I acquired The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism by Craig R. Brown because it was free at the time. I have always tried to understand the Calvinistic system of theology and have studied it for many years now. There are many things that I like about reformed thought. Just look at the name of this blog. In many ways I am reformed. But, there are also several questions that the Reformed point of view does not answer for me. I do not think, for one moment, that I am the final word on these questions. It is just that the answers provided by the Calvinist camp tend to, at times, resort to a type of logical gymnastics when an answer is not readily available.
One of the major strengths of the book is that it frames the concerns that some have about Calvinism in very provocative questions. Questions that you might see yourself asking.
- If God is in complete control of everything, to the point of predetermining all human actions, how can a man be held accountable for what he does?
- If we are saved by grace and not by works, why shoudl we do anything good? What purpose do good works serve? Are there rewards in heaven for what do here on earth?
- If God has predetermined everything that comes to pass, why should we spend valuable time in prayer and evangalsim?
- If God is both sovereign and good, how can evil things happen in the world?
- If people are born totally depraved, as Calvinism says, where do babies go when they die?
The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism tries to answer the most common objections to Reformed thought by answering the questions that many times are left unanswered or “under”-answered. While the premise of the book is great, I found that the author did not really offer anything new. The answers provided to the question posed were at times simplistic and trite. In many cases it came off as “the bible says so,” kind of an answer. Now, while I don’t disagree with this point of view, the point of the book was to provide solid, logical rationale for the Reformed point of view. On this front, the book came off a little weak.
There was one area that this book provided a wonderful answer. I will touch on that in the “My Thoughts” section.
My wife and I have not known the tragic loss of a child. (Lord willing, we never will.) But, there are those that have and there tends to be a concern about the eternal destiny of the child. Where will they go? There is the constant struggle to make sense of what the Bible teaches regarding salvation of those that die in infancy or childhood. While I do not agree with the underlying theological reason for Brown’s confidence, I do agree with the conclusions that he draws from the Scripture and this is what gives me confidence. One does not have to be a Calvinist to see that God’s grace has taken into account what happens to a child if the death of a child should occur before that child has become culpable of their own violation of God’s law.
This one chapter alone is worth the price of the book. There is much hope and comfort found in this chapter as it provides a biblical approach to a very difficult subject. If you have lost a child or know someone who has, please get this book and share this comforting news with them.