The book of Ecclesiastes says, “of making many books there is no end,” and then goes on to state, “and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” This may not seem like the best quotation to include in the context of giving a book review you might think! However, it has to be said of the subject matter of this particular book that there seems to be no end of similar books dedicated to this same topic. As for “weariness of the flesh” – it seems also that a good many people (or even ‘many good people!’) have exhausted themselves and others too in their debates on this subject. The theme of this book is essentially the old classic of Calvinism versus Arminianism but it doesn’t necessarily quite state it that way.
Now, I have an admission to make here; I have never actually read first-hand either the works of Jacobus Arminius or Jean Calvin. It is not that I am uninterested in these men and what they had to say but I do find the theological writing style of that era somewhat hard going to say the least. Actually, I confess further, I find a lot of it plain dull! So, in view of my lack of first-hand experience, as far as I can objectively judge, the authors of this book are presenting a view that is something akin to, but not exactly in all points precisely inline with, the teaching of Mr Arminius.
F.F. Bruce, who describes himself as “an impenitent Augustinian and Calvinist,” writes the foreword; which is very gracious of him, and very cunning of the authors to invite him to do so! Mr Bruce states that whatever his own position he acknowledges that the arguments presented in this book are very compelling and worthy of our attention. Certainly I found this book to be both scholarly and yet straightforward to understand in the main. (Not like my limited experience of the theological heavyweights of the past!). The logic and clarity of explanation makes the book totally accessible to any averagely intelligent person who wants to inquire deeper into this subject.
With regards to the specific content: I liked the small section on Job near the beginning of the book. Paul’s teachings in Romans, particularly chapters 9, 10 & 11 are inevitable gone over with a fairly fine toothcomb. There are some very useful word studies, tackling such words as: ‘hardened’ (remember Pharaoh!), ‘foreknowledge’, ‘chosen’; and many other such keywords are examined. The authors teach that ‘election’ is “in Him” as opposed to being an election of individuals. They further teach that where the term ‘chosen’ occurs in Scripture, it requires us to look more closely at the context which is often something other than salvation – e.g. John 15:16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” is often quoted as being inline with the belief that we are individually chosen for salvation: but the authors make the point that the sense in which the disciples, whom Jesus was addressing at that time, were ‘chosen’ was that they were chosen for apostleship (and thus to be bearers of fruit), as opposed to being chosen for salvation. The book rounds off with numerous quotes from early Church Fathers in an attempt to summarise their understanding of New Testament revelation on the whole subject.
There are lots of detailed notes stored up for the end of each chapter. You could take or leave these depending on whether or not you have a penchant for scrutinising the even finer fine detail. All in all, this is very well written and presented and worthy of serious consideration whatever your leaning in the ‘debate’. The link here is to a more up to date version of the book than the one I have. Maybe you’ll get even more for your money?