Jonathan Hoglund. Called by Triune Grace: Divine Rhetoric and the Effectual Call. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
Called by Triune Grace, by Jonathan Hoglund, is relevant to
the Calvinist concept of irresistible grace. For many Calvinists, human
beings are so depraved that they are unable to accept the Gospel on
their own, so God enables a select number of them to believe in the
Gospel and to desire godly things. Many Calvinists regard this process
as irresistible: those whom God so transforms are unable to say “no” to
God’s transformation of them. Actually, as God transforms their
desires, they will not even want to say “no” to it!
Hoglund writes from a Reformed perspective, and he appears to accept
the concept of irresistible grace. Still, he has questions. For one,
Hoglund does not care for how some conceptions of irresistible grace
depict humans as utterly passive, as if they are lifeless blocks of wood
upon which God is acting. Second, there is the question of how exactly
irresistible grace occurs. Does God infuse into select people the sort
of disposition and attributes that would enable them to accept the
Gospel? Does God transform them while they are hearing the Gospel? Is
God’s transformation like illumination, or raising a spiritually dead
corpse from the dead? Is it primarily intellectual, enabling people to
understand the Gospel, or does it transform the will, as well? Does God
use means, such as life experiences, to prepare people to receive the
Then there is the question of how exactly the word of God fits into
the equation. There are Scriptures that appear to indicate that the
word of God itself is what gives birth to born again believers (I Peter
1:23; James 1:18). Is it, though, according to the Calvinists who
believe that regeneration must precede a person’s hearing of the word
for that person to accept it? Does the word itself, the Gospel and the
Scriptures, play a role in a person’s transformation?
Hoglund surveys Calvinist thought on these questions, including (but
definitely not limited to) the thought of John Owen and Jonathan
Edwards. Occasionally, Hoglund refers to non-Calvinist thought on
divine grace, such as the thought of Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, and
Arminians. Schleiermacher technically belongs to the Reformed camp, but
he is not known for emphasizing predestination or irresistible grace.
His view on how God brings people to Godself, through the historical
passing down of Jesus’ God-consciousness through witnesses, is discussed
extensively by Hoglund.
Hoglund’s own contribution believes that rhetoric plays a significant
role in God’s process of enabling people to believe. Hoglund refers to
Scriptures that highlight the importance of persuasive techniques and
appeals in God’s word, or the conveying of God’s word. The Father’s
authority behind the word, for Hoglund, provides an ethos that can
persuade a person to believe, and the Holy Spirit illuminates a person’s
understanding, enabling one to see Jesus Christ as he is, as
beautiful. Hoglund seems rather uncomfortable likening unbelievers to a
passive, lifeless corpse, so he believes that God, in transforming
unbelievers into believers, works with human faculties, such as reason
There were times when I was reading this book and wondered if
Calvinist thinkers were making the problem more difficult than it needed
to be. Yes, a person believes the word and becomes saved, and, yes,
God needs to transform a person for that to happen. The content of the
word itself is righteous and edifying and thus plays some role in
spiritual transformation and renewal, and yet one needs a certain
disposition to accept it. Why all the disagreement among Calvinists?
Hoglund’s book is still valuable, in my opinion. The mechanics of how
conversion takes place is not exactly obvious. Hoglund does well to
survey Christian thought on this, and also to highlight shortcomings to
various proposals. Certain analogies have their shortcomings, which
often are not acknowledged by those who make them. Hoglund does well to
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!
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