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- Author: George Bryson
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Bryson, George - The Dark Side of Calvinism
Theology Apologetics / Evangelism Calvinism Copyrighted
9.x - 10.x
The Dark Side of Calvinism
A biblically based examination, and refutation of the Reformed Doctrine of Redemption and Reprobation.
In The Dark Side of Calvinism, George Bryson has shined the light of Scripture and scripturally based reasoning upon some very important and disturbing problems with the distinctive doctrines of Reformed Theology. As George documents, John Calvin asserts:
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.
Despite the unscriptural and radical nature of such a position, George demonstrates that this is the position promoted by the leading proponents of Calvinism today. While Calvinists are prone to accent the less negative features of Calvinism, even the best of what Calvin taught about salvation logically leads to the worst of what Calvinism teaches. While Calvinists prefer to talk about election, they know that the other side of unconditional election is a very troubling and unscriptural doctrine of unconditional reprobation.
The doctrinal distinctive of Reformed Theology cannot be reconciled with what we know about God from His holy Word. Scripture has taught me to believe that God is loving and absolutely just. Could and would such a God allow a man to be born who has no possibility to be saved? Would the God of love and Scripture have me tantalize unsavable men with the offer of salvation? Would the God of all hope punish a man for all eternity for rejecting the offer of salvation, if that man was decreed by God to reject that salvation in the first place?
According to Calvinism, it is futile to try to convert the lost who are not predestined to be saved. Perhaps this explains why so many Calvinists are spending so much time and energy trying to win the already saved to Calvinism. What this means is that Calvinists want other Christians to believe in their convoluted theology, which if fully understood, destroys the gospel to every creature.
No matter what your position on the subject of Reformed Theology, George is going to force you to think it through. This is a must-read for all who have wrestled with Calvinism.
The Dark Side of Calvinism The Calvinist Caste System
Copyright © 2004 by George Bryson
Published by Calvary Chapel Publishing (CCP) a resource ministry of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa 3800 South Fairview Rd. Santa Ana, CA 92704
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided by USA copyright law.
First printing 2004
All Scripture quotations in this book, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NASU are taken from the New American Standard Bible © Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971,
1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible® Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972,
1975, 1977. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
By Sid Salcido
I must admit upfront that as soon as I read the title, "The Dark Side of Calvinism: The Calvinist Caste System," I had immediately began to worry that this book was going to simply be a full-blown attack on Calvinist thought, somewhat like what I got from "The Other Side of Calvinism" by Laurence Vance. But as I began reading it, to see what he states since I am doing some research on the subject, I found out that Bryson has written a very informative and fair book on the issue, primarily, of the doctrine of reprobation and it being the "dark side" of Calvinism. 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). This book goes into great lengths to highlight this problem in Calvinism.
What Bryson does best in this book, and also what can be seen as a liability, is he has an exhaustive conversation between Calvinists, quoting dozens of them throughout his long chapters (I believe he is more fair in this than Vance, for Vance seems to only deal with the negative material, while Bryson points out from time to time where a Calvinist got it right). I say that this can also be a liability because he is constantly belaboring point after point in order for the Calvinists to have this conversation. So it is a two edged sword: in one sense the reader should appreciate the vast resource of view points from Calvinist and Reformed writers that Bryson utilizes (which also comes out in his many citations: I first was surprised he simply kept the quotations going from 1 to 618, not separating them by chapter, which made me think he was doing that for the sake of showing off; but once I began reading the book, I found it very easy to go to the back and look up the quote because you didn't have to be lost in trying to first find the chapter--you just simply go to the quote); in the other sense, as you read you get a little frustrated that he says the same thing almost fifteen to twenty times in the chapter, which would have made the book an easier read if he were a little more concise; yet, it was understandable why he did it: he simply wanted to demonstrate that the view he was presenting was coming from the mouth of the Calvinists, not from his own opinion of them. So, though it made sense why he does belabor his points, it made it also a little redundant to read at times.
That being said, Bryson demonstrates a few important things in this book: one, he shows the problematic nature for some Calvinists to defend their position, especially when it comes to reprobation. These Calvinists he calls "Hypo-Calvinists," coming from the word, "hypo" meaning "less than normal," while another group of Calvinists he calls "Hyper-Calvinists" from the word "hyper" which means "more than normal" (see his explanation on pp. 55-56). The Hypo-Calvinists usually softens the "dark" views of Calvinism, or brushes over certain areas of it, even though he or she teaches the bright side of it without shame (the "predestination to salvation" part), while Hyper-Calvinists simply let the doctrine take them to the logical conclusions (that God foreordains both salvation and reprobation). Examples he uses of Hypo-Calvinists are Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, James White, John MacArthur, Jr., John Feinburg, John Piper, Jay Adams and others, while examples of Hyper-Calvinists are John Calvin, John Gill, Charles Hodge, Herman Hoeksema, Herman Hanko, Douglas Wilson, Edwin Palmer, and others. Bryson brilliantly goes from author to author in the Calvinist literature and shows the inconsistent defense made among them in trying to explain either the logical conclusion of Sovereign Election taught by Calvinism (in the form of double predestination) or in trying to explain non-Calvinist passages of Scripture (those passages which obviously contradict Calvinist assumptions).
The book is primarily laid out by one chapter presenting and explaining the Calvinist's position and another chapter to refute the particular position Biblically. Here, though, part of the redundancy comes out because it seems he carries over sometimes the same arguments from the "explanation" side to the "refuted" side as if he didn't feel he was finished explaining the things he over-explained in the previous chapters. But it is amazing to see how Calvinists attempt to explain away many obvious contradictions to their own position, debating back and forth on what the answer should be and showing that there is confusion in the particular thinking there. The Scriptures state that God is "not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33) and so such disconcertment in answering contradictions should bare red flags for any student of the Bible.
So, on the whole, this book is a valuable critique of Calvinism, more so than I was expecting. I like reasonable books which give critiques on Calvinism in fair and enlightening ways (such as "Why I am Not a Calvinist" by Walls and Dongell or "Arminian Theology" by Roger Olson), so I was skeptical of this book (I think he would do good to change the title a bit). But Bryson instead made a fair assessment of the dilemmas and utilized very clearly the Reformed, Calvinist position by his dialogue between their many authors.
One final critique, which is a small one, but I believe Bryson must remove: in chapter one he added a quote from the rabid false teacher Fred Phelps (pp. 52-53), because Phelps is also a Calvinist. The good thing is, he only mentioned him once, but I believe that he should simply remove this quote out of his book due to the fact that Phelps is a bad example of those who believe in Calvinism, which most are very fine and reasonable theologians. This quote really does nothing to add to the debate (it is another one to belabor the point) so it is worthless to down-grade this good work with the possible critique by Calvinists due to that one quote. I hope he takes heed to this when he updates this book.
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