Roger Olson’s ‘Arminian Theology’– Part Two


BEN: Roger you seem to spend a good deal of effort trying to say that Arminian theology could rightly be called a form of Reformed theology, though one distinct from high Calvinism at various points. From a point of view of historical theology, I understand this, but wouldn’t it be better simply to say that both Calvinism and Arminianism are Protestant attempts to faithfully do Biblical theology, especially when it comes to doing justice to what the Bible says about soteriology? Why so much stress on trying to fit Arminian theology into the Reformed orbit?

ROGER: I’m a historical theologian. I do “theological cartography” (so my late friend Stan Grenz told me). That’s my area of scholarly expertise. I resist the notion that classical Arminianism is totally foreign to the Reformation and its impulses. That idea has political consequences among evangelicals. Reformed theology—at least broadly defined—is privileged in the centers of evangelicalism (except among Wesleyans). I want to show that Arminianism is a species of Reformation theology and is not, as some conservative Reformed people say, closer to Catholicism in its soteriology.

BEN: Supposing for a moment that prevenient grace is universally distributed to all humankind, what do you think Arminius’ answer to the following question would be— “If all have been enabled by prevenient grace to positively respond to the Gospel, why is it some reject and some accept the Gospel’s invitation to be saved? Or do you think Arminius would say prevenient grace is only given to those God foreknows will respond positively to the Gospel when they hear it?

ROGER: I’m not absolutely sure, but I suspect Arminius believed the chief medium of prevenient grace is the gospel message communicated. There are hints here and there in Arminius that he wanted to believe God is an equal opportunity savior, but I’m not convinced he really believed that. This is a point of difference among Arminians. Some (e.g., Wesley) believe God is an equal opportunity savior; others believe prevenient grace is attached to the gospel message and its communication (even if that happens sometimes supernaturally via angels or whatever). I do not think Arminius or any classical Arminian would say prevenient grace is given only to those God foreknows will respond positively to the gospel.