J. I. Packer and Arminianism

Today I received an e-mail from a reader who asked why I didn’t mention J. I. Packer in either Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities or Against Calvinism.  That’s a good question. I didn’t, so now I will.

To the best of my knowledge, the only lengthy, detailed treatment of Arminianism in print by Packer was his Introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ in A Quest for Godliness.  It may be found at this web address: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_intro.html.

There Packer, a Calvinist, completely misrepresents Arminianism.  It’s truly shocking how distorted his understanding of Arminianism was then.  I don’t know if it’s improved since then or not.

For example, there he wrote that:

“3. The Spirit’s gift of internal grace was defined by the Arminians as ‘moral suasion’, the bare bestowal of an understanding of God’s truth. This, they granted – indeed, insisted – does not of itself ensure that anyone will ever make the response of faith. But Calvinists define this gift as not merely an enlightening, but also a regenerating work of God in men, ‘taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.’4 Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist. Where the Arminian, therefore, will be content to say, ‘l decided for Christ’, ‘l made up my mind to be a Christian,’ the Calvinist will wish to speak of his conversion in more theological fashion, to make plain whose work it really was:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off : my heart was free:
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.5

Clearly, these two notions of internal grace are sharply opposed to each other.”

This is simply false.  The original Arminians, the first Remonstrants, to say nothing of Arminius himself, did NOT so “define” “the Spirit’s gift of internal grace” (by which Packer apparently means prevenient grace).  That would be semi-Pelagianism and, as I explain in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, some later Remonstrants such as Philip Limborch fell into that, but Arminius, the original Remonstrants and the Wesleys did not.  I explain in Arminian Theology the classical Arminian view of human depravity (total) and the necessity of supernatural prevenient grace beyond mere mental enlightenment.

What especially ironic about Packer’s statement is that he quotes Charles Wesley’s hymn And Can It Be? as alternative to the Arminian view.  Apparently Packer thinks Wesley’s hymn is right.  But wait!  Charles Wesley, with his brother, was an Arminian.  (John Wesley named his magazine The Arminian!)  Anyone who bothers to do it can go back and read Arminius on this subject and see that he fully agreed with what Charles Wesley later wrote.  (I quote Arminius and Wesley and numerous other Arminian theologians on prevenient grace extensively in Arminian Theology.)

In his footnote to the stanza from Wesley’s hymn Packer says “Granted, it was Charles Wesley who wrote this, but it is one of the many passages in his hymns which make one ask, with ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, ‘Where’s your Arminianism now, friend’?”

Huh?  The stanza Packer quotes approvingly expresses classical Arminianism perfectly.  Where’s Wesley’s Arminianism “now?”  There–in the hymn.

Clearly, and I say this boldly and without hesitation, Packer was confused about Arminianism when he shouldn’t have been.  Whenever he wrote this he wrote it as a scholar claiming to know both Arminianism and Calvinism.  Clearly he failed in his scholarship. 

Now, in case someone wishes to quibble and say “Oh, he was talking about the Remonstrants, not Arminius or Wesley,” let me quote from the Arminian (Remonstrant) Confession of 1621, probably written by Simon Episcopius, the leading Remonstrant: “We think therefore that the grace of God is the beginning, progress, and completion of all good, so that not even a regenerate man himself can, without this preceding and preventing, exciting, following and cooperating grace, think, will, or finish any good thing to be saved, much less resist any attractions and temptations to evil.  Thus, faith, conversion, and all good works, and all godly and saving actions which are able to be thought, are to be ascribed solely to the grace of God in Christ as their principal and primary cause.” (Chapter 17, para. 6 from the Mark A. Ellis translation published in the Princeton Theological Monograph Series, Pickwick, 2005, p. 108)

This is not all the Confession says about prevenient grace; the whole context makes crystal clear that this Remonstrant confession agrees entirely with Charles Wesley’s great hymn. 

Clearly, in that introductory essay, whenever it was written (1958?), Packer failed to represent classical, historic Arminianism correctly.  If someone says, “Well, but he was right about SOME Arminians–the so-called rationalist Remonstrants,” that won’t work because Packer himself cites Wesley as an Arminian and implies that in his hymn Wesley contradicted his own Arminian theology! 

Besides misrepresenting Arminianism in that essay, Packer vilified Arminians: “Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says.”  So, to him, Arminianism is sin.

To the best of my knowledge, Packer has never corrected himself about Arminianism or apologized for calling Arminianism sin (and thus Arminians sinners merely for being Arminians!).  All I know is that when I submitted my manuscript “Confessions of an evangelical Arminian” to Christianity Today some years ago (it was published under the title “Don’t hate me because I’m an Arminian”–not my choice) Packer, then theological editor of CT, tried to block its publication.  At least that’s what I was told by a friend inside CT (who no longer works there).  Fortunately, he did not succeed.  Why else would he try to block such an innocuous article unless he still thought then that Arminianism is sin?

Packer is the kind of Calvinist I am against–the kind who misrepresent Arminianism when they should know better (because they are scholars) and who vilify Arminians as subchristian or sinners just for being Arminian!

  • http://williamwbirch.net/ William W. Birch

    Meanwhile, you are being berated by some bloggers for your comments about the nature of God as represented in overt Calvinist claims in your latest book Against Calvinism, yet none of those Calvinists care to “call out their own,” so to speak, for the outlandish statements made by Calvinists such as John Owen, Augustus Toplady, Abraham Kuyper, J.I. Packer, David Steele, Curtis Thomas, S. Lance Quinn, R.C. Sproul, C. Matthew McMahon of “A Puritan’s Mind” website, James White, John MacArthur and, seriously, I could go on and on.

    The double standard is not tolerable.

  • John Frederick

    Roger, in your book “Against Calvinism” you make it very clear that even if you were to be convinced that God has revealed that He does exist, and act, as Calvinists say He does, you would not worship such a God.

    As Dr. James White writes, “Such an attitude is the very essence of humanistic religion. And such an attitude is the antithesis of the heart and mind of a Reformed man. To someone who is Reformed, God’s revelation is absolutely normative and authoritative. We do not rely upon ourselves to determine the nature and attributes of the God we worship. We look to God to reveal Himself in His word, and His Spirit drives us to our knees in the presence of His truth. I am convinced that part of the work of regeneration in the heart of God’s elect involves the intimate, lifelong love for, and submission to, the holy Scriptures.”

    Yet you do not blush to say you would not worship such a God.. IF GOD revealed Himself as the God affirmed by Calvinism you would not bow the knee to Him.

    I am a Calvinist, yet in all my former Arminianism, I would NEVER SAY what you say. I was certainly not at all sure that God was as the Calvinists portrayed Him and felt indeed He was not, but SHOULD He have made it clear that He was in fact as they portrayed Him, I would have worshipped Him in an instance and then asked “Lord teach me where I have misunderstood you.”

    As James White says, your statement raises questions as to whether or not Olson is a genuinely converted man. A regenerated heart loves God as He really is and wants to know Him as He is, and will worship Him as He is, for He is the one true God. Let God be true and ever man (and all my misconceptions about Him) a liar.

    • rogereolson

      How strange. I DO love God as he genuinely is and not as White and others think he is. Let me ask you this–what if God revealed to you in a way you could not deny that he is actually Satan–that he and the devil are one and the same being in every respect. Would you worship him then? If you say yes, then all I can say is we are living on different planets (spiritually and intellectually). To question my salvation because of something I said hypothetically, denying its very possibility, is, to me, the height of absurdity and evidence of extreme fundamentalism. And, let me be absolutely clear about this, I COULDN’T CARE LESS WHAT JAMES WHITE THINKS ABOUT ME.

      • Becka Jarvis

        AMEN! Thanks for this article – I’ve never been able to deal with Packer’s work because of the style of his Calvinism, others seem to read him without noticing. I read Tozer instead.

      • http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com Bill

        But wouldn’t a Calvinist say that if such a hypothetical were actualized, whether Dr. Olson declined to worship the undeniably revealed Calvinist God or not would have been entirely predetermined by that God?

        • rogereolson

          And “for his glory” and therefore not really a bad thing at all! (Except for me, of course. :)

    • Barobin

      “As James White says, your statement raises questions as to whether or not Olson is a genuinely converted man.”

      Dr. Olson only has to worry about answering to God and not the opinions of Mr. White.

    • Luke

      This is incredibly audacious. Arminians and other non-Calvinists have to continue being patient and loving in reaction to this kind of nonsense. Responding as Calvinists have typically responded to Arminians will not help the matter. Respond with maturity & kindness to this type of foolishness.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      You do bring up an interesting point John/James. Should the worshipers of God hold Him to certain standards? Each should be able to answer that in their own way – according to their own conscience – and without judgement from those who think differently. Maybe Roger didn’t state in a way that would give comfort to you, but let him have his opinion. He has standards that he holds God to – and that’s between Roger and God.

      As per your own story, why would you assume that you had misunderstood God? That is really the crux of the issue. Roger is saying that if God really was bad (no misunderstanding that) then Roger withholds worship. Would you?

      • rogereolson

        Of course, I don’t think I am holding God to any standards but the one he has given us–Jesus Christ.

    • Timothy

      Even if Roger were to worship the god as described by the Calvinists, at least Roger’s understanding of such a God (an understanding I share) then the worship would be radically different from that he does offer. The worship of a god who commands worship through naked power is very different from that which is demanded by a god who commands worship as much because of his love as his power. And I think that Calvinists agree and do not worship the god that Roger refuses to worship. To that extent I may disagree with Roger as I do not think that White and others actually think God is like the god they describe.
      On a related matter, Roger and others have been criticised for refusing to contemplate an interpretation of Rom 9 upon which so much of Calvinism depends. It seems to his critics that he is refusing the interpret scripture honestly. I would rather say that he is refusing to interpret it in a way that is contrary or repugnant to scripture as a whole.

      • rogereolson

        I agree with you completely. I have gone out of my way to say that Calvinists do not intend to worship a monster; their problem is inconsistency, not heresy or apostasy or idolatry! My point has always been that IF I WERE A CALVINIST I (I!) would have to think of God as a monster and not worship him. I have never suggested Calvinists think of God as a monster or worship one.

  • michael

    Olson: “…Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. …”.

    Is this a definition you adhere to?

    Do you define yourself as a Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh?

    • rogereolson

      Huh? That was in a quote from Packer. Of course I don’t adhere to it! I’m an Arminian.

      • michael

        What part of yourself do you rely upon for your salvation?

        I am a novice understanding Arminianism and Calvinism.

        To the one, the Arminian, there is something “I” do for my salvation; making some choices however great or small, according to the Calvinist?

        To the other, the Calvinist, there is absolutely nothing “I” do to secure or maintain my salvation?

        I am looking for your clear unequivocal position on how your salvation is secured and mine??

        • rogereolson

          Read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities or any other statement of Arminian theology such as Thomas Oden’s The Transforming Power of Grace.

          • michael

            Olsen,

            why do I have to read that book? Why not just answer the question in a clear and concise manner unequivocally?

            It doesn’t take book writing and then reading it to answer a simple question as this “I am looking for your clear unequivocal position on how your salvation is secured and mine??” does it?

            Are we not all under the same Biblical mandate to give an answer for the hope that lies within us? “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; …”.

            I don’t see anywhere in there where Peter asks me to read a book. He just tells us to tell it like it is so that the hearer can hear what the Spirit is saying.

          • rogereolson

            One of my reasons for having this blog is to urge people to read my books and other books I favor. I don’t like to go over the same territory repeatedly. Read my book and you’ll find my answer there.

        • Sean

          More & more I’ve come to realize aggressive Calvinism relies more on rhetorical devices and “gotchas!” than substance. This comment–”What part of yourself do you rely upon for your salvation?”–is a prime example of such.

          • rogereolson

            And that is why I have a list (in my own mind) of Calvinists I will have dialogue with and Calvinists I won’t. Some are fair and seem genuinely to understand my point of view so they know what they are really disagreeing with. Others seem only to want to ridicule, scorn and vilify Arminians without any serious attempt to engage in constructive dialogue or understand what it is we believe. I’m sure there are some Arminians who do the same to Calvinists, but I don’t, nor do most Arminians in my experience. My experience is that most Arminian scholars have read a lot of Calvinist literature while most Calvinist scholars know about Arminianism only from reading other Calvinists on the subject.

  • joe

    Well, At the end of the day: Packer is a great theologian of the church. Olson isn’t. Everybody with the slightest passion for true theology would agree to that.

    • rogereolson

      You may be right. But with regard to Arminianism he has failed to show his greatness.

      • Becka Jarvis

        It’s possible that your use of the word ‘true’ before theology reveals a previous committment to a particular interpretational strand, which means, a priori, that you’d consider Packer & not Olson. Are there any Arminian leaning theologians that you do consider worthy? I’m tired of this sorting system.

      • Steve

        Hey Joe….I love the way you end your comment, “Everybody with the slightest passion for true theology would agree to that.” So anyone who disagrees with you has no passion for true theology? What are you scared of Joe? Maybe Packer is wrong. Ouch.

    • http://sentimentsassuch.wordpress.com/ Brendan P. Burnett

      What a disgusting reply. Olson isn’t a good theologian? I suppose you’ve written numerous books and gotten a decent amount of worldwide acclaim too, hey Joe??

    • Cam

      So does your last sentence translate to “Everybody with the slightest passion for true theology will be a Calvinist” or simply “Everybody with the slightest passion for true theology will agree with me”? Either way I think I am still inclined to take my chances as a poor misguided Arminian.

    • http://langueorparole.blogspot.com Jeremy Patterson

      I unqualifiedly disagree with joe, for what it is worth.

  • Sean

    That introduction (plus a few places where Packer said that God doesn’t love everybody) makes it impossible for me to take seriously or even read anything he’s written.

    Beyond what you brought out, it’s also problematic in that Packer makes limited atonement out as a requirement of Christian orthodoxy (and its denial just another example of Arminian “man-centered religion”), yet no one besides the Calvinists (and Gottschalk) believes in it. In my view, in such a situation a little more humility is warranted.

    • Nicolas

      … even Augustine didn’t call universalists “non orthodox” — only “tender hearted” !!

    • Steve

      I simply cannot believe anybody can take limited atonement seriously. Or the rest of TULIP for that matter. I just find it laughable these days. Really.

  • Timothy

    He also wrote a book called ‘Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God’ which deals with some of the same themes but from memory pretty much sas you give in the post.

  • http://bethesdaum.com/pastors_page Matt W

    Dr. Olson

    Have you heard anything about a forthcoming Theology series by Oden: called John Wesley’s Teachings. The first volume is titled: God, Providence and Man (Due out January 2012).

    I came across surfing through the CBD website.

    In your book Arminian Theology you mention Oden as an Arminian who does not wear the label of Arminianisn per se. It would be nice to see in this forthcoming volume of his a clear presentation and a compelling argument for Arminianism.

    I appreciate your books and blogging about what Arminianism really is as an expression of Evangelical Christianity. It would be nice to see some other evangelicals do the same.

    • rogereolson

      Look at Oden’s The Transforming Power of Grace–the best one volume, relatively simple expression of Arminian soteriology.

  • Craig Wright

    Some people have never heard the gospel. People are raised in different cultural and religious environments. Some people experience different life situations which affect them psychologically and spiritually. The puzzle is why some people are Christians and many others are not.

    Calvinism has a ready answer: it is all of God. But then this doctrine gives the unacceptable answer that God does not love everybody.

    Arminianism says that we all have free will and need God’s prevenient grace to accept him. But I still do not see how this answers the puzzling situation I laid out in the first paragraph.

    • rogereolson

      Nobody can answer that question yet.

      • Craig Wright

        Thank you. I appreciate your honest, frank answer. I have enjoyed thoroughly your ‘The Story of Christian Theology” and have read both the For and Against Calvinism books. I just ordered your book on Arminianism, debunking myths about it.

    • CarolJean

      Jesus and Paul answered that question. Some people love darkness more than light, desire the approval of man above the approval of God, and “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Rom 1:21.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      The puzzle is why some people are Christians and many others are not.

      The answer is easy to say, but difficult to accept (IMHO – in my humble opinion). Some are Christians because they used their free choice to receive God’s gift of salvation. Some are not Christians because they used their free choice to reject God’s gift of salvation. Some are not Christians because have not heard (or not heard correctly) about the choice God has put before them. It seems simplistic, and it is; but I believe it to be true on the whole. While it doesn’t answer every question nor account for particular nuances of circumstances, it largely makes sense of your puzzle for me.

      • Craig Wright

        To CarolJean and Tim, my puzzle began with my adult questioning of why I am a Christian. That is the real puzzle that simplistic answers don’t satisfy. That is also why I can accept Roger Olson’s answer because it is an admission that we, as humans, have to accept, or we get into these doctrinal dead ends. At first, Calvinism made sense to me, because it gave the simple answer that God made me do it. But the dark side of Calvinism has always bothered me. Arminianism portrays a better picture of the character of God, but does not adequately answer why “some people love darkness,” and others don’t. I don’t want to start taking credit for my making the correct decision. Free will is affected by a lot of things outside our control.

        • Tim Reisdorf

          Hi Craig,
          Free will is affected by a lot of things outside our control.
          Surely there are influences in our lives that will tend to push us in one direction or another. But if there is actually a free will that can be independent of those influences at the core of one’s decision making, then I trust the simplistic solution. If there is ultimately no free will that is independent of those influences, then free will is not really free – we are talking about determinism. All bets are off at that point.

      • michael

        Tim,

        are you saying by saying that that your salvation comes down to what you choose to do with the Gospel? And if perchance you die without hearing the Gospel you go into eternity in your sins, dying in them?

        • Tim Reisdorf

          Hi Michael,

          Yes, I do not make my own salvation, but I do play a part in accepting or rejecting God’s gift of grace.

          If one does die without hearing the Gospel, then God (who is both just and merciful) will figure out what to do. If they are to be counted among the believers, then they will have taken a non-standard path (as the Bible lays out the standard path of hearing/believing the Gospel). If they are rejected as an unbeliever, then they will suffer the consequences of that – in my opinion, annihilation.

          • michael

            Tim,

            “…but I do play a part in accepting or rejecting God’s gift of grace.”

            How does that square with Ephesians 2:5 and Colossians 2:13?

            I would like to understand what you mean by “the part you play” in accepting His Life when the Scripture clearly says we were dead in trespasses and sins?

            Can you say “what” the part is you play?

          • rogereolson

            This is an attempt to resurrect an old debate between Calvinists and Arminians. Both sides have thoroughly given their answers. Are you really unaware of them? If so, may I suggest before you continue this discussion (or is a debate?) you read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (or at least the relevant portions which you can find easily) and/or The Transforming Power of Grace by Thomas Oden. To keep at this as if Arminians haven’t answered this is a waste of time and space.

          • Steve

            Tim
            Very interesting. And again you raise more questions than you answer. Please clarify: “Yes, I do not make my own salvation, but I do play a part in accepting or rejecting God’s gift of grace”. This has to be contradictory. What ‘part’ do you play exactly. I mean if you ‘play a part’ then it must have some influence on making your own salvation (‘work out your own salvation in fear and trembling’)
            ‘then God (who is both just and merciful) will figure out what to do.’ You need to clarify. How does He ‘figure out what to do’? What are the benchmarks or indicators scripturally. I’m sure in your mind at least you have a little more detail.
            A ‘non-standard path’. This is huge. What on earth would constitute a non-standard path? Mind you I definitely believe in so-called ‘non-standard paths’ but from some of your previous posts I am not sure you really do. In fact you made some remarks previously regarding a statement I made about Romans 2. You are starting to sound confused. I would suggest you are making it up as you go. A common problem. Don’t get me worng I love to hear this kind of stuff but not when it comes across as absolute.
            Finally, ‘annihilation’? Not sure where you are going scripturally or non-scripturally with this one. Please explain.

          • Tim Reisdorf

            @ Michael, Steve,

            The part that I play is to choose to follow God or not to. That’s it. It’s not some kind of work or deed, it’s simply surrendering my life to God. That is the part that I play.

            Now, built into that is this: I reject determinism out of hand. I assume that I have free will. Maybe that is an assumption that you disagree with, but there it is.

            Concerning the “dead in trespasses and sins” – of course I was “dead” before I was alive in Christ. Clearly this is a figure of speech that needs to be unpacked. You and I likely unpack this and understand it differently.

            Steve, I’m sorry that I confuse you. I do not have a systematic theology, rather I read the Bible and not try too hard to massage all the parts into a single, seamless system. I fear it will harm the “minority voices” of Scripture which would be otherwise smothered in the systemitization.

            Concerning the standard path: One hears the Word of God and receive it with joy (or not). This path is laid out and played out many times.

            Concerning the non-standard path: One never hears the Word of God. The Bible seems pretty silent on this topic as far as I can tell. So, I trust that God will be both just and merciful in dealing with such people. I don’t think I’m saying anything earth-shaking. Rather, God will sort it out His way – and I can’t clarify it further. What I said about Romans 2 was that people who have not heard are still sinful and in need of God’s grace. They cannot be saved on their own merits.

            Concerning annihilation, it is my best attempt at envisioning what happens on the other side of this life. People die. Very generally speaking, God will raise His own and not the others.

            Steve, you ask, How does God ‘figure out what to do’? God figured out how to teach ducks to fly, the sun to rise, light to bend, and Uranium to split. Surely I can rely on Him to do what He wants to with His creation. And if the Bible sheds little to no light for me on any particular situation, I won’t try to dazzle you with phantom details.

            And I’m not making this up as I go anymore than anyone else – just telling you what I think.

          • michael

            Tim,

            thanks for your reply.

            You wrote: “… I assume that I have free will. …”

            Yes, I quite agree!

            Lately, this “have” free will and “don’t have” free will has puzzled me since I am not study of either Arminius or Calvin. I have read some from both camps.

            So, where the cookie crumbles with my theology, I just cannot say.

            I can adhere to your assumption, however, especially when one reads this:

            Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

            Clearly the Apostle had in mind followers following what he had learned and received. Clearly from that he taught. He taught by powerful demonstrations of the Spirit and the Word so by seeing and hearing his followers would equally adhere.

            Here is another one of those, “choose” verses which it seems to me puts choice right where choice is suppose to be put, on our shoulders:

            1Co 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
            1Co 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
            1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
            1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
            1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

            Apparently some in the Corinthian Church were having a fear problem with death? Also, apparently some were not “receiving” the gift of victory from God, Our Heavenly Father so that their walk was somewhat feeble, movable, unsteady and lean when it came to the “work of the Lord”.

            Seems, for some there among the Corinthian Church, because their will was weak not strong God sent the Apostle to encourage and edify them and strengthen them to be fervent towards the Lord and one another?

            Anyway, thank you again for taking some time and responding to my inquiries!

            And by your response I think I understand what you wrote, here: “… I do play a part in accepting or rejecting God’s gift of grace. …”. Especially if it has anything to do with what I referenced from the writings of the Apostle Paul?

          • michael

            oops, posted to soon,

            I would edit this that I wrote:

            Lately, this “have” free will and “don’t have” free will has puzzled me since I am not study of either Arminius or Calvin. I have read some from both camps.

            to read this way: Lately, this “have” free will and “don’t have” free will has puzzled me since I am not a student of either Arminius or Calvin. I have read some from both camps.

        • Becka Jarvis

          Where on earth did this oft trundled out argument that receiving a gift somehow means you earn it come from? It’s just ridiculous. By accepting salvation you don’t earn salvation, you merely receive it. If I’d never read this idea I’d never have come up with it from the Bible.

          • Steve

            Becka
            Salvation is contingent on faith (Eph2). Therefore the idea that it is ‘free’ is only true in the sense that it is ‘given freely’. The nature of it requires that you ‘take it’. Like any gift. And this is where the contingency operates. You have to ‘take it’. How do you take it? Through faith and faith is works/deeds (James 2). So the idea that is pushed all the time that it is either by faith or works is a misnomer. Faith alone is nowhere in the Bible. You won’t find those 2 words together anywhere except in James 2 where it is repudiated…’Yous see a man is justifed by works and not by FAITH ALONE’.

          • Steve

            Becka
            Sorry…got called away. This is part 2 to the ‘salvation is a free gift’ thing. The dangerous part about the idea that it is free in the modern protestant way is that people associate free with I don’t have to’ or cannot do, anything with regard to my salvation. And that is what so many people do…nothing. Also it legitimises sin in the life of so called believers. Sin is diminished or seen as not a big deal in people’s lives. And then repentance is also cheapened. I think the whole salvation ‘process’ that protestants have formulated needs an overhaul.

        • Sherebyah

          Tim

          Sorry to interrupt you but you are asking question as if you know the concrete answer of it. Let us know if you have answer or at least your opinion/findings of what you are asking.

          To me, I believe there are many questions I don’t have answers and I would dare to say that nobody has an answer because certain things God has not mentioned in the Bible to give us plain answers. I have read and re-read “Institute of Christian Religion” of Calvin and found him bashing on almost all who shows slightest diff with his views. I believe that he is very intelligent, systematic and seemingly pious(?) to misinterpret Scriptures he is quoting. Though I have found him interesting and close to truth at many instances. Just because majority follows his so called systematic theology necessarily does not make it true.

      • Jon

        Right, you chose God because you are better than your neighbor, who rejected him. Or smarter? Or more humble? Or more aware of your sins? Whatever – they are all good traits! Pat yourself on the back! You deserve some of the credit! Foolish neighbor, if only he were more like you! God better be prepared to share some glory with you!

        • rogereolson

          And you believe God chose you because…you’re smarter? More humble? More aware of your sins? Whatever–they are all good traits! Pat yourself on the back! You deserve some of the credit! Foolish neighbor, if only he were more like you! God would have chosen him, too! Ugh. You have no more reason to accuse Arminians of believing in self-salvation than Arminians have of accusing you of thinking God chose you because you’re better than the non-elect person he didn’t choose. After all, what other reason could there be?

          • michael

            Roger,

            what? “…You have no more reason to accuse Arminians of believing in self-salvation than Arminians have of accusing you of thinking God chose you because you’re better than the non-elect person he didn’t choose. After all, what other reason could there be?…”

            This makes no Biblical sense to me!

            What is your Arminian point?

            It comes across that you wrote that basis a presupposition that really isn’t Biblical.

            Can you help me understand it?

          • rogereolson

            We’re talking about what people believe. You accused Arminians of believing something we do not. Just throwing the word “Biblical” into the mix doesn’t help the conversation when this particular thread of it isn’t about the Bible–it’s about what Arminians and Calvinists believe based on their interpretations of the Bible. You simply don’t understand correctly what it is Arminians believe, and I’d suggest you bow out of the conversation until you acquaint yourself with that. Read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.

        • Sherebyah

          Jon

          If you know Hinduism which I know quite a bit as I have spent 35 years of my life being raised in India and has studied many of their scriptures. Calvin sounds very close to them, making God playing His will, just to attain glory, will choose anybody to salvation and anybody to Hell…! God so arbitrary and so hungry for His glory, not giving any provision whatsoever for non-elect to be saved….! It’s a Hindu/Pagan God I can relate to.

          I do believe God’s grace to lead a sinner to repentance but it will take me eternity to believe God’s grace (confined grace in His predestination/election) not giving any chance to other folks whatsoever to be saved. I call it Spiritual Racism, and I reject such theology by its root in the light of the words of God.

          The other thing is I don’t want to advocate Arminianism as honestly I haven’t delved into it much. But I took deep dive into Calvinism by putting tons of restless hours in “The Institutes of Christian Religion” and could not find enough support from the scriptures for the thing I mentioned in my prev paragraph.

  • Mark Jr.

    Mr. Olson,
    Are there Calvinists past or present who you feel handle the issue even evenhandedly, even though they still disagree?

    • rogereolson

      Millard Erickson does a pretty good job in Christian Theology (e.g., Vol. 3, pp. 918-921). At least he admits that all Arminians begin with the first principle or logical starting point that God desires all persons to be saved. That is what I mean when I say that Arminianism’s basic motif and driving commitment is God’s character as good. Erickson lumps too many groups into Arminianism making it kind of a waste basket category of all Christians who are not Calvinists. That’s not correct, of course, as Arminius and all Arminians reject Catholic soteriology and all Lutherans (even if inclined toward Melanchthonian synergism) reject Arminianism. Still, as always, at least Erickson strove to be fair and state Arminianism as Arminians themselves (ourselves) state it. Mike Horton is making fine progress in that direction, too. He now admits that Arminianism is not Pelagianism or even semi-Pelagianism even though he still thinks it is a man-centered theology. But that’s fine. I have no quarrel with Calvinists (or others) saying what they think Arminianism leads to a good and necessary consequences–so long as they do not misrepresent what Arminians actually believe (which is what I see Packer doing).

      • Buks

        I think both Calvinists and Arminians would state that God is good. The difference comes in their understanding of the meaning of “good”. Some would deny that God is good on the basis of His brutal treatment of animals in the sacrificial system. Others would deny His goodness if He does not save every human if He could. Perhaps we should not set up “goodness” as an external universal standard that we define for ourseves to judge God’s character – but rather accept our severely limited understanding of life the universe and everything and let God define “goodness”. That which God is, is goodness – no matter whether it satsfies my own flavour of goodness or not.

        • rogereolson

          Ah. There it is–nominalism. Just as another commenter suggested. “That which God is, is goodness-no matter whether it satisfies my own flavour of goodness or not”–nominalism. The wonderful thing is that God himself has defined goodness for us in Jesus Christ. Goodness is the loving kindness of God that sent him (Jesus, God the Son) to the cross for the world that God loves. Goodness is Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and at the tomb of his friend. Goodness is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and healing the sick who came to him with faith. Goodness is 1 Cor. 13. Goodness is God wanting everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9). God is goodness and we know what that means because he has shown us in his Word. The God of nominalism could be anything and cannot be trusted and should not be worshiped.

          • Buks

            Is that not a bit of a one sided picture? Is not this same God the one that hates the wicked Ps 11:5 and killed the first-born of the Egyptians, destroyed many nations who opposed Him? Does He not also show us that part of His goodness is to deal justly with sin?

            I would like to know how you understand the state of humans in heaven one day. Are they still going to have free will? How then can we be sure that there will not be another “Adam” who rebels against God? If we will have free will in heaven and yet not sin, why could it not have been that way in Eden? In humble opinion, a logical conclusion of Arminianism (to be consistent) is that even in heaven there can be no assurance that we may not turn against God again. But then, I’m sure thats not what you believe :-)

          • rogereolson

            The Eastern churches–believing much the same as Arminians about prevenient grace and free will–have always had the answer to this. (When I say “the answer” I don’t mean one that clears up all mystery, of course, but one that genuinely answers the question.) The Eastern church, I judge, rightly appeals to deification. In the new heaven and new earth, in our resurrection state, we will be incapable of sinning for two reason–there will be no tempter there and we will be made partial partakers of the divine nature. The present state of things is a probationary period. Call it God’s experiment or project, if you will. Okay, you probably won’t, but I will (with the appropriate caveats about how to apply words like that to God’s creative activity). Irenaeus clearly thought of creation along those lines and so do I. God created us with the possibility to disobey him and fall away from him and our true essence into existence. But those who return to God by his grace through faith (now I speak as a Protestant) will someday receive the gift of inability to sin.

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  • http://sentimentsassuch.wordpress.com/ Brendan P. Burnett

    What really cracked me up is when Packer tried to demonstrate the Calvinist understanding of grace over Arminianism by quoting A HYMN WRITTEN BY AN ARMINIAN “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley brother of John Wesley!!! I fell off my chair. How pathetic!

  • James Petticrew

    I have a book in which Packer has a chapter on curing the sickness of Arminianism! By the way the fact that the Wesley’s were in Arminian in their theology by Calvinist in their hymnody is a standard line amongst British Calvinists. I think they have come to that position because as you so clearly show Charles’ hymns contradict their misrepresentations of Wesleyan Arminian theology, and of course it let them sing these great hymns without being accused of hypocrisy.

    • rogereolson

      Right. One Sunday a couple years ago I attended Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. One of the hymns was Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be. I wrote on my visitor’s card “Thanks for singing my favorite Arminian hymn this morning!”

      • http://www.mariuslombaard.net Marius

        where’s the “like” button and thumbs up icon when you need it…?! :)

        • rogereolson

          You just used it! :)

  • Leslie Jebaraj

    Brother Roger Olson: Why do you sound so arrogant? (Just thinking out loud!).

    • rogereolson

      If I come across as arrogant, I apologize. But maybe you could do me a service by giving me a specific example. And please drop the “Just thinking out loud!” because you’re obviously doing more than that. You’re criticizing me in my own house (so to speak). When you do that, I welcome it if you have something specific to present to support it. Perhaps “offended” comes across as “arrogant?” That’s the only thing I can think of when your criticism is about my critique of J. I. Packer’s horrible treatment of Arminianism and Arminians in that essay to which I referred and from which I quoted.

      • CarolJean

        You’ll have to check out Michael Patton’s (a Calvinist) blog, Parchment and Pen, where he asked “Do Roger Olson and I worship the same God?” I think that is where Leslie is getting his thoughts that he is thinking out loud about.

        http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/11/do-roger-olson-and-i-worship-the-same-god/#commentspost

      • Steve

        Roger, be arrogant. Heck who cares. Seems to me as soon as someone gets feisty people start claiming arrogance. Besides its the issue that is the point. Stay on the issue. This one has got them coming out of the woodwork. Maybe more Calvinists are reading this blog. How cool is that.

        • Steve

          JI Packer is sacred cow.

      • Timothy

        Is the reference to “Packers’s horrible treatment” a deliberate echo of Charles Wesley’s “Horrible Decree”? Anyone who can think that Wesley’s hymnody was Calvinistic cannot have come across that one. He describes the Calvinistic gospel as the gospel of “the ineffectual call and insufficient grace”.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Hi Leslie,

      It may sound that way because Roger has an opinion. But he has researched and thoroughly thought this through, besides generally being an expert in his field. Maybe view his tone as confidence. If you disagree with him, attack his arguments. He is open to correction, but seldom requires it.

      • Steve

        Be careful Tim. “He is open to correction, but seldom requires it.” Now this sounds like arrogance.

    • Steve

      What is this ‘Brother’ thing? Do I smell a Primitive Baptist?

  • http://www.divinepassion.blogspot.com Jason

    Thank you so much for your time and clarity on many issues. Owen and Edwards were exemplified at my seminary. It seemed that there was no room for any other opinion. Any move from Puritanism was a step towards liberalism and therefore treated with the same judgment and fear. Your blog and writing is a great encouragement to me. Especially your openness to critique and godly responses. Thank you.

  • Paul Bufford

    I honestly have to agree that, as an Arminian converted from Calvinism, I cannot worship God as particularly concieved by Calvin and especially Beza and Edwards in regards to determinism. I used to be a Piper/Edwards devotee and I look back and fail to fathom how I could think that God brought about in order to be glorified the most heinious evil imaginable (murders/rape/the eternal concious torment of the damned). While I recognize many of my great Calvinist friends don’t see it this way, I think the view of Edwards, for example, entirely collapses the Biblical distinction between Satan and God, because Satan is only, ever, and always doing what God secretly wants/ordains him to do for the glory of god. I simply find this such a bad thing to say about the triune God who is love and desires all to be saved that I cannot ever think of myself ascribing such things to God in worship (it “makes the blood run cold”). Moreover, no matter what anyone says, I don’t see how I could be an Arminian who has thought these issues through and think it possible to worship such a conception of God that ascribes all evil to God. I don’t believe I do the true God any favors when I think I could worship Him if he were actually all the Bible ascribes to Satan.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      I’m sympathetic to your concerns, Paul. But there are a number of Biblical passages that show collaboration between God and Satan – mostly in the OT. What then do we say? Do we twist Scriptures to fit what we think this relationship ought to be?

      For one, take Job. God and Satan had something like a Gentleman’s bet to see if various kinds of suffering and anguish could cause Job to renounce his trust in God. God gave permission for this to happen and specifically took responsibility for the first series of tests (and probably assumed responsibility for the second as well, but there was no “scene in heaven” after the second series). Is this a God worthy of worship as Job believes in the end? I do hope you think so.

      • michael

        Reisdorf,

        what do you think? Is it the same with Eve, the mother of all flesh that God had a similar conversation with Satan?

        Was Satan granted permission to come through the snake in the garden of Eden to tempt Mother Eve like he was granted to do what he did through the Sabeans, through fire, through the Chaldeans, by a great wind, and then, with his own hand, he struck Job with loathsome sores ?

        • Tim Reisdorf

          Hi Michael,

          I’m not fully informed of the heavenly details of each of the instances that you listed. Yet, there is the story of Job. Shall we dismiss it?

          But in the end, whether there was an explicit conversation or not, God did grant Satan permission for all this. Satan asked if he could sift Peter like wheat (and was evidently granted his request). The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The account of David’s census – who enticed David to do that? (see both accounts to get both answers). What is a poor Bible student to do with this kind of info?

          • michael

            Tim

            a couple of things here.

            One, I submit just as we realize the conversation between God and Satan in the presence of the sons of God, so it was with Eve. Satan was directed towards her as he was directed towards Job.

            Second,

            I am having new thoughts about this whole thing especially noting you refer to the Apostle Peter being sifted as wheat.

            Here is an interesting understanding Peter puts forth about “who” allowed that sifting/suffering, when we read this:

            1Pe 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
            1Pe 5:11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

            Here we see “who” it is that permits such sufferings.

            It is as though God designed it that each of us are to suffer at the hands of Satan for a season so that after we have been damaged God will then “restore”, “confirm”, “strengthen” and “establish” us.

            Why does God do that?

          • Tim Reisdorf

            Hi Michael,

            You may well be correct about Eve. It would make sense, but I have no direct statement about it (except yours).

            “Why does God do that [make us suffer]?”

            Maybe Agent Smith (from the Matrix) was correct in that we only accept life as valid or authentic when we have suffering. I think there is some sense of testing or “proving” going on – reminds me of Jesus being tempted. In the end, my thoughts are only speculations. It seems, on the whole, that this is roughly the way things were designed to be.

            Concerning 1Pet, I think that the suffering he primarily talks about is the suffering that results from being a Christian – ie. suffering at the hands of evil people. He states this kind of suffering from evil people as a “given”, but I’m not sure it was meant to be a universal truth in the same way.

            And you’re correct, of course, that it is God who permits suffering. If He did not permit a certain suffering for a certain person, it wouldn’t happen. This leads me to believe that God is not afraid to have me suffer – at least not as afraid as I am to suffer.

          • Sherebyah

            Tim,

            God granting permission to satan to afflict job cant prove in any way what Calvinists are saying, God ordaining even satan and all His plans of hell and to send all non-elect to go into eternal torment….

      • Paul

        I did not mean to say or imply that I have a problem saying that God sometimes uses Satan or wicked people doing wicked things to achieve an end (which I agree is seen a lot in the OT especially in regards to bringing judgment on nations). There is a big difference, though, between saying that God sometimes uses Satan or evil actions, while is not any less good, and saying that every evil action and evil itself is secretly ordained by God for some secret reason involving God’s glory (e.g., God is the “ultimate cause” of everything Satan does so God can get glory)? With respect, it often seems that, while a lot of “Calvinist” verses/stories do recognize God’s sovereignty in a very strong way, there is always a jump that I don’t think the text requires to meticulous sovereignty (e.g., God ordains every detail including every evil act). I respect and love all Calvinists holding to God’s meticulous determining of all events as brothers in Christ and in no way think my position is just simply what the Bible says (it seems to me this is a huge debate with wonderful, intelligent Christians on both sides), but I simply do not think that, as a sincere Arminian, I’d be doing God any favors by saying that I think it’s possible or good that I could, in some sense, ascribe to God in worship every evil act in the world and even evil itself as well as the “eternal conscious torment” of the damned. To me, from this position (and I recognize this is not what Calvinists think), there is not a very good distinction (or war) between God and Satan—God has not been really working to defeat Satan but instead has been orchestrating all of his actions (and I just don’t think saying God has a good motive compared to Satan for making the world a place filled with rape and murder works either personally in dealing with evil or theologically in making sense of Scripture).

        • Tim Reisdorf

          I agree that God does not do evil actions. I also agree that God can and does use Satan. For the last statement, we may disagree on the degree and frequency to which that happens.

      • paulbufford

        on my last post I should have said “brothers and sisters” (i hope that wasn’t a Freudian slip).

      • Sherebyah

        Tim

        So you mean God ordained people to go to hell in a some kind of conference in heaven where God must have invited him and signed the bill? that He will send some to Hell with satan? You need to realize what kind of picture you are portraying here of God…!

        • rogereolson

          I doubt that is what Tim is saying, but I’ll let him speak for himself.

    • Steve

      Think about James 1:13 for a minute. You know………..God cannot tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by HIS OWN EVIL DESIRE he is gragged away and enticed. Then after desire….etc etc. Seems to me there are deeds that men do that God neither ordains or wants any part of. Then of course it makes sense that God can hold them morally responsible etc etc.

      • Steve

        That should be …’dragged’. Don’t know what ‘gragged’ is.

    • Sherebyah

      Sailing with you Paul. Regard to Piper/Edward/Calvin I resemble with you. Then I started reading/studying “The Institutes of Christian Religion” and lost my sleep and appetite till the point convinced by Holy Spirit in the light of scripture and denied much of the Calvinistic God..

  • http://barrybiblicalnotes.com Barry Applewhite

    One of the things that has surprised me over the last 15 years is the near-worship of J.I. Packer I have found in evangelical writings. Part of that, in my opinion, comes from the strange fact that people seem to be happy that any British intellectual believes in Christ.

    In writing Bible studies, I never found his materials to be helpful in exegesis. He may have been a fine Christian, as some say, but esteem for his scholarship has seemed exaggerated to me. This example is just awful. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    -Barry

    • rogereolson

      I think Christianity Today has been largely responsible for Packer’s fame among evangelicals. I know when my old boss George Brushaber was an editor at CT he used CT to promote Packer as a sort of model evangelical scholar.

  • http://mattroffact.wordpress.com Matt Rickman

    Piper’s book on evangelism passed across my desk this past week. I flipped open the introduction and read a quote in which he showed how some amazing Calvinist had befuddled a poor Arminian by getting him to admit he believed humans could not save themselves, that God was sovereign over creation, and that salvation come from Christ alone. I laughed aloud. The pagans sitting around me did not understand the humor of the chapter (and apparently neither did Piper).
    My least favorite part of seminary was watching the Calvinists corner Arminians and attempt to “reason” them out of their foolishness. That whole brand of “gotcha” theological debate stopped being amusing after the first week (or at least after the parent of one student cornered me and advised me that my main problem in life was that I didn’t have enough respect for God’s power. While I found it annoying that a PCA person was lecturing me, a Pentecostal, on believing in God’s power today, it was really good for God’s glory though because it was the first time it crossed my mind to ask John McArthur whether God was unable to perform miracles today, or just unwilling). All it proved then and now was that the gotter did not really understand the gottee’s theological convictions.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    What surprises me often when reading a number of stout Calvinists is the fundamentalist attitude they have in dealing with some of their pet parts in theology. In general they to show a generous and scholarly approach and method, but when it comes down to things like TULIP (and its opponents), it seems ok to be sloppy in research and fundamentalist in claims. This has surprised me in studying theologians and exegetes alike.
    And as I know firsthand from growing up in fundamentalist circles (not Calvinists but Charismatic), love and fundamentalism are incompatible. When you corner a fundamentalist, they attack. Sadly, that is what we see all the time and especially in the comments to this great post. The big question is: is it possible to interact with a Calvinist-fundamentalist without getting personally attacked? I wonder.

    • Keith

      Love IS a fundamental of the faith, so if someone does not love, he is not a fundamentalist.
      Of course, your evaluation of whether someone is loving or not depends on your definition of love. And of “attack.”

      • rogereolson

        Well, of course, you’re defining “fundamentalist” your way. I agree that love is a fundamental of the faith, but not all “fundamentalists” (defined sociologically) know that.

        • Steve

          In the end its a matter of how you define anything. You have your definitions and I have mine.

  • http://www.donbryant.wordpress.com don bryant

    I can’t ever recall someone “taking on” JI Packer. But good for you. I, even in my more convinced Calvinist days, always thought Packer too narrow and injudicious in drawing the lines as he does in his Intro to the Death of Death. I also think Martin Luther’s nominalism is too little noted in approach to the nature of God. God’s “freedom” to be God apart from any real notion of good leaves us with an arbitrary notion of God and enables us to ascribe to Him all kinds of behaviors and values that are not tied to a stable definition of the good, the true and the beautiful. To some ears your assertion that you would not worship a God such as some describe Him sounds rebellious and anarchistic. In fact, you are simply entering into the debate over nominalism and realism. I agree with you. If God can be anything then we are left with some pretty absurd alternatives. The more free God is to not measure up to any notion of what God must be in order to be God, the more dangerous are those who follow such a God. In fact, the more arbitrary and contradictory God is the more such followers will rejoice in God’s sovereignty to be exactly who He is and measure our spirituality by our ability to accept absurd notions. Your notion that you will not worship a God who is virtually indistinguishable from the devil is not treason but a confidence that goodness is a real “thing” and is not arbitrary. In some circles, it seems the more contradictory God is to reason the more He is worthy of worship. This can lead to some very strange places. I think people will understand your assertion a bit more if you bring them into the nominalism/realism debate.

  • Rick

    “Packer is the kind of Calvinist I am against–the kind who misrepresent Arminianism when they should know better (because they are scholars) and who vilify Arminians as subchristian or sinners just for being Arminian!”

    This was an old resource. If he still felt that way, would he have written One Faith with Oden?

    • rogereolson

      Well, that’s a good question. Let me as this question: If Packer DIDN’T still feel that way, why wouldn’t he have publicly apologized for calling Arminians sinners just for being Arminians? And why would he have tried to censor my CT article about Arminianism?

      • Rick

        I certainly cannot not answer why he does not recant those claims. I would imagine that many made claims years ago that they have either forgotten about, or have so far removed themselves from, that it does not even enter their minds.

        In regards to the CT article, I certainly do not know the details of that move, if your source was being accurate.

        Finally, I don’t know why he may see Oden’s theology so different from your theology. Perhaps it is bad info he has gotten, or a personal relationship with Oden that has allowed some things to be ironed out.

        I learn towards Arminianism, but appreciate much of the work of Packer. I just hope the model displayed by Oden and Packer/Wesley and Whitefield can be the standard, rather than the exception.

        Who knows, one day we may even see a Olsen and Horton, or Olson and Patton combined project.

        • Rick

          Oops, should say …Olson and Horton….

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  • Gary Foster

    This is why I like to read you. You endeavor for fair treatment of Calvinism and ask for the same in return. As a young Calvinist Baptist theological student in College in the 70′s I was not treated to a fair characterization of my theology. “Hyper-calvinist” was the term Dr Neely (SWBU) used as well as others. I constantly encountered this kind of thing along the way from fellow students and my Pastor.
    I find it tempting to see it as poetic justice, to see Arminians suffer it from a resurgant Calvinist community but I don’t bite that apple. It was wrong in the past and it’s wrong now.
    I think we do benefit from listening to each other or at least have polite conversations with each other.

  • http://evangelicalarminians.org Arminian

    You might be interested in this detailed critique of Packer’s essay (the introduction to Owen’s Death of Death) by Dan Chapa at the Society of Evangelical Arminians website: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/35. He demonstrates that the charge that Arminians are either Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians is false through comparing the Canons of Orange to Arminius and critiquing Packer’s argument.

  • Scott Gay

    I know of my complete depravity and Christ’s righteousness. I cannot in conscience believe that predestination is anything but conditional. My beliefs about atonement and perserverance hinge on the predestination issue. Therefore, with so much in common(2/5ths. but the most important 2/5ths), why do my Arminian beliefs call to question my being a Christian?
    I think I answered my own question. Calvinists believe that my beliefs are not Biblical but man-made. So it comes down to your way of reading the Bible. And whose interpretation of different sections is correct. Honestly, it reminds me of Pascal’s statement-”not the God of the philosophers”. We probably should never have defined torah as law, it doesn’t convey the beautiful, highly positive and compelling meaning. “But his delight is in the torah……” A stiffness, rigidity of mind and being, negativeness …. doesn’t resonate with the meaning of the scriptures. Chesterton( and I use him precisely because how few here agree with him soteriologically) rightly made the analogy of Calvinism to sour grapes.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    Packer has popularized Calvin’s idea that “theology is for doxology”. I would be interested to hear your comments on that “slogan”?

    • rogereolson

      Primarily so, but I would add that theology has a critical function as well.

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  • http://www.churchgungahlin.com Josh

    The misrepresentation by guys like Piper and Packer sometimes make me wonder about their true honesty and integrity. On one regard I respect both but I’m torn by what are essentially lies (continually repeated often but not always ignorantly by their minions)

    Josh
    Canberra


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