Roger Olson’s ‘Arminian Theology’– Part Thirteen

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BEN: Jonathan Edwards in his Freedom of the Will argues that there is no compulsion or coercion involved, only predetermination when it comes to human choosing. People choose according to their desires and will and they do not feel compulsed or coerced, even though they could not have done otherwise. So the issue is not coercion but predetermination in his discussion of the matter. He objects to Luther’s treatise on the Bondage of the Will for a variety of reasons, not least because Luther does assert coercion is involved, and he also lacks a theology of secondary causes and divine permission, in Edward’s critique. Do you think Edwards modifications of Augustinianism are improvements or does it not make a difference sense in the end everything is predetermined in both approaches?

ROGER: I don’t see that it makes any difference, especially when Edwards goes on to argue that God creates the whole world ex nihilo at every moment. For Edwards, God is omnicausal whatever else he says. Sure, that doesn’t mean God coerces people to do anything against their wills, but he determines the content of their wills even if only by withdrawing the grace they would need to will the good.

BEN: By the gift of faith, I take it that you mean a person is enabled to believe in God, and trust God by means of God’s grace. At the same time faith has to be exercised and used. It can be weaker or stronger, little or large. Trusting is an active thing not merely a passive reception of something. In other words, what seems to matter is not just that God has enabled a person to believe, but what a person does with the gift of faith. It must be actively used. This surely involves a human component. God is not believing for us or trusting for us, though we can argue that the Holy Spirit keeps enabling our trusting and believing day by day. So my point is, it is not enough to say that faith is a gift of the Spirit. It’s what happens once the gift is received that either leads to an ongoing positive relationship with God or not. Faith is not like a trophy set on a mantle piece. Would you agree of disagree with this line of reasoning?

ROGER: Yes, I agree.

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