This is a continuation of my discussion with Ray. Previously, I discussed God’s gift of faith, Ephesians 2:8-9 , and the interpretations of Norman Geisler and C. Gordon Olson of Calvin’s comments of Ephesians 2:8-9. Ray critiqued my analysis, and I responded accordingly. The entirety of the discussion is found in the following links.
1.*Did John Calvin Believe Faith is a Gift Given From God?*
2. *Everybody Loves Raymond...but "Raymond doesn't like Calvin"*
3. *Calvin on Ephesians 2:8-9 "The Return of Ray"*
4. *Calvin and Ephesians 2:8-9 (Ray Strikes Back)*
Ray offered further comments. Ray’s words will be in black, my words will be in blue. I'll probably post responses to him over the next few days.
Ray Says: “We've already agreed that [Gordon] Olson is misusing Calvin's commentary on Eph 2:8-9. Unfortunately, he's not alone. I think many read it quickly, and with Calvin's help, misinterpret his comments. One must be very familiar with his stance on this issue [of faith as a gift given from God] in order to properly interpret him.”
Swan Replies: With any author, care and caution must be used. John Calvin was writing in a specific theological context in a specific historical time. It’s up to us to be fair and do the work needed to interpret him correctly. Calvin didn’t “help” us misinterpret him. We help ourselves to misinterpretation by not reading and studying carefully- and jumping to conclusions too rapidly.
I don’t know your background and training- With Gordon Olson though- I can’t be as forgiving, given his credentials and claims made against Calvinism in his book, Beyond Calvinism And Arminianism (New Jersey: Global Gospel Publishers, 2002). He directs his readers to “The Importance of Details” He says: “I have been forced to go into great detail of linguistic, grammatical, syntactical, exegetical, and historical material to do justice to my subject” (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, 7). Whoever “forced” him must have been on a coffee break when Mr. Olson got to his research on Calvin. Much could be said about his failing with the “details” in his treatment of Calvin and the studies he utilized, and those he should have utilized. We haven’t even touched on Appendix E (458-463) in his book. For instance, he also uses the same fabricated quote Norman Geisler does on page 459. A simple checking of the “details” would have avoided this error. Olson didn’t check the contexts of the Calvin quotes he utilized- he simply barrowed them from Geisler and Brian Armstrong. This is not “doing justice to a subject.”
Ray Says: “Turning to your comment that Olson is intent on showing that faith is something that man has the ability to muster up, you are correct. However, Calvin is not the only source that Olson is using to support his goal. From my understanding, Calvin's view on Eph 2:8-9 carries little weight in his overall argument.”
Swan Replies: Noted that Olson uses a variety of texts to prove his conclusions. However, pay close attention to Olson’s summary statements found at the end of each chapter. On page 228 of his chapter dealing with “faith”, his first point of summary is that “Contemporary Calvinists have gone far beyond Calvin in this area and show a serious lapse into a scholastic deductionism rather than giving preference to direct Scriptural inductive study.” Since this is his first point of conclusion of five, I would disagree with you- Calvin’s view on faith is the first point of his argument, and thus essential to the tenor of the chapter. If it were not, it wouldn’t be one of the five key summary statements he wants you to grasp from his chapter.
Ray Says: “What is important is that one consider his full argument. In that regard, Olson analyzes a number of passages that Calvinists have used in the past to argue that faith is a gift. He maintains that a close look shows that they don't support the idea of faith being a gift except thru eisegesis”.
Swan Replies: Of course, I, as a Reformed person say the exact same thing. It’s important to consider our full argument. We also treat and find at fault a number of passages purported to prove an unregenerate man has the ability to exert his free will God-ward. I knew this was the direction we were headed, so if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll note I took a close look at Philippians 1:29:
*Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part One)*
*Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Two): A Look At The Interpretation Of Laurence Vance *
Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Three): A Look At The Interpretation Of Dave Hunt
Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Four): A Look At The Interpretation Of Gordon Olson
Philippians 1:29 and the Gift of Faith (Part Five): A Look At The Interpretation Of Norman Geisler
I chose this verse because it would probably rank as one of the top verses Reformed theologians would cite If anyone is guilty of eisegesis in Philippians 1:29, I would say it’s Vance, Hunt, Olson, and Geisler. I await any defense you may have of Olson’s interpretation of this verse. This interests me. Defend Olson’s work.