God’s Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster and Paul Marston was first published in 1973. and a revised and expanded third edition was released in 2013. I recently was able to ask Roger a few questions about the book.
Could you briefly summarise what God’s purpose and plan is throughout the history of humanity?
Firstly, to defeat and rout out evil from the universe. Secondly, to conform to the image of Christ as many people as will let God do it to them. Thirdly, to bring in a new heaven and a new earth.
Why did you and Paul Marston originally write God’s Strategy in Human History?
I found myself continuously teaching, correcting and instructing concerning God’s character, which in popular evangelical circles was presenting God as ordaining everything that happens. I felt this caricature of God unacceptable and unbiblical. So I wrote concerning the truths of predestination, meaning God’s purpose or destiny for man is Christ likeness which we can reject. Election is the office of servanthood that God has appointed for the church (compare Jesus the elect suffering servant of God). Election is nothing to do with going to heaven or hell: it is to do with washing feet.
What have been the main changes to the new edition?
The basic concepts of Augustinian Calvinism and the answers to these assertions in our exegesis has remained virtually unchanged, but we have added other sections, mainly ones on the intermediate state after death before the resurrection and tackled the thorny issue of eternal conscious torment. Most of the intricate and sometimes heavy scholarship lying behind our arguments are separated into the second volume which many people may find unnecessary to engage with. Although for ourselves it is very important. A third addition are the key concepts and definitions where many of the ideas are listed conveniently together at the end of volume one.
To what extent do you think the ideas/concepts from the 1973 book have impacted the theology of the ‘average’ Christian over the years?
I find this one almost impossible to answer. Of course we get many eulogies of people who have been delivered from wrong views of God after reading our book. I think there are more student minds today willing to see there is an alternative to Augustinian Calvinism, perhaps more than there were. However, to comment on the average Christian is extremely difficult: popular ideas will always continue however carefully they might be refuted.
What topics from God’s Strategy in Human History do you consider are the most vital for people to grasp today?
Firstly, that God is not ordaining everything and controlling everything that happens. Although He is the first cause in creation of everything, including the Devil, He does not ordain everything that the devil does or that mankind should sin.
Secondly, that God is love and has given us free will which is necessary for us to love.
Thirdly, that God is to be preached as like Jesus and not like a despotic tyrannical torturer of human beings.
Has the Calvinist vs Arminian debate changed since God’s Strategy in Human History was first written?
This again is a difficult one to answer, in some parts of the world the issue is hardly ever considered. In Europe, Calvinism is still the dominant view, but the debates seem to be less frequent since large numbers of Christians are very shallow in their grasp of scripture and don’t therefore have the ability to engage in depth with the subjects. Biblical interest in the church is less than it was, however, one finds the occasional person like the gentleman who was a Calvinist and did a PhD on my theology. After he had gained his PhD he came to tell me that he had changed his position to Arminianism. Perhaps there are some other people like him around.
God’s Strategy in Human History is published by Push Publishing and available in two volumes.