The Dark Side of Calvinism by George Bryson - A review
Firstly, before e-Sword, I didn't really know what my theological bents were. I am Pentecostal, but whether I was Calvinist, Arminianist, or whatever, I really didn't know. In fact, although I've heard about Calvin and Calvinism, I was pretty much naive about it, and didn't really know much about it. However, since e-Sword, well, to be honest, I just couldn't escape Calvinism at all, and having seen some of the stuff that was against it, wondered what all the ho-ha was all about. But one thing I did deduce from it is that I found out that I'm most definitely not a Calvinist. In fact, I also found out that I'm not an Arminianist, or tend to be theologically bent toward any direction at all with the exception of being Pentecostal. With that all said, I am a "fundamentalist" and orthodox (despite some may say Pentecostalism is heterodoxy ) in my theology. Orthodox Pentecostal could be seen as an oxymoron, but from my side of the fence I think both really go hand in hand.
Secondly, this review is not an attack Calvinism. In this review my intention is to give an objective appraisal of this book, and what my thoughts are regarding what Bryson had written. How this will be achieved is by stating my reasons clearly in areas where I either agree or disagree with Bryson.
Thirdly, Your comments are welcome whether you disagree or agree with this review. I would like to know as to why you disagree and what you disagree with, and just as equally I would like to know why you agree, and what you agree with. In a sense, my objective is that this review can lead to a proper discussion in where we can learn from each other irrespective of which side of the camp one is on. Well, here's hoping anyway.
In his book, The Dark Side of Calvinism - The Calvinist Caste System, I have no doubt that George Bryson has researched this topic really well. From having read it, it clearly shows me that he has really done his homework. I disagree with those who claim his book is an attack on Calvinism, and I agree with the reviewer, Sid Salcido, in his assertion that,
... I found out that Bryson has written a very informative and fair book on the issue ...
Moreover, I also agree with Salcido when he said,
because if one is to be objective in this matter, then one needs to know the full story instead of having a half of the story. In other words, one needs to get the story from both sides of the camp rather than just forming a belief based on one side of the camp. Remember the Bereans (cf. Acts 11:17)? I think this is the kind of attitude we need to develop in order to find out if these things are so, and I tend to believe that this is the kind of objective that Bryson has set in his book.
Bryson states early on "Everyone seriously considering a theological move in the direction of Reformed Theology deserves to know about Calvinism's dark side before they make a commitment to Calvinism" (p. 22).
Bryson leaves the reader with no doubt that there are real problems with Calvin's theological system, and I believe that he has done an excellent job in showing what these problems are. Its when examining these problems I find that Bryson evokes one's thinking to make a determination in regards to what one is to believe, or rather to ask the question, "What am I suppose to believe?" As I read kept reading this book, several questions came to my mind, of which some were:
- Is Calvinism heresy?
- Is Calvinism loaded with errors?
- If this is false teaching, then what is true?
- If this is true, then what guarantees do we have in order to know if whether or not we are really saved?
- If this is true, then how can anyone know if whether or not one is of God's elect ?
- How on earth would even a Calvinist know if whether or not he/she is of God's elect?
Irrespective of what anyone's thoughts are about Bryson and this book, and irrespective of whether one is a Calvinist or not, the one thing I know this, Scripture never leaves doubt and confusion in one's mind; that Scripture gives clear and precise understanding of where one stands with God, and gives clear and precise understanding of assurance of one's salvation. One will unequivocally know if one is saved or not.
Perhaps the biggest issue I came across when reading Bryson's book, was the doctrine of Predestination. Now, just to be clear, at first I only had a very scant knowledge of this teaching, and just basically knew that its in the Bible. As to what it actually meant, and stuff that went into it, well there I was extremely nescient. That said, for sometime I just had a gut feeling that
- It had a lot more to do with than just salvation, in that it had more to do with the purposes of God that went beyond Salvation. My studies in Ephesians seems to show that
- It had really nothing to do with either God predistinating some to be saved and other to go down the gurgler. In fact, from what I have seen that is not what predestination is about all.
Bryson made the point that Calvinism's take on Predestination as a doctrine of Fatalism. Although Calvinists deny this, yet when reading what leading Calvinists, such as Sproul, Piper and etc., say, leaves the reader with little doubt that is what it basically amounts to. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to come to this kind of conclusion. And so, when looking at these, and all the other issues discussed in this book really leaves the reader as to wondering what Calvinism is really all about, and leaves the reader asking a lot of questions, and perhaps the biggest question that one is left asking, "If this is true, then how can anyone know if whether or not one is of God's elect?" And if one is honest, including the Calvinist, no one can be certain.