What I mean that “I would not worship that god”

Apparently my honest statement (in answer to a student’s honest question) that, if somehow it were revealed to me that God is as TULIP Calvinism says and as its good and necessary consequences imply, I would not worship that god, has stirred some people up to the point of questioning my salvation (and calling my religion humanistic).

I don’t know if this will help at all, but I will clarify my statement this way: IF it were revealed to me that God is as TULIP Calvinism says AND as he must logically be if all the good and necessary consequences of TULIP are true of him, I would not worship him.

I have been saying for a long time now that IF I WERE A CALVINIST I would have to believe things most Calvinists do not believe.  Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc.  I think some of the things they believe about God’s sovereignty flatly contradict those characteristics.

I think those who object by calling into question my conversion or calling my religion “humanistic” are missing my point entirely.  My point is that they, the TULIP Calvinists, are being inconsistent.  They attribute to the true God, worthy of worship, characteristics and actions impossible for a good God.  I will say that IF they drew out their doctrine of God’s sovereignty to its good and necessary conclusions (which they usually don’t) they would also not be able to worship that god.  Somewhere a line would be crossed and they would realize that the god they are trying to believe in and worship is not good.

Now, they say something similar about me and other Arminians.  They say that IF we believed in all the good and necessary consequences of our own doctrine of salvation we would find that we are Pelagians.  In effect, they are saying that IF we Arminians drew our doctrine of salvation to its good and necessary consequences God would not be doing the saving at all.  That would, then, be a different gospel.

I’ll just mention one example.  John Piper has said publicly that Arminians “must say” that the cross did not save anyone but only gave people an opportunity to save themselves.  But of course, no Arminian says that.  What he means by “must say” is that IF we did what we don’t do, draw out and believe all the good and necessary consequences of what we do actually believe (e.g., universal atonement without universal salvation), we would have to believe we are saving ourselves.  In other words, he is saying that our theology is on the precipice of heresy (his very words to me) even though we do not fall into heresy because of (here using Sproul’s words) our “felicitous inconsistency.” But surely Piper is saying that IF HE believed what Arminians believe he would have to go to the logical conclusion and believe we must save ourselves and that would not be the gospel and then he would not be a Christian.

It seems to me that people who don’t understand what I mean when I say that if I believed what Calvinists believe I could not worship God are missing the point.  They need to start over and hear me clearly and consider what I really mean and not what they jumped to the conclusion that I mean.  Or maybe for some of them this is all just too deep.

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  • Jon


    The point is that you are trying to define terms like “good” and “just” and “holy” in your own human autonomous reasoning and not allowing Scripture to define your terms. This is why people rightfully refer to your theology as humanistic. Rather than simply affirming what Scripture says about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, you try to force fit your own humanly-defined terms onto the Bible.
    This is why your books are so very scarce on real exegesis: the grounds of your arguments are not derived from the Bible, rather they are derived from pagan philosophy.

    • Aaron

      The Bible itself defines terms like good, love and Just in ways that that go against the Calvinist view of God.

      • Aaron

        In Fact I would argue that the Calvinist view of Sovereignty is based on human ideas of power.

    • Robert

      Hello Roger,

      “Jon”, an obvious James White disciple presents a perfect illustration of the kind of semantic maneuvering and attacking that you can expect from James White and his disciples. It might be helpful to actually examine some of this doublespeak to “translate” it so it’s real meaning comes through.

      Jon wrote:

      “The point is that you are trying to define terms like “good” and “just” and “holy” in your own human autonomous reasoning and not allowing Scripture to define your terms.”

      “human autonomous reasoning” = anything other than what James White /Calvinists/theological fatalists believe.

      “not allowing Scripture to define your terms” = not going by **our definitions** of terms.

      If you use **our definitions** you are allowing Scripture to define your terms: if you do not go by **our definitions** you are not allowing Scripture to define your terms.

      You are also engaging in “human autonomous reasoning” again.

      “ This is why people rightfully refer to your theology as humanistic.”

      Fatalism, Calvinistic determinism or humanism, those are the only two possibilities for White and his followers. Anyone familiar with actual logic sees this as a classic illustration of the false dilemma fallacy.

      This also translates to any and all Christians who do not hold to theological fatalism are humanistic. I guess the early church where Calvinism was non-existent was humanistic, as are Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and anybody else who does not espouse theological fatalism.

      “ Rather than simply affirming what Scripture says about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility,” = rather than **affirming our theology** about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

      Does anyone else see this extremely narrow minded thinking?

      Over and over it is “us” versus everybody else.

      And of course “us” means those who follow White’s teachings, hold the same theology, have the same interpretations, even engage in the same put downs (e.g. you engage in autonomous human reasoning, you are humanistic not biblical, etc. etc. etc.). You can usually quickly detect a White follower as they use the same lingo and same put downs as White does.

      “you try to force fit your own humanly-defined terms onto the Bible.”

      Here we have a case of the pot calling the kettle black. As this is precisely what the theological fatalist does: they have their concepts and terms (e.g. irresistible grace, a concept completely absent from the bible, a concept not based upon exegesis of biblical texts but based upon the fatalistic system) which they then read into the texts to arrive at their “correct theology”. And anyone who does not share their terms or engage in their eisegesis is not performing exegesis and is humanistic and engaged in autonomous human reasoning.

      “This is why your books are so very scarce on real exegesis:”

      “real exegesis” = if you have the same interpretations as James White and other Calvinists.

      Remember the rules of this game, James White’s ***interpretations*** are “real exegesis” “allowing scripture to define your terms”, non-humanistic, etc.

      Put more simply James White is correct everybody else is wrong.
      Keep that in mind and your theology will always be perfect, derived straight from the mouth of God. 

      “the grounds of your arguments are not derived from the Bible, rather they are derived from pagan philosophy.”

      Ouch! Jon has upped the ante here. If a Christian disagrees with White and his “exegesis” then he derives his ideas from pagan philosophy.

      So that means that any Christian who disagrees with White or interprets the scripture differently than White derives their ideas from “pagan philosophy.” And people wonder why Calvinism is so divisive and results in such strong antagonistic feelings?


    • Steve

      I would need to see how exactly you might define these words from scripture yourself. You use the terms god’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. This of course is nonsense. Either you have one or the other. If God is soveriegn (as you would probably define it) then God is sovereign and you have no part to play. If humans have a responsibility then they have a part to play and God’s ‘sovereignty’ is diminished or altered accordingly but you can’t have it both ways and that is at least part of the Calvinist problem. To follow the Calvinist position to its end you must end up hyper Calvinist. That is that God is THE perpetrator of evil including rape, murder etc which Calvinists I know adhere to. Face it Jon there are as many holes in your hypothesis as you claim to recognise in the Arminian idea and sooner or later they will find you out. Your claim to ‘real exegesis’ is as tired as Calvinism itself. Jon everybody claims to have ‘real exegesis’. The interesting part about that in my experience is that those who claim to have ‘real exegesis’ are usualy short on scholarship and trot this claim out as a last resort. I expect you hav NO real exegesis that would stand up to scrutony but would attempt like many ‘C’s to simply muddy the waters. Get real Jon.

    • And Jon, how would you define “good”?

      Did not God give us His Word in a way that we can understand heavenly things? Did God not condenscend to bring us truth in a way that we can relate?

      Or, when God declared that He is good, did he mean something other than what the Word reveals about His goodness?

      For example, reading Psalm 145:9, should I take it to mean something other than what it says? Should I take it to mean that God is not good to all? Or that his mercies are not over all he has created?

      Or is it when I say, “God is good to all”, it is only by humanistic reasoning that such an assertion is made? When I say, “God shows mercy to all that he has created,” is that an example of “human autonomous reasoning” where I am “not allowing Scripture to define your terms”?

      I am curious as to how you will respond…

  • Jon

    Here’s a quote from one of Roger’s previous responses to a blog: “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.”.

    From this blog: “Or maybe for some of them [Calvinists], this is all just too deep.”


    • Steve

      You are off the track. Stay with the theme. The theme is the merits or otherwise of the two camps namely, Calvinism and Arminianism. Thats it. Everything esle, whether it comes from your side or the other is off track.

  • Chris White

    Many Calvinists do think if Arminians were consistent they would be Pelegians since they have that choice to accept or reject the Gospel–and it is that ability to choose which makes them the final arbitrator in their salvation–a work, an effort–that they can boast that the unsaved did not respond properly but they did.

    How do you refute that problem of consistency? Does a consistent Arminian become a Pelegian? Aren’t the Calvinists who raise this concern misunderstanding the nature of salvation? Thanks for your posts.

    • rogereolson

      I have refuted it in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities and here in previous posts (many times).

      • Angelz

        Link 1: Has The Father done all He can to save?
        Link 2: Has The Son done all He can to save?
        Link 3: Has The Spirit done all He can to save?
        What then is lacking in my salvation?
        Link 4: My faith.
        Then on what link does my salvation really depend?
        My faith. Why? Because God has done all he can.
        The Triune God has done all He can to build a golden chain of salvation, but my link of faith will be the determiner of the strength of its bond.
        And so goes the adage, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
        Worshiping a God who has to have, in essence, faith in MY Faith seems “too deep” for me.

        • rogereolson

          Link 1: God decides unconditionally who will be saved and who will be damned. Link 2: Those who spend eternity in hell are there because God determined them to be there. Link 3: God has done it all–give saving faith as a gift to some and withhold it from others. Then who is the real sinner? Link 4: God is the real sinner. Conclusion: Because God plans, foreordains and renders certain even every evil thought and intention and decision and action of sinners, God is the ultimate sinner and those in hell are being punished when God, not they, are responsible for the crimes for which they are being punished.

    • Steve

      Sorry, its a nonsense to say that Arminians end up Pelagians. From what you have said you neither understand Arminius or Pelagius.

  • JohnD

    Calvinists spend most of their time these days inventing verbiage to hide their inconsistency. Here is what leading Calvinist apologist Edwin Palmer states:

    “Foreordination means God’s sovereign plan, whereby He decides all that is to happen in the entire universe. Nothing in this world happens by chance. God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen that do happen. He is not sitting on the sidelines wondering and perhaps fearing what is going to happen next. No, He has foreordained everything “after the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11): the moving of a finger, the beating of a heart, the laughter of a girl, the mistake of a typist — even sin.” (The Five Points of Calvinism)

    Just think about the consequences of that belief. Think about Penn State, for example, and then we can see clearly why Calvinists are either unbiblical or inconsistent. There is no other choice.

    • Your quote from Edwin aside, let me just ask you a question. You said “consider Penn State”. How about you consider the account of Joseph in Genesis. Was God not ultimately controlling that situation? Genesis 50:20 reveals that He used what was intended for evil to be used for good. Could we not surmise the same about the Penn State?

      Now, I will be the first to concede that finding what God can use for good out of such a horrendous thing such as the Penn State story is beyond difficult, but I am not God nor can I speak for Him. I simply can trust that, knowing that He IS sovereign, He is still on His throne and will work out all things according to His purposes.

      • rogereolson

        Like many other Calvinists who come here you are using weasel words. Calvinism does NOT just say God brings good out of bad situations. Everyone believes that. The problem is that classical, high Calvinism says God actually planned, foreordained and rendered certain people’s sins. I quote many Calvinists to demonstrate that in Against Calvinism. We all believe God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and brought good out of it in spite of the fact that he did not plan, foreordain or render certain their sin. What we don’t all believe and, in fact, so far as I know, only Calvinists believe, is that God planned, foreordained and rendered certain the fall of humanity and all its consequences including every sin of every sinner and hell for those who he manipulated to sin.

    • Angelz

      Agreed. But, think as well of the idea that in the Calvinist view, even Penn State’s horrid events had a purpose, even if we don’t see it. However, in the alternate view, those events just happened and God now scrambles to make something good out of it. So God’s purposes always are a RESPONSE to events, never the DETERMINER of events. If I may put it this way: Was not the murder of God’s Son not the most evil and horrid event in all of history? If so, then it is even more horrid than Sandusky, OJ, Saddam, Binladen all put together, would you not agree? According to Acts 2:23, this happened according to “God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge.” Even if you take “foreknowledge” as mere knowledge in advance, you still have it linked to a set (predetermined) plan of God. So Peter sets God in the place of the driver, not reactor, to events. Therefore the Glory in God’s plan for evil is that He is in control and Glory and Praise will result from all this pain. An example of this was the result of Christ’s death…our salvation. Every lash, every drop of blood spilled, every thorn, every pounding of the nails into His blessed hands carried the purpose of God’s redemption. Glory to God.

      Since the most evil event in history was under God’s purview and in His holy hands, then why not Penn State or any other evil event that God has predetermined for His holy purpose? That’s Palmer’s point drawn from Ephesians.

      Respectfully, if I may, in your criticism of Palmer’s view, you really didn’t deal with the Ephesians 1:11 Scripture discussion. So it seems, I may be wrong, that you aren’t really arguing with Palmer, but with what Ephesians 1:11 seems to say. So I would challenge you to exegete the passage and offer an alternate explanation. Thanks for taking the time to read.

      • rogereolson

        But you are using weasel words when you say “under God’s purview and in His holy hands.” We all believe that. What we don’t agree about is whether all these horrible events are caused by God (whether directly or indirectly) because they are willed by God as part of his perfect plan and purpose. Don’t bring up Jesus’ crucifixion because we all believe God planned it. What we don’t all believe is that God chose certain men and caused them to sin. God allowed them to do their worst to Jesus because that was what was in their hearts, but they decided to do it and God allowed it.

  • Saying that the logical consequence of Arminianism is that we saved ourselves, is like arguing that the baby, by crying, changed her own diaper.

    However, the logical consequence of limited atonement is double predestination. Back to the baby simile: Saying that choosing to not change the diaper, is not the same as making the baby suffer a wet diaper, is just as foolish. I wouldn’t hire a nanny who argued that the subtle difference made her non-negligent.

    If the Calvinists are accurate, it would be very hard to love a God who could justify evil so blithely. I’d always feel just a bit like I was sucking up to Him in order to stay out of hell. Surely that’s not the sort of worshiper He seeks.

    • KW, you are incorrect of your view of Calvinism if you believe it teaches double predestination. Your statement reveals that at the core you believe that every human DESERVES the chance to be saved. They don’t. You didn’t and neither did I. No one does.

      The question isn’t, ‘Why does God save some and not others?’ That implies that all of us deserve the chance… The REAL question is “Why does God save anyone?” Because none of us are owed even a chance… let alone the securing atonement of Jesus Christ.

      • rogereolson

        No, the deeper question is why a God who IS love wouldn’t save everyone if salvation is unconditional and irresistible.

      • Kyle Carney


        You are right and wrong. You are right, I think, that limited atonement doesn’t necessarily lead to double predestination. You are wrong that KW or any other Arminian thinks that we deserve salvation. First, I think, limited atonement can be upheld in an infralapsarian Calvinist view that views all people as the fallen lump. However, the question I have, here, is, “Why did God make that lump, knowing what they would do, and only decide to save some of them unconditionally?” Next, you are wrong about KW and other Arminians because you ignore our doctrine of grace (it’s prevenient). When Arminians talk about people deserving a chance, if that ever happens, it is only in criticism of Calvinism’s system, not within our own theology. In other words, we don’t believe we are owed anything because we are actually evil of our own volition; we believe only that Calvinism is unjust in it’s implications because if the fall and every person’s sin is rendered certain, then people at least deserve salvation. Let me say again that in the Arminian system God owes us nothing but chose to offer us life and that abundant.

      • My statement reveals nothing at the core. If people want to read into it that I believe every human merits salvation (and I don’t), or that I’m asking the question “Why does God save some and not others?” (which Paul asked and answered in Romans 9), I can’t help what they project onto me, and then debate, and win, and feel good about themselves because beating straw men is so easy. I only said what I said.

        Kyle, the reason I said the logical conclusion of limited atonement is double predestination, is ’cause it does necessarily lead to it. God condemns us for our passive sins of omission; it stands to reason that He considers passivity an act of will. Ergo, God passively allowing someone to go to their destruction is an act of His will. A synergist understands this to be because God wants them to have a saving relationship with Him. A monergist understands no such thing, and figures God has His reasons, but can’t articulate what they are. Even though Jesus did, in Matthew 25.

    • Timothy

      Although I would prefer the word ‘nappy’ I think this analogy is wonderful.

  • I have been saying for quite some time that if I believed God is who/what Calvinists say God is I would become an atheist in general and an anti-theist specifically toward the god of christianity. I could not be a Calvinist and not, eventually, conclude that such a god is anything but a monster.

    Like you I certainly don’t accuse Calvinists of believing in a monster, but it is quite impossible for me to believe in God as the Calvinists present him. I’ve read and reread your comments, and I fail to see how anyone can come to the conclusion your beliefs arise from humanism.

    My advice: Read all that is written on the page without reading INTO it.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you. I suspect your advice will fall on some deaf ears (or blind eyes), but it’s worth trying.

  • Kathy

    I recently spent five months studying TULIP doctrine, and I wept every day. I wept because I had loved and worshiped God for 42 years, but if TULIP were true, I could no longer love or worship him. I grieved my loss of a loving God, and I feared dying and meeting a capricious and sadistic god.

    This blog helped me return to the good God I knew.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you! And thank God! You don’t need to weep anymore.

      • Steve

        I came into contact with people who claimed to be Calvinists some years ago. These people were acting out of their egos and that can only lead to destruction. They absolutley made a mess of our fellowship and people’s lives. A number of young Christians walked away from their faith. I had to come to terms with what this debate was about in order to either follow them or refute them (scripturally). I have, now, no hesitation in refuting what Calvinists say from the scriptures. You have made it through and you will be the stronger in your faith and love for God and people than you were before.

  • It isn’t that it’s too deep of a subject, there are many discussions that are in the ‘deep’ category that Calvinist and Arminian theologians can debate on. What I think the problem here between you and “other” they’s you are speaking of is lack of communication. When in debate or discussions it is good to use simple plain speech. This is not a criticism to you or anyone but it is courteous in these types of setting (in this case-Via Internet), to be more direct.
    This rebuttal has too many wordings in order to make yourself bold, brass and learned. Jesus spoke about this(albeit in speaking about Prayer) but we can take what he said here and apply it to this situation, don’t you think?
    Matthew 7:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
    8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

    key verse here is– for they think that they will be heard for their many words–

    When you want people to understand you, less is more– get to the point…
    Simple rules of debate that can be used via Blogs
    Thanks, and understand I am not slamming you nor other “they’s” in this blog post– just help advise from one to another.

    • rogereolson

      It’s difficult to get some people to grasp a subtle distinction. I admit sometimes I use too many words hoping that finally something with “click” with them. Occasionally it happens. I think it depends very much on how open they are to correction.

  • one more thing I would like to add to this is:
    The bottom line is we all must have the same view point to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can not be this far off on doctrine. There must be an open line of communication when dealing with this. This subject is a deep subject and as like all deep subjects we need to speak about it to one another to see what “they” really. This is not the time to close off self to all critics and those who differ from your theology or doctrine.
    Think about Mr. Olson and let us see the wall that Arminian’s and Calvinist have built up for SOOOO many years be cracked open, at least to be able to speak to one another not ignore and block on emails and websites.

    • rogereolson

      But the “open line of communication” must avoid ad hominem attacks on persons; something I strictly avoid while some Calvinists (and perhaps some Arminians) do not.

      • Joshua

        “something [going ad hominem] I strictly avoid while some Calvinists (and perhaps some Arminians) do not.”

        “Perhaps” some Arminians, Roger…perhaps. 🙂

  • Blake

    I hadn’t considered until reading this restatement that the shape of your argument here and the one that Smith is making in the recently discussed book are very similar. The premises and conclusions are about different topics, but the form is the same.

    I find both arguments quite compelling.

  • Luis

    Roger Olson Responds to the Dividing Line Review of His Book
    11/13/2011 – James White

    Roger Olson just posted a blog that is clearly a response to my comments about his book (without, of course, naming me: nothing new about that, given, of course, that he “on principle” refuses to read anything I write—evidently he can listen to what I say, just not read what I write). Here is his response.

    Now, let’s remember what he actually wrote in his book:

    One day, at the end of a class session on Calvinism’s doctrine of God’s sovereignty, a student asked me a question I had put off considering. He asked: “If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?” I knew the only possible answer without a moment’s thought, even though I knew it would shock many people. I said no, that I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster. Of course, I realize Calvinists do not think their view of God’s sovereignty makes him a moral monster, but I can only conclude they have not thought it through to its logical conclusion or even taken sufficiently seriously the things they say about God and evil and innocent suffering in the world. Olson, Roger E. (2011-10-11). Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology (p. 85). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

    Now, unless words do not have meaning, it seems Olson’s view is clear, and the question was clear, too. The student asked Olson not “are Calvinists inconsistent in not thinking through their beliefs?” but “IF it was revealed to you in a way you couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?” The question is clear. And Olson’s response was “no.”

    In his new blog article, Olson seems to be back-pedaling. He writes,

    I don’t know if this will help at all, but I will clarify my statement this way: IF it were revealed to me that God is as TULIP Calvinism says AND as he must logically be if all the good and necessary consequences of TULIP are true of him, I would not worship him.

    Now, of course, we found Olson’s reasoning on his “good and necessary consequences” to be significantly less than well thought out and compelling, but leaving that aside, what does this newly revised statement mean in light of the student’s actual question? It is hard to say. Olson simply does not have an accurate view of the position he denies, nor does he allow for the proper definitions we self-consciously use to stand when he engages in his criticisms. He writes,

    I have been saying for a long time now that IF I WERE A CALVINIST I would have to believe things most Calvinists do not believe. Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc. I think some of the things they believe about God’s sovereignty flatly contradict those characteristics.

    I.e., “I am much brighter than you folks. Though I ignore the vast majority of your exegesis and the deeper aspects of your discussions, I have actually thought this through far better than any of you ever have. I have gone deeper than Calvin, than Beza, than Zanchius, than Turretin, than the Westminster divines, than Owen, than Edwards, than Warfield, and so IF I WERE A CALVINIST I really wouldn’t be a Calvinist at all, because I would believe ‘things most Calvinists do not believe.'” Brilliant! I am glad we got that all clear.

    The fact is the answer given to the question as it was asked flowed from the heart of a person unwilling to submit to the final authority of Scripture. Roger Olson has authorities outside of the divine revelation found in Scripture, and he has told God just how far he is willing to go for God to be worthy of his worship, and no farther. If he cannot see how God can decree that Joseph be sold into slavery in Egypt so as to save many people alive, establish the very heart and soul of the Jewish nation, its laws, and its prophetic witness to the coming Messiah, all because he cannot differentiate between a God who sovereignly acts in time with pure motives in the same actions wherein sinful men act upon impure motives, well then, so much for Roger Olson worshipping THAT God! Take that, Sovereign King! That’ll teach You!

    Olson let his true feelings show (at least I am open and up front about my true feelings: Olson’s rejection of Calvinism is based upon shallow thinking and man-centered traditions, and the utter lack of even the beginning of serious interaction with historic Reformed writings, let alone the provision of any serious exegesis at all in his book, proves this) in concluding his blog article:

    It seems to me that people who don’t understand what I mean when I say that if I believed what Calvinists believe I could not worship God are missing the point. They need to start over and hear me clearly and consider what I really mean and not what they jumped to the conclusion that I mean. Or maybe for some of them this is all just too deep.

    Yes, it is just too deep! That is probably why he will never engage in serious defense of his claims in his book, especially his utterly indefensible statements about the Greek of 1 Timothy 2:4, against anyone who his is equal, or superior, in the field of Greek grammar and exegesis. If you are a Calvinist, you cannot get “that deep” by definition! I think we heard the original statements in the book quite clearly. If Dr. Olson would like to withdraw his statement and restate it, that is fine, but please, he should not accuse the rest of us of “missing the point” when his own words expressed themselves quite plainly.

    • rogereolson

      All I can say is you continue to insist on missing the point that I stated quite clearly.

    • Steve

      Love to see what you have regards 1 Timothy 2:4 in the Greek. Please I would really like to see what you have to say. I suspect it will disappoint like most ‘C’s who engage at this point but still, I am willing to discover new things if possible.

  • Eric Heistand

    I would love to see you draw out “TULIP Calvinism” to the “good and necessary” conclusions. That way we could see what it is that would not allow you to worship our Sovereign God. Then we could all see what you are referring to what most “TULIP Calvinist” could not worship if they drew out to the necessary conclusions. Would you be willing to do this? It would help us understand your position clearly.

    • rogereolson

      One example. There’s a Calvinist one the web (has his own site) who chides other Calvinists for saying God does not do evil. He says a Calvinist should not shrink from that. I would not consider him a Christian and we do not worship the same God. Fortunately, he does not speak for other Calvinists.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    What bothers me is that it seems that there is something deep, deep inside us which often causes us to choose our theology, and to blind us to other options and to properly understand other views. We all know that presuppositions form girds through which we interpret, however, what I am after is something at a deeper level than that. Perhaps originating in a personal experience which we seek to make sense of. As in Piper’s case, could it be that in it all he is trying to make sense of his mother’s tragic and untimely death? And for him, divine determinism gives comfort and gives a sense of sense in it all. If then, someone (like Dr. Olson) comes with another view, he and his followers will not be able to really understand, because they are already committed to their system of belief.

    • rogereolson

      That’s a good insight. I struggle with how much to psychologize (not a word, I know) theologians’ ideas, but it’s an almost irresistible attraction in some cases (e.g., Tillich). I think I told this story before here–about two Calvinists. One spoke in chapel at the Christian college where I taught and declared (this was his sermon title) “God killed my son.” I came away thinking that event largely determined his theology. He said he could not find any comfort in his son’s tragic death unless it was willed and caused by God. Another well-known and influential Calvinist theologian told me, during a 2 hour conversation in a car that I was driving to take him from an airport to his speaking engagement, that his son’s death turned him away from Calvinism. During out e-mail exchanges later he admitted he had become an open theist. I doubt very many people know that. I suspect, given what he told me about his son’s death, that his experience very much influenced his change of theology.

      • Mikael Stenhammar

        Very interesting. It is disturbing how pious and committed Christians who daily pray for God’s guidance can come to diametrically conclusions on such important areas as God’s character. I wonder if it is our “will to power”, or at least our desire to have a grasp of reality, which makes us chose a theology which best answers our deepest questions and experiences.
        On a different note: what book/s would you recommend as the best introduction to open theism?


        • rogereolson

          The God of the Possible by Gregory Boyd is the best brief, non-technical introduction to open theism.

          • Mikael Stenhammar

            Thanks. And a more detailed and technical?

  • What characteristics and actions do such Calvinists attribute to God that are “impossible for a good God”? I am not suggesting you provide a comprehensive list; one characteristic and one action should suffice to illustrate your point.

    Relatedly, what grounds moral terms for you? If calling God “good” is a moral evaluation, then what is the basis thereof? (If it is not a moral evaluation, then what is it?)

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • rogereolson

      What do you think Augustine meant by “good” when he argued that goodness and being are inseparable?

  • Steve

    I have said it before on this blog and nothing has changed. The God described by Calvinists and the God described by Arminians cannot be the same being. It is not that I ‘could not worship’ the Calvinist (TULIP) god it is that I don’t. For me, if God was as TULIP Calvinists say then I would not be Christian I would be something else. How can for instance, this God be at the same time desirous that all men be saved and also predetermine arbitrarily some to hell before the foundation of the world?

    • rogereolson

      The problem is, that as I read leading Calvinists, they say totally contradictory things and some of them (e.g., Edwin Palmer in his little book The Five Points of Calvinism) admit it. Then one has to choose to believe which side of the contradiction(s) they really believe. I choose to believe that my friends who are Calvinists really believe in God’s universal will for salvation (i.e., that God really wishes all could be saved), even though they qualify it in a way I find confusing at best and blatantly contradictory at worst. What’s interesting to me is that SOME Calvinists struggle with this so much they go to great lengths to rescue God’s character, so their main commitment, I hope and pray, is God’s good character. For example, Lorraine Boettner says (I quote him extensively in Against Calvinism) that God saves all the can get the consent of his nature to save. HUH? And he says he believes the vast majority of humanity are elect. As much as I disagree with Boettner about so many things, I think he was a devout, sincere, Christian and worshiped the same God I do. I just think he was terribly confused. I suspect he’d say the same about me; I hope so, anyway. That is what I hear my good Calvinist friends saying about me and I take no offense because I’m confident that I’m not confused. I would only get offended if I were unsure of it.

      • Steve

        I have found Calvinists to be of all varieties and for all sorts of reasons. This might go back to the idea that events dictate a persons theology at any one time. In any case I find that I have to continually stop Calvinists to find out what they understand by the term Calvinism. I am also confident that toher factors play a part in this. Namely psychological dispositions, social conditioning and group dynamics amongst other things. It is complex and interesting. Also, I believe for many it is the fact that they have a following and risk losing this if they were more objective in their assessments. So it is complex. I would also observe that the more an individual has a ‘stake’ (a following, belonging to a group etc) in their stated position this seems to add to the confusion factor. I know so many confused Calvinists and it is difficult for them to come to terms with their errors based on these other factors. They usually paste over the rpoblems by jumping scriptural and theological chasms.

  • Anything other than a strict determinism is not just a softer Calvinism, it is a compromise and a misrepresentation of that theology. The theology must be held to its own standard. And if indeed all things are directly determined by God Almighty without the possibility of one rogue molecule, then we are left with a very dark and disturbing portrait of our God that includes things from child abuse to Satan worship..

    And if God directly determines both sides of the “free will” debate, then the divine portrait becomes nonsense and raw theatrics, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. The arsonist wears a fireman’s cap as well. And if God directly determines all things, then why exhaust such energy attempting to enlighten others to that truth when in fact their doctrinal recalcitrance illuminates God’s determinism as brightly as does the best of Calvin’s theology. Rejoice! Arminianism then is just one more jewel in God’s sovereign, determinist crown!

    But if God’s sovereignty is powerful enough to offer man a free will, then the repercussions of that theology should shake the foundations of prayer, evangelism, accountability, the gospel, and the urgency of all things.

    • rogereolson

      Very well put! Thank you.

  • Timothy

    The problem for the Calvinist in the Arminian approach, and it would be interesting to get their take on this rather than relying on my outsider’s view, is the perceived compromising of the sovereignty of God, a sovereignty unswervingly affirmed in scripture. They are allergic to the Arminian approach because it seems to them to sacrifice something both central and important in the witness of scripture.
    This is something of a ramble but I hope is relevant.
    I have just been rereading an article by Paul Hiebert about spiritual warfare. He contrasts an “Indo-European” understanding of the cosmic battle with a biblical one. One difference he identifies is the purpose of th battle. In one the purpose is victory for one and defeat and destruction for the other. In the other the purpose is reconciliation. Another difference is the one responsible for victory and defeat. In one it reflects the victory of one god over another. In the other it reflects only the victory of God, either in redeeming His people or in judging and rebuking His people (or any other people as all people belong to Him). When God’s people are defeated this does not represent a defeat of God but His judgment on the sin of His people.
    This seems to me to emphasise the sovereignty of God in a way that would warm the heart of the Calvinist (and the Arminian) but also emphasise the purpose of God both in His redeeming acts and in His acts of judgment was directed towards eventual reconciliation.
    This could I suppose be interpreted in a universalistic way but I prefer the CS Lewisian way of reserving ultimate separation for those who refuse reconciliation.

  • jesse

    That’s why I keep going back and forth between Calvinism and Arminianism. I don’t like the “good and necessary consequences of either (self-salvation for Arminianism and God not being good and loving to all people for Calvinism). I someday hope to resolve this tension or come down on one side or the other. I also like open theists like Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock. For now I might be a TUIP Calvinist. I know that technically isn’t possible, but it seems to be the best way to make sense of what I currently know about God and the Bible. Roger, I am curious, who is your favorite Calvinist theologian?

    • rogereolson

      Karl Barth–but I disagree with his universalism.

      • Randall

        Dr. Olson, honest question here and I am not being antagonistic but just seeking clarification since you’ve probably read Barth closer than I have. Are you really sure that Barth can be classed as universalist? Isn’t it the case that the ‘good and… consequences’ follow but that he himself wouldn’t affirm that so as to not deny God’s freedom? I know it’s a sticky point but if he was then why would he have been so reluctant to affirm it? Maybe I need to read his dogmatics and find out myself. Thanks for any insight and btw, I think your post here represents my thinking on the matter as well as I could have stated it.

        • rogereolson

          I think he was reluctant to affirm it because universalism is almost always associated with liberal theology. But if you have doubts, read his comments in The Humanity of God. They are somewhat coy, but they confirm what I suspect from Barth’s doctrine of election in CD2.

          • Randall

            Thanks, I got it coming and hope to read it next week. Maybe I can get some clarity on the matter as well. Thanks for the direction.

      • Bev Mitchell

        Do you consider Thomas F. Torrance a Calvinst? It seems to me that his interpretation of Barth and general agreement with Athanasius and other framers of the original Nicaean Creed lead him to a revised reform position that is much more scriptural than federal Calvinism. The recent book by Paul D. Molnar “Thomas F. Torrance, Theologian of the Trinity” is a good introduction to this somewhat opaque giant.

        Along similar lines is Christopher J.H. Wright whose “The Mission of God” should be required reading for all five pointers.

        • rogereolson

          As I say in Against Calvinism, there are many Reformed theologians who are not classical, high Calvinists of the five point variety. In fact, I quote several of them AGAINST high federal Calvinism. For example G. C. Berkouwer and James Daane.

    • Kyle Carney

      Jesse, this is a post I published on my own blog. I hope it can help you to understand why we Arminians don’t believe the implications of our beliefs are that we save ourselves.

      Final and Ultimate
      These two words, final and ultimate, are used interchangeably many times. They have obvious distinctions (final being chronological and ultimate always having the idea of most important or a superlative connotation). However, sometimes it is easy to confuse these words while listening to or reading arguments. As I’ve been reading a lot of Calvinist criticism of Arminianism on their blogs and comments on non-calvinist blogs, I have noticed this subtle mistake that people often make.

      The common criticism: If people must finally choose to believe, then they are the final authority in salvation, not God.

      Sadly, I think the mistake is not obvious to many, but here we see how the critic looks at the person’s decision chronologically following God’s atonement, prevenient grace, and conviction from the Holy Spirit and improperly labels this point in time as final meant in the sense of ultimate.

      A person might still argue that the last place in a timeline is the most important. I can see how one might make this argument if the timeline is blank. However, I do not see how one can criticize Arminianism in this way based on 1. the fact that the person could not exist at this point in the timeline without God 2. the person can only respond because of God’s first having loved, atoned for, drawn, and convicted and 3. the choices are limited by God and the destination/consequences of the choice are chosen only by God.

      • Steve

        Sorry, really it simply comes down to making a decision. I don’t think you can nuance it away. Is it as the Calvinists say? That is, God does it all and we are passive. Or, in the end do we do it? Decide on our salvation that is. My conviction now is, after hearing the gospel the Holy Spirit convicts us but at this point we can still walk away (resistable). It is our decision. And not only that, it is our decision every day. Hence the warnings and encouragements throughout scripture and the benefits of repentance. So God gives us the opportunity, what are we going to do with it?

  • Aaron

    If you claimed to be Calvinist and didn’t believe what Calvinists believe then you wouldn’t be a Calvinist at all. I don’t see the logic in what you are trying to say there.

    • rogereolson

      Then with respect and love I have to say you aren’t thinking deeply enough.

    • jesse

      Hi Aaron

      If you are responding to me, what I mean is that at this point in my understanding, I can’t fully embrace either Cal or Arm, although I lean towards Calvinism. I honestly wish there was some other alternative that could satisfy me, but I can’t seem to find it. Universalism or pelgianism certainly won’t do. Like I said, I really do hope to someday to resolve this tension and/or come down fully on one side or the other, I just can’t currently do that right now. I think Roger was speaking to me and encouraging me to think to think more deeply. That is what I am trying to do and hope and pray that I can do more. I wonder if anybody else on this blog has found themselves stuck in the middle of the Calvinist/Arminian debate and unsure of which side they should believe and how they eventually came to grips with one side or the other. I wouldn’t mind advice on how to think and study more deeply on this particular issue. It’s a toughy for me amd has been for a little while now. I am currently reading For Calvinism and will be reading Against Calvinsim right after that. I am sure that will help some.

      • rogereolson

        That’s the best advice I can give you–just what you are doing. Assuming, of course, you have prayerfully studied Scripture and especially the mission and person of Jesus Christ and asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. I think Mike and I have laid out clearly the best cases for and against Calvinism and IF you cannot decide after that, put it all aside for a while and go do something else. After all, your salvation doesn’t depend on what you think about this particular issue. (Contrary to what SOME Calvinists will tell you and I would urge you to ignore them. They are creating a salvation by beliefs rather than by God’s grace!)

        • jesse

          “your salvation doesn’t depend on what you think about this particular issue”. It’s rare to hear people say that, but I wish more people would. It’a easier to get people to believe what you believe if they believe it affects their salvation. It’s easier to get them to really think hard about it for themselves if they don’t believe it effects their salvation. My mentor Edward Fudge says the same thing about the hell issue. It shouldn’t be a salvation issue or a fellowship issue. Thanks Dr. Olson!

  • Bryan

    The real question is. How is your love for God’s total sovereignty?.

    Does God have very same freedom of choice that you zealously defend that man has, in your view of man being able to reject God’s offer of salvation or not.

    Does God have the very same freedom in rejecting to save whom He Divinely wants to save or not to save.

    While agreeing with the idea of God’s total sovereignty intellectually, but your actions and teachings show that you hate it in practice, than you’re only fooling yourself that you really love God first and most of all, Mat 22:36-37. It really shows that you only love your idea of God…

    • rogereolson

      Of course I love God’s total sovereignty, but God is sovereign over his sovereignty, is he not?

      • Bryan

        you said:
        Of course I love God’s total sovereignty, but God is sovereign over his sovereignty, is he not?..

        God’s sovereignty is something He has / exercises according to His Divine Will. its not something external to Him. So with all due respect Sir I fail to understand how you can properly work this out, it makes no sense to me what you said…

        Exactly how is God sovereign over his sovereignty. Do you see two sovereign-ties in God? one that He has sovereignty over?, and if He has sovereignty over it, does it not mean that their is something in God that is somehow inferior in the sense that He has / needs to be sovereign over?

        Now that you have said ” Of course I love God’s total sovereignty….” Can you please kindly answer the other questions I asked. Can God using His absolute total sovereignty, which you love exercise it by rejecting to save people?

        Can God exercise His absolute total sovereignty and freedom of choice that you claim man has, The very same freedom of choice that you zealously defend for man, can God refuse to offer salvation to some people “according to the counsel of his will,”

        Does God have freedom of Choice?

        • rogereolson

          Of course he does. If not, then he is a machine and not a person at all. But God’s freedom operates within his character. I suspect the difference between us is that you are a nominalist (perhaps an inconsistent and unintentional one) and I am not.

  • Daniel W


    You often lay out what Calvinists believe are the good and necessary conclusions of being Arminian, yet you never unequivocally reveal whether you also believe those are the good and necessary conclusions of Arminianism. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I assume that you disagree with what Piper says are the logical conclusions of Arminianism? If you do disagree (which I assume you do), on what grounds do you disagree? Do you think Calvinists like Piper have a flaw in their logic, or do you think they are misunderstanding Arminianism?

    • rogereolson

      I wrote a whole book about that–Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Have you read it?

  • Dr. Travis J. Campbell

    And, Dr. Olsen, this is why we are questioning your allegiances here (though i am in not position to actually question your salvation). It’s not that we don’t understand you; we do understand you. And it’s clear that if the true and living God is what Calvinists claim him to be, and if the true and living God were to reveal that to you in a way you can’t deny, and if all the implications you draw from Calvinism are true–and, thus, true of the God who is there–you would not bow the knee and worship him–which is stupid, since you would not be bowing the knee to the one you recognize as the one true God.

    I, on the other hand, along with every Calvinist I know and have ever read, am certain that if Scripture clearly taught Arminianism, including all the implications we draw from that (e.g., the God of Arminianism does not really love anyone!), then I would become an Arminian. Neither Calvin, nor any other person in the Reformed tradition, nor even human rationality and emotion, is my ultimate authority–Scripture is. In fact, most of the Calvinists I know, including myself, were once Arminians like you–and we became Calvinists thru a rigorous exegesis of the biblical text and painstaking soul-searching.

    To be sure, there are Arminians (e.g., Clark Pinnock) who have a similar testimony in the opposite direction. And this is why I can’t question the salvation of every Arminian–anymore than I can affirm the salvation of every Calvinist.

    But you have shamelessly shown us your cards. Your authority is not Scripture, Dr. Olsen, but human reason. And so we question your sincerity in this dialogue. We Calvinists know that no matter what we say, no matter how many proofs we produce, you’re not going to budge because you don’t like the implications. This also what makes you a dishonest exegete, for you don’t like the implications of where a text is clearly going (e.g., Rom 9), but since it’s scripture you (as a Christian) have to affirm it, thus you reinterpret the original intent of the text to suit your own worldview.

    Of course, in all of this, I must remind you of what your critics have already said; namely, that the implications you draw from Calvinism are false. And, despite your vain boasts to the contrary, your exegesis of the scriptures is bogus. Your work is not the devastating critique of Calvinism you seem to think it is.

    But, be all of that as it may, the bottom line remains: You, Roger Olsen, are expected to believe and teach what scripture teaches, regardless of the implications (perceived or genuine) of its teachings–Let God’s truth abide, though the heavens may fall! Until you repent of this, I must insist that your methodology, even if not your soul, is anti-Christian.

    • rogereolson

      But I do believe what Scripture teaches! Just not your interpretation of it. You confuse the two.

      • Dr. Travis J. Campbell

        You miss my point. I am not saying you disagree with Scripture. And, obviously, you have a different interpretation of it than I do. I am just pointing out what you’ve already said; namely, if Scripture taught Calvinism, and if you are right about the implications of Calvinism, then you wouldn’t believe it and/or worship the God you now recognize as revealed in Scripture. What this indicates is that Scripture is not your ultimate authority. And it also indicates just how close-minded you are–all the proofs in the world will not convince you on principle, because you don’t like the implications!

        • rogereolson

          And I suspect that, though you are not aware of it, you place the Bible either alongside or above God in terms of authority. I’ve asked this before but nobody has been willing to answer it. What if you discovered, in a way you couldn’t deny, that, in fact, the Bible teaches that Satan and God are one and the same, that, in fact, Satan is God? Would you still worship him (i.e., Satan)?

      • Steve

        So true. The word of the day: INTERPRETATION. We all do it. So we have to look elsewhere to find out the motivations. Campbell is exactly what worries me about Calvinists.

    • David Rogers

      “and we became Calvinists thru a rigorous exegesis of the biblical text and painstaking soul-searching.”

      I am not a Calvinist because of rigorous exegesis.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Your authority is not Scripture, Dr. Olsen, but human reason.

      The Bible is simply made up of words – even letters. It takes human reason to understand them. Scripture is indecipherable without human reason, thus the two must go together. If Scripture appears makes a claim contrary to human reason (as some people reason things), then that person has some choices to make. They could investigate alternate readings or understandings of the passages. They could chalk it up to a “minority voice” and say that the weight of Scripture goes against it. They could abandon their reason and believe what they think is unbelievable. Cannot people (believers, no less) of good will just agree to disagree? What’s all this talk of “anti-Christian”???

  • David Hess


    I’m with you. Taking their doctrines to their logical conclusions, I do not find the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ but rather someone else. I’ve often told my Reformed friends that if it could be proven that their understanding of God was in fact correct, that I’d be shopping for a different faith. Thankfully I see nothing in the life of Jesus to support their claims.


    • rogereolson

      Obviously this is also what John Wesley meant in his two sermons on the subject (Predestination Calmly Considered and On Free Grace). And yet he clearly believed George Whitefield was a good Christian and they worshiped the same God. He was trying to point out to his Calvinist friends (and some enemies such as Toplady) that their doctrines were inconsistent among themselves.

  • Lu G.

    This blog goes a long way in explaining why it is often so difficult to communicate with those who call themselves Calvinists.


  • Perhaps it would be best to say: IF you believed what Calvinists CLAIM to believe ..

    • rogereolson

      No, I don’t think that’s what I mean. Calvinists REALLY DO believe in a good, gracious and merciful God. Some of their other beliefs seem to me to contradict that.

  • Trevor

    seven paragraphs of smoke and mirrors! Well Done. of course you could be more direct about this and just call Dr. White or debate him publicly. one question though, you said ” Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc. I think some of the things they believe about God’s sovereignty flatly contradict those characteristics.” this is a statment but can you give specific examples and evidence to prove your position? and real evidence not straw men but real honest argumentation with some substance.

    • rogereolson

      So you think it’s a straw man that most Calvinists insist God is good and loving, etc.? Okay, if you say so. But I don’t think so.

      • Trevor

        It is not a straw man or a contradiction at all for those who are reformed in their theology to affirm that God is just and good and loving. Only if you limit God’s love to a single type of love and at that a love that has sentiment as it master and is not ruled by the immutable eternal nature of God. More importantly the only way we can arrive at the conclusion that God is a the moral monster if He is as reformed theology claims; is to formulate your view of God’s nature apart from His reveled nature in scripture. We must not lose sight of the fact that above all God is holy; today it is common to hear that God is love, but the angels do not sing love, love, love is the Lord God almighty. His love is subjugated to His holiness. Also we cannot limit God to have only one type of love as we would never do this in our only lives. I love my wife different then my children and different then I do my fellow Christians. I quote here Jonathan Edwards~ “It is not inconsistent with the mercy of God, to inflict an eternal punishment on wicked men. It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God, that he is merciful in such a sense that he cannot bear that penal justice should be executed. This is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which his nature is so subject that God is liable to be moved, and affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery, so that he cannot bear to see justice executed: which is a most unworthy and absurd notion of the mercy of God, and would, if true, argue great weakness.—It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed. It is a very unscriptural notion of the mercy of God. The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary, so that God cannot bear justice should take place.”

        • rogereolson

          I respond to Edwards on that point in Against Calvinism. Have you read it?

          • Trevor

            I have not read Against Calvinism, but I would be willing to read it as I do not say I would not read anybody’s work even on principle. Although I do not think that if I respond to a post on a authors blog that before I do I am required to read all of his books. Of course your answer sounds much like George Bryson’s read my book comment. I understand a com box is not the place to reprint your book either. But you did not answer the first part of my comment. I will buy your book and read it if in return you will read James R. White’s the Potter’ Freedom that sounds like a fair deal? I would even send you the Potter’s Freedom for Free.

          • rogereolson

            Excuse me, but you came here, to my blog, to debate me about my views on Calvinism. I have written an entire book that answers your questions. Until you read my book, you shouldn’t come here to debate me about its contents. I would certainly read someone else’s book before I went to their blog to argue with them about its contents.

          • Trevor

            Should I send the Potter’s Freedom then?

          • rogereolson

            Sure, but I get a lot of stuff to read. I can’t guarantee when I can look into it. I assume it’s Calvinist? I have literally scores of books by Calvinists and have read them all. I’d be surprised if any book can add to what I’ve already read on the subject.

      • Becka Jarvis

        Roger, why don’t people read your books & then come back to ask any left over questions? Wouldn’t that be a good study practice?

        • rogereolson

          I wonder that, too.

  • Reformed Catholic


    I’m afraid the points you are making here will simply go over the head of your critics. The distinction between what Calvinism affirms about God, and what you believe the Calvinist system logically attributes to God is a distinction which people who do not engage in serious theological thought will scarcely be able to comprehend. The fact is that the people who are currently using your book as a blog talking point are not serious thinkers, and are not worth trying to dialogue with, as they are simply not up to speed on the issues.

    Having said all of that, as a Reformed Christian myself, I would still disagree with your way of framing the issues. If it were the case that the God of the Bible did not love every human being, did not will the salvation of every human being, was not truly benevolent in nature, delighted in the damnation of sinners based solely on his arbitrary decree to send some people to hell, etc. etc.. In other words, if he were the hyper-Calvinist God of philosophical occasionalism, I would still worship him. I would do so because the God of the Bible is necessarily the Father of Jesus Christ, and therefore the originator of the most sublime and beautiful form of religion and system of doctrine which the world has ever seen. In other words, the God of the Bible is necessarily the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the martyrs, the desert fathers, the mystics, scribes, and the Reformers of the Church catholic. Because of the Church (the effect) I would still adore the God of the Bible (the cause).

    • rogereolson

      Then we really do disagree. I cannot envision Christianity being “the most beautiful form of religion…” if its God does all that (e.g., delights in the damnation of sinners, chooses some to save arbitrarily). Fortunately, even most Calvinists I know (I hope) wouldn’t either, because, then, that God would be hardly different from Satan and we would have all been fooled by his false revelation of himself as God.

      • Steve

        My point exactly.

    • icthusiast

      “In other words, if he were the hyper-Calvinist God of philosophical occasionalism, I would still worship him. I WOULD DO SO BECAUSE the God of the Bible is necessarily the Father of Jesus Christ, and therefore the originator of the most sublime and beautiful form of religion and system of doctrine which the world has ever seen.” (Capitals added)

      Well, no, actually. YOU WOULD DO SO BECAUSE that God determined it so. You as a responsible actor in the situation would have disappeared.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    How about this for clarity:

    1. RO sees the logical conclusion of the TULIP beliefs having a deity that is the creator and inciter of all kinds of evil and morally objectionable behaviors.

    2. RO sees character as a primary trait of any deity that he would consider worthy of worship – such that he would withhold worship from a deity that had bad character.

    3. RO would withhold worship from the deity envisioned by the TULIP beliefs.

    • rogereolson

      Yes, but I would add a fourth point: 4. RO knows that most Calvinists do not worship the deity he sees envisioned by the TULIP beliefs.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    “What he [John Piper] means by “must say” is that IF we did what we don’t do, draw out and believe all the good and necessary consequences of what we do actually believe (e.g., universal atonement without universal salvation), we would have to believe we are saving ourselves.”

    I maintain that TULIP Calvinists who believe in ‘Limited Atonement’ are incorrect in doctrine. But will someone explain to me how Arminians who believe in ‘universal atonement without universal salvation’ (an oxymoron) are any different? In the end, both camps are convinced that some of humanity will be saved and some will be lost. The Calvinists believe that some of humanity are consigned to be lost. The Arminianists believe that some of humanity chooses to be lost, which, however you cut the cake, comes down to ‘saving ourselves’ by personal choice.”
    Here’s God’s way of correcting both errors: “For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).

    • rogereolson

      Well, once again, as long ago, we just disagree! 🙂 But I will defend to the death your right to be wrong! 🙂

  • Becka Jarvis

    That you have to make these clarification makes me want to headbutt the table. People, especially Christian people, simply must do others the service of reading what they have written, properly & in context, before making sweeping comments about your (or anyone’s) salvation, let alone your theology. There are times I feel that others are jsut spoiling for a fight, & will grab at anything to base one on..
    Similarly these constant ridiculous comments about Arminianism & salvation from those I’d hope had better brains than that…Jesus’s salvation was won by him alone & offered to us. We just accept it. He said it was finished on the cross, we don’t buy it, or deserve it or ‘anything’ it by simple acceptance. If I picked up the car keys of a Rolls Royce someone gave me as a gift I’m hardly earning it am I? Do I then turn around & say ‘I’ve earned this now, so it’s not a gift anymore’?

    • Ivan A. Rogers

      Becka Jarvis said, “Jesus’s salvation was won by him alone & offered to us. We just accept it.”

      Ivan replies, “I WAS SAVED BEFORE I WAS SAVED.”
      “It is a fact that most Christians equate the word “saved” to some religious thing they have either performed, fulfilled, or mystically experienced at some specific place and on some specific date. But in truth all of us were “saved” even before we first claimed to be saved! Scripture explains it this way: “[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Ti 1:9). An excerpt from DROPPING HELL AND EMBRACING GRACE, a book by Ivan A. Rogers, due for release before Christmas 2011.

      • Steve

        This blog is starting to look like a shameless opportunity to flog people’s latest books. You know….anything you can do I can do better.

        • rogereolson

          I hope not. Maybe it would help for you to know that Ivan is an old friend of mine. Actually, he dedicated me to the Lord when I was an infant. So, I want to allow him to use my blog to promote his books and ideas even thought I’ve made it pretty clear we disagree about universalism–a view he came to late in life.

  • Here’s a way of putting things that may be helpful. If I believed that the world were created by an almight Devil who fashioned the world solely for the purpose of creating conscious beings whom he could torment in a variety of ways so as to make their existences clearly worse than nonexistence, then (a) I would believe the creator of the world to be nothing like the God attested to in the Christian Scriptures, (b) I would regard this creator as unworthy of worship (in the sense of being an object of love, adoration, and trust), and (c) I would not in fact worship this creator.

    Now, I happen to reject the antecedent of this conditional. In fact, I happen to think that it is incoherent (insofar as I think there is an intimate connection between the power to create, the motivation to create, and love). Furthermore, I suspect few would question my salvation on the basis of my uttering this conditional (although they might for other reasons), nor would they be inclined to call my religion humanistic (although, again, they might for other reasons).

    But it seems to me that your claim about the God of TULIP Calvinism is analogous to mine–except that there’s an additional step. In effect, you draw out implications of belief in the God of TULIP Calvinism that most Calvinists reject–implications which render God unworthy of the label “God.” Given what you see to be the logical consequences of this theology, the being that is CALLED “God” in this theology cannot possess the properties attributed to God in the Christian Scriptures which most clearly make God the proper object of worship and devotion in a way that the devil is not.

    To restate your point, then: The reasons for the reactionary response to your conditional claim lies in the failure of your critics here to distinguish between your understanding of what TULIP Calvinism entails and theirs. You are not denying that a God possessing (many of) the properties that TULIP Calvinists in fact attribute to God is worthy of worship (by virtue of those many properties). What you are denying is that TULIP Calvinists can consistently attribute those properties to God. And so, the God that follows, lacking these properties, also lacks the properties that could justify or render coherent such responses as trust, devotion, love, and worship. Does this capture your point?

    • rogereolson

      Beautifully! I think. It’s even more subtle that mine if that’s possible. But, I think, I agree whole heartedly. 🙂

  • Chris

    You said:

    “They attribute to the true God, worthy of worship, characteristics and actions impossible for a good God.”


    “Somewhere a line would be crossed and they would realize that the god they are trying to believe in and worship is not good.”

    One wonders where you get your standard of goodness from. Do you let the God of the bible define what is good or do you arbitrarily decide with human autonomous reasoning?

    It seems with the view that you hold you are the final authority as to what is good.

    Here is another question along the same thought which you were asked:

    If somehow it were revealed to you that the “characteristics and actions” that you think are not good but really good because that was the way the God has revealed Himself, would you worship that God?

    See Proverbs 3:5-7


    • rogereolson

      Several have raised this question. My standard of goodness is the Bible itself and especially Jesus Christ who is the criterion of interpretation of the Bible (because he is God incarnate). I’ll ask you–would you worship a God who you believe to be evil?

      • Chris

        You asked:

        “I’ll ask you–would you worship a God who you believe to be evil?”

        If I was a unregenerate sinner I suppose I would believe God is evil and would not worship him. Hence my eldest son who is unregenerate says the bible is an offence to him.

        Since I am a believer and am regenerate, I accept the bible when it tells me to deny myself and see that God through the Holy Spirit is conforming me to His image.

        If the calvinist postition on God’s sovereignty is correct and the bible is truely God’s word and does say that God is “good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc” would you worship that God and change your understanding of what those “characteristics” are to what His image is?

        • rogereolson

          Since I am a believer and am regenerate, I accept the Bible when it tells me to deny Calvinist beliefs that distort his image and ruin his reputation.

          • Chris

            Dr. Olsen,

            I’m glad that you are a believer and regenerate, though I see that you did not answer the question.

            You said:

            “I accept the Bible when it tells me to deny Calvinist beliefs that distort his image and ruin his reputation.”

            I suppose that is what the debate is about!

            Thank you for posting my questions and comments.


          • rogereolson

            Yes, you’re right. That’s what it is about. It is not about the authority of the Bible. Except, perhaps, that some people engaged in this discussion seem to me to place the authority of the Bible above God himself.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Take Molech, for example. Didn’t this god demand child sacrifice. Many did worship this god. There are some who believed that this god was the true god – and so they worshiped.

        It is curious that Aslan rescued the follower of Tash. The behavior of the god was abominable, thus, the behavior of the worshiper was the same. Yet, Aslan took the devotion of the worshiper to Tash towards himself. I think you would be with me in disagreeing with Lewis on this, yes?

        • rogereolson

          I always thought Lewis was just saying God is merciful.

      • Buks

        The Calvanist also sees the standard of goodness in the Bible and it includes the concept of both love and justice, both penalty and mercy, both punishment and forgiveness. Just as your logic seems to draw a different picture of goodness from scripture than that of the Calvinist, so your logic seems to draw different conclusions from TULIP than does that of the Calvanist. How do we resolve the difference? The Calvinist will stick to the exegesis of Scripture and derive his logic from there as best he can. What is your method? Hopefully not casting the lot like Wesley did 🙂

        • rogereolson

          What? Wesley did what? C’mon. Don’t insult my hero without giving proof.

        • Steve

          You must be kidding. Calvinists do anything but stick to the exegesis of scripture. TULIP itself is a man made construct. An attempt. Thats all. Oh, and TULIP wasn’t even Calvin.

          • Steve

            Do you know where TULIP came from?

    • Adam Omelianchuk

      “Do you let the God of the bible define what is good or do you arbitrarily decide with human autonomous reasoning?”

      This is a false disjunction. One can hold to theistic ethics without holding to either “the God of the Bible” or “autonomous human reason.”

      • Chris


        I think you missed the point. I was not making an argument that one cannot “hold to theistic ethics without holding to either “the God of the Bible” or “autonomous human reason.” I’m not sure how you drew that conclusion!

        The point is both Calvinist and Arminians claim the biblical God as their God. Calvinist have one understanding and Arminians have another as to the doctrines of grace. The question that I was trying to get answered was if the Calvinist view of God was the correct view would Dr. Olsen worship that God and still believe God to be “good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc.” and harmonize the two.

        If the bible teaches what Calvinism says it does regarding the doctrines of grace and Dr. Olsen were to submit to the bible with that understanding, he would have to adjust his understanding of what “good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc.” actually are and not the other way (autonomous human reason) around.

        The God of the bible is what the discussion is about, not some general theism or something else. I think Dr. Olsen would at least agree with that.


        • rogereolson

          But I think you are still missing my point. IF the Bible taught what Calvinism says it does regarding what you call “the doctrines of grace” (which are not gracious doctrines at all) and I did what you call “submitting to the Bible with that understanding” I would have to adjust my understanding of what “good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious” mean to the point where they don’t mean anything at all.

  • Katie

    Perhaps a bit of study in the area of equal ultimacy is in order.

  • Bruce W. Green

    Your point was clear and should be understandable by anyone without a vested interest in opposing it. It is not unlike Hart’s take on the logical conclusion of Calvin’s assertion that God predestined the fall of man so as to show forth his greatness in both the salvation and the damnation of those he has eternally preordained to their several fates. Hart countered: “Were this so, God would be the author of and so entirely beyond both good and evil, or at once both and neither, or indeed merely evil (which power without justice always is).”

    • rogereolson

      Exactly. I quote Hart in Against Calvinism. He’s a great Christian thinker.

  • dopderbeck

    Imagine, for example, a god of incomparable power who demanded humiliating obeisance upon pain of death and suffering in the afterlife. Imagine further that this obeisance involved the regular sacrifices of human children. I suspect most Christians would say they would not “worship” such a being. (Of course, there have been many such gods in the history of religion — the Incan and Mayan religions, the Canaanites’ Molech, etc. — and some cultures have sacrificed children to them. Whether this is “worship,” which implies love, or merely fear, is an interesting question.)

    We balk at gods who demand child sacrifice because it is incomprehensible that “God” — the only being simple and complete in His perfections and thus the only being worthy of “worship” — should embody anything less than the perfection of goodness and justice. In fact, it is an oxymoron to suggest that “God” could have such a perverse character, because by definition the being would not be “God” as the Hebrew-Christian tradition has defined Him.

    In this regard, it strikes me as absurd that any Calvinist would level charges of heresy or heterodoxy at anyone, since High Calvinism’s tendency to reduce God’s attributes to the sole attribute of pure will is inconsistent with historic Christianity’s understanding of “God” (and was anathematized of course at Trent and probably also at the Council of Orange).

    Still, I would be more careful here. If the “L” and “I” in TULIP are true, there are “softer” forms of optimistic Calvinism, which perhaps tend towards universalism and/or Molinism, which perhaps can be squared with the historic Christian understanding of God’s simplicity and perfections. But let’s be clear: the later Augustine’s extremes of determinism are outside the historic core of the Christian tradition, and always have been, and so it is the Calvinists who pick up those extremes who bear the burden of proving themselves orthodox.

  • Steve Dal

    Thought I made a comment already. Maybe you didn’t like it or it never got through. Maybe I’ll end up with two. Dunno. Anyway I’ll have another go.
    For me the Calvinist God and the Arminian God are two different beings. TULIPers worship a different god (small ‘g’ intended). It follows your statement…..”Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc. I think some of the things they believe about God’s sovereignty flatly contradict those characteristics.” Ofcourse they do. The whole thing is a contradiction. Although I suppose if you are ‘saved’ and someone else is damned then you could have grounds to be extremely grateful and then go on to describe God as gracious etc. The problem is that the very idea that you are OK and for everyone else it’s ‘too bad’ drips of selfishness which I would have thought is the antithesis of the Christian walk. etc etc

  • Chris

    Is it your position, Dr. Olson, that Calvinists (e.g. John Piper) would answer in the negative, given the question:
    Would you “if it was revealed to [you] in a way [you] couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as [Dr. Olson] says and rules as [Dr. Olson] affirms, … still worship him?”

    I haven’t seen any so-called Calvinist refuse worship to God, however He and his actions may be defined, exegetically, no matter what. I have seen you, on the other hand, flatly refuse worship to the God Calvinists find exegetically substantiated in scripture.

    “But surely Piper is saying that IF HE believed what Arminians believe he would have to go to the logical conclusion and believe we must save ourselves and that would not be the gospel and then he would not be a Christian.”
    That’s not at all what he is saying. It’s almost embarrassing for me to have to point it out, but: Do you really think that Piper is saying that he would cease to be a Christian if Roger Olson’s beliefs anent the efficacy of the Atonement were true? On what basis?

    “Or maybe for some of them this is all just too deep.”
    I’m not convinced you’ve had a deep thought on this topic, yet, Dr. Olson.

  • I have often thought the same thing. I always take the argument down to the starkest and simplest of terms; let logic lead the way. The simple logic of Calvinism takes me to a God that seems monstrous, and I don’t recognize that God. What love is this (as Dave Hunt says)? I could not love that God, and if I can’t love Him, it can’t be called worship.

    And this brings up a question in my mind. Do we worship the same God? Is the God of the Calvinist any further from the God of the Arminian than the God of the Muslim is?

    • rogereolson

      I stay with my belief that we (Calvinists and Arminians) do worship the same God. We all have some wrong ideas of the God we worship that will no doubt get corrected in the future. But if Calvinists took their beliefs about God’s sovereignty to their logical conclusion I would have to say we do not worship the same God. Fortunately, they don’t.

  • Quote:
    “Apparently my honest statement (in answer to a student’s honest question) that, if somehow it were revealed to me that God is as TULIP Calvinism says and as its good and necessary consequences imply, I would not worship that god…”

    But Dr. Olson…that’s not what you said, nor is it what Dr. White is saying.

    He’s quoting your statement from your own writings and the part about “good and necessary consequences” isn’t in the original statement, or question, from the book or the book review.

    It appears to me that you are doing a bit of backpedaling…is that the case?

    Also, in your response above, you seem to imply that Calvinists throughout the ages have not realized that their belief in God as Sovereign King makes him a moral monster, something that apparently you have discovered…and that’s including intellectual giants in the field of biblical exegesis…Owen, Calvin, Edwards…etc.

    I’m incredulous at that statement; that giants in the field of exegesis over hundreds and hundreds of years have missed something so fundamental to their belief, but you discovered it?

    COULD it be instead that you have missed an important point in their reasoning? Is that possible?

    On a lighter note, I got a chuckle out of the fact that you refuse to read Dr. White’s books so as to actually know what he believes, yet apparently listen to what he says…. 🙂


    In closing I’d like to suggest that you appear on the Dividing line live. That way, you can have a dialogue with Dr. White and clear up any misunderstandings like this one. I’m SURE he’d be glad to have you on, even remotely via phone.

    • rogereolson

      I wasn’t responding to any particular person but to some things written here by commenters.

      • Quoting RO:
        I wasn’t responding to any particular person but to some things written here by commenters.”

        You WEREN’T responding to Dr. Whites show in which he critiqued your book?

        • rogereolson

          I was not even aware of it.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Also, in your response above, you seem to imply that Calvinists throughout the ages have not realized that their belief in God as Sovereign King makes him a moral monster, something that apparently you have discovered…and that’s including intellectual giants in the field of biblical exegesis…Owen, Calvin, Edwards…etc.

      I wouldn’t say that they have missed it, since they were very bright people. They were simply more comfortable with it.

      • We must leave the possibility open that even “intellectual giants in the field of biblical exegesis”, because they are, as Calvinism states we all are, frail and prone to err, could be wrong at one point or other. No?

  • Kyle Carney

    You put it very nicely about those who seem to simply “miss the point.” However, sadly, I don’t think they miss the point because they are incapable of depth. It seems they miss the point willingly (irony). A&O is clearly, in that post at least, a place for Calvinists to attack others without any peer or public review, thus publishing several long posts that just miss the point.

    • Kyle,
      Dr. Olson has just said that he wasn’t responding to Dr. White, evidently it was just a coincidence that he wrote this post and Dr. White critiqued Dr. Olson’s book.

      • rogereolson

        Indeed it was. Thanks for pointing that out. 🙂

      • Kyle Carney


        That post wasn’t published yet at the time I commented. However, anyone with even a tiny grain of critical thought toward the post over at A&O can see that those people are missing the point. The point is that White thinks his interpretation is the right one and can’t understand the criticism made by Olson because Olson is talking about what he sees as the logical conclusion of Calvinism, not what the Bible actually must mean. It is easy to see in White’s comment, echoed by his readers above in this blog, that he can’t understand what Olson means by saying if he were a Calvinist he would have to believe things Calvinists don’t believe. This reveals a crucial error in White’s basic understanding; he must have been in a hurry to write that post I guess (giving him the benefit of the doubt).

  • Ed

    The easy answer to your self-imposed conundrum is to remember that the Bible does not depict a god dependent on human self-regeneration. Faith is a gift (Philippians 1:29, Ephesians 2:8), and the only people saved by John 3:16 are those God chooses (πας ο πιστευων).
    How can you reconcile John 6:37,39 with the idea that the saving power of the cross can fail if opposed by the almighty human will? If you consider my question to any depth at all you might begin to understand why your arguments seem Pelagian to Calvinists.

    • rogereolson

      Of course they seem Pelagian to Calvinists. I have never denied that. (Have you even been reading what I write about this?) I admitted my beliefs seem Pelagian to Calvinists! The key is “seem”–meaning they (at least the astute ones) know I do not affirm Pelagianism (viz., that we save ourselves) and the honest ones admit it when they talk about Arminians. I simply disagree that what I believe entails Pelagianism as they suspect, as they disagree that what they believe entails that God is a moral monster completely alien to the character of God revealed in Jesus. And I admit they do not affirm the things I think their explicit beliefs entail. Are you following this?

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Hi Ed,

      Of course, John 6:40 may seem Pelagian to Calvinists – unless you force it into the Calvinist mold.

      It seems to me that God invites all to repent and return to Him. The invitation assumes a free response to the invitation. The free response is either real or illusory – and thus the question of almighty human will. Is it real or illusory in significant matters like this one? If it is illusory, then I have fallen victim to the trick. For God is pursuing people all throughout the Bible stories to turn away from sin and turn to Him – and it really seems to me like He is looking for their willing response.

      My own view: God has allowed any and all access to His fellowship and loving relationship. The total means that allows this is Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. But a relationship that is forced is not a loving relationship that I can conceive of, so there must be some assent that I must give, some willingness to participate.

      One would not dance with me if, having asked me to dance, I failed to respond – why would God?

  • Mr. Olson,

    Your statement and subsequent “clarification” do nothing to interact with the actual matter of who God is.

    “Most Calvinists insist that God is good and loving and merciful and kind and faithful and reliable and gracious, etc.”

    He indeed is. To people who deserve nothing but His anger and wrath forever.

    “They attribute to the true God, worthy of worship, characteristics and actions impossible for a good God. I will say that IF they drew out their doctrine of God’s sovereignty to its good and necessary conclusions (which they usually don’t) they would also not be able to worship that god. Somewhere a line would be crossed and they would realize that the god they are trying to believe in and worship is not good.”

    Not true. If after their rebellion, God had left Adam and Eve eternally condemned without hope of a Redeemer, He would have been entirely just. Had he deigned to make a complete end of mankind and there been no Ark, He would have still been righteous. Moreover, had He not become flesh among us to ransom ANYONE, He would have still been just.

    The problem is not with any perceived “inconsistency” in TULIP. The problem is with the desire to make God conform to our beliefs as to what is good and just. Imagine if Shakespeare were to be bound to the literary opinions of the illiterate or Chef Gordon Ramsey bound to the culinary advice of someone who slings hashbrowns at the local Waffle House.

    This is essentially your thesis.

    • rogereolson

      Nonsense. My standards for goodness and justice are rooted in Scripture itself and especially in Jesus Christ the true image of God.

  • Archdeluxe

    Brother Olson, I believe your entire argument here to be self-defeating or irrelevant. If the God described by tulip actually existed, why would it matter that you say you would not worship him? Does the God described by calvinism and the Bible not have the power to change man’s will; taking out a heart of stone and putting in a heart of flesh? Can He not make the very stones praise Him if he so chooses? In this scenario I fail to see the relevance of what you think you would or would not do.
    What if that God does exist? What if that God is currently causing you to worship Him? What if, despite your claims, His free choice has united you with His Son?

    • rogereolson

      If God is as Calvinism says, why worry about what I think or what anyone else thinks? After all, whatever it is I think is because God foreordained and rendered certain that I think it. I can’t think otherwise. And, if Calvinism is right, my alleged errors are for his glory, so Calvinists should praise God for them!

  • Austin Fischer

    Clearly Dr. Olson has offended some people by saying their inability to understand his position is due to an inability to think deeply. I think it is especially offensive because many Calvinist pride themselves in embracing a very “deep and difficult” theological perspective. It stings to be told that your deep is shallow.

    I do however think there is some real merit to these claims. I know and Dr. Olson has mentioned some profound Calvinist thinkers who obviously don’t agree with what Dr. Olson is saying here, but can certainly understand it has real merit and would never call it simple humanistic, pagan philosophy. They recognize there is a real difficult in affirming that a God who predestines human beings to damnation is perfectly good and seek to explain what they mean when they call God good. Paul Helm and Michael Horton stand out.

    And to Dr. Olson’s point, if you merely sweep away these pressing issues regarding the character of God by labeling them humanistic and pagan, I think it is fair to call your thinking shallow. I think great Calvinist thinkers like Helm and Horton would call your thinking shallow too. To be clear, Dr. Olson isn’t saying that every Calvinist is shallow. He is saying that those who cannot grasp the legitimacy of his complaint (and resort to trite condemnations…ala “humanistic, pagan”) are thinking shallow. The comments to this post are exhibits A, B, C, D…

    I might add that it is disconcerting that many people have felt compelled to note that while they think any sort of free-will theism is dangerously close to heresy, they will stop short of questioning the salvation of those who are not Calvinists. I suppose they think they are being gracious, but the mere fact that they narrate their refusal to patently condemn free-will theism reveals the pretension incipient in Fundamentalism of any sort.

  • Roger, why not try to deal with real criticisms of your comment? Let’s see how far you go. I’ll emphasize like you do: IF the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the triune God of the Bible, came to you and convinced you that he was the self-same God of the Bible, the creator of heaven and earth, the one who inspired the Bible, AND that Calvinists have best captured truths about the doctrine of God, THEN what would YOU say? Suppose he said, “Roger, you may not want to worship me because you think I’m evil, but I am not evil and there is perfectly good and just moral reason for those things you think are evil. In fact, IF you could grasp them, you would break out in praise. Mind you, I AM INFALLIBLE and OMNISCIENT so I CANNOT be wrong. There IS a morally justified reason for all those things you think are evil, an I am truly good. However, your puny, little, feeble, finite mind just CANNOT grasp these truths. You are so far below me intellectually that you couldn’t even understand the reasons, thus there’s no point to try and explain it to you. YOU JUST CAN’T GET IT.”

    Now, Roger, what would you say? It looks to me like you’re saying, “Sit down and shut up, God. I don’t care if you’re OMNISCIENT, I, Roger Olson, know MORE THAN an omniscient being. I don’t care WHAT you infallibly say, YOU’RE WRONG! Get it?”

    And THIS is why people have a problem with your claim.

    • rogereolson

      Read my parable.

      • Roberto Reyes

        Mr. Olson,

        Would you please exegete Romans 9 for us? Please set the record straight, that the Word of God may be communicated clearly.

        • rogereolson

          Have you read my book Against Calvinism? I guess not.

  • Bev Mitchell

    The entire Calvinist/Arminian dance is one of the best reminders that theology can easily become anthropology, and usually does. We have so much trouble moving from a center in ourselves to a center in Christ. Sort of like the poor fellow in “Against Calvinism” who cannot see the earth as anything but the center of the universe.  In his recent book on Thomas F. Torrance, Paul D. Molnar shows how Torrance emphasizes the question of ” where is your center?” to the point of exhaustion – simply because it is so fundamental. When we center on ourselves, we usually end up in some ditch.

  • gingoro

    I fail to see how a Calvinism like Horton espouses in “For Calvinism” results in the kind of God that you would reject. It does not seem logical to go from Horton’s position to postulate the kind of God you ascribe to all Calvinists of the TULIP variety. Horton allows that God has ordained that in some matters God allows humankind free but limited (by the fall etc) choice. It seems to me that his position does not ascribe evil as being directly willed by God, even if one takes his position to it’s logical conclusion. Horton’s position sounds like the doctrine of concurus to me.

    I would define a high Calvinist as someone who typically is a five pointer plus meticulous providence.   By meticulous providence I mean that God from all eternity planned and ordained every state change in the universe.  This includes every action that a person might do, down to the smallest detail.   Sometimes such high calvinists hold to compatibilism but not always.  Compatibilism seems like illogic to me. I can understand how the God of the high Calvinists, if their position is taken to it’s logical conclusion, can result in what might be seen as a different god than the God of Christianity.
    Dave W

    • rogereolson

      I quote numerous Calvinists in my book to demonstrate that many high Calvinists do embrace and promote divine determinism. I haven’t figured out yet exactly what Mike believes about that and you’ll notice I never quote him in my book (to the best of my memory, anyway). If he doesn’t espouse divine determinism, he’d be the exception. Still, you seem to miss my main point about why I am against Calvinism. A God who could save everyone because election to salvation is unconditional and grace is irresistible but does not is not good.

      • gingoro

        Are you saying that the God worshiped by Arminians could NOT save everyone if that was his will? In other words is the God of Arminians not powerful enough to save all? Or are you saying that God’s self limitation does not allow him to save all who hear his word and thereby experience God’s grace to free their will from the effects of the fall?

        Since all do not hear God’s word does the Arminiam God not have the power to ensure that all have a true offer of salvation? Or does God not will any such as do not hear, to be saved?
        Dave W

        • gingoro

          I did not mean that the Arminian God is not the same God as worshiped by we Calvinists. I meant God as Arminians understand him.
          Dave W

          • rogereolson

            I take it you’re being sarcastic there. But you still haven’t understood my point. I’m not going to keep trying to explain it as I’ve explained it clearly enough for anyone to understand it.

        • rogereolson

          Have you read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities? I guess not. Go read it; it will answer all your questions about Arminianism.

          • gingoro

            Yes Roger I have read Arminian Theology Myths etc. Have also read Against Calvinism.

            I was also not being sarcastic but was trying to understand your position. Words and meanings can be rather tricky to understand exactly how someone from a different theological position is using them.

            Oh well it looks like a meeting of the minds is not on. I had hoped that I could better understand your position.
            Peace brother
            Dave W

          • rogereolson

            Then I don’t know why you didn’t get my answer. Ask again and if I discern you are asking in the right spirit (viz., irenically) I’ll be happy to try to answer. But, you’re probably right. My experience is that with some Calvinists nothing I say satisfies.

  • gingoro

    If your issue is with effective grace in Calvinism, as I suspect it might be, then it seems to me that Arminianism has essentially the same kind of problem but with those who never hear the gospel.
    Dave W

  • Western Orthodox

    Dear Dr Olson,
    As an admirer both of this blog and of your scholarly work more generally, I must say that I am grieved at the treatment you are receiving here. I dread to think what impression of Christianity a non-Christian chancing upon this discussion must take away. It is distressing to see how many people fail to see the enormity of the moral problem you raised initially; surely the thought-experiment that ‘God’ might actually turn out to be the origin of evil has to be an existential nightmare of the greatest proportions. Dostoevsky, rooted in the tradition of authentic Christian mysticism, clearly saw this, as does David Bentley Hart (whose poignant ‘Doors of the Sea’ is as good a contemporary cri de coeur in the defence of the absolute necessity of God’s goodness as I have come across). What has to be made clear is that Hart’s objections are not the result of ‘pagan philosophy’ or ‘human standards of morality’, but an impassioned defence of historical, first-millenium orthodoxy. The idea that God could conceivably be good in a way that is totally alien and opposed to the way in which humans are good is not one that the Church would ever have recognized either in the East or the West before the rise of nominalism with Scotus and Ockham in the 13th/14th century (and of course Hart is well acquainted with the history of all of this, not least because of his study under John Milbank). Surely what is at stake here is the bedrock conviction that Christ really is the visible image of the invisible God, and that the Incarnation is a genuine and irrevocable uniting of the Divine and the human, which means that within the Godhead is a human being. For any theology which takes seriously the idea of the believer’s ‘partaking of the divine nature’ by union with Christ, the notion that our moral sense (as regenerated by the indwelling of the Spirit) can be utterly opposed to Divine morality has to be indefensible. It is not theory which lies behind the rejection of such a position, but faith in the ultimacy of Divine self-giving love as disclosed on the Cross, the axis mundi, the revelation of the very nature of reality itself.

    • rogereolson

      Very well said! Thank you. By the way, I studied historical theology under an Eastern Orthodox theologian. And I wrote an article on deification defending the EO idea of the distinction between created and uncreated energies that was published in Theology Today a couple years ago. I don’t know if you saw it. And I quote Hart quite a bit in Against Calvinism. One of my main arguments against Calvinism is that its divine determinism is virtually unheard of before Luther and Calvin except for Augustine and Gottschalk. And the church consciously rejected Augustine’s more extreme views on predestination at the Second Council of Orange and Gottschalk was imprisoned for his teaching of limited atonement and double predestination. The whole scheme is a novelty in Christian theology even if it has been around now for some time.

  • Andy W.

    Dr. Olson,

    Have you ever read “The River of Fire” by Alexandre Kolomiros?http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm
    I know it’s an often turned to source for the Eastern Orthodox in response to Calvinism. I’m not EO, but I found this article edifying. I’m just a lay person, so I don’t know when the change from this view began, but I believe the earliest teachings of the church are more in line with this…is that right?? I know EO don’t agree with Augustine’s teaching (original sin, etc).

    • Sergei

      I read the River of Fire, and it is just awesome! I am not EO either, but I find their treatent of atonement very complelling – sin as a desease, and atonement as a healing of human nature, rather than apeasing an angry God.