Samuel Fisk served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Manila, Philippines, prior to World War II and later taught at John Brown University, Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary, and Western Baptist Bible College. He has written numerous books and articles and regularly contributed to the Biblical Evangelist. Mr. Fisk and his wife, Hilda, live in El Cerrito, California, where he devotes his time to research and writing.
Reviews - What do customers think about Election & Predestination: Keys to a Clearer Understanding?
A Biblical View May 30, 2008
If you are looking for some new material on predestination and election, Samuel Fisk may have the book you are looking for! The author not only gives his own views, but also quotes upwards of 100 scholars' views on election and predestination as well. Although some of these men are not so well known, that does not make their input less valuable. On the contrary, it is often quite helpful to look at a wider range of views on such thorny issues as election and predestination. Some are Baptists, but many more are well known and come from a wide range of backgrounds. With such a diversity of authors referenced, there is a wealth of excellent sources to glean biblical truth from.
In the Foreword, Samuel F. Johnston sums up the issues this book deals with aptly, "The Sovereignty of God is in no way undermined. How could God be God if he were not Sovereign? It should be remembered, however, that God has other attributes: Holiness; Righteousness; Love; Mercy; Grace; Longsuffering, etc. These must all blend without one overshadowing another." After mentioning Augustine, Calvin, and those who might describe themselves as 4-point Calvinists, Johnston continues, "There is, however, the more ancient view that election is corporate rather than individual, and that on conversion persons, foreknown by God, enter individually into the blessings which God has prepared, corporately, for those `in Christ'. As a person entered the chosen nation Israel by birth, so today a person enters the chosen body, the church, by new birth. It is not that individuals are in the church because they are elect but that they are elect because they are in the church."
As Samuel Fisk and the plethora of others he quotes admit, the few times election and predestination are actually used in the Bible, they mainly pertain to those who believe, and in looking towards their "Sonship", and future glorification. That is why the BIBLE plainly says that we as believers; are "chosen" "according" to the "foreknowledge" of God..."to obey" Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). And, those believers whom He "foreknew", He also "predestined" "to become conformed" "to the image" of His Son (Rom. 8:29). And finally, He "chose" those who believe in Him..."that"...those who believe would "be holy and blameless"...He "predestined" those who believe "to adoption"...and an "inheritance" (Eph. 1:4, 5, 11). It becomes obvious that the Bible is only too clear once we strip away all the theological presuppositions and let the Word speak plainly for itself.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, in the first 2 chapters, Fisk starts off by looking at issues surrounding, God's absolute sovereignty and mans' free and responsible will, the role of Faith, and Total Depravity & Inability. I appreciate Dr. A.C. Gaebelein's remarks concerning A.W. Pink's "The Sovereignty of God"; "...It is just this kind of teaching which makes atheists." In Appendix C Samuel Fisk also points out how Banner of Truth Trust left out 3 chapters from Pink's original work, plus his teaching that God has no love for any other than the elect. The author also notes how Pink later recanted his hard-line views on sovereignty and human freedom. Please see this section for Pink's revised view on the "dead" state of the sinner. Unfortunately, his original version is still used by Calvinists even today.
C.H. Spurgeon fans may, or may not, depending on their theology, appreciate Fisk's chapter, "C.H. Spurgeon's Other Side". Spurgeon was the most inconsistent Calvinist I have ever had the pleasure to read! However, that very inconsistency is what allowed him to break from Calvinism at times and make open invitations to ALL sinners to "accept" the gospel in spite of Calvinism. I for one am glad he did, and I wish there were some like him today. Spurgeon was indeed the last of his breed from his creed. The only reason he couldn't more fully harmonize his theology with Scripture, and didn't even try, was because he refused to disassociate himself with the System of Calvinism--he couldn't let go. In spite of what Spurgeon said about all believers "having their brains washed" and becoming Calvinists before entering heaven--I have no doubt that he, and all the other saints, are not walking around heaven with John Calvin tatoos.
In Part 2 of the book the author gives special attention to a number of New Testament Scripture references that some have "read" or forced their presuppositions into--especially Romans 9. In addition, the appendices on Spurgeon, Pink, Robert Lightner's response to John Owen, etc., are an added bonus as well.
Samuel Fisk closes his book with a most appropriate quote from Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of missionary Jim Elliot, who was killed by Acua Indians in Ecuador: "The fact that Christ died for all men, makes me interested in the salvation of all men."
The bottom line is this: how you view election and predestination WILL most definitely influence your outlook on missions and evangelism. If you want to look further into the issues surrounding Calvinism from this author see also his first-rate Calvinistic Paths Retraced, "Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom", and "Five-Point Calvinism--and the Inconsistency of a Four-Point Position".
Predestined Not to be Reformed Sep 9, 2006
I am often turned off by negative book reviews, but in this case, I thought it necessary. Typically, I perceive that a negative review of an Arminian work is by a Reformed believer, but not in this case. I will be very brief.
As a seminary graduate trained in inductive bible study and exegesis, I find that there are immense exegetical reasons to discard Reformed Theology as false and an eisegetical "biblical" interpretation developed from false philosophical presuppositions.
I bought this book, looking for something to add to my understanding, but was so disappointed, even shocked, at the lack of solid exegesis (which abounds in scripture) or convincing arguments (which are many) to help the reader understand the issues and the overwhelming evidence which demonstrates the errors of Reformed Theology. To me, the book seems very outdated, with a collection of quotes that do not reflect critical thinking, incisive thought, or convincing arguments. Just doing your own inductive bible study alone will provide far more than this book.
For those that really want to be informed, don't waste your money here. There are more helpful books. There are actually some commentaries that are quite helpful, such as Romans 9-16 by Cranfield (available at CBD) and Romans by Witherington. These are meaty and provide solid exegesis to debunk Deformed Theology, I mean, Reformed.
Open Theism' Roots Jul 19, 2006
I bought this hoping for some good information. Only the first chapter or so is worth reading. His position that God really does not know everything and that if God cannot learn anything would make His life one of stagnation are seriously flawed. I realize that he is quoting others, but they were not worth the space.
This book will not help an extreme Calvinist reexamine his position, it will only drive him further into his system. The seeds of open theism are seen in the appendices. Quite frankly I was shocked when I read the book.
I hold to an unlimited atonement so I am not giving this book a bad review because of its position, but on how the case is made. I would not waste my money on this one again.
Helpful But Dated Material on Election Apr 16, 2006
I purchased Samuel Fisk's book already convinced that the Calvinistic doctrine of Election and Predestination was not based on the Bible but the Reformed creeds and the teachings of John Calvin. So I came to this book simply wanting to find more information to back my own position. And that I did.
The positives of this book is that Samuel Fisk has done his homework. This work is a series of quotes from various authors on the Calvinistic doctrine of Election. Fisk runs the table with the quotes by using not only Arminian authors but he uses the confusing world of Calvinistic theologians to build his case. He shows essentially that even Calvinistist do not agree on the doctrine of election.
I also found his chapter on Charles Spurgeon's view of the atonement to be interesting. It is debated whether Spurgeon believed in limited atonement (particular redemption) or not. I am of the opinion that Spurgeon did embrace Calvinism's teaching on election and particular redemption but one reading of these quotes from Spurgeon's sermons on election will leave you wondering.
Finally, the negatives of this book. For one I found the work to be dated despite Fisk's own updates and editions. But many of the authors that Fisk quotes are not familiar to most readers. A few (such as Spurgeon) despite their age are still familiar but most were not to me at least. Secondly, I would have appreciated more interaction with the Scriptures on election themselves. Fisk does interact with the passages on election and predestination from time to time but not as much as an expositor like myself would enjoy. Exegesis of the election passages would easily defeat Calvinism.
For more information on Calvinism and its doctrines see the following: Daniel Conner THE CONDITIONAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER
An Insightful But Incomplete Text Jan 9, 2006
Fisk states in his preface that "in gathering material for this treatise we avoided, on the whole, works of an Arminian nature, or those which might naturally be regarded as anti-Calvinistic." It is, however, clear from the book's intent as well as the quotations that Calvinistic doctrines such as unconditional divine election unto salvation of some and limited atonement only for the elect are rejected as unbiblical. These doctrines are also rejected by Arminians of all varieties as well, although it seems that Fisk rejects the term "Arminian" and whatever doctrines are associated with it in his mind and prefers the label of "moderate Calvinism" in contrast to what he and others quoted by him call "extreme" or "hyper" Calvinism. In fact, in Appendix G it is stated and shown that "Calvin, albeit inconsistently, actually taught on occasions, that Christ did indeed die for all men." The book also teaches that God voluntarily limits himself to make room for human freedom and includes in Appendix B a quote in support of it. This doctrine is rejected by some who consider themselves moderate Calvinists such as Norman Geisler, author of "Chosen But Free".
The book is divided into two parts entitled "Complementary Truths in Focus" and "Scriptures Calling For Special Attention". The first part addresses the general relation of God's sovereignty, including his foreknowledge, to human freedom with Chapter 3 focusing on what the biblical terms of "predestination" and "election" refer. Regarding predestination, it is stated that its use is only in the New Testament and refers only to believers being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29-30) and being adopted as God's children (Ephesians 1:5, 11). It is argued that nowhere does scripture teach that God unconditionally predestines some to salvation and others to damnation. Regarding election, Fisk states: "It can be seen in the view of many well-known writers that election largely involves: (a) the community or body as a whole (individuals as comprising the body); (b) it has to do with service or witness to the world as part of the plan of God; and (c) it looks less back than forward to what lies out ahead for those called of God. In addition, the word elect is taken by some to be more of a title and it may refer to individuals as related to position, privileges, or office." The second part addresses New Testament scriptures that deserve special attention. Also included are seven lettered appendices as follows: A - Spurgeon on the Extent of the Atonement; B - Dr. Biederwolf's Excerpt from Kinsley on God's Foreknowledge; C - Pink on Human Responsibility; D - An Answer to John Owen; E - God's Willingness and Man's Unwillingness; F - A. W. Tozer on Sovereignty and Free Will; and G - Some Little Known Statements of John Calvin.
Although there are some insightful thoughts here, I consider the book incomplete for the following reasons. The entire book, with all of its quotes, is founded on the following questionable premise: Every person's salvation or damnation is conditioned upon a decision from that person's free will so that each person is responsible for his or her salvation or damnation. A couple issues make the premise questionable, especially in terms of salvation. First, it doesn't allow for exceptions such as all who die in infancy. Many Christians believe that all who die in infancy are covered by God's grace through Christ's atonement without a volitional faith in Christ. This means that their salvation (including any election and predestination in relation to it) is unconditional, not conditioned upon their free will. Granted, some believe that all who die in infancy will be given a post-mortem opportunity to have faith in Christ, but this is neither affirmed nor denied in the book although it's a significant issue with ramifications. Second, the book doesn't expound on the biblical fact that ALL of Adam's descendants, except Christ, are unconditionally made sinners because of Adam (cf. Romans 5:12 - 19) and what this means in terms of both personal, willful sin (i.e., is it avoidable or caused by the sinful nature inherited from Adam?) and each individual's salvation or damnation. Is everybody on the road to hell the moment they come into existence because of Adam? Why or why not? Also, if it is necessary to know the Christian Gospel in order to be "saved", then what is the nature of this salvation and what happens to those who die without knowing the Gospel? Are they automatically damned? If so, on what basis: their inherited sinful nature, their own free will, or both? If their damnation is partially or solely because of their sinful nature, then how is this different from unconditional divine reprobation since nobody chooses to be a sinner in Adam? Can salvation (including election and predestination in Christ) in any sense be forfeited and, if so, how? None of this is addressed in any significant detail in this book although answers to these questions are significant to a proper understanding of biblical salvation (including election and predestination) and damnation. Regarding forfeiting salvation, I do recall a quote from Ellicott related to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, on page 140, which spoke of some who "would have forfeited their salvation, in spite of God's choice of them". However, this quote is not supported by many of the quotes from other authors and is not seriously expounded on or defended. Most "moderate Calvinists" deny that salvation can be forfeited.
Appendix E made a good observation regarding the truth that "a sovereign God often desires things that never actually come to pass" and rightly pointed out that "Extreme Calvinists seem to have difficulty in understanding how a sovereign God can `desire' something that will never come to pass." However, Appendix D (An Answer to John Owen) left much to be desired in my mind. Although I think John Owen is incorrect, I also think that the answer from Robert P. Lightner in the appendix is flawed, especially in light of other doctrines. Owen assumes that all sin whatsoever is unconditionally covered by Christ's atonement but only for those unconditionally elect in Christ whereas Lightner assumes that Christ's atonement is sufficient for everybody's sin but application (or the efficiency) of it is contingent upon exercising faith in Christ. Both Owen and Lightner fail to consider the possibility that all sins, including the sinful nature that everybody inherits because of Adam, are efficiently and unconditionally covered by Christ's atonement except one: the unpardonable sin that damns. We are not sinners in Adam potentially or contingently but actually and unconditionally according to God's sovereign, Christ-centered plan. However, the scriptures make a distinction between the inherited sinful nature and avoidable willful sin, and according to Hebrews 10:26, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left..." (NIV). Without expounding on this verse in context, notice the last phrase: no sacrifice for sins is left. This strongly implies that there is a type of deliberate sin that is ongoing or unrepentant which is NOT covered by Christ's atonement although all other sins are covered. This takes us back to some of those questions mentioned earlier that were not addressed in the book, including the question of infant salvation. If it is true that the sinful nature of all who die in infancy is actually and unconditionally covered by Christ's atonement, then it seems to follow that the salvation (including election and predestination) of those who die in infancy is solely by God's grace. It also strongly implies that everybody is on the road to heaven, not hell, the moment they come into existence which raises the questions of exactly how a person is damned and what "faith in Christ" really and fully means. It also implies that divine predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ is for everybody, not just believers, since Christ's atonement covers everybody at their conception (not only in the womb but before that in the mind and foreknowledge of God). Those who go to hell must have, therefore, in some sense forfeited God's plan for their lives. There is much more that could be said that is relevant to the issues raised in this book that are not covered. Again, the book has some insightful ideas but is incomplete in addressing related but crucial issues.