Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: Grace for All



John D. Wagner assembled inputs from a wide ranges of authors to put together Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation.  The book starts off with Roger Olson defending Arminianism from the charge of being “man-centered”.  Olson notes that Richard Watson affirmed God could have prevented the fall and that James Arminius only affirmed free will to defend God's righteousness. Olson says that the doctrine of divine concurrence with secondary causes is the primary way of defending God's sovereignty in Arminianism.

The book moves on to Vernon Grounds, whose mystical style is not my cup of tea.  He focuses on the personal nature of grace. 

Next comes Glen Shellrude.  He makes Calvinists pay full price for determinism by surveying a variety of biblical texts through the lens of determinism. Shellrude doesn't take on compatibilism directly; he just focuses on the awkward results of determinism.  He ends by saying atheism makes more sense than Calvinism.
Robert Picirilli discusses the atonement and argues for both penal substitution and that Christ died for everyone. He points out that if ‘world’ means ‘the elect everywhere’ in 1 John 2:2, it's the only such usage out of 22 cases in 1 John. He explains passages about the efficiency of the atonement as either talking about the application of Christ’s blood to the individual, which is certainly effectual, or the passages are talking about possibility of salvation as the act itself (i.e. the doctor’s diagnosis saved my life).
Jack Cottrell talks about conditional election.  Cottrell summarizes the different biblical uses of election and then discusses election to salvation.  He argues against a purely corporate view of election and instead defends individual election based on foreknowledge. He then covers God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, foreknowledge and total depravity. He integrates these topics with conditional election based on foreknowledge.

William MacDonald and John Wagner wrote a chapter called the Spirit of Grace.  They emphasized the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. I would have skipped calling man sovereign and a creator.  They had a good treatment of five passages on the question of whether scripture teaches faith is a gift.

David Clines writes about predestination in the Old Testament. Cline equates predestination with God's plan or design, so he finds predestination in the OT even when the word is not used.  He gives a brief survey of God's plan in the OT and digs into some interesting details in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He finds God's plan in responding to sin in primeval history, promising in patriarchal history, rewarding/punishing in wisdom literature, and choosing/planning in the Prophets.  

I. Howard Marshall covers predestination in the New Testament. Marshall starts with a helpful survey of the biblical terms and usage of the Greek words for predestination, planning and will of God in the New Testament. He then covers the range of meanings for the human wills and choices. He then assesses Cavinism's view of God as an author or playwright and discusses some problems.  

Matthew Pinson gives a brief account of James Arminus' life. He makes Bangs’ point that there were proto-Arminians in the reformed church.  He makes the point that James Arminius held to total depravity and original sin (in the sense that we are condemned in Adam).  Pinson glosses the disagreement between Arminius and his opponents on the merciful imputation of Christ's righteousness and he strawmans Molinism to put distance between James Arminius and Louis De Molina. 

Vic Reasoner gives a helpful summary of John Wesley's doctrine. He show Wesley is neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian and he attributes much to God's grace because he viewed the effects of the fall as utterly debilitating.  Wesley taught perfection as a type of progressive maturity of character and cleansing of our lives from willful sins by God's grace and through faith alone. He denied unconditional election because Christ died for all and because it implies reprobation. 

Grant Osborne's chapter is 100% exegetical and quite good.  He covers lots of NT Calvinist proof texts NT author by NT author. He admits difficulties where he sees them and tries to look at the overall message of each author.

James D. Strauss and John Wagner provide an excellent exegesis of Romans 9, showing the passage to be about God's plan to save by grace through faith rather than unconditional individual election.  They address many arguments Calvinists bring up from the text and they go through the OT texts Paul quotes from. 

Steve Witzki obliterates the view that people can stop believing and still go to heaven. He argues for the continual sense of believing in John, especially from the symmetry from John 3:36.  He addresses Charles Stanley's argument that a continual verb sometimes do not signify continual action.

Grant R. Osborne finishes the book beautifully by commenting on Hebrews and apostasy.  While he only touches on alternative views, he provides an excellent study of the theme of apostasy in the book and shows the interplay between John, Hebrews and the rest of the NT.

My favorites in the book were Shellrude, Piricilli, Osborne and Strauss/Wagner.