The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism

by Craig R. Brown

Paperback, 2007







After a brief survey of the historical development of the theological school now known as Calvinism and a comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism, Brown turns to a consideration of five dilemmas that Arminians typically associate with Reformed doctrines. The author then attempts to demonstrate that these problems are largely misunderstandings of Calvinism. Written in a winsome and engaging style, Brown's work is an excellent primer on Calvinism and some of the critiques that have been leveled against it. As such, the book provides both apologetic help for Calvinists and answers for Arminians with honest questions.

Media reviews

Good, but...

I just finished Craig Brown’s The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism. I enjoyed it. For me, a lot of it was review and reminded me of Spencer’s TULIP: The five points of Calvinism in the light of Scripture. Brown does a good job at first laying out the historical background and delopment of the Arminian/Calvin divide and then jumping into a compare and contrast of the two school’s of thought on the topic of how God saves people from sin and death.

Brown draws heavily from R.C. Sproul throughout the book. This isn’t bad, but it left me with the impression that perhaps the writer should diversify the sources he draws from. At one point I found myself asking “Why don’t I just go read Sproul instead of this book?” I wouldn’t want other readers to get turned off to the book because it seems to be quoting Sproul so much. He also does pull in Augustine, Calvin(obviously!), Warfield and others. This is good.

For me, the most gripping chapter was the last one. According to Brown, The fifth dilemma of Calvinism is: Babies – If people are born totally depraved, as Calvinism teaches, where do babies go when they die? It’s a valid question. How we answer it has profound implication for how we comfort those who have lost children through miscarriage, stillborn, SIDS, or other tragedies. I’m glad Mr. Brown has included it in his book.

However, I just can’t wholeheartedly agree with his answer(s). I’ll let you get the book, dig into his arguments and formulate your own understanding and position. Let me just say this. Why do we Calvinists hold so unswervingly to the sovereign goodness and wisdom of God in salvation when it comes to adults and them somehow let most, if not all, of that slip away when it comes to talking about infants? Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not arguing for the eternal damnation of all infants. I’m arguing instead for a strong trust in the goodness and wisdom of God…not necessarily to save all babies…but to do what is right. It may sound comforting to tell a parent who has lost a child that their baby is safely with the Lord in heaven but I just don’t think we can confidently conclude this biblically. Instead, I suggest that it’s actually more comforting to tell these parents (and I’m one of them, in case you were starting to think ‘you don’t understand how I feel’) to trust in the goodness and wisdom of God to do what is right and just. We have an overwhelmingly greater amount of Biblical support that God will always do what is right, judge perfectly and act infinitely wise in all He does. Additionally, our concepts of comfort and right-ness are very different here on earth, this side of eternity. When we are with Him one day and changed forever, there is a great chance that we will understand comfort and justice quite differently than how we conceive them in our minds today.

My conclusion? This book is good. Pick it up. It’s a quick read and if you’re not familiar with what’s been called Calvinism for years, or Reformed Theology for that matter, this will give you a great introduction. It’s not too technical either. Easy to understand. Let me know what you think if you dive into it.



Ligonier Ministries (2007), 127 pages
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