism to place all the questions he raises in their proper context; each is treated adequately and succinctly.  Thirdly, the writing is marvelous and simply understandable.  There won’t be much need to retrace concepts and to spend time rereading passages.  Everything is as clear as the summer sun.   After all, aren’t the elements of theology for the common, lay person, too?  The Puritans teach as much.  Oh, if some of my favorite authors could embrace a little more  understandable tone.

While I don’t sense the need to be critical of anything in this book, I do want to give a warning.  Reasonable Christians can reasonably disagree about some of the points made.  Such disagreements should not separate us, but yield discussion and debate for the strengthening of the body.  Where scripture is quiet or silent, we should be even tempered and tame in the devising of our theology. 

Craig injects some personal opinion where appropriate.  And in so doing, he makes the reader plainly aware he is doing so.  I appreciate the honesty and original thought.  That is why I read these types of books.  But the strengthening of our faith and the increasing of our understanding will ultimately bear out in private, scriptural meditation and prayer. 

The five dilemmas he considers are responsibility, motivation, obedience, evil, and babies.  The Calvinistic view on these topics are often quite misunderstood.  And it is this misunderstanding (which is often wilful by many in the church) that obscures the balance and fullness that is the historic Christian faith; that of Paul and the apostles.  I’ll let the reader unpack these dilemmas, but I do want to say that the chapter on man’s responsibility was very helpful, personally.  The idea of primary (God) and secondary (man) causes was presented very clearly; giving proper proportion to the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

See: https://store.ligonier.org/product.asp?idDept=B&idCategory=TH&idProduct=FIV04BP

This volume will also be in the church lending library (MBBF) when I bring it back:)

Happy reading, everybody.



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