Book Review: The Doctrine Of The Will

The Doctrine Of The Will, by William Cunningham

This book is a classic example of why I find reading books by Calvinists to be such a chore sometimes [1].  There is much in this book I agree with, much I do not find bothersome and offensive at all, but all too often this book goes off the rails with some non sequitors that demonstrate the wide variance between the Calvinist and biblical perspective and that also demonstrate why it is that Calvinism’s doctrine of the will falls so flat and why it presents such difficulties concerning their view of Jesus’ nature.  Over and over again, the author of this book valiantly tries to attack Arminians and Catholics (the latter of which I must admit I am not overly sympathetic with much of the time myself) with the accusation of being Pelagians for their denial of the Catholic belief in total depravity, but the author over and over again finds himself engaged in some serious conflation and some serious refusal to recognize the equivocation he is involved in in trying to defend God’s judgment as well as mankind’s supposed total depravity, and finally ends without being unable to get his head out of his own nether parts, much to the regret of the reader.

Overall, this book is about 70 pages long and is at least an occasionally enjoyable one.  The author shows a strong command of Latin, to the point where he does not even translate all of the Latin expressions he uses from the writings of Luther, Calvin, and the Council of Trent (which he condemns).  Frequently in the volume he complains of the way that Calvinists have been misrepresented by their opponents as advocating a view of divine providence that amounts to a divine rape or in denying the volition of mankind, only to engage in the same sort of misrepresentation of those who are opposed to Calvinism as well as denying the volition of mankind through the backdoor, showing his own inconsistency in logic.  Thankfully, the book is at least short because I am not sure that I would have been able to handle this book if it had been ten times longer in the vein of so many other long-winded books by Calvinists.  Even so, this book definitely wore out its welcome and was not as much a pleasure to read as I would have preferred it to be.

For the sake of those who want to know whether they should read it, it is as least worthwhile to point out why it fails to much.  For one, the author writes from the point of view of Hellenistic Christianity and fails to account for a genuinely biblical worldview, and moreover engages in some human reasoning in place of sound biblical exegesis to argue that if mankind could have been perfect by his own merits then some mankind (other than Jesus) would have been perfect, and therefore people with fallen human natures can do and think no good whatsoever.  This massive and fallacious leap in reasoning prevents this book from being a joy to read, because the author simply does not concede the leap he makes from an admission that people cannot be saved based on their works that is common to anyone with even a modicum of sense to an assertion that people can only do evil continually and not do or will anything that is even partly good as a result of sin, which is quite plainly wrong.  We are all creatures of unequal levels of good and evil, but God demands perfection, and so if we are to become like Him, he must create in us the sort of heart and mind that perfectly reflect His will because while partial good is well within our powers, unmixed good requires God’s own working within us.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: The Doctrine Of The Will

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Blood Of The Cross | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Just Do Something | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Crazy Busy | Edge Induced Cohesion

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