“Is God in Control, or Do We have a Choice? The seemingly endless debate between Calvinism and Arminianism continues to make its rounds throughout the Christian community. Polarized beliefs have dominated and divided the theological landscape of the twentieth century, while many observers wonder, “Does it really make a difference?” Chosen But Free answers with a resounding yes.”
This is the description placed on the back cover of this book and on several websites in their description of it. As I have been curious about this book for some time, and have had it on my shelf for more than a year, recently I found time to read it, and this is my review.
Norman Geisler is a very intelligent, and very detailed thinker. His systematic theology demonstrates this quite easily. He is also a very well recognized and respected scholar by several, and is considered by most a very competent and sound Bible teacher. However, in my honest opinion his book falls very short of his reputation in the Christian community. The book is about the age-old debate between the Calvinist-Arminian viewpoint, and it claims to proclaim a balanced, and honest perspective on the issues. Sounds good, right? For a debate that has been raging in print since Augustine, the need for a balanced, honest perspective on the issues that divide the parties seems to be needed and would be a very helpful resource to the church. However, despite this book’s claims, it is sadly anything but that.
Dr. Geisler begins the book by disproving his own claim to be a “moderate Calvinist” by only affirming very few of the classically recognized five points, (TULIP). This should first cause the reader to raise an eyebrow at his claims. The book then proceeds to try to delve into what should have been a much more detailed and well-rounded discussion of the topic at hand. However, Dr. Geisler disappoints, and seems to only recite the same rhetoric we have heard in response to the Calvinistic position. Scripture is quoted loosely and oftentimes only in part and sadly, he spends more time throughout the book attacking proponents of the historic Calvinistic position than he does proving his own assertions.
However, that is not even the biggest problem with this book. What was personally most disappointing about this book was the lack of exegesis throughout. There was no interaction with the text of Scripture as it should be handled. There was no walk-through of Romans 8, 9, Ephesians 1-2, John 6, or any of the classic texts. There were a few quotations, and a few remarks that frankly seemed to be very questionable interpretations of them, and shallow at best. Dr. Geisler seemed to miss the point and heart of the Calvinist/Arminian debate: the interpretation of the Scriptures from a strict, text-based, Christ-centered hermeneutic.
The issue of Calvinism is not an emotional, philosophical or moral issue, it is an exegetical one. Sadly, Dr. Geisler did not seem to recognize that, and in writing his book Chosen But Free, (now in it’s 3rd edition) only added to the pile of shallow, dime-a-dozen books written against Calvinism, that has not answered to the staggering amount of exegesis and writing of Calvinistic authors.
I did not personally enjoy this book at all. It was a labor to go through, and I found it unhelpful, not even just as a Calvinist myself, but as a reader in general. I do not know why it has such popularity, when I read many such works in my pre-TULIP years, and they did not stop the overwhelming testimony of Scripture from changing my heart. This book was a tremendous disappointment, and I would only recommend it to those wishing to study out the issue and get a hold of the primary works against Calvinism.
I give it two stars.
Published on 24 October, 2013. Last updated on