Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 2

Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 2 September 27, 2006

Myth #1: Arminian theology is the opposite of Calvinist/Reformed theology. This is not true: Arminius and most of his followers are part of the broad Reformation movement and there is common ground.
So, Roger Olson, Arminian Theology, chp. 1. Do you see Arminian theology as a development of the Reformation or as a departure from the Reformation?
First, Olson makes a case — knowing some disagree — that Arminius was part of the Dutch Reforming movement and that he was trying to correct Calvinism from unbiblical ideas. He was against a strict, or radical, monergism. He was, according to some Calvinists, a left-wing Calvinist.

Second, there are two major links: both Arminians and Calvinists are united on an emphasis on God’s glory and on covenant, or federal, theology. (If this surprises you, you need to read this book; I can’t give all the details here.) And there is a major connection between the two with the doctrine of prevenient grace: all good comes to us through grace, even saving faith. Both believe in total depravity: mind, heart, and will.
Third, Wesley said he and his followers were close to Calvinism in ascribing all good to the free grace of God, in denying all natural free will and all powers antecedent to grace, and in excluding all merit from humans.
Fourth, there are real differences — unbridgeable differences. But the big point is that these two systems are not opposites, they are not mirror images of the other.

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  • Jim Packer has a good article on “Arminianisms” (the plural tells you something) in volume 4 of his Collected Shorter Writings. He advocates being less hard on Wesley’s Arminianism than on Dutch Arminianism, to avoid blanket judgements, and to judge each version on merit.
    His comment on Wesley is that his system contained a good deal of its own antidote and belonged in a different class to the remonstrant position.
    He still thinks that Arminianism is in principle unstable, but that instability is variable. It is well worth reading.

  • Scott M

    Martin, I’m curious (and speaking as one who is mostly an outsider to the whole Reformed branch) about your last sentence. It seems to imply that Calvinism is somehow “stable” which any historical perspective would seem to put to the lie. Not that I think any human theological system is, or ever can be, truly “stable”. The evidence of the influence of the Fall runs throughout all theological branches of the church for the past two millenia. Calvinism is no more stable in that regard than any other theological school.

  • Hi Scott M,
    Let me eloborate. Packer considers all Arminianisms to “start with a rationalistic hemeneutic which reads into the Bible at every point a philosophic axiom that to be responsible before God, man’s acts must be contingent in relation to him.” Because of that he sees Arminianisms as involving a measure of synergism that ranges between stronger and weaker varieties.
    Two further things to note:
    1. In principle Hyper-Calvinism is equally unstable because it too starts with the same rationalist presupposition, with the exception that this works itself out at the other end of the scale.
    2. These are Packer’s conclusions. The case that he makes is primarily exegetical.

  • Jacob

    Scot M,
    This is interesting. A lot of the Calvinist-Arminian debate is based on strawman arguments (on both sides), and this cuts through some of that.
    So Arminianism emphasizes God’s glory, believes that saving faith comes only through grace, and believes in total depravity: mind, heart, and will. And Wesley ascribed “all good to the free grace of God, in denying all natural free will and all powers antecedent to grace, and in excluding all merit from humans”.
    Are there many non-Calvinistic Arminians around today? Do many who are not Calvinistic agree with the formulation you present?

  • Scot,
    Do you see Arminian theology as a development of the Reformation or as a departure from the Reformation?
    This is true, from a classical sense and I agree with Olson. I think that any departure that many Calvinists point to is somewhat unfair because they do not draw distinctions between Arminians who mixed semi-pelagian ideas with Arminianism.
    Both believe in total depravity: mind, heart, and will.
    This is a head scratcher given how total depravity natrually and logically leads into, in my view, unconditional election. If we are ‘total’ in our depravity and spiritually dead, then how is it that even with free will in that deadness that we would the ability to then choose God? Dead men do dead acts, but dead men cannot do living acts (i.e. John 8:20-34). This is to say, that you can’t believe depravity to be total in one sense and then say that you have the ability to choose something contrary to that nature then later.
    Brad

  • Brad,
    Dead men, according to classical Arminianism, have been granted prevenient grace so as to understand and respond to the gospel offer.
    Olson’s point is that Arminians have always taught total depravity; and it probably surprises many of us to hear that Arminians have taught this.
    “Total”, so far as I know, means “comprehensively cracked” — that is, everything about us was impacted/affected by the Fall.

  • Being from the Wesleyan Arminian side of the camp, I found nothing new in this post. It is good to see that someone is asking for us not to all be lumped into the same camp.
    I strongly believe in the depravity of the human condition and the complete inability for us to save ourselves. Salvation is a work of God alone, and His grace enables us to make a choice. Prevenient Grace (grace that goes before salvation) is solely from God and allows us to make a decision for or against God. All freedom of choice (not will) is given to us solely by the Grace of God.
    Total Depravity does not of necessity lead to Unconditional Election. Total Depravity demands that God takes action on our behalf because we cannot. God’s grace comes to us before salvation drawing us to himself and enabling us to choose. Again, it is not of us, it is of God’s grace. All the “good” that is in humanity is a result of God’s grace and the residual image of God in our lives. Imago Dei is a strong theme in Wesleyan theology as well as Perfect Love (too much to explain the word “perfect” here).

  • Brad-
    I think Scot’s response is right – let me try to say it another way. As I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the way Calvinism & Arminianism deal with the issue of “total depravity” – I see they both seem to affirm it yet they handled it quite differently. I think the difference comes down to this question:
    In what way does Christ’s redemptive work act on both the universal and individual level?
    Non-Pelagian Arminians answer that Christ’s work acts on the universal level by “fixing” every person’s understanding such that they are able to “understand and respond to the gospel offer.” This is “preventing” (or prevenient) grace. So in the Arminian system God acts first, yet he does it universally. Everybody gets prevenient grace. Of course Arminians affirm that God also acts on the individual level to save those who believe – but that is preceded by his action at the universal level.
    Calvinists answer that Christ’s work acts on the individual level by “illuminating” (or maybe the word “fixing” I used above works) every person’s understanding so they see Christ for who he is and embrace him by grace through faith (sometimes the “faith” itself is seen as a gift, but I’d say at the least the illumination is). From this many people derive the concepts of “ULIP” from “TULIP.” So in the Calvinistic system God acts first, yet he does it individually. So only the elect get special grace. Of course Calvinists affirm that God also acts on a universal level ultimately resulting in redemption of the entire created order (not in terms of universalism, but a recreation) – but that is preceded by his action at the individual level.
    So to me prevenient grace v. special grace is the big question. Does Scripture teach that Christ’s redemptive work make “dead men” able to “understand and respond to the gospel offer”?

  • Correction, first setence in the fourth paragraph should read:
    “Calvinists answer that Christ’s work acts on the individual level by “illuminating” (or maybe the word “fixing” I used above works) the understanding of those who are elect…”

  • I do not yet have the book so I can only comment based on Scot’s assessments. If Olson is making a case for Arminianism being closely related to the “Dutch Reformation” then it sounds like he is attempting to pacify Calvinists and largely step over the main issues, which to me are more related to the antagonistic nature of Calvinism than really theological matters. Calvinism is a natural progression of the violence of the Reformation, so in my opinion, at the risk of sounding too harsh, Calvinism is a violent system in itself, and that can be seen in Calvin’s Geneva.
    There are a few excellent resources dealing with the violent nature of Calvinism, such as Stefan Zweig’s book The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin or Walter Nigg’s The Heretics. In contrast, we do not see Arminianism evolving out of violent Reformation, but rather developing as a reactionary system to both Calvinistic theology and Calvin’s actions in Geneva: see the Five articles of the Remonstrants in 1610.

  • Josh,
    Not all Arminians believe that God’s prevenient grace is given to everyone. Some (like me) believe that it is only given through the preaching of the gospel. That means that those who have never heard didn’t receive God’s prevenient grace.
    Of course, my main difference with Calvinist is that I don’t believe that God’s grace is irresistible. There are examples all throughout Scriptures of folks resisting the saving graces of God.

  • Brad,
    I understand your dilemma with some passages dealing with predisposition, but you can’t pick and choose the passages you want to base the whole of your theology on. Most of scripture is in some amount of tension with another portion, not to say it contradicts itself, only that the ideas cause us to think both/and rather than either or. That is why we can take a passage like, Eph. 1:3-5 and still make it track with a passage like 2 Peter 3:8
    8But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.
    In the end while I appreciate your position on Calvinism, you have to understand that it was largely constructed to deal with a current state of Church History that no longer is the status quo. Too often when someone is trying to address an imbalance in any system they will swing too far in the opposite direction to bring about the right force to draw the whole back to center. Now that this isn’t an issue, Calvinism comes across to many as off center and needs to be readdressed based on current conditions within the Church.

  • Daniel-
    Thanks for the clarification. I knew looking back at the post that it was probably too broad to paint all Calvinists or Arminians in those categories, but at least it highlights the difference b/w some Calvinists & some Arminians… I’m sure others can do better in drawing those distinctions.

  • Scott M

    Jacob, I presume your question was directed at me. I’m neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, so I don’t know that either would accept any formulation I put together. I’m more the outsider trying to discern why the fight between the two camps is so heated when they look very similar to me. Of course, most of Christianity lies outside the Reformed branch of theology and thus doesn’t fit either description. In the protestant limb, clearly the Anabaptist thread is very different. And neither the Lutheran nor the Anglican theology really fit in either group. (Both are big enough tents, though, to contain people of either persuasion.) And, of course, neither the RC nor EO trunks fit inside the Reformed box.
    In reading the discussion, I think people misunderstand Pelagianism as much as they misunderstand Calvinism and Arminianism. For instance, I would wager many people in the Protestant branch of the church are semi-pelagianists at least to the extent that they do not believe that infants must be baptized in order to remove the effect of original sin and without such baptism they are denied access to the kingdom. Further, whatever they proclaim, much of the American protestant church does not live as though the grace of Christ aids us in avoidance of sin and imparts the strength of will to not only know God’s commandments, but execute them faithfully.
    Of course, to me the concept of ‘original sin’ as something physically passed to each child is completely unnecessary for me to accept and assert that absolutely everyone will inevitably sin. And that sinlessness was unique to Christ. Such a perspective is both the blessing and the curse of those shaped by culturally postmodern forces. Is there ‘original sin’ in the sense that God’s creation has been thoroughly and comprehensively damaged for our choice of that which is ‘not-God’? Absolutely! And that makes it even more inevitable that we will all turn from God.
    However, the story of Adam and Eve perfectly illustrates the point that even in the most perfect environment God could devise, we would turn from him. Does anyone truly believe they would do any better? That’s hard for me to fathom.
    I suppose I leave the question of the nature of ‘original sin’ open. A God who would condemn infants is neither good nor just and I have no interest in worshipping such a God. And that is the inherent flaw in this construction of either ‘original sin’ or ‘total depravity’. Both of those look like artificial constructs to me designed to pierce the arrogance of people who believed they could somehow avoid turning from God. I do know that I share C.S. Lewis’ views of the idea of ‘total depravity’. I’m generous enough to believe it was perhaps an essential overstatement of the case required to combat the overwhelming arrogance now often described as ‘modernity’. But that does not make it ‘true’.
    And that’s probably my central point of departure from Calvinism. Of course, once you remove the construct of ‘total depravity’ from it, the rest does not cohere very well. It’s not that it doesn’t have some good points. It does. But I find it tends to overstate them. And again, perhaps that was necessary at that particular time in history. But it’s not necessary today.
    As Wright says, if you see a Pelagianist walking down the street, by all means throw Luther (or Calvin) at him. But you’ll find precious few of those in a Western world shaped by postmodern forces.

  • Dead men, according to classical Arminianism, have been granted prevenient grace so as to understand and respond to the gospel offer.
    So they are not dead. They’re just mostly dead (ala Billy Crystal’s character in The Princess Bride – yes I’ve watched the movie).
    “Total”, so far as I know, means “comprehensively cracked” — that is, everything about us was impacted/affected by the Fall.
    I suppose this is where we part ways a bit, as we have before, because I see a biblical distinction between depraved and merely cracked.
    Brad

  • Daniel-
    One other thought. Whether the mechanism is the universal witness of the Spirit (as I understand most folks who believe prevenient grace say) or the preaching of the gospel (as you prefer – where preventing grace still operates, it is simply limited by a space/time-bound mechanisim – preaching), I think it’s fair to say that Arminians agree that the problem in human understanding brought on by the fall (so call “noetic effects of sin”) are reversed indiscriminately (not limited to certain invividuals in a group) to people yet not in a salvific way… thus leading to a more broad-based (yet maybe not universal) effect of Christ’s redeeming work that stops short of actual salvation. That said, maybe it’s best to say they are consistent in a “two-step approach”… remove the blinders then see if people are willing to come (so now the onus is on individuals). That is different, like you said, than Calvinism’s approach… remove the blinders and people will always (irresistibly) come. To me this still raises the question of what exactly is removed “fix” the understanding that allows a person to see Christ for who he is, yet still refuse to trust in him? What would this look like? What would it look like to say: “I fully understand that the way to life is Christ, I’d just perfer not to have it.” Is it that the continued effects of depravity somehow still cloud the judgement? Just trying to understand how a “two-stepper” would explain that first step.

  • Well, Brad, since I’m the one who uses “cracked Eikons,” my definition works: it means comprehensive depravity for me. I say that in Embracing Grace.

  • …but you can’t pick and choose the passages you want to base the whole of your theology on.
    Thanks for the admonishnebt Jerry, but your truth cuts two ways gere. You can’t be so dismissive of Ephesians 1:3-5 either without asserting a contradiction.
    As far as 2 Peter 3:8 I beleive you’ve overlooked the audience and therefore the context:
    “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you [beloved], not wishing that any [of you, beloved] should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
    Emphasis mine.
    So is it your contention that God does not get what he wishes for?
    Brad

  • Nothing theological to add, just this historical note:
    It is not without irony that the much-maligned Arminius died (according to S. Lewis Johnson) a five-point Calvinist. Even as Calvin’s followers distorted his teachings, so too did Arminius’ students distort his.
    Maybe a lot of Calvinists need to appreciate Arminius more and vilify him a lot less.
    Once they understand him, of course.

  • Scot,
    This is interesting given that both Calvinism and Arminianism are typically pitted against one another as if they were polar opposites. It is interesting to hear Olson’s take on how both of these are linked. Yet, as you note there are differences that are not going to be bridged (as well as some pastoral ramifications that I’m not sure can be bridged either).

  • Oops, time to get a little theological after all.
    Brad:
    You wrote, after citing 2 Pe 3.8-9, “So is it your contention that God does not get what he wishes for?”
    Well, Jesus said,
    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” – Lk 13.34
    Doesn’t look like Jesus got what He wanted, does it? Or,
    “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Lk 22.42
    We know Jesus didn’t get his way at that time, either. Why not? Because of the difference between God’s moral will and His decretive will, a dilemma unfortunately not clarified by appealing to thelema and boulomai since they are not used precisely, technically, or consistently one way or the other.
    I’m sure you recognize the difference between God’s decretive will and His moral will. If so, then the question becomes whether thelema in 2 Pe 3.9 is God’s moral preference or His predetermined decree (as is thelema in Eph 1.5). Clearly it must be the former, i.e., moral, as required by the context. He is, as you point out, addressing the “beloved” or “elect”: how could they possible perish? Thus, while Peter is addressing the elect he is not speaking of the elect when he speaks of perishing.
    God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone, not even the lost and/or wicked: it is not His moral will that any perish. But His moral will is superceded by His decretive will and how He has chosen to constitute His image bearers, moral order, and way of salvation.

  • BW

    If I could jump in here. Brad, if Peter’s address is to the “beloved”, why would he be concerned with them perishing? Within a Calvinistic system, the “beloved” have repented and perishing shouldn’t be a fear anymore.
    This is why we need LeRon’s “Reforming the Doctrine of God”. He shows the shared assumptions that both Arminians and Calvinists have that lead to this “either God or me” question. Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. By incorporating True Infinity in our theology, we would be aided immensely.

  • …if Peter’s address is to the “beloved”, why would he be concerned with them perishing? Within a Calvinistic system, the “beloved” have repented and perishing shouldn’t be a fear anymore.
    Why not rather quote Peter’s “make your election sure” reference or several others available in this passage?
    1. But who said anything about concluding that one must be fearing here?
    2. Peter isn’t God, and so Peter cannot truly know the hearts of his hearers, so his reference to the beloved here can just as much be a “giving his audience the benefit of the doubt” as to their profeesion of faith while still allowing for the truth:
    the beloved = the saved.
    John does this with “brothers” in his first epistle as well.
    Ultimately, Peter is encouraging them and in light of this is also urging them to persevere and to prove their profession as is seen through the rest of this passage.
    Brad

  • Mike,
    Clearly it must be the former, i.e., moral, as required by the context. He is, as you point out, addressing the “beloved” or “elect”: how could they possible perish? Thus, while Peter is addressing the elect he is not speaking of the elect when he speaks of perishing.
    I don’t believe that Peter is expressing a concern over the elect perishing at all, though he is addressing the elect.
    God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone, not even the lost and/or wicked: it is not His moral will that any perish. But His moral will is superceded by His decretive will and how He has chosen to constitute His image bearers, moral order, and way of salvation.
    Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
    in heaven and on earth,
    in the seas and all deeps.
    He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    both of man and of beast;
    who in your midst, O Egypt,
    sent signs and wonders
    against Pharaoh and all his servants;
    who struck down many nations
    Psalm 135:6,8-10
    How is it then that he could be pleased to judge the Egyptians? Even to Pharoah he told him, “For this purpose I raised you up….”
    Brad

  • Being a Wesleyan Arminian that went to a Calvinist dominated school, I grew VERY tired of this debate. Both sides misrepresent the other, and both sides call each other heretics. Both sides have to make leaps in their theology, apart from Scripture, in order to support some of their theological points. They have to emphasize some portions of Scripture, re-interpret others, and totally dismiss others; again, on both sides.
    Arminians and Calvinists are rarely going to wake up and decide they are going to “change teams.” But how about, on a practical level, if we wake up and decide we are on the same team? John Wesley, who’s good friend was a the Calvinist George Whitefield, once said, “If you heart is like my heart, then brother, give me your hand.”
    Discussing/debate/whatever these points are okay among friends and colleagues, on so long as we move on to actually work together in this world because we trust that the Arminians/Calvinists are truly seeking after God and His design for the world.
    This debate exposes a general mistrust between the two camps. Each thinks, or at least acts and debates like, the other is trying to subvert the “True Gospel.” As someone with Arminian leanings, I want nothing more than to help people find a relationship with God and grow in Christlikeness. I have to trust that my Calvinist brothers and sisters want the same.
    I know the discussion here is generally very theological in nature, but the theology is only so good as the practical application of it. I think Olsen wants also to remind us that we are all on the same team; different theological leanings, but the same team.

  • Hi Scot-
    Thanks for your posts on this subject. I come from a background which is vehemently anti-Calvinist, and probably would be described as semi-pelagian because of the denial of original sin. I am curiuous as to what the motive of the origin of the standard formulation of original sin might be. Was it prompted as an exegetical move or an explanatory move? That is, was the doctrine developed as a way to explain universal sinfulness? And by the way, I don’t mean to imply that a doctrine which was initially prompted by explanatory concerns is necessarily invalid.
    Thanks again for your work.
    Shane

  • Discussing/debate/whatever these points are okay among friends and colleagues, on so long as we move on to actually work together in this world…
    Eric, it seems as if you’re assuming that this isn’t the case. Mike and I have had interaction before and usually agree on matters, I can’t speak for him, but I’m not all fired up about this. I do like discussing these issues. If it is bothering you, I’ll be happy to stop.
    John Wesley, who’s good friend was a the Calvinist George Whitefield, once said, “If you heart is like my heart, then brother, give me your hand.”
    Don’t forget Whitefield also wrote Wesley (lovingly, passionately and passionately) about his Arminianism too.
    Brad

  • Brad,
    I wasn’t assuming anything about anyone in particular. I didn’t have you or anyone else on this particular site in mind when I wrote that comment. I was just making an observation about how this debate typically pans out in the settings I have witnessed, but more importantly the mistrust generally exhibited by those discussing.
    I don’t know you or Mike. I trust that the dialogue here is friendly and open; it is that kind of space.
    For me, the point was the practical working together of people with different leanings and the general mistrust among most who are debating. I am sorry if you felt I was indirectly speaking at you. I am much more forthright, I would have addressed you by name if that was my intention, and I would/do assume the best of intentions on your part.

  • Nick Mackison

    Guys, I’m wanting to re-examine Calvinistic distinctions. What should I spend my book allowance on this month? I’m thinking the Olson book or Ben Witherington’s “The Problem With Evangelical Theology”.
    Which would be the better read/buy? (Help me out on this one Scot!)

  • Brian

    I can’t help but laugh. It would appear that the discussion is actually demonstrating the premise of the series, and perhaps its converse as well.

  • Shane,
    I think the origins of original sin as we now use it was in Augustine as he struggled with Paul, esp passages like Rom 5:12-21 — the federal headship or incorporative nature. We sin in Adam; we die in Adam; we have faith in Christ; we live in Christ.

  • Brad:
    Actually, you did speak for me and were correct: I’m not fired up either and always enjoy our agreeing to disagree while at the same time I’m being stretched and strengthed by the challenges you frequently pose. You’re also right that we are usually in agreement; on the essentials, I think there’s little question about our standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
    I have to apologize, though, because I’m booked pretty solid today in my practice and can’t respond in a timely manner. But I know this won’t be the only opportunity for us to discuss this.
    Wishing you well,

  • Mike,
    And that’s why you’re my favorite Arminian -ipso post facto! ;o)
    We sin in Adam; we die in Adam; we have faith in Christ; we live in Christ.
    Scot, and for all the grief I give you, here is one point we most definite see eye-to-eye on, and is a point that transcends all our other disagreements.
    Brad

  • manwe

    nick, #29 I would say go with Witheringtons book first then get Olsen next. But that is me, others may differ.

  • Brad,
    In response to Eric, who said, Discussing/debate/whatever these points are okay among friends and colleagues, on so long as we move on to actually work together in this world…, you said, Eric, it seems as if you’re assuming that this isn’t the case.
    Do you think that Calvinists and Arminians in general are working together in a way that shows the world that they are united in Christ? I am not aware of many efforts among those who would call themselves “Bible-believing” (including Calvinists and Arminians), either large- or small-scale, to work together (even among “non-denominational” organizations). But perhaps I am just not aware of them. I’d be heartened to learn of what I’m missing!

  • I didn’t have time to read more than the first few comments, so the issue of ‘total depravity’ may have been addressed.
    My understanding of this doctrine is that every part our being has been affected by sin – but that does not mean that we are incapable of goodness.
    Simple observation of those who would not call themselves Christians is sufficient evidence of this.
    In our total depravity God acts to draw us to him (‘prevenient grace’ I think its called) and we are capable of response.

  • Isn’t Arminianism commonly used as a sort of shorthand for a synergistic view of salvation. I suppose if you define it strictly as those who follow the teachings of Arminius, then you are totally correct, but it seems that many people don’t treat “Arminian” in that vein.

  • Do you think that Calvinists and Arminians in general are working together in a way that shows the world that they are united in Christ?
    No. And I know of no formal effort to that end that is of any great influence. I will say that for my part I do often criticize several in “my camp” on a variety of things and theology is no exception.
    The us vs. them climate of theology today is completley unproductive and unscriptural.
    Brad

  • Bonnie,
    Yes, there are groups working together. In my experience most U.S. Churchgoers wouldn’t know or care about most of what we are discussing. And they couldn’t identify one group’s theology from another’s simply by their label if they had to.
    If you are wanting to get involved with shared efforts start in your local community and church, see who are working together and get involved. If you would like to find some great examples check out serve Cincinatti, or Serve fest in Little Rock AR for more info. This is happening in more and more places. The Brads and Dr. Mikes of the world, who do know the differences, are bravely setting the example for the rest of us. So jump in the water is great!

  • Jeff

    Isn’t Arminianism commonly used as a sort of shorthand for a synergistic view of salvation. I suppose if you define it strictly as those who follow the teachings of Arminius, then you are totally correct, but it seems that many people don’t treat “Arminian” in that vein.
    Gavin, I think that’s why Olson wrote the book. Calvinists aren’t the only one who may unknowingly be accepting “myths” as realities–many self-proclaimed “Arminians” probably accept many of these same myths as well. In that sense, they don’t live up to the best insights of the view they claim to uphold.
    That’s why Olson’s book–and the fact that Scot is working through it–really makes a contribution to our situation. Clearing away the misconceptions and myths is a necessary first step before we can start to have true dialogue and progress.

  • Jeff,
    Not having read Olson’s book, I cannot speak with certainty here. But what I suspect is that there are alot of Calvinists and Arminians who are familiar with both the teahcings of Calvin and Arminius, and who would still call themselves Calvinists and Arminians while freely admitting a knowlegde and rejection of some of their teahcings.
    George Whitefield comes to mind. I think anyone would agree he was a Calvinist, yet he admitted to not having read anything by Calvin.
    Blessings.

  • I did a podcast a few months ago at reformedcatholicism.com which touches on this subject and its relation to the Synod of Dort and the so-called “Five Points”–and I’d say broadly speaking that Olson is most certainly right when he includes Arminius and his thinking in a broader Reformed tradition. You can find the podcast here, if interested:
    http://www.reformedcatholicism.com/?p=358

  • ReformedCatholicism.com » On Actual Arminianism

    […] His posts (currently: I, II, III and increasing) are interesting and thought-provoking. Â I have no doubt that Olson makes his case quite well that many (if not most) Calvinists have never properly understood Arminius, his theology, the surrounding context of Dort, and the Remonstrants. […]

  • Jerry,
    In my experience most U.S. Churchgoers wouldn’t know or care about most of what we are discussing. And they couldn’t identify one group’s theology from another’s simply by their label if they had to.
    I agree, although some might care once they realized the gravity of difference between the two.
    I embarrassed to say this was true of me up until a year or so ago, when I became enlightened via the blogosphere. It wasn’t from any lack of ability or desire to understand theology, it’s just that I never came across it in historical-systematic form in any of the churches I’ve been part of -– non-denominational, Assemblies of God, Lutheran Missouri Synod, Episcopal, Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical Covenant (I’ve probably missed a few!) It doesn’t seem to be taught in many churches, unfortunately.
    Nor did I come across the systems explicitly in the many books I’ve read. Can’t say I never came across either Calvinist or Arminian thought, of course, but not in such a way that I was aware of them as systems or aware of the…Great Divide.
    I don’t think cooperative efforts are that easy to come by — most initiatives among “Bible-believing” Christians seem to exist within denominations themselves. Or else, within a cooperative effort, theology is not discussed. Pastors and denominational leadership must be the ones to spearhead or facilitate such efforts, though. And I’d like to see the blogosphere become a place for the “true dialogue and progress” Jeff mentions (comment #40).

  • James V

    Every argument for Calvinism or Arminianism can be rebutted with another against it — can’t it?
    Why are we, in the US, obsessed with one or the other?
    From what I have personally experienced in Asia, esp. India, most Christians there see redemption as a simple thing and their personal testimonies reflect that basic tenet of their faith — I lived (and was born) in sin, God called, I heard, I came, He saved me! (Yes yes yes… Jesus died for me… et. al.)
    Come now, does it really matter how it is I responded? And can any human theological system really “nail it”?
    I heard this analogy and will share it with you. It’s called Cats, Monkeys and Kangaroos!
    Cats — Mama cat carries it’s kittens wherever it goes. It has been predestined irregardless of what the kittens might think or do — sounds Calvinistic?
    Monkeys — Mama monkey will jump from branch to branch. If little monkey wants to be safe, he’d better hold on tight. As long as he does, he is fine, else… sounds quite Arminian!
    Kangaroos — Mama Kangaroo will carry baby roo in her pouch wherever she goes. Now, there are no restrictions on what baby roo can do, it is truly her free will. She may stay in the pouch and be safe or wander out on her own into danger.
    I think that is where my theology rests; somewhere in the middle where it is a little bit quieter…

  • Eric’s view that, for Arminians, the grace of God gives the depraved sinner “a choice,” rather than, as for the Calvinist, grace saves by effectually (not irresistibly) drawing sinners to saving faith, certainly squares with the comments of one Jacob Ditzler, a Methodist who once debated J. R. Graves on the question of the Perseverance of the Saints. I analyze that debate and try to use Ditzler as a window into the practical consequences of Arminianism in an article posted on my site under “Free Theological Resources.”

  • Well, Mark, thanks for accusing us of “zaniness.”
    “The Arminian worships a God who has not promised that
    every true believer will be saved and so he does not give God glory for such a promise.” Really? I don’t know who you read in order to get that statement, but that is absoluetly false. True believers are certainly saved. Those who are not saved are those who reject God, fall away, or succumb to sinfulness.
    You go on to talk of how much the Calvinist view “gives proper glory.” How derogatory to us, and convenient for you.
    You focus on the “perseverance of the Saints.” Arminians react against those who are not true believers. I admit that most Arminians view “perseverance” or “once saved, always saved” as an excuse for a person to do whatever they want and still get into heaven. If you are honest, you have seen your fair share of people in your churches who do that?
    Unfortunately, Arminians have often over-emphasized OUR role. It is God’s grace. It is God’s enabling. Faith is less a “thing” and more of a resting trust. I don’t HAVE faith as much as my faith is illustrated in my reliance upon Christ for my salvation. But Just as Dallas Willard says, “Grace is opposed to earning, not effort.”
    Often what happens in the debate of Calvinists and Arminians is that each side points to the worst examples in the other. In doing so, they are being irresponsible in their presentation of the other.