A good, new, non-Arminian, Arminian book!

A good, new, non-Arminian, Arminian book! September 2, 2010

If the header confuses you, the book’s lack of admission that it is promoting Arminianism should confuse you more.  (As it does me.)  So what’s the book?  Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism edited by Southern Baptist scholars David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke.  It contains 11 mostly excellent chapters by Southern Baptist leaders and scholars absolutely demolishing key Calvinist doctrines. 

These chapters are versions of papers presented at the John 3:16 Conference held in Georgia in 2008.  Some of the chapters are: “Congruent Election: Understanding Salvation from an ‘Eternal Now’ Perspective” by Richard Land, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal” by David L. Allen, “A Biblical and Theological Critique of Irresistible Grace” by Steve W. Lemke, “Was Calvin a ‘Calvinist’?” by Kevin Kennedy, “Reflections on Determinism and Human Freedom” by Jeremy A. Evans, and “Evil and God’s Sovereignty” by Bruce A. Little.  The book is published by B&H Academic.

The is the best book against Calvinism that I know of in print right now.  It suffers the weakness of being a multi-author, edited work, but individual chapters are excellent in that they are based on sound knowledge and present biblical and rational arguments against key Calvinist doctrines that should be convincing, I believe, to any open-minded person.

The only quarrel I have with the book is the editors’ and authors’ avoidance of the label “Arminian.”  For the most part, their theologies are completely consistent with classical Arminianism.  Yet, a couple of them criticize Arminianism and, in one case, I believe it is unfair criticism. 

So what’s going on with that?  In the South, especially, many Baptists are allergic to the label because it has come to be equated with denial of the doctrine of the security of the believer.  As I argued in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, however, that is a doctrine about which Arminans can and do disagree.  Arminius himself and the original Remonstrance never took a stand on this subject.  I believe what one believes about it is not crucial to being Arminian (or not).

Until my own book is published sometime next year, I think this one stands as the best anti-Calvinism book in print.  However, I would hesitate to recommend it to a student (e.g., undergraduate) because it is technical at points. 

The title I have suggested to the publisher for my own book is: Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology.  Of course, publishers assign titles to books.  Authors can only recommend.  The publisher will be a major Grand Rapids-based evangelical publishing house.  A book possibly entitled Against Arminianism is to be released simultaneously with my book.  It will be written by a leading scholarly exponent of high Calvinism.  I just hope he gets Arminianism right!  I don’t mind people disagreeing with my theology, but I rarely read or hear a Calvinist describing it correctly.

I don’t know about my book’s counterpart, but mine is popularly written, although based on my reading of numerous books by leading Calvinist scholars.  I quote them throughout the book.

So some may wonder, why is Roger Olson, who says he values irenic discourse, writing a book against something–especially against a theology held by fellow evangelicals.  I hope my book is irenic even as it is polemical.  But it would never have occurred to me to write such a book before the rise of the “young, restless, Reformed” movement fueled by the sometimes furiously anti-Arminian rhetoric of some leading Calvinists who declared Arminianism “barely Christian,” “on the precipice of heresy,” “semi-Pelagian,” and not possibly evangelical.  One can find Calvinists on the internet declaring Arminians not even Christians.

Well, that’s why I wrote Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.  This forthcoming book was written as a follow up to that to counter claims by many Calvinists that it is more intellectually respectable, more biblical, more evangelical, more rational than alternatives.  Some among the new Calvinists are claiming that five point Calvinism is simply “a transcript of the gospel itself.”

There was a time (in my own lifetime) when Calvinists and Arminians co-existed peacefully in the evangelical movement.  While they may have engaged in friendly debates, there was no widespread attempt to marginalize either group.  That has definitely changed and, in my experience, anyway, it has been mostly Calvinists who have attempted to persuade evangelical leaders that Arminianism is not authentically evangelical.  I once worked under an administrator who was Arminian but began calling himself a “recovering Arminian” under the influence of leading Calvinists.  Imagine how I felt about that as I worked under him.

I believe the time has come for a peaceful but powerful push back by Arminian evangelicals against the current wave of anti-Arminian sentiment among especially young, restless, Reformed Christians.

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  • Dr. Olson,

    Thanks for the kudos on Whosoever Will. Appreciation coming from reputable theologians such as yourself concerning the valuable contribution the volume offers to the ongoing Calvinist-Arminian/non-Calvinist exchange remains refreshing.

    In addition, your assessment lends evidence against the tired refrain we hear from so many internet Calvinist critics that the papers at the J316 Conference–not to mention the scholars themselves–were inferior theological “rants” which demonstrated little, if any, scholarship, including fundamentally misunderstanding the theological idea they were allegedly critiquing.

    Just as a side-line, and only speaking for myself, one of the reasons Southern Baptists lean away from associating with “Arminianism” is, as you say, the wide-spread albeit mistaken notion that “Arminianism” necessarily includes a rejection of the biblical doctrine we commonly call “eternal security” or “security of the believer.” There are at least some historical grounds for the reluctance, however, given Benjamin Randall’s influence and subsequent formation of the Free Will Baptists.

    Even more, at least as I see it, is an attempt to stay away, as much as possible, from “systems” whether “Calvinist” or “Arminian.” So far as I can tell, the biblical revelation recognizes no “system” and is far less systematic than sometimes we care to admit. Not to mention associating one’s theology with a particular “saint” or, in this case, “reformer” whether Calvin or Arminius holds no attraction to me. Being a biblicist does hold attraction but, like Democrats and Republicans alike, who ridicule any other independent party logo, neither Calvinists nor Arminians will let one get by with such an independent label.

    Personally, I’ve presently chosen “non-Calvinist” to generally express my own theological persuasion (in addition, of course, to Baptist). One of my self-professing Arminian friends asks me, “Why would you want to identify yourself as something you’re not?” Good question. Truth is, a “non-Calvinist” can exist anywhere on the continuum from Open Theist>>>Atheist>>>Buddhist. In fact, it’s hard to say what the continuum would include. It is not, however, hard to say what the continuum would excludeCalvinism. Given that, I do not know how much more freedom a person could desire!

    Thanks again, Dr. Olson. Know I look forward to your own volume next year.

    With that, I am…
    Peter Lumpkins

  • Dr. Olson,

    With respect, the following questions are burning in me as I read your words . . . Wouldn’t your stated goals be better served by writing a book about Christian unity, emphasizing the underlying orthodoxy and points of significant agreement between various Evangelical theologies? Will another theological attack lessen the tension? Isn’t it likely to fuel more of the same harsh debating – and possibly promote more marginalization?

    I am in a church where Arminians and Calvinists coexist in beautiful harmony. The topic is not avoided, but it’s also not the main focus. The love of Christ is so strong in our midst that we can graciously overlook the very real differences and disagreements we have. It’s an ongoing work of God that proves there can be peace between us.

    I do hope your book will bring about further FRUITFUL dialog. Your blog has certainly produced some. I hope that doesn’t change.

    Blessings,
    Derek Ashton

    • Thomas

      Derek, I believe that what you suggest when you say that a book should be written emphasizing “points of significant agreement between various Evangelical theologies” has been done by J.I. Packer (a Calvinist) and Thomas C. Oden (an Arminian/Wesleyan). Their co-authored book is entitled “One Faith, the Evangelical Consensus.” But the debate must continue, and Dr. Olson is one who we can count on to do it skillfully but without acrimony or disrespect toward any.

  • Doc B

    You say it is mostly Calvinists who are name-calling; how then do you square with Dr. Falwell publicly calling Calvinism a ‘heresy’ and his graduate dean (Ergun Caner) calling Calvinism ‘worse than Islam’?

    I’d say their comments go well beyond declaring something to be evangelical or not.

  • Thomas

    I am one who will be eager to read your new book. I believe that there is good reason for Arminian scholars to continue to write against Calvinism. I changed my view while a member of a church that used the New Hampshire Confession as its statement of faith. The pastors espoused a more explicit, strict 5-point Calvinism and when they found out that I had changed to Arminianism, they demanded my resignation. They considered my new view to be a serious departure from the correct view of God’s sovereignty. They were not interested in refuting or correcting me, but only in getting me to resign my membership in the church. I do not know if such behavior is typical of Calvinists these days, but it seems, generally, that they have been more divisive than Arminians. Regardless, they need to be, with love, corrected.

  • I have found this book to be outstanding. Kevin Kennedy’s chapter on Calvin’s unlimited atonement sentiments (at least as evidenced in his writings) is an excellent rebuttal to those who believe they are faithful to the teachings of the early Reformation. It has spurred me to acquire other resources on the subject.

  • W B McCarty

    Frankly, I’m having significant trouble keeping straight what doctrines classical Arminians do and don’t approve. I specifically write “approve” rather than “believe” or “affirm.” I had thought, based on what I took to be very clear and definite statements, that classical Arminians fully affirm the Reformation doctrine of total depravity and therefore disapprove its denial. But, I am apparently proven wrong by Dr. Olson’s recommendation of the book Whosoever Will, whose authors’ and editors’ theologies he sees as “for the most part . . . consistent with classical Arminianism.”

    Steve Lemke, one of the two editors of the book, rejects total depravity outright. He denies that humans are born in guilt and claims that, upon reaching an unspecified age at which moral action is possible, they become guilty through personal sin (Steve Lemke, “The age of accountability is a foundational belief,” http://www.baptistmessage.com/node/5815). Moreover,he claims that humans who are “dead in sin” are nevertheless capable, by nature, of responding to God in at least some degree.

    Moreover, Paige Patterson, in his article “Total Depravity” which appears in the recommended book itself, argues at length against total depravity:

    “There are two reasons Jerry Vines asked me to write on the doctrine of total depravity. First, he wanted me to address the most objectionable doctrine.”

    “Are humans born guilty before God? That cannot be demonstrated from Scripture.”

    So, is total depravity a minor doctrine within Arminian theology, a doctrine the rejection of which is “for the most part . . . consistent with classical Arminianism?” That is, do classical Arminians really share with Calvinists, as they claim, a common understanding of total depravity? More to the heart of the matter, is it even possible to articulate a consistent Arminian theology without at the same time drifting into serious error, such as sacramentalism, semi-Pelagianism, or open theism? The ubiquity of such problems in contemporary articulations of Arminian theology seems to me to point to incoherence within the theological system itself.

    Given Dr. Olson’s willingness to identify this book’s authors and editors as Armininian, their rejection of the doctrine of total depravity seems to me to provide very ample justification for labeling Arminianism, at least Arminianism of the form articulated by the book’s authors and editors, as semi-Pelagian. Indeed, their deliberate and explicit rejection of total depravity demands that label. If Whosoever Wills is, as Dr. Olson opines, “the best book against Calvinism that I know of in print right now,” Calvinists need not be alarmed by this challenge. And, those Arminians who disapprove rejection of total depravity, if any, would do well to look elsewhere for validation of Arminianism.

    • Robert

      McCarty wrote:

      “Frankly, I’m having significant trouble keeping straight what doctrines classical Arminians do and don’t approve. I specifically write “approve” rather than “believe” or “affirm.” I had thought, based on what I took to be very clear and definite statements, that classical Arminians fully affirm the Reformation doctrine of total depravity and therefore disapprove its denial.”

      They do affirm total depravity and McCarty knows that.

      “But, I am apparently proven wrong by Dr. Olson’s recommendation of the book Whosoever Will, whose authors’ and editors’ theologies he sees as “for the most part . . . consistent with classical Arminianism.””

      Perhaps McCarty in his latest zealous attempt to find some sort of error in Arminian though OVERLOOKED the modifying words clearly stated by Olson: “for the most part”. If I say I agree with someone “for the most part” am I saying that I agree with them about everything? Or is it clear and clear for anyone correctly interpreting my words that I am also explicitly saying that I do not agree with the person on EVERYTHING???

      And perhaps McCarty did not notice the title of the thread itself: A good, new, non-Arminian, Arminian book!”

      Hmm, a ******NON-ARMINIAN*****, ARMINIAN BOOK!!!!

      McCarty then provides Lemke and Patterson as examples of people who “reject” total depravity. And I am sure that McCarty knows that the classical Arminian affirms total depravity. So let’s give McCarty a BIG HINT here: perhaps one of the areas where Olson does not agree with some of the authors of the book is in regards to their rejection of total depravity.
      I had my suspicions about McCarty before but now they are being fully confirmed. McCarty is being disingenuous about things. He tries to find some problem and ignores other things intentionally trying to find problems (or create problems): this is dishonest. McCarty knows that classical Arminians affirm total depravity. But watch what he does next. He has already brought up examples from the book of people seemingly denying total depravity and he has intentionally ignored Olson’s modifying words “for the most part”. Now look at what McCarty asserts next:

      “So, is total depravity a minor doctrine within Arminian theology, a doctrine the rejection of which is “for the most part . . . consistent with classical Arminianism?” That is, do classical Arminians really share with Calvinists, as they claim, a common understanding of total depravity?”

      This is so dishonest it is almost unbelievable. Except that I have been seeing McCarty repeatedly distort and twist things intentionally trying to create problems or find errors when there are none (reminds me of how some skeptics handle the bible trying to create contradictions when there are none by slightly twisting things just a bit to create the problem when in reality there is no problem). McCarty knows that classic Arminians affirm total depravity: and yet he is trying to question this by placing some comments by Lemke and Patterson against Olson.

      But McCarty’s attempted slander and misrepresentation gets worse, just look at the next lines:

      “More to the heart of the matter, is it even possible to articulate a consistent Arminian theology without at the same time drifting into serious error, such as sacramentalism, semi-Pelagianism, or open theism? The ubiquity of such problems in contemporary articulations of Arminian theology seems to me to point to incoherence within the theological system itself.”

      Whoops there it is!

      We have gone from some statements by Lemke and Patterson that deny total depravity as espoused by classic Arminians, being juxtaposed against Roger Olson who holds to classic Arminianism (and does in fact affirm total depravity)to the now blatant and false charge that Arminianism leads to “serious error, such as sacramentalism, semi-Pelagianism, or open theism?”

      I find many calvinist/determinists to be just as dishonest as McCarty here (and that includes the bigger names like Sproul and Piper) in their misrepresentations. They KNOW what classic Arminians believe (especially if they have read Arminius from the past or Olson today) but they continue to lie and claim that Arminians are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian or if consistent will become open theists, etc. etc.

      These common and intentional misrepresentations by calvinists including their leaders is ******one of the reasons that Olson wrote his book******* on myths and Arminianism. And yet they continue to make the same false claims (many have even read Olson’s book so they have no excuse).

      And McCarty then repeats his claim trying to make Arminians into semi-Pelagians:

      “Given Dr. Olson’s willingness to identify this book’s authors and editors as Arminian, their rejection of the doctrine of total depravity seems to me to provide very ample justification for labeling Arminianism, at least Arminianism of the form articulated by the book’s authors and editors, as semi-Pelagian. Indeed, their deliberate and explicit rejection of total depravity demands that label.”

      Notice that language “**demands** that label”.

      “If Whosoever Wills is, as Dr. Olson opines, “the best book against Calvinism that I know of in print right now,” Calvinists need not be alarmed by this challenge. And, those Arminians who disapprove rejection of total depravity, if any, would do well to look elsewhere for validation of Arminianism.”

      This comment is so mixed up as to be laughable.

      Olson did not present that book as an argument ***for*** Arminian beliefs, but as a book ********against******** Calvinism. As such, Olson is not claiming that the book represents classic Arminianism, only that the book presents good and effective arguments AGAINST calvinism. And it does.

      And one more thing, McCarty has come in to this blog acting “innocent” as if he did not know what Arminians believe or as if he does not know what proponents of libertarian free will believe. And yet the book presents some Arminian beliefs (e.g. the chapter on unlimited atonement) and clearly differentiates between libertarian and compatibilist views of free will (again there is a chapter on this in the book as well). If McCarty knows the books contents, has read it, then for him to then come in here claiming that libertarians believe choices to be “uncaused choices” is extremely dishonest. He knew what libertarians believe based on what is said in the book, but then he came in here playing and pretending to be ignorant of what classical Arminians and libertarians believe (but he has obviously read on both and so his innocence is all pretend). McCarty is here merely to attempt to create and invent problems with classic Arminianism. And he is doing so here by repeatedly and intentionally misrepresenting Classic Arminian beliefs.

      Robert

    • Perhaps your difficulty is with your rather novel definition of total depravity. Original guilt is not the same teaching as total depravity.

      • W B McCarty

        A.M., Thanks for your observation. As you can see in my reply to John, below, the Canons of the Synod of Dort (and, I think, Calvinists generally) consider total depravity to entail original guilt. So, I can’t entirely agree that my understanding is novel. But, I do agree that it differs from yours and that used by at least some other parties to this conversation.

        It is regrettable that Arminians and Calvinists use the same terms differently. But I hope that we can agree that one of the benefits of this conversation is to get beyond the attendant misunderstandings and better understand our points of agreement and disagreement.

        Blessings,

  • Brian

    How is the doctrine of the security of the believer consistent with Arminianism? If one has freedom to accept or reject the gift of salvation before becoming a Christian, does one lose this freedom after becoming a Christian?

    • It is consistent given the following comments provided by Arminius, taken from his Sentiments …

      THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
      My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies — yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual. Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

      Consistent with every evidence of scripture, salvation is conditioned upon faith.

    • Leslie

      All Arminians believe in the Security of the Believer. As long as you’re a believer, you’ll never fall away from the faith. Now if you cease being a believer, than God isn’t obliged to keep you, and so you’ll fall away because you rejected Christ.

      Now if you ment Eternal Security, then yes, I agree with you that it is somewhat inconsistant for an Arminian to hold to that doctrine.

      • Terry Tiessen

        Leslie,

        I have come across one proposal that does look consistent to me. Norman Geisler posits that the salvation one accepts (libertarianly freely) by faith is irrevocable. Consequently, when one choose to believe in Jesus in a way that justifies, that choice entails a voluntary surrender of the freedom to apostatize. That looks to me like a coherent synergistic position, even though it is not the one I see in Scripture myself.

  • Brian,

    As Dr. Olson demonstrates in “Myths & Realities,” not even J. Arminius himself viewed “eternal security” (obviously, Arminius did not employ the term as do Baptists) as inherently inconsistent with his objections to the developing “Reformed” theology.

    Anyways, not to ‘pr’ my own site, but Southern Baptist theologian, Steve Lemke, is in the mid of a 6-part series on the security of the believer, the first essay of which is found here.  Also, you can find the same series posted in The Messenger (Louisiana Baptists’ denominational paper) beginning here (unfortunately one cannot read the entire essay without signing up).  Better still, grab a copy of Whosoever Will and get a more comprehensive answer since all 11 contributors embrace the security of the believer (here’s a link to check the table of contents to see the subjects they address).

    Grace, brother.

    With that, I am…

    Peter

  • John abcdarian

    McCarty writes about the apparent rejection of “total depravity” by Arminians.

    However, careful reading of the Arminian works referred to (i.e., in a sympathetic vein with a view to addressing the strongest interpretation of the works), alerts one to the use of the term “guilt”. Many (most?) Arminians do not believe that guilt is a necessarily aspect of the doctrine of total depravity, and so believe that one’s nature can be tainted or corrupted in all areas without one being guilty / morally culpable for that taint.

    Arminius wrote, “But man was not so confirmed in this state of innocence as to be incapable of being moved by the representation presented to him of some good (whether it was of an inferior kind and relating to this [natural] life, or of a superior kind and relating to spiritual life), inordinately and unlawfully to look upon it and to desire it, and of his own spontaneous as well as free motion, and through a preposterous desire for that good, to decline from the obedience which had been prescribed to him. Nay, having turned away from the light of his own mind and his Chief Good, which is God, or, at least, having turned towards that Chief Good not in the manner in which he ought to have done, and besides having turned in mind and heart towards an inferior good, he transgressed the command given to him for life. By this foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is under the Dominion of Sin. . . .

    In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.” (“Twenty-Five Public Disputations: Disputation XI. On the Free Will of Man and its Powers,” in The Works of Arminius, trans. James Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 2:191-92.

    The third of the Articles of Remonstrance reads, “That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John 15:5, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.'”

    regards,
    John abc

    • W B McCarty

      John, thanks for another constructive reply. There is indeed some confusion of terms and consequent miscommunication here. As you may suppose, from the standpoint of a Calvinist, total depravity necessarily _entails_ guilt.

      As it happens, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, which are generally taken as defining the concept of total depravity, do not actually use that term but instead use the term “original sin.” The Canons state, for example:

      “[T]he Synod rejects the errors of those who teach that it cannot properly be said that original sin itself suffices to condemn the whole human race or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment.”

      In support of this position, the Canons reference three verses:

      “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. . .” (Romans 5:12 ESV).

      “And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification” (Romans 5:16 ESV).

      “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).

      May I ask, how do you as an Arminian reconcile your rejection of original guilt (or inherited/imputed guilt, if you prefer) with these Scriptures?

      Blessings,

      • John abcdarian

        The verses quoted are open to more than one interpretation, and none are such that the Calvinist interpretation is the only one available. Even without consulting commentaries or the original Greek, Romans 5:12 indicates that all die because all have sinned, not that all die because Adam sinned. It is, of course, that because of Adams fall all people are now defective and incapable of living a sin free life (essentially the Arminian position expressed in the quotes in my above post). Similar arguments can be made for the other verses.

        regards,
        John I. (/abc)

        • W B McCarty

          John I: “Romans 5:12 indicates that all die because all have sinned, not that all die because Adam sinned”

          That interpretation is contradicted by vv. 14, 17: “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam. . . . For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man [italics added], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:14, 17 ESV).

          • That “death reigned” because of one man’s sin hardly equates with imputed or inherited guilt. Death is the natural consequence of the fall, a result of the corruption of human nature. The death that is the “wages of sin” is spiritual death. When Jesus declared of children “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” he revealed clearly that children are not guilty in his eyes. I cannot imagine him saying that of teenagers, though. Obviously there is an age of accountability when guilt “kicks in.” My own inclination is to go with the traditional Arminian view that the whole human race would be guilty, including children, except for Christ’s atoning death which Romans 5 clearly states is universal in its benefits (the strict parallelism between the two Adams). (The universal benefit of the atonement is setting aside the guilt of original sin for everyone.) I often wonder what is the practical point of claiming, as some do, that children are born guilty and condemned? Protestants rarely interpret this as saying that any children who die go to hell. Even Luther did not think that (at least sometimes!). So why the insistance on believing that children are born guilty of Adam’s sin? How does that actually function or translate into practice? Certainly not, as in traditional Catholic theology, by requiring infant baptism for regeneration of infants to keep them out of hell. I know of no Protestants today who believe that. Some Protestants believe in baptismal regeneration, but rarely, if ever, do they associate that with fire insurance. It is usually explained as some kind of covenant sign and seal, parallel with circumcision under the old covenant (but why baptize girls?) but hardly ever (in my experience) as any kind of magical protection of the child from going to hell should he or she die. I would like to know of one Protestant minister who ever has or ever would say at the funeral of an infant, even of godless parents, “This child very well may be in hell.” The idea that all children who die are elect is simply a leap to avoid having ever to say that. I don’t see anything in scripture that would support it (that wouldn’t better be interpreted as saying that children are innocent).

          • W B McCarty

            Dr. Olson: “The death that is the ‘wages of sin’ is spiritual death.”

            I agree that the wages of sin _include_ spiritual death. But, I think it does more justice to the context of Rom. 6:23 to understand “death” as inclusive of both spiritual and physical death.

            Dr. Olson: “When Jesus declared of children ‘for of such is the kingdom of heaven’ he revealed clearly that children are not guilty in his eyes.”

            The amazing part of “amazing grace” is that sinners are welcome. Jesus refers to the humility and trust of children not their supposed absence of sin and guilt.

            Dr. Olson: “I cannot imagine him saying that of teenagers, though.”

            On that point, we concur 🙂

            Dr. Olson: “I often wonder what is the practical point of claiming, as some do, that children are born guilty and condemned?”

            I concur that few seem to consider the reprobation of children a practical reality. I think it follows that the likely reason for affirming that they are born in a state of condemnation is the determination to be faithful to one’s exegesis of Scripture.

          • Greg

            Roger,
            I was baptized in an LCMS church that does hold to the damnation of infants without baptismal regeneration, although they certainly wouldn’t be so crass as to call it fire insurance, lol.

          • Even Luther did not believe that.

      • Robert

        Just a clarification so no one mistakes John for an Arminian.

        McCarty asked John:

        “May I ask, how do you as an Arminian reconcile your rejection of original guilt (or inherited/imputed guilt, if you prefer) with these Scriptures?”

        John is not an Arminian, he has shown by his posts that he is an open theist. These are not the same, Arminians affirm that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, Open theists like John deny this.

        I want this out there as calvinist determinists often play the “guilt by association game” of claiming that Open Theists are Arminians or that consistent Arminianism leads to Open Theism, both claims which are false.

        Robert

        • John abcdarian

          I don’t understand the point of Robert’s post. What is relevant in a discussion is not my personal philosophical or theological beliefs, but whether my arguments are correct or defeatable.

          In so far as a choice between Open Theism, Molinism, Boetheianism and Arminianism, etc., I am agnostic, and hence willing to think through and argue through each position. The bright dividing line is between views such those (which entail the necessity of non-externally caused freewill and moral culpability) on the one hand, and versions of Calvinism or determinism on the other hand (and here I include so-called compatibilistic theories because such theories redefine freewill and moral culpability in ways that I believe are unacceptable and contrary to Scripture).

          [Arguing that a certain position is contrary to Scripture does not entail that that position is heretical, or that the argument is being made with an intent to show that the other side is heretical. Rather, it is a way of pursuing a discussing that necessarily involves making exegetical determinations about the meaning of the Biblical text.]

          The approach of Robert in his comment is rather like the “outing” of someone who could potentially lead others astray by trying to hide his true agenda and intentions. Such commenting smacks of the wrongful casting of Open Theists outside the bounds of acceptable evangelical beliefs, a matter that R. Olson has previously posted about.

          My understanding, based upon previous lead posts, is that in this blog one can pursue arguments aligned with various types of Arminianism and various types of Open Theism without any implication being made that one is outside the bounds of evangelicalism, a heretic, or the possessor of some secret agenda.

          regards,
          John I.

          • Robert

            John wrote:

            “I don’t understand the point of Robert’s post.”

            McCarty who is constantly and repeatedly misrepresenting Arminian beliefs, called you an Arminian John.

            Now if that had come from someone else I may have ignored it. But there are some calvinist determinists (e.g. James White is a perfect example of this): who intentionally attempt to tarnish and attack Arminians **as** Open Theists (or make the claim that **consistent** Arminians must be Open Theists). This is a common technique of certain determinist calvinists in their attacks of Arminians. So when McCarty (who I believe comes from the same crowd as James White) said you were an Arminian I wanted this corrected.

            “In so far as a choice between Open Theism, Molinism, Boetheianism and Arminianism, etc., I am agnostic, and hence willing to think through and argue through each position.”

            Your supposed “agnosticism” on this issue is hard to believe John. 🙂

            Your posts here have repeatedly and consistently presented Open Theist ideas and concepts (I have also seen you present these same Open theist ideas and concepts on other blogs, it sure seemed like you since the John in other places was making the same identical points and arguments ****for**** Open Theism and against calvinism and Arminianism, 🙂 ).

            Your disclaimer here reminds me of the many atheists that I have run into who strongly argue for atheism and repeatedly and consistently present Atheism and yet claim they are merely “agnostics” on the issue! 🙂 If someone who so strongly argues for atheism (as some of these people do) is **merely an agnostic** on the issue, I wonder what a real certifiable atheist rather than an agnostic must be like! 🙂

            “[Arguing that a certain position is contrary to Scripture does not entail that that position is heretical, or that the argument is being made with an intent to show that the other side is heretical. Rather, it is a way of pursuing a discussing that necessarily involves making exegetical determinations about the meaning of the Biblical text.]”

            I have never said that Open Theists are heretics but have been quite explicit on another thread here saying they are not if they saved persons who hold to essential Christian doctrine such as the trinity and deity of Christ (see the discussion I had with Terrance Tiessen on the “WHY OPEN THEISM DOESN’T MATTER” thread here on this blog, a thread where you commented yourself a couple of times John, which makes it odd that you would now suggest in this thread that I was “outing” you as some kind of Open theist heretic, when you saw my explicitly stated view there???).

            “The approach of Robert in his comment is rather like the “outing” of someone who could potentially lead others astray by trying to hide his true agenda and intentions.”

            John you are going up a rabbit trail here: I have been quite clear on my own personal view of Open Theists here (i.e. they are clearly mistaken on the foreknowledge issue but this does not mean they are heretics nor does it mean they are not Christians).

            Robert

          • John I.

            Your post warned others about me, which is a pejorative postion to take. A warning assumes something negative that others need to be on guard against, and would not otherwise be aware of, and the nature of your warning implies that I was deliberately hiding my “true beliefs”.

            My “true beliefs” are that atonement is not limited, that grace is not irresistable, the future is not settled by decree, and that Calvinism is in error in a number of matters–principally relating to aspects of the “TULIP”. I am not yet convinced that any particular alternative is the correct or most persuasive one (hence, agnosticism).

            My posts on Open Theism are frequently ones that correct the misperceptions of others about it, but that is not the same as advocating it. In addition, they have put forward good critiques of Calvinism. The critiques are viable regardless of whether one adopts Open Theism as true.

            If you want to correct McCarty’s misrepresentations of Arminianism, then please correct them directly. I’ve maintained the philosophical distinctions (between Calvinism, Arminianism and Open Theism) in my own posts. If you believe that McCarty is taking one of my comments incorrectly (i.e., as Arminian when its from an Open Theist position), then post a response to him and indicate that what he’s calling Arminian is really an O.T. position.

            Finally, I request that you allow those who post to define their own positions, rather than, for example, continuing to argue that I really am an Open Theist and inaccurately describing myself.

            In any event, I bear no ill will; blogging by its nature is brief, difficult to nuance, and easy to misinterpret. R. Olson does not appear to have any issues with my posts thus far, and I hope that my posts will continue to show the respect for him and his blog that I do hold.

            regards,
            John I.

        • John abcdarian

          I meant to write “un-determined freewill”

  • E. Winterhavik

    Dear Dr. Olson,

    I have seen Arminianism given quick rejections by Baptist reformed seminary professors because they taught that the doctrine of prevenient grace was simply nowhere written in scripture. No explanations given. What is your understanding of how the grace of God bringing salvation works? Does this differ from Arminius or Wesleys?

    In a related question. Would you consider the pre-Augustinian orthodox understanding (say, typified by Chrysostom) to be what we now refer to as Arminianism?

  • David Rogers

    Dr. Olson.

    I wonder if you’ve seen the “clarification” by the authors of “Whosoever Will” that they are “Baptist” and neither “Calvinist” nor “Arminian”.

    http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/NeitherCalvinistsNorArminiansButBaptists.pdf

    Personally, I think their affirmation is rooted in a misunderstanding of what Arminianism is.

    • I agree. My review of their book will say so. In my opinion this denial is politically based and savy. The concept “Arminian” has been so distorted over the years that the authors’ (of Whosoever Will) have to distance themselves from it. I think it would be better for them to retrieve its true meaning and embrace the label. But I suppose that would cost them. Some conservative SBCers I know would probably claim they have abandoned belief in eternal security (which they have not).

  • Steve Noel

    For those interested here is Arminian Dr. William W. Klein’s (Denver Seminary) review of “Whosoeever Will”:

    http://www.denverseminary.edu/article/whosoever-will-a-biblical-theological-critique-of-five-point-calvinism/