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Deviant Calvinism

Today I picked up Oliver Crisp’s newest book, Deviant Calvinism. There’s a lot to say about the various deviances he floats. As will come as no surprise to most readers, I’ll have a lot to say about his chapter “Libertarian Calvinism.” I’m not sure when I’ll engage with this particular deviance, but hopefully soon. To lay my cards on the table, I find this chapter to be misguided at best, incoherent at worst. But we’ll get to all of that in due time. At present, I merely want to highlight Crisp’s concluding thought in the chapter, as it made me smile wryly.

But first here’s a quick backdrop: libertarian Calvinism assumes that some of our actions—namely, those directly related to salvation—are determined, while many or most of our other, “mundane” actions are libertarian free. Crisp says libertarian Calvinism is incompatibilist, and thus, on this view, compatibilism is necessarily false (but Crisp also says that the Confession may be consistent with libertarianism and compatibilism, but I’ll refrain from pointing out the problem here—though it should be obvious). Anyway, Crisp concludes that embracing libertarian compatibilism “might offer an ecumenical olive branch in theological discussions on a matter long mired in unproductive, and often vituperative, disputation” (96).

Now, I agree with Crisp that the discussion can get vituperative. This isn’t too hard when rock-ribbed Arminians tell us theological determinists that we worship the devil, or that our God is worse than Hitler. However, I strongly disagree that the discussion is “unproductive.” But I’ll not bother to defend that claim here. In any case, the parties to this discussion are compatibilists and libertarians. To embrace libertarianism is to affirm that compatibilism is necessarily false. So what did I find funny? That Crisp says that the (ahem) majority view would be offering an olive branch by affirming Calvinist libertarianism. But to affirm Calvinist libertarianism is to affirm that we’ve been wrong all along. On the contrary, then, this isn’t to offer an olive branch; it is to raise the white flag!


  1. Oliver Crisp says:

    Paul, thanks for this. I hope you won’t mind if I offer a slight correction to your reporting thus far: I don’t say that the majority view would be offering an olive branch by affirming libertarian Calvinism. I say that libertarian Calvinism is hardly the majority view but that it may offer an olive branch on a theological discussion long mired in vituperative discussion. (Obviously, only if it is coherent, which you dispute.) I should add that I make clear in the introduction that I don’t endorse libertarian Calvinism. I am trying to unpack a view that appears to be out there, so to speak, a minority report in the literature if you will. That is surely a deviant Calvinism worth talking about in a book like this one, don’t you think?

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Oliver. Okay, that makes sense! Thanks for the correction. I took you as saying that if we Reformed folk embraced LC, then we’d be offering an olive branch on the discussion. But I thought embracing LC would be to claim we (the majority) were wrong all along. Anyway, I appreciate the clarification.

    I should have my first installment on your chapter up sometime this weekend. Perhaps you could stop back by and offer any corrections or clarifications you may have. Oh, and I do think LC is a deviant Calvinism worth talking about, if only for the opportunity it affords us to (I say) correct it! So I appreciate you giving this view some mainstream attention.

  3. […] Oliver kindly left a comment on my previous post, and I should note that he does not endorse libertarian Calvinism, he’s […]

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September 2014


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