Saturday, March 31, 2007

Calvinist and Arminian books

So many people lately have been asking me about this subject, that I thought it would be worth writing something on the blog, rather than writing individual responses to everyone.

There has been a lot of writing on this subject, and a lot of misrepresentation and straw-man argumentation.

A lot of misunderstanding exists at the lay level, and for this reason I only recommend reading arguments by Arminian, or Calvinist scholars.

The lay understanding of both of these views is often incorrect, and so it seems to me that if you want to know what Arminianism is about then it is best to find out what the Arminian scholars say, likewise to understand Calvinism, read what the Calvinist scholars say.

Below is a list of book I would recommend: There are many more books than on this list, but these are the ones that upon reading I have thought would be helpful to the majority of readers to understand the respective viewpoints. I would suggest reading them and checking them with scripture.

The best book to read is the Bible, and this is our measuring rod for all other books.

Calvinist books:

1) To understand what the 5 points of Calvinism are, read:

“The five points of Calvinism” by Loraine Boettner. He’s dead now, but writes in a clear format and a very easy to understand way,

This book is actually an abridged version of his, “Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”

2) For an even easier to read and more modern book on the same topic, read James M Boice’s “The Doctrine’s of Grace” available on Amazon but the cheapest way to purchase this book is as an online version through Doxa Press:

3) For a collection of essays by Calvinist scholars read, “Still Sovereign” edited by Schreiner and Ware. This is a response to Clark Pinnock’s “The Grace of God and the Will of Man.” Available on Amazon.

4) For a very in-depth exegetical look at election in Romans 9, John Piper’s “The Justification of God.” Is often regarded very highly by scholars. Whilst an excellent book, it may be hard to understand for anyone who has not been trained in Biblical languages and exegesis. Available on Amazon

5) For a much more accessible book I would recommend James White’s, “The Potter’s Freedom” which can be purchased again on Amazon or a digital copy at:

6) For a book specifically on the Calvinist view of Election, I would recommend Sam Storm’s “Chosen for Life” which is written in very easy to understand terms.

7) There are also mp3's on the subject on by John Piper (under pastoral theology) and Bruce Ware (under Systematic Theology 2). This site does have Arminian teachers on it (such as Dr. Stuart), but I don't think there is any specific Arminian sessions on the site.

8) Spurgeon's "A Defense of Calvinism"

Arminian books:

1) “Arminian Theology” Roger Olson is a useful book for finding out exactly what Arminianism is. Roger likes to show how the popular idea of Arminianism is incorrect and in fact semi-pelagianism. By his own admission, Olson does not exegetically defend Arminainism, but what he does do is explain what Arminians should believe if they really are Arminians.

2) Clark Pinnock, “The Grace of God and the Will of Man”. This is a collection of essays that defend the Arminian position. This is the book that prompted “Still Sovereign” and should be read back to back with it. This book will appeal more to those who are philosophically minded than those looking for exegesis, but is a must read considering you will hear the opinions of leading Arminians such as Clark Pinnock, and I. Howard Marshall. Something that should be pointed out is that Clark Pinnock is not really in the Arminian camp now that he has joined the openness theology camp.

3) I. Howard Marshall, "Kept by the Power of God". Examines what the Bible says about falling away. I have not read this yet, but it looks interesting, and uses a good amount of scripture. Marshall does write in his preface that this is not a defence of Arminianism, and that he aims to reach beyond the Calvinist Arminian argument to a Biblical position.

I wish that I had a longer list: Although the majority of mainstream Christian books are written from an Arminian point of view, it is actually harder to find books that lay an exegetical basis for Arminianism than it is to find ones for Calvinism.

If anyone finds a book that defends the Arminian view point with good exegesis, but is still accessible for lay readers, then please let me know, and I can read it and add it to the list.


“Perspecitives on Election” edited by Chad Owen Brand is a good book for reading 5 different views on ‘election’.

This includes Jack Cottrell’s Arminian approach, Pinnock’s Openess Theology, and Bruce Ware’s and Robert Reymond’s Calvinism.

There’s even a universalist chapter there by Thomas Talbot, so you really get a broad spectrum of views in this book.

Happy reading