The classical Calvinist position
This book is a little...bittersweet. I am a Reformed Baptist and thus I agree with the classical position as articulated by Paul Helm, but I must agree with the criticism given by the other contributors that Helm’s chapter was more about predestination than about theology proper and God’s relation to the world. Helm’s claim that his position is the historical (whether true or false) was met with a lot of snarkiness and set an unprofessional tone to the book and responses, which was disappointing. Even as a Calvinist, I acknowledge that divine Determinism or unconditional election is not the mainstream or default teaching of Christianity. I believe it is absolutely biblical, but it is something else to say that it is simply the default view. But were Dr. Helm’s chapter on classical theism and God’s relation to the world, then his statement would have fully been justified. The responses made even moderate statements by Dr. Helm to be absolute and extreme. This was unhelpful. Dr. Helm even spends a lot of pages preemptively responding to various views which he thought would be represented in this book. He even discusses middle knowledge and the views of William Lane Craig on that in his section on Arminianism (Arminians usually reject middle knowledge). This space could have been used to focus more on the subject of the book.
Dr. Helm focused on the A-Team—Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas, and provided citations from them on their views on predestination, especially as related to Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. His claims could be perhaps substantiated by his A-team, but it was disappointing for me to think that the book would have been more upon the classical attributes such as simplicity, impassibility, immutability, divine eternity, but to find out that the bulk of his chapter was about predestination. Certainly predestination says something about God, but it seems to me to have been better to not make predestination a major point in his chapter.
The modified Calvinist position
Dr. Bruce A. Ware presents the modified Calvinist view. Dr. Ware presents a good case for his modified model, which modifies the Reformed understanding of doctrines such as divine eternity and immutability, as well as employing middle knowledge (p. 77). His modified understanding is also related to how God relates to the world. In the classic understanding, God’s relation in a sense is one-sided. It is the world that changes its relation to God, but God does not change neither acquires new relation toward the world (to protect His aseity and pure actuality). God relation to the world is a relation of reason (not a relationship, a word which classical theists are not fond of). These three doctrines are not irrelated: “Both God’s relationship to time (divine eternity) and God’s relation to change (divine immutability) need some reconsideration and reformulation to demonstrate that the God who made us chooses to live in relationship with what he has made” (pp. 85-86).
Concerning divine eternity, the classical tradition has taught that God exists outside of time and “possesses the whole of His being in one indivisible present” (Louis Berkhof). Dr. Ware suggests we understand eternity in the same way we understand omnipresence, namely, that God exists outside of space-limitation as well as everywhere in space. He says, ‘we can understand God’s...