The Calvinism Debate. By David W. Cloud. Port Huron, MI: Way of Life Literature, 2006. 125 pp. Paper. $4.95.
It is always a welcome sight to see new books written in opposition to Calvinism since for too many years Calvinists have had a monopoly on books on the subject. The latest work on the subject in question is The Calvinism Debate, by David Cloud. Unlike most recent books that offer an alternative to Calvinism, this new work by Cloud is a brief, popular critique of Calvinism. Cloud is the founder and director of Way of Life Literature and editor of the monthly O Timothy magazine. He rejects Calvinism because “it simply contradicts too many Scriptures” and “is built more upon human logic and philosophy than upon the plain teaching of God’s Word” (p. 54).
Cloud’s book consists of four parts. There is no index or bibliography. The first part of the book, which is titled the same as the book, is itself divided into five sections. Although these sections are prefaced with an introduction to the Calvinist controversy in history, it is much too brief. After a nice summary of the Five Points of Calvinism, Cloud makes some important introductory points. He mentions how Calvinism is an unsettled theology since “Calvinists are seriously divided among themselves and always have been” (p. 10). Also noted is the fallacy of requiring people to choose between Calvinism and Arminianism. In the next section, “Some Central Errors of Calvinism,” Cloud presents eleven errors to prove his thesis. Cloud correctly points out here how Calvinists misrepresent their opponents by implying that non-Calvinists don’t believe that salvation is entirely by grace and that non-Calvinists who believe that man has a free will are lining up with the church of Rome.
Part two, “Calvin’s Camels,” is a brief analysis of forty-two “great camels of God’s Word” (p. 80). Cloud says that Calvinists strain at gnats (“extra-scriptural arguments and reasoning”) (p.54), and swallow camels (“Scriptures understood plainly by their context”) (p.54). Key verses here include Matt 23:37; John 5:40, Acts 7:51; 1 Tim 2:4, 6; Heb 10:29; 2 Pet 3:9; and Rev 22:17.
In part three, “Calvinism’s Proof Texts Examined,” Cloud examines fifty-three of the chief proof texts used by Calvinists to support their teachings on God’s Sovereignty (12 verses), Total Depravity (7 verses), Unconditional Election (21 verses), Limited Atonement (6 verses), and Irresistible Grace (7 verses). There is an extended treatment of Rom 9:13-33 and Acts 13:48. Other key verses analyzed include John 6:37, 44; Rom 8:29-33; 2 Thess 2:13-14; and 1 Pet 1:2.
Just four pages in length, part four, “What About Hyper-Calvinism?” is the shortest section of the book. After referring to the claim of a Presbyterian Calvinist named Jeffrey Khoo regarding two characteristics of Hyper-Calvinism—the denial of common grace and the free offer of the gospel—Cloud goes on to show that there is no significant difference between Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists. Cloud concludes: “Hyper-Calvinism vs. Calvin Calvinism is more of a semantics game than anything else… “Both twist the Scripture to fit their theology and read their theology into the plain words of Scripture” (p.125).
Because The Calvinism Debate is lacking in a strong introduction to the debate, it is more suitable for those who are already well acquainted with the history behind the now centuries-old debate over Calvinism. The strength of the book is its strong biblical basis. Cloud appeals to the Bible and the Bible alone instead of what non-Calvinists have written against Calvinism.
Laurence M. Vance