The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Introduction)

Though Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination is not considered a “scholarly treatment,” it is nevertheless an EXTREMELY POPULAR piece of writing. The popularity and widespread influence of this book is one factor that prompted my review of it. Boettner does not attempt to “reinvent the theological wheel” of basic Calvinism in this book. Boettner’s first chapter (which he names the Introduction) contains the following:

“The purpose of this book is not to set forth a new system of theological thought, but to give a re-statement to that great system which is known as the Reformed Faith or Calvinism, and to show that this is beyond all doubt the teaching of the Bible and of reason” (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 1).

The Lord willing, I will endeavor to show that “the Reformed Faith” is “beyond all doubt” NOT the teaching of the Bible and is in fact, damnable heresy. This “book review” of sorts is 46-pages (or posts) long. With that said, I move on to quote a few things from others concerning Boettner and his book of popular consumption.

According to Dr. Curt Daniel:

“Boettner was a student who graduated in the last class at Princeton Seminary before the split with Machen. It comes as a great surpize [sic] to readers of his books that he has never been a pastor or theologian (though he did teach religion briefly at a Christian college). In other words, Loraine Boettner has been a ‘lay theologian.’ And yet his Calvinistic influence has been great” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism, p. 168).

Dr. C. Matthew McMahon writes the following concerning Boettner:

“In 1925 he furthered his education while attending Princeton. In 1928 he received his Th.B, and in 1929 his Th.M. While attending Princeton he found the flavor of Calvinistic doctrine to be sweet. While on summer break in his second year he devoured Hodge’s Systematic Theology volumes two and three. After being so influenced by Hodge’s teaching, the urge to write his Master’s thesis on predestination became apparent. While attending Princeton he studied under Hodge’s grandson, Casper W. Hodge. His influence strengthened Loraine in the Reformed doctrines. Loraine also met occasionally with another mentor/friend named Samuel G. Craig, editor of The Presbyterian. Craig and Boettner would meet for dinner to discuss the latest happenings at the college between the liberals and the Reformed influence of Machen.

After graduating Princeton, Loraine began teaching at Pikesville Presbyterian College in Eastern Kentucky until 1937. While at this school he met his wife to be, Lillian Henry. They married in 1932. He also published Reformed Doctrine of Predestination in 1932; this was an exceptional year for him.

From 1935 to 1939 Loraine worked with Dr. Allis on a magazine called Christianity Today. This was not in any relation to the magazine of today. In 1937 he began working at the Library of Congress and the Bureau of Internal Revenue; he had left the teaching position at Pikesville. Though working in an environment which was not related to Biblical studies or Theology, he still continued to write producing many books at this stage of his life. Here he revised the ‘Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’ from his original thesis word count being 8,000 words, to the revised count of 30,000 words.”

Commenting on Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Daniel writes:

“His first book was based on his Master’s thesis, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. It has been in continual publication since 1932. Sooner or later every budding Calvinist gets around to reading this excellent volume. It is large but not ponderous, for Boettner writes in a remarkably lucid manner. It covers each of the ‘five points,’ objections, a brief history of Calvinism, and related issues like the free offer, assurance and practicalities” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism, p. 168).

In their book The Five Points of Calvinism, David N. Steel and Curtis C. Thomas highly recommend Boettner’s book as “the best overall treatment” of “the Calvinist system in general or with the broader area of God’s sovereignty” (p. 62). They write further:

“Of all the works on Calvinism with which we are familiar, this in our opinion is the best overall popular treatment of the subject. It is clear in style and logically arranged…We strongly recommend this work; it is one of those rare books written in a style that is readable and profitable for the beginner as well as for the more advanced student (pp. 62-63).

Again, the extreme popularity of this book and the fact that it is given to multitudes of “brand new” or “budding Calvinists” is a big reason for doing this review. Using the touchstone of Scripture we will see, the Lord willing, that “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” presents a “partially-sovereign” figment of the vain Calvinist’s imagination rather than the true Sovereign Controller of the universe Next Page (1)

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