The "Dark Side" of Calvinism According to an Arminian
Some General Comments
Someone recently gave me a copy of George Bryson’s book, The Dark Side of Calvinism. Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, here in California wrote the Foreword to the work. In its entirety the book raises a number of questions and poses a number of problems. The problems are not so much the degree of difficulty in the theological questions raised by Mr. Bryson—they have all been asked and answered before—but rather the tone with which Mr. Bryson writes.
In addition, there are promises made in the book that, to my mind, are never realized. Moreover, there are a number of “cheap shots” contained in Mr. Bryson’s writing that you really don’t expect from a church planter who, by his own admission, took seven years and got help to write this book. Allow me to enumerate some of my concerns as one who is committed to the Reformed faith.
First, I expect rather detailed exegesis of the various texts of Scripture in question. The reason I italicized the word “detailed” is that none of the scriptures in question are actually new. They have been debated since before the time of St. Augustine. If Mr. Bryson had found something new and astounding that no one in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ had found, I would expect him to share those new findings with us. In this sense, the book is an enormous disappointment since Mr. Bryson gives citations of texts without exegeting them to point to where exegetes prior to him derailed. If you are going to accuse those who hold to the Reformed faith as having a “dark side”—and Mr. Bryson does—then it is not unreasonable to expect new insights and new light on the texts in question. In addition, it is not unreasonable to mention any new texts that have not been adequately examined in the past. Mr. Bryson does neither. This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that both Smith and Bryson promise bringing Scripture to bear on the subject. Apparently, in their book bringing Scripture to bear means something like “mention it.”
Second, Mr. Bryson explains that he is neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. Somehow, he has escaped the surly bounds of historical Christianity and has achieved a rather unique position that he calls “Bibilicist.” Ironically, even though Mr. Bryson has written in a stringent and vitriolic manner against Calvinism, he has not yet written his diatribe against Arminianism, which he claims he isn’t either. That book, no doubt, will be forthcoming very soon and will be just as scathing as his book against Calvinism. After all, he’s balanced, right? Right. Moreover, as Mr. Bryson begins to explain precisely what his “Biblicist” position is, it looks, smells, walks and acts like Arminian so we can conclude that it probably is—at the end of the day—Arminianism.
Third, Mr. Bryson sometimes employs the unwarranted and unacceptable method of “truth by declaration.” That is to say, he simply declares something to be true, proceeds on the assumption that it is true, and expects the reader simply to concur or follow him. When you’re refuting a tradition that some say reaches back to the beginning of time, it might be very helpful to substantiate your claims. Moreover, when you are attacking theologians of the quality and calibre of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Bavinck, Kuyper, and a host of others, you really should give substantive reasons why they played such an integral part in the history of the Church if they were so dead wrong.
Fourth, I cannot understand why both Smith and Bryson get so exercised about God being God and absolutely sovereign in his deity. It would seem that if God is all-powerful and all-knowing he should be able to reveal to his creature what he wants him to know. If God reveals himself as absolutely sovereign—and he does—why are Smith and Bryson upset about that?
Finally, both Smith and Bryson present us with an almost one-dimensional God. Their text par excellence is John 3:16 and it gets twisted and contorted to mean precisely what these non-Arminian Arminians want it to say. The upshot of what I’m saying is not that God is a God of love, for Reformed and non-Reformed both acknowledge and rejoice that he is (1 John 4:8, 16). The upshot for both Smith and Bryson is that God ends up being almost only a God of love and then only a God of love according to their definitions. Even when we Christians speak of the love of God, we must not—dare not—force it into our pre-conceived notions of what love must be and must look like.With these qualifications in mind, I’m going to embark on an analysis and criticism of Bryson’s book. I will, no doubt, have to run out to the garage and get my Darth Vader apparatus out so I can manifest my “dark side.” The force be with you! I’ll begin with Chuck Smith’s foreword to Bryson’s book in the next installment.
 George Bryson, The Dark Side of Calvinism. The Calvinist Caste System, (Santa Ana, CA: Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2004).
 The title of his book is The Five Points of Calvinism—Weighed and Found Wanting.