Another Calvinist Misrepresentation of Arminianism

Another Calvinist Misrepresentation Arminianism

As anyone knows who comes here regularly, I am a self-appointed defender of the truth about classical Arminianism. That often brings me into conflict with Calvinists who misrepresent it. Sometimes it brings me into conflict with fellow Arminians who do the same. Rarely, but occasionally, it brings me into conflict with a Lutheran or other non-Arminian, non-Calvinist. Most of the time, however, the  conflict (by which I mean disagreement involving unwanted correction) is with Calvinists because they seem to have a special penchant for misrepresenting Arminianism.

All this began in 1992 when I read the first issue of Modern Reformation magazine. It was entirely devoted to Arminianism and contained articles by leading conservative evangelical Calvinists. I believed (and still believe) the articles contained many misrepresentations of Arminianism (e.g., as semi-Pelagianism). I grew up Arminian, held to it in spite of coming to realize Calvinism is normative in the evangelical theological academy (outside of Wesleyan circles), and noticed that nobody else seemed to be concerned about the rampant and growing chorus of Calvinist voices misrepresenting Arminianism.

During the past twenty years I have worked hard to correct misconceptions and misrepresentations of classical Arminianism especially among evangelicals. My constant call has been for critics of Arminianism to actually read Arminius and classical Arminian theologians and not just rely on Calvinist literature for their information about Arminianism. I have published several pieces (including an entire book) clearing up misconceptions such as that classical Arminianism is semi-Pelagian.

Most recently my article “Election Is for Everyone” (mentioned on the cover as “Roger Olson: Elect Arminians”) is published in Christianity Today (January/February 2011, pp. 40-43). There I once again show express that true, classical Arminianism is not semi-Pelagianism. True Arminians believe that salvation is solely the work of God just as much as Calvinists do.

After twenty years at this, I am losing patience with theologians (including theologically informed and astute pastors and popular writers) who continue to misrepresent Arminianism, especially when they demonstrate no engagement with Arminian literature and continue to rely on Calvinist polemics against Arminianism for their information.

My experience is that the vast majority of Arminian theologians have read and do read Calvinist literature. Why do Calvinists, especially those who claim to be knowledgeable about the subject, continue to rely solely on Calvinist literature for their information about and understanding of Arminianism? I am coming to the point where, losing patience and almost losing civility, I just want to shout at them: “You wouldn’t consider it fair if critics of Calvinism misrepresented it based on sole acquaintance with anti-Calvinist polemics! Why do you continue to speak and write about Arminianism in a critical way when you apparently have not seriously engaged with Arminians’ own writings?”

Every once in a while a new book by a Calvinist theologian crosses my desk. Sometimes I simply heard about it and bought it to read for my own enrichment. Often, however, a magazine or journal editor wants me to review it. Sometimes one just appears from its publisher, perhaps because the author asked the publisher to send me a copy. I always look closely at its treatment of Arminianism. (They almost always contain at least some of that.)

Recently I received a new book (published in 2012) by a Scottish evangelical Calvinist named A. T. B. McGowan (with whom I am not familiar). The book’s title is The Person and Work of Christ: Understanding Jesus (published by Paternoster, an imprint of Authentic Media Limited, a British publisher). One thing that caught my eye immediately is the name Alan P. F. Sell on the cover. Sell is a well-known Reformed theologian whose books I have reviewed in the past. Many years ago now he wrote The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Salvation (1982). I found that to be a very informative and generally reliable treatment of the subject by a Reformed theologian. (Sell was at one time the theological secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.) His doctrinal trilogy Doctrine and Devotion (2000) is one of my favorite brief treatments of Christian doctrine. It is very pietistic (in a good sense) and biblical and fair to viewpoints other than Sell’s own. In fact, I found very little in it with which to disagree even though Sell clearly stands in the Calvinist tradition. I wrote a favorable review of Doctrine and Devotion for Christianity Today. As a result of my reviews of Sell’s books (including others than those mentioned) we became friendly acquaintances. I admire and respect him. I’d say he’s one of my favorite Reformed theologians.

Sell is the General Editor of the series to which McGowan’s book is a contribution (“Christian Doctrines in Historical Perspective”). I assumed that Sell would preview the book and ask the author to correct mistakes and misrepresentations. Perhaps he did and the author declined and Sell authorized its publication anyway. In any case, Sell’s name on the cover as editor of the series induced me to think positively of the book as I opened it to read (and review). However, I was disappointed. Once again, a Calvinist theologian has misrepresented non-Calvinist theology including Arminianism.

First, however, before the criticism, let me say The Person and Work of Christ is a competent and readable exposition and defense of 1) classical high Christology, and 2) classical high Reformed soteriology. The latter exposition and defense is mainly concerned with penal substitution.

My complaints have to do with McGowan’s treatment of penal substitution as normative for evangelical theology. It is, he argues, the “controlling idea” of atonement for “Reformed and evangelical churches” since the Reformation. (p. 107) It is, he says, “a central strand of Protestant theology.” (118) Also, he claims, it lies at the heart of what it means to be “evangelical.” (125) He calls J. I. Packer’s exposition of it “a definitive statement of the teaching of Scripture.” (128) I think all that is at least questionable. Anyone who comes here often knows that I affirm a version of penal substitution while continually flirting with the governmental theory which, to me, anyway, is very close to penal substitution while avoiding some of its problems. McGowan hardly mentions the “Christus Victor” model of atonement, to which many evangelicals are attracted, and never mentions the governmental theory. He mentions fellow Scottish theologian John McLeod Campbell’s theory of the atonement but only one aspect of it—“vicarious repentance” (of which he is critical).

Overall, it seems to me, McGowan is too narrow in his understanding of the meaning of “evangelical.” There has never been a time when all evangelicals affirmed the penal substitution theory of the atonement. But, then, that begs the question what counts as “evangelical.” I could be wrong, but I get the impression from McGowan that “evangelicalism” is, for him, a small tent with conservative Reformed theology at its center. The vast majority of his sources are conservative Calvinist theologians.

My main complaint, however, has to do with his treatment of Arminianism. The core of it appears in his chapter on “The Extent of the Atonement.” He predictably affirms limited, particular atonement. Shockingly, to me, anyway, he implies that those who disagree (which would be mainly but not exclusively Arminians) believe Christ died only to make it possible to save ourselves. (148) Of course, I’ve heard this before. It has almost mantra status among evangelical Calvinists. But it’s simply untrue. And it amounts to a vicious calumny against fellow Christians. Calvinists need to stop saying this. I don’t mind if they say “From our point of view, the good and necessary consequence of universal atonement would be that…” so long as they go on to say “But, fortunately, Arminians and other evangelicals who deny particular atonement don’t actually believe that.”

Now, to be perfectly fair, here is what McGowan actually says about believers in universal atonement: “There are, of course, many Christians who take a different view on this matter [of the extent of the atonement]. There are some who argue that the death of Christ is like a blank cheque [sic], which anyone with faith and repentance can draw upon. The problem with this view is that it seems to cast doubt on the sovereign grace of God and to put salvation into our own hands. It becomes a matter of what we do, what we contribute and what we decide and in some sense implies that ultimately it is our decision that saves us. The Reformed doctrine, by contrast, is that Christ died for a specific and definite group of people, the elect, who will certainly and unavoidably be saved. In other words, Christ died to save us, not to make it possible for us to save ourselves.” (147-148)

Now, let’s examine that carefully because it is carefully worded. McGowan, like Piper and others who make this point, does not come right out and say Arminians (and other believers in universal atonement) say they believe we save ourselves. That’s a good thing because that would make him a liar. However, the structure of the statement strongly implies that that is what McGowan thinks Arminians really believe whether they admit it or not. At the very least he should have included the caveat that Arminians and others who deny “particular atonement” explicitly deny they believe this. Otherwise, who could blame evangelical administrators, for example, of concluding based on what he says that Arminians believe they save themselves (and as a result shut Arminians out of evangelicalism)?

Also, the “blank cheque” analogy is foreign to classical Arminian theology. It completely ignores the key Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace.

The proper language McGowan (and others) should use is that of “good and necessary consequence” with the clear caveat that Arminians and other evangelical believers in universal atonement do not believe it. At best McGowan’s treatment of the subject is sloppy. At worst it amounts to false witness. No one could blame a student reading what McGowan says for concluding that Arminians are not really Christians. After all, one cannot be a Christian and believe he saves himself!

When McGowan turns to Arminianism explicitly (149-15) he again misrepresents it. For example, when paraphrasing the points of The Remonstrance of 1610 he says it affirmed that “It is possible for believers to ‘fall from grace’ and so to lose their salvation.” (149) That is simply untrue. The Remonstrance said only that the matter deserves further study of “Holy Writ.” It did not affirm the possibility of apostasy. (McGowan doesn’t even provide a citation so that readers can go check out what The Remonstrance says for themselves.)

Then, McGowan says “The Reformed rejection of Arminianism centres [sic] on two great convictions. First, that all human beings are sinners who are cut off from God because of sin and are therefore unable to do anything to reverse or change their condition. Second, that only by the sovereign grace of God can sinners be lifted out of their sinful condition, have their sins forgiven and be restored to fellowship with God.” (15) Of course, he were acquainted with real Arminianism, classical Arminian theology, he would know that it agrees completely with both points. The issues are not those.

It would have been helpful to McGowan and his readers if he had read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by yours truly or any similar exposition of classical Arminian theology by an Arminian (e.g., The Transforming Power of Grace by Thomas Oden).

I hope to see the day when no Calvinist author will write about Arminian theology without representing it correctly and fairly. I had hoped that by now that would be the case. My hopes were dashed by McGowan (and his editor whom I hold partly responsible for the errors and misrepresentations in the book). All I can say is “it could have been worse.” I’ve read worse. But that’s no excuse.

We all (Calvinists and Arminians and everyone else) need to bend over backwards to be fair in our treatments of fellow evangelicals’ theologies. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement so long as it is informed and fair. Being fair, in my book, necessarily includes admitting that fellow evangelicals with whom you disagree do not actually believe what you say are the (bad) “good and necessary consequences” of their explicit beliefs. I followed that principle carefully in Against Calvinism where I made clear that my main concerns have to do with the good and necessary consequences of what Calvinists believe.

  • Richard

    Why do you keep putting “sic” next to every word that he uses that has a different spelling in American, rather than British, English. Its not a mistake!

    • rogereolson

      Because I’m writing in America. If I were writing in Canada or Great Britain I would put “[sic]” after words spelled the American way. Sorry if I offended you! By the way “[sic]” after a word does not necessarily mean “mistake.” It is used to indicate “not a mistake here” when many readers would assume it is a mistake.

  • James Petticrew

    Sadly this does not surprise me at all. I had to endure Dr McGowan as a lecturer when I was at Bible College in Glasgow in the late 80s and despite being an undergraduate I could tell his depiction of the Wesleyan/ Arminian position was a Arminian strawman constructed from the critiques of fellow Calvinists. I can remember us having a “difference of opinion” after him saying that Charles Wesley was Reformed in his theology when writing hymns because of lines such as “thine eye diffused a quickening ray.”

    I am afraid that this is all too representative of a certain stream of Calvinism in Scotland.

    • rogereolson

      I’ve heard that about Charles Wesley from other Calvinist sources as well. It just shows they don’t understand prevenient grace.

      • James Petticrew

        I was told more than once that there is “insufficient” biblical warrant for the doctrine of prevenient grace, a very interesting position from those who hold to a doctrine of particular atonement

        • rogereolson

          Indeed.

        • Jeremy

          Yeah, particular atonement is tricky and I think irresistible grace is hard to argue for from the Bible as well. If you look at Reformed beliefs in general the pre-temporal covenant bit has very little support as well.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Roger,
    Most of what I know concretely about this over 400 year old conflict was learned from you. However, since it began with misrepresentation of the Arminian position, if I read you correctly, it seems that this approach has become a standard operating method – approved at the highest levels. In fact, it may not be far fetched to think that belief in the standard Calvinist mis-representations of Arminianism has become part of the dogma of that system – right up there with the usual unshakable points of federal Calvinism. So, if someone wanted to faithfully represent the Arminian position, being guided by writings of Arminians, they would be criticized (or worse) for not following the approved Calvinist view of Arminianism. With this version of circular thinking in effect, it may yet be a while before your hope is realized. Are there examples of Calvinists being criticized for this kind of straying from the approved way?

    • rogereolson

      Yes, without naming names, some Calvinists have told me they take knocks from friends for agreeing with me (for example) that classical Arminianism is not semi-Pelagianism. I do believe that anti-Arminianism, including misrepresenting it as semi-Pelagian, is a badge of “real Calvinism” among many leading Calvinists. Fortunately, there are many exceptions.

  • http://Rtjones@wordpress.com Ryan Jones

    Roger, I believe you are filling an important role in the church today. I am disappointed that in so many ways you seem to be a lone voice in Evangelicalism. I have gotten a lot out of Arminian Theology and I am very grateful that you are willing to keep your finger in the dyke, even when it seems you are the only one.

    • rogereolson

      Thanks. Unfortunately, many evangelical Arminians are reluctant to call themselves that or engage in debate with Calvinism. Tom Oden is one of my favorite Arminian theologians, but when I talked with him face-to-face he told me he’s “not an Arminian.” And yet everything he says (e.g., in The Transforming Power of Grace) is, to my mind, anyway, thoroughly Arminian. And he’s a Methodist! The same happened when I encountered I. Howard Marshall and told him I always enjoy meeting a fellow Arminian. He denied being an Arminian. And yet, he’s a Methodist. My friend Stan Grenz didn’t want me to tell anyone he was Arminian. I have had jarring conversations with Wesleyan theologians who insist they are NOT “Arminian.” Those encounters leave me almost speechless. I think there is a real fear of the label “Arminian” out there among evangelicals and it has been either created or reinforced by certain leading evangelical Calvinists who have somehow or other managed to create the widespread impression, even among non-Calvinists, that “Arminian” is a step toward heresy. My own context, as you probably know, is Baptist. It’s among Baptists (and independent free churches generally) that the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is so heated and crucial. For years I have been surrounded (I’m not talking about colleagues) by pastors and lay people who think Calvinism is the only truly biblical way of being Christian, so all Baptists ought to be Calvinists. Along with that they often demean Arminianism as some kind of folk-religious infection that crept into Baptist life unrecognized for what it is. For fifteen years I worked under a president who was clearly Arminian in his soteriology but, under pressure (I think), from Calvinist evangelical friends began calling himself a “recovering Arminian.” I took umbrage at that. It was as much as to say that since I embrace Arminianism I am not “recovering.” It was a weird situation to be in. I had to conclude that that President would probably favor Calvinists (even if only Arminians calling themselves as many do “moderately Reformed”). For some years now I’ve been in a context where being Arminian carries only the stigma of having to explain it a lot. So I find myself freer than many Arminians (outside of Wesleyan circles) to be open about my Arminianism. I don’t feel any pressure to be “recovering.”

      • http://stephenrankin.com Stephen Rankin

        As a (United) Methodist, I may have a partial answer to why Methodist theologians deny being Arminian. And I’m probably stating the obvious for you, Dr. Olson. The Wesley’s “learned” their Arminianism through the Anglican Church and did not directly engage (so far as I know) with Arminius’ work itself. Of course, that avoidance tactic is a total failure, since, as you show so ably, certain Reformed evangelicals perpetuate precisely this misrepresentation. On the other side of the ledger, so to speak, United Methodists as Mainline [sic] Protestants (in view of the earlier comment, I couldn’t resist) have been guilty of semi-Pelagianism because of devotion to certain aspects of Enlightenment thought stemming from thinkers like Kant. Thus, in a chain of inference that runs the opposite direction, it’s actually quite easy to label Methodists as [semi-Pelagian) Arminians because of our association with the tradition of modernist liberal Protestantism. Alas…

        • rogereolson

          Good suggestions. But, of course, John Wesley named his magazine “The Arminian,” so he at least knew of Arminius and Arminianism. Complicating matters is that Oden, in The Transforming Power of Grace, argues that Arminius was simply resurrecting the ancient consensus of the Greek fathers within a Protestant setting. There he seemed very favorable to Arminianism. That’s why I was so shocked by his reaction that he is not an Arminian.

        • James Petticrew

          I am pretty certain that Dr Herbert McGonigle former principal of Nazarene Theological College in the UK was able to prove that Wesley did have first hand knowledge of Arminus’s work.

          • rogereolson

            Thanks for the name. Is there a book we can look to?

          • http://redemptivethoughts.com John H.Guthrie

            According to Dr. William Ury, who I took for The Theology of John Wesley at Wesley Biblical Seminary and who was a student of Oden, Wesley did not actually read Arminius until the 1760′s.

          • Mark Foster

            Dr McGonigle wrote a book called ‘Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley’s Evangelical Arminianism’ It was published by Paternoster and amongst others was reviewed by Alan Snell. Interestingly in one of the chapters he talks about a pamphlet Wesley published in 1770 called ‘What is an Arminian.’ In the opening paragraph Wesley complained that the term ‘Arminian’ has become one of reproach and that to label a man ‘Arminian’ was much the same to say: ‘This man is a dog.’ It would seem there is nothing new under the sun.

          • rogereolson

            Now that you mention it, I have read that essay by Wesley. So at least by 1770 he was calling himself (indirectly if not directly) an Arminian and defending (at least his understanding of) Arminianism. I should have remembered that. Thanks for pointing it out.

      • Brian Abasciano

        I am reminded of this quote from John Wesley’s wonderful article,”Predestination Calmly Considered”, which was helpful to me when I first read it in seminary:

        “But you cannot do this [reject the doctrine of unconditional election]; for then you should be called a Pelagian, an Arminian, and what not.” And are you afraid of hard names? Then you
        have not begun to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  • JohnD

    Sadly, the Calvinist tendency to look only at its own literature is a cultic characteristic, which has a basis in fear. Fear that one might find a crack in the system, leading to a rejection of Calvinism, leading to conclude one is not truly elect. Ironically, that is sort of a works righteousness in reverse. Calvinists are to theology what the people in the soup line in “Seinfeld” were, nervous and afraid of getting a “No soup for you!”

    BTW, am I mistaken or wasn’t it the Second Council of Orange that defined Semi-Pelagianism as a heresy, while at the same time rejecting Augustinian determinism? Shouldn’t Calvinists be named Omni-Auguustinians?

    • rogereolson

      Therein lies a great irony. I have read many Calvinists pointing back to the Second Council (really a synod) of Orange as evidence that Arminianism is heretical. What the synod did was reject semi-Pelagianism (which Arminianism is not) and belief that God predestines anyone to evil. The fact is that Orange is more against double predestinarian Calvinism than against Arminianism. But wait! I can assure you that IF Arminians used Orange for our side we would be condemned for being “crypto-Catholic.”

    • Joe

      I am trying to find the best representation of Classic Arminianism. I have Thomas Oden’s 3 volume systematic theology. Someone mentioned that Dr. Cottrell had some of the best books of classic Arminianism..Is this true? I want to read the best books I can so that I can properly understand the framework of Arminian theology. Can you recommend a list of Top 5 Books? Thanks for the help!

      Joe

      • rogereolson

        How about just one? Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. I forget the author’s name right now. :)

        • Joe

          I have that on my wish list through Amazon just trying to piece together a few more before I submit the order. I really look forward to it. I hope you address penal substitutionary atonement from an Arminian perspective! Thanks for the reply.. I really appreciate you taking the time.

          • rogereolson

            As you will see, in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, I argue that penal substitution is a legitimate view of the atonement for Arminians. It is closer to what Arminius believed and it is what Wesley believed. Many Reformed critics of Arminianism like to claim that the governmental theory (which they usually misinterpret as “merely educative”) is “the” Arminian theory of the atonement. There is no one Arminian theory of the atonement.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    I’m sorry to hear that your work as an Armenian corrector-of-misrepresentations is piling up. Keep up the good fight, Roger.
    -Tim

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for the encouragement, Tim. But one of the main misrepresentations I correct (with very little success) is that it’s “Arminianism,” not “Armenianism.” My fight there is a losing one due to spell checkers and correctors that routinely change the former to the latter. :)

      • Kristi-Joy

        Haha – one of the first things my favorite prof taught in my first theology class! Poor Armenians, always being blamed by Calvinists for theological errors…

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Thanks for not “sic-ing” my comment. I would have been quite embarrassed. ;)

        • rogereolson

          I used to get upset when people spelled Arminianism “Armenianism” or called me an “Armenian” in writing. (Not that’s there’s anything wrong with being Armenian! I’m just not.) But then I realized the problem (in most cases) was with spell checkers. Now I try to be tolerant of that mistake even in students’ papers (even though they’re supposed to proof read and correct them–something I don’t expect here). But I bristle when people pronounce what I believe as “Armenianism” (with a long “e” sound). Happens all the time–from really knowledgeable people who should know better. I had a colleague who always pronounced it that way and I know he knew better. I always suspected it was just his way of poking a little fun in my direction. He was a Calvinist. I haven’t figured out yet how to mispronounced “Calvinism.” :)

          • Bev Mitchell

            Well, according to a brief Google search, there is/was a Swiss watch with the name Calvan.

          • Bruce Symons

            Hi Roger
            How about ‘Cullvinism’ — tending to (want to)? divide the flock!
            Peace

          • James Petticrew

            Rogue I am not so sure about this, I am persistently called an ArmENIan by Calvinists in Scotland and even when you point out their mistake they continue. It’s very odd.

          • rogereolson

            Now people misspell my last name all the time (“Olsen”) and occasionally my first name, too (“Rodger”), but this is the first time anyone has spelled my first name “Rogue” to my face. But I’m sure there are those here and elsewhere who will think that’s the right way to spell it! :) (Seriously, I’m not offended. I know how easily it happens what with spell checkers that think they know what you’re trying to spell and “correct” it automatically. I just thought this was kind of funny and ironic. :)

          • Wayne Shaffer, Jr.

            This could all be avoided by substituting “Arminianism” with “Hermanszoonianism.” Yeah… That’s WAY simpler.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Pelagianism and its half brother share a root with an important word in the life sciences viz. pelagic. Without defending pelagianism, and in the context of the present discussion, it is at least entertaining to read a few comments (OED) on the biological cousin.

    1891 J. Murray & A.-F. Renard in Rep. Sci. Results Voy. H.M.S. Challenger: Deep-sea Deposits iv. 251 We would suggest that the term oceanic Plankton be subdivided into pelagic Plankton for the animals living in the waters from the surface to 100 fathoms, zonary Plankton for those living in the intermediate zones..and abyssal Plankton for those living within 100 fathoms from the bottom.

    1912 J. Murray & J. Hjort Depths of Ocean ix. 562 The conception of a ‘pelagic’ mode of life, originally associated with the animal-life of the ocean-surface, thus gradually proved to hold true for life in mid-water also… The main characteristic of pelagic life is its independence of the bottom.

    1994 Amer. Scientist Oct. 427/2 Even the pelagic (open-water) zones of lakes, which superficially appear homogeneously mixed, are patchy systems.

    1966 Evolution 20 517 (heading) Pelagics—These birds spend a portion of their early migration on the open ocean.

    P.S. In discussions like this, great care is always taken to point out the large number of people who don’t have such a problem with one’s particular view. While this is also true here, something is making grown men (any women here?) very afraid of a specific label, even when it applies. Presumably there is historical baggage as well as current pressure from powerful people that can explain this fear. Or, perhaps, simple fear of labels in general. If it’s just a negative reaction to labels in general, then those showing such a reaction should, to be consistent, reject all labels.

    Just some thoughts while waiting for my wife to get ready for church. It’s Three Kings (Tres Reyes) here in México, a big day for the kids and the time of the rosca. I wonder if Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar were semi-pelagians? They came a long way on their own. Happy Epiphany!

  • https://twitter.com/PieterKleingeld Pieter

    Have you read the thesis of William den Boer – written from Dordt country itself by a teacher of church history at Theological University of Apeldoorn – a university affiliated with the Christian Reformed churches? He calls Arminius a reformed theologian. http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Twofold-Love-1559-1609-Historical/dp/3525569084

    • rogereolson

      Yes, I reviewed the book here some time ago. I was pleased to notice that den Boer ends his book (God’s Twofold Love) with a reference to me (although he spells my name wrongly). It’s an excellent book. I also suggested that Arminius was a Reformed theologian and that Arminian theology is a branch of Reformed theology in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.

  • Craig Wright

    It seems to me, that from my perspective, having been raised in Baptist churches, that the word “Calvinist” was used for mean people. It was a derogatory word. I am not talking about academic circles. I also don’t think that the term “Arminian” had any meaning at all. I’m talking about the usage of these terms among the common folk in church.

    • rogereolson

      Yes, that’s true in many Baptist circles. But it is quickly changes among the twenty-somethings who attend Passion Conferences and read John Piper’s books and watch Mark Driscoll’s podcasts, etc. They are making a huge impact among young Baptists especially (and independent “Bible church” Christians). The situation is turning around the other direction where “Arminian” is the pejorative label and “Calvinism” stands for “biblical Christianity.”

  • Pingback: Dr. Roger Olson on Misrepresenting Arminianism « Arminian Today

  • tim, honolulu

    Just wanted to *strongly* echo Ryan Jones comment above. I thank the Lord for your role, prophetic, in the evangelical landscape. As an amateur armchair theologian, I have found your book, your blog, and your links (Oden, Boyd, etc) valuable. I belong to a Southern Baptist Church and am dealing with the quickly rising tide of Calvinism. Thanks for helping me keep my head above the flood! (Just wondering: do you think many SBCers are leaving for theological reasons?)

    • rogereolson

      I know many former SBCers who left for theological reasons. Usually also for reasons of perceived heavy-handed control.

  • William Huget

    Calvinists do misunderstand and misrepresent Arminianism and Open Theism. Arminians and Open Theists have also straw man caricatured Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism, etc. It is wrong to say Arminianism is Pelagian and Open Theism is Process Thought. Ultimately, free will theisms are more biblical than deterministic, decretal ones.

  • John

    Doing a search for the book “Why I Am Not a Calvinist” (which I haven’t read, but I like other things Walls and Dongell have done), I came across this blog entry: http://strands.blogs.efca.org/tag/joe-dongell/. I wasn’t familiar with Fred Sanders, but he seems like a kindred spirit.

    • rogereolson

      I know Fred personally. He’s a gentleman and a scholar. And a fine Christian.

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

    I continue to be very thankful for your willingness to take up this challenge, Dr. Olson. I think it is a debate worth having. My hope is that at some point someone with the crowd sway of John Piper and the regular influence of the weekly pulpit will come onto the scene and show another road to honor the sovereignty of God. You are keeping the flame lit. There are so few places to go for company along this path. I do agree with you that the appellation Arminian is one worth preserving, but the misrepresentation of that position is severe in the extreme. Merely to self-identify as an Arminian is unimaginable among the Evangelicals I hang with. But “moderate Calvinist” does not do it. I have become particularly concerned about what I consider to be an antinomian streak in today’s NeoPuritanism, which is an outflow of their brand of monergism. The recent writings of Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian are beginning to make some NeoPuritans nervous. It seems that the entire Christian life is but the outworking of unconditional election and forensic justification. See David Murray’s take on Tchividjian here. http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/12/11/tullian-keeps-digging/ I do believe that Arminianism is critical to healthy pietism and therefore a robust defense of biblical Arminianism is necessary for the welfare of the church. These theological debates are not about nothing of consequence, even as we are quick to extend our hands to brothers and sisters on different sides of the conversation. Keep up this good and necessary work. There are just too few pressing this issue.

  • http://authenticmission.blogspot.co.uk/ Andrew Kenny

    1. Though I.V.P seems to have changed over the years, when I first started reading their books in the early 80′s they were all by high powered intellectual preachers such as Lloyd Jones and Jim Packer . I benefited greatly from some of Packer’s writings but he was always scathing of what he called ‘bad theology’ which I took to mean anything that wasn’t Calvinist. To be honest, as Packer spoke so authoritatively and seemed a trustworthy guide, I bought all his books and considered myself at least a Calvinistic Arminian ( believing both unconditional election and free will ) thus rejecting my Wesleyan roots. However when studying for a Master’s degree at Cliff College ( Methodist) in England and through reading Wesley’s attacks on predestination I realised that I really was an Arminian and could also keep my intellectual integrity as Arminian theology seemed to be a more logical and Scriptural position to take. In fact it was the Calvinists who seemed to defame God and make him out to be very much different from the God of love that the Bible clearly taught.

  • Jeff

    I appreciate immensly Dr. Olson’s book “Arminian Theology”. I had no answer for a theology professor at Westminster who asked me to pick a modern defense of Arminianism that was written from the same perspective. I was tempted to say “Grace Unlimited”, but there were too many authors represented with too many small things to pick at.

    Though I dislike at the same time the search for something new when the old arguments that Arminians have given have never been truly confronted. That of course is part of the point of “Arminian Theology” which is its strongest argument.

    I would argue there hardly needs to be an update. For anyone who has read Arminius’ interpretation of Romans 9 or anything else he writes, or Richard Watson’s Institutes, or
    Wlliam Burt Pope’s Theology. The problem is with Calvinists is that the majority of them will simply not read those books, but only read a “Reformed” perspective on it. My brain almost exploded when a Westminster professor said how he loved a book about Arminius by his favorite Reformed history writer.

    A little fact known about Arminius was that the Reformed church of that day in general did nto have a big problem with his theology, it was more his position on “church and state”.

    • rogereolson

      Yes, in fact, it is very likely that the Synod of Dort would not have been successful (in condemning the Remonstrants and forcing them into exile) if they did not have the support of Prince Maurice of Nassau who disliked the Arminian view of church and state and also suspected (due to calumny brought to him by people like Gomarus) that the Arminians were closet sympathizers with the Jesuits. (The United Provinces over which Maurice ruled as military dictator were just emerging from decades of domination by Spain during which Jesuits were influential in the Spanish occupation.) As soon as Maurice died and his brother took over, Arminians were allowed back into the United Provinces and given full freedom. The whole thing as as much or more political than theological (in terms of who won and who lost).

    • rogereolson

      Yes, in fact, it is very likely that the Synod of Dort would not have been successful (in condemning the Remonstrants and forcing them into exile) if they did not have the support of Prince Maurice of Nassau who disliked the Arminian view of church and state and also suspected (due to calumny brought to him by people like Gomarus) that the Arminians were closet sympathizers with the Jesuits. (The United Provinces over which Maurice ruled as military dictator were just emerging from decades of domination by Spain during which Jesuits were influential in the Spanish occupation.) As soon as Maurice died and his brother took over, Arminians were allowed back into the United Provinces and given full freedom. The whole thing as as much or more political than theological (in terms of who won and who lost)

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com Morgan Guyton

    So much of this is about proving your fidelity to what you consider “orthodoxy,” or what I would call doctrinal Pelagianism, earning your salvation by believing the right things about God and condemning all the people you’re expected to condemn. Doctrinal Pelagianism is the early 21st century analogue of the indulgences of the early 16th century.

  • http://GoodReportMinistries.com Ivan A. Rogers

    Can anyone tell me the difference? The Calvinists insist that only the “elect” will be saved as determined by God; the nonelect will be eternally lost. Whereas, the Arminians insist that only those who make a “personal decision” will be saved as determined by themselves; those who fail to pray the so-called ‘sinner’s prayer’ will be eternally lost. In any case, untold billions of humanity will be lost to themselves and to God. I think there is something seriously wrong with BOTH camps. It seems to me that the only answer to both errors is to accept that the atonement and resurrection of Christ will ultimately result in the salvation of ALL humanity (see 1 Cor 15:22).

    • rogereolson

      Yes, the difference is that Arminians can (not all do) hope for that while (traditional) Calvinists cannot. Of course, there are other differences. An Arminian can agree with C. S. Lewis that hell’s door is locked on the inside which protects the character of God.

    • Jonathan Tilt

      Ivan, if you believe something is wrong with both camps that is fine, but that means you have a problem with God as He has revealed Himself through Scripture. There are simply too many verses that talk about a real hell, Jesus spoke about it more than anyone in the New Testament. Scripture plainly tells us that He is patient with us regarding our salvation (2 Peter 3:9) but there must be justice, God simply is not a push over. If you do take issue with that, it is between you and God, but we must not make the Bible say something that it does not say, the Bible warns about that in numerous passages as well (Deut. 4:2). With all due respect, the issue that it seems you have is pride and an unwillingness to accept God for exactly who He is and what He says. Read John 14:26 and allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and guide you into all truth. God bless you, may His truth be manifested as you discover Him more…

      • rogereolson

        In defense of Ivan, let me say it is unlikely he is “unwilling….” Ivan, my friend, has been a devoted and effective Christian leader for many years. He has come to some unorthodox conclusions. We disagree about some of those, but I respect his heart and devotion even as I disagree with his hermeneutics.

  • Jonathan Tilt

    Mr Olson,

    I can’t say enough how refreshing it is to see articles like this. Within the past few weeks I have become dragged into a few debates with Calvinism and Arminianism at the forefront and while I always identified myself with the Arminian position, I became lazy and did not get into as much depth as I should. I found multiple verses regarding unlimited atonement but had an incorrect understanding prevenient grace and how truly explains who God is and how it is displayed throughout the Bible. I have benefited greatly from your book Arminian theology and I can without question that God is using you and that book to truly communicate the truth’s of Arminian theology. I know you do not desire praise from men but only to glorify Him and uphold His truth so I wanted to commend you for that!

    Regarding your critique, without your book explaining what Arminian theology of the heart means, it could be so easy to succumb to the Calvinistic straw men arguments. After reading your book and studying other theology books, much of what you say is true, people deny the Arminian position in my opinion solely on ignorance of what it truly teaches. The Bible makes it clear in so many verses that we are to be discerners and it is becoming far too common for people to become lazy in their studies and write books with disregard to what a position teaches. So again, thank you for your critique of this book, it sadly falls into a category with many others of its kind and after frequenting your blog and reading your awesome book, the saints of God can now be equipped to affirm what we believe and defend that position gracefully.

    I am proud to affirm that I am an Arminian not because I have been taught by you or an Arminian theologian but the Bible makes God’s character clear and it does not take a straw man argument to affirm that truth. Like you stated, hopefully one day a time will come where one’s belief system can be properly represented without a straw man and both sides of the argument can be fairly represented. There’s so much more I could say, but I just truly wanted to say thank you for what you do, for your books and for equipping the saints!

    God bless you brother!

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for that good testimony. May I suggest you read The Transforming Power of Grace by Thomas Oden? It’s the finest exposition of classical Arminian theology in print (in my opinion) even if Oden doesn’t identify as an Arminian.

      • Jonathan Tilt

        I already had it in my shopping cart and ready to order on amazon after you mentioned it in your book ;). I was also looking at Grace, Faith and Free will by Robert Picirilli, and Classical Arminiasm by Matthew Pinson any suggestions on those? Any other books that you would recommend?

        • rogereolson

          Those should keep you busy for a while! :) Come back to me with specific parameters, narrowing it down to a very specific category and I’ll try to help. Also, I suggest you go to the web site of the Society of Evangelical Arminians: http://www.evangelicalarminians.org where you’ll find many Arminian resources.

  • riley

    Hi Roger,

    I have just been reading the introduction to your book “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities” and I just want to thank you for helping to further understand how ARMINIANS view ARMINIANISM rather than just how CALVINISTS envisage it. You have cleared up for me many misconceptions and you have also made clear to me why I don’t agree with your view but not it is not because of misconception but because true rejection! (Please don’t interpret that as offensive!)

    I think I have to conclusion about the difference between the two thoughts. It seems as though that the real difference between Arminians and Calvinists is not how they read the bible or their doctrines of salvation, atonement, regeneration per se, rather, the difference lies in their own PRECONCEPTION of WHO God is and WHAT constitutes a GOOD and right relationship with that God.

    Thus I think you could argue that if you are OK with a God who chooses to show mercy to some and not to others and you are OK with having a relationship with Christ whereby God gives you the most amazing gift ever by effectually pursuading you of its value (of which you would not have seen the value of it intrinsically) then you can be a Calvinist

    If, however, your view of the Character of God compels you to have a reason (rather than treat it as a mystery for the purpose of his Glory) as to why God does not save everyone and you believe that a true and good relationship must be entered into with no coercion or persuasion but by free choice and rationality then you will be an Arminian.

    Thus, although there are significant differences in doctrines of predestination and providence, these arise only due to the presupposition that you bring to the text before you read it.

    Hence, I would posit that first and foremost, Calvinists are Calvinists because Calvinism is a doctrine of God which they like and Arminians are Arminians because it is a doctrine of God that they like

    • rogereolson

      I have argued many times in many places that the real difference, at bottom (the controlling difference), lies in the doctrines of God. Arminianism begins with a God who can be trusted to be good which is the only basis for believing the Bible to be true. Calvinism begins with a philosophical idea of God as the all-determining reality who can do absolutely whatever he chooses to do without regard to a specific character of goodness (other than one he decides). Zwingli was clear about this; Calvin couldn’t stomach Zwingli’s heavily philosophical approach so he pretended (to himself and then to others) that the God of Zwingli is the biblical God. The problem is that God turns out to look very little like Jesus.

      • riley

        OK I guess I have always had a sneaking suspicion that the God of Edwards was controlled by a philosophical idea of who God could and couldn’t be rather than explicitly drawing this from scripture.

        I do, however, find it hard to believe that the God of Calvinism is not biblical. For instance, I find the God of Arminians (without knowing explicitly what Arminius himself would say) hard to reconcile with sections of scripture like Isaiah 45:7

        Isaiah 45 7 “I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster, I Yahweh DO all these things”. Would it be true to assert that the Arminian would have to read that and say something like “I make success and permit disaster, I Yahweh do good things and step back and permit evil to happen when it does”.

        If so, I think this bends scripture and bends the character of God to whom you WANT him to be. Rather than how he has revealed himself to be.

        I would be very interested to know how Arminians view that text

        • rogereolson

          Reading it with Jesus as the criterion of interpretation, yes, that’s better than how divine determinists read it. :)

        • Donald Fisher

          “For instance, I find the God of Arminians (without knowing explicitly what Arminius himself would say) hard to reconcile with sections of scripture like Isaiah 45:7 . . .”

          Regarding Isaiah 45:7, I believe Arminians would read that verse as anyone should . . . with the context in view. The chapter is devoted to the impending judgment on the nation of Israel for its sin; the evil or distress God is announcing through the agency of Cyrus is not moral evil, but national adversity due to the sin of the nation. Isaiah is not trying to make a theological statement about the origin of evil . . . he is letting them know that the same God who could bring success to the nation when they were living in obedience can also create distress for the nation when in disobedience.
          The mistaken assumption of some Calvinists is to lift out a verse like this as proof that God must be the efficient cause of all that is. An assumption which is faulty, as Reformed theologian William Shedd points out when he writes “sin is no part of creation, but was introduced into God’s good creation by the creature himself”.

          • Donald Fisher

            Dr. Olson – rereading my comments from yesterday, I realized I made a mistake as to which nation is being judged in the Isaiah 45 prophecy! It’s not the nation of Israel God is bringing disaster to, but Babylon. So here is the corrected line:

            The chapter is devoted to the impending judgment on the nation of Babylon for its sin

            I don’t know if anyone will notice or care, but I thought I should at least bring my mistake to your attention.

            Thanks
            ~ Don Fisher

          • riley

            I know what you are saying but does not the verse imply that God steps into human history in acts of judgement and creates horrible situations for people of which he is in complete control of?

            This isn’t a nice way of phrasing it but I am speaking explicitly to clarify exactly how Arminians conceive of God’s wrath and indignation being exercised justly.

            In short, does God permit “disaster” or does he create it?

          • rogereolson

            Classical Arminianism ONLY (!) excludes God creating or ordaining evil. If a disaster does not involve evil, saying it is from God does not exclude one from being classically Arminian. Please read my books.

  • http://www.mariuslombaard.net Marius Lombaard

    “He who answers a matter before he hears the facts – it is folly and shame to him.”
    ~ Proverbs 18:13

    If only some calvinists took this advice seriously in their treatment of arminianism…

    • https://www.epicvoyage.org/blog/ Chris

      “Much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Wear out your opponents by insisting they study you. ;-)

      • rogereolson

        I keep trying. Some seem deaf.

  • John Sneed

    We must move in different circles. You complain about being misrepresented by Calvinists and you think Arminians are all up to speed on Calvinist theology. Let me tell you that you could not be more wrong.

    I have seen various anticalvinist conferences held (the Southern Baptist John 3:16 Conference comes to mind) where the entire conference was an exercise in misrepresenting Calvinism. I will go so far as to say that I have never met a noncalvinist who has demonstrated to me even a conversational knowledge of what Calvinists believe. You yourself has said that the God Calvinists worship can not be distinguished from the devil. And yet you complain that YOU are misreperesented?

    Like most things in life sir, that sword cuts both ways. To liberally paraphrase the words of Jesus, who is not the devil, take the beam out of yor own eye before you presume to worry about the speck in mine.

    • rogereolson

      You are the one distorting and misrepresenting what I have said. I have said that Calvinism makes it difficult for me to distinguish God from the devil which is why I’m not a Calvinist. I have never said that “the God Calvinists worship can not be distinguished from the devil.” Get it right before you accuse. And what I said is not about what Calvinists believe; it is about what I see as the good and necessary consequences of what they believe. I have never complained about Calvinists saying what they see as the good and necessary consequences of Arminianism so long as they replicate fairly what it is Arminians actually believe.

  • EricW

    Dr. Olson:

    You wrote:

    Then, McGowan says “The Reformed rejection of Arminianism centres [sic] on two great convictions. First, that all human beings are sinners who are cut off from God because of sin and are therefore unable to do anything to reverse or change their condition. Second, that only by the sovereign grace of God can sinners be lifted out of their sinful condition, have their sins forgiven and be restored to fellowship with God.” (15) Of course, ***he were*** acquainted with real Arminianism, classical Arminian theology, he would know that it agrees completely with both points. The issues are not those.

    I suspect you meant to write: “… Of course, were he acquainted….”

    (FYI, we met years ago, I believe at the ETS Conference in San Antonio, TX, in November 2004. We talked a bit and I think you mentioned to me that you couldn’t give a talk at ETS – and maybe weren’t even a member – because your views on inerrancy weren’t “kosher” (my words). Neither are mine. :) (But I also spoke with Jack Rogers, so I may be confusing you with him on the “inerrancy” point.) Thanks for your blog postings. Scot McKnight frequently alerts Jesus Creed readers to things you write.)

    • rogereolson

      Yes, that is what I meant. Thanks for the correction. If I can get back to that post and make the change I will. However, I think most readers knew what I meant. My fingers fly faster over the keyboard than my mind can control sometimes.

  • Joseph O.

    I don’t so much mind McGowan’s blank check analogy because if someone gave me a blank check with a million dollars in it, it would be just as ridiculous to say “I” made myself rich by signing it as it would be to say I save myself by believing. All credit (and “glory”) goes to the gift giver, even if “I” pull the bow off the wrapper.

    • rogereolson

      It’s the blankness of the check that I object to (in McGowan’s version of a well-known analogy). No classical Arminian would say we write the “amount” (salvation) on a blank check God offers us. We do say that God offers us a “check” for salvation representing money (salvation) he has put in the bank for us. All we have to do is accept it. There’s no “work” involved there. It’s just a matter of accepting a gift. If we had to write in the amount, that would be a different analogy, closer to semi-Pelagianism if not outright Pelagianism.

      • riley

        I agree that accepting the check isn’t a “work” that you can credit to yourself as righteousness. However, I am confused as to what distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever if they take the cheque (sic).

        For example, if you took the cheque and I didn’t how do you account for your choosing? I know you will reject this idea, however, it sounds as though you would have to say there is something about you that is a little smarter, more rational, than me (the person who doesn’t accept it) OR that God had presented the cheque to you in a more appealing way than he did for me and thus you were “wooed” to choose it more than I was.

        In short, how do you account for why some people choose and others dont?

        Secondly, can you please explain to me the concept of adam’s guilt being atoned for through jesus so that we are free to choose but then if we commit actual sins after we are infants and are no longer innocent are we now in bondage to sin again?

        • rogereolson

          Read my books, please.

          • riley

            haha fair enough!

            Would you recommend the book Debating Calvinism by Dave Hunt & James White

          • rogereolson

            I haven’t read it.

  • Pingback: Theology Round-Up January 2013 :: Cheesewearing Theology

  • Jack Hanley

    I realize this blog is a couple of months old, however I ran across it while searching the web on a particular subject, and I cannot help but comment here. You quote McGowan above,

    The problem with this view is that it seems to cast doubt on the sovereign grace of God and to put salvation into our own hands. It becomes a matter of what we do, what we contribute and what we decide and in some sense implies that ultimately it is our decision that saves us.

    Your response to this was,

    McGowan, like Piper and others who make this point, does not come right out and say Arminians (and other believers in universal atonement) say they believe we save ourselves. That’s a good thing because that would make him a liar.

    First I do not see how this would cause McGowan to be a liar. He uses the word implies, which gives the benefit of the doubt, in fact he states that “it in some sense implies.” He also uses the word, SEEMS, which is also giving the benefit of the doubt. Therefore I do not know what else he could have said that would have given Arminians more benefit of doubt. Having said this, I would like to ask you if you recall something you stated in your conversations with Michael Horton, at one time I had written your words down word for word, and I could go back and retrieve them, however what you said was to the effect that. If God is love He would not effectually draw some and leave others out, therefore, it must be ultimately up to us if God is love.

    If you will notice McGowan uses this same word, ULTIMATELY. This is a very strong word, in fact it means decisive. Now you seem to think it a virtue not to attribute to someone, something they say they do not believe, I do not see this as a virtue. The least I could say is, I cannot understand how it would even be possible for you not to believe, you in some sense saved yourself, if it is truly, ultimately up to you. If it is not up to God, or anyone else, but ULTIMATELY up to you, then how can you fault someone for saying, you saved yourself, because according to you, your salvation was ultimately up to you.

    At any rate, it ULTIMATELY comes down to this in my mind. Scripture clearly teaches that man must make a decision for God. It also clearly teaches God makes a decision for man. Therefore, either man’s decision for God is the basis for God’s decision for man, or God’s decision for man is the basis for man’s decision for God. Our personal salvation then, is ULTIMATELY up to us, or rather ULTIMATELY up to God. If it is ULTIMATELY up to us, then we save ourselves, if it is ULTIMATELY up to God, then salvation is of God alone.

    • rogereolson

      Jack, Jack…Go back and read what I wrote. I said “that [viz., what I said they do not say] WOULD make him a liar.” You’re not reading what I write carefully.

  • Jack Hanley

    Roger, Roger,

    I think I have read you carefully, if you will look back, your very next sentence is,

    However, the structure of the statement strongly implies that that is what McGowan thinks Arminians really believe whether they admit it or not. You go on to say,

    At best McGowan’s treatment of the subject is sloppy. At worst it amounts to false witness.

    How can you even insinuate that McGowan is bearing false witness, when he has seemed to do all he can to give the benefit of the doubt?

    If this is truly what McGowan thinks Armininans believe, (which is exactly what I think Arminians have to believe) then would he not be a liar to say otherwise? Let’s look at it like this. If I were to say, I absolutely do not believe airplanes can fly, however I continue to fly in airplanes across the country. Would you think it a virtue, to say, well he says, he does not believe airplanes can fly, therefore I will not say, that he in fact believes airplanes can fly? You see I believe it would be perfectly correct for me to say. He believes airplanes can fly, no matter what he says to the contrary. Therefore if you say, your salvation is ultimately up to you, then I cannot see why it would be in any way wrong for me to state that, you believe you have saved yourself. If your salvation is not up to God or anyone else, but rather ultimately up to you, then please explain where I would be incorrect, or bearing false witness to say, that your decision saved you. At any rate, it seems strange to me that your focus was on whether or not you were saying McGowan was a liar, and you ignored your statement that your salvation is ultimately up to you. If it will help I will concede that you did not call McGowan a liar, but could you please address your comment in the Horton discussion. Thanks so very much.

    • rogereolson

      Jack, you are confused. What I am criticizing McGowan for is exactly what he (and you) would criticize me for if I said that Calvinists believe God is the author of sin and evil. That would be wrong because they don’t. You seem impervious to my persuasion, so let’s change the subject.

  • Jack Hanley

    I will certainly be happy to drop the subject, however it seems rather strange to me, that you can write an extremely dogmatic article here, criticizing what you believe to be a misrepresentation of Arminianism. However as you quote McGowan above,

    The problem with this view is that it seems to cast doubt on the sovereign grace of God and to put salvation into our own hands. It becomes a matter of what we do, what we contribute and what we decide and in some sense implies that ultimately it is our decision that saves us.

    Now if you compare his statement, with your statement, that your salvation is ultimately up to you, then it would seem, he has represented your view perfectly. I am not familiar with McGowan at all, so I do not know if he heard your conversations with Horton, but it seems ironic that you both use the word, ultimately. So then how is this a misrepresentation?

    I would also like to point out, I would not be offended at all if you were to say that, I believe God is the author, of sin and evil. If this is where you truly believe my theology leads, then I would greatly appreciate you telling me this straight forwardly. I believe I have heard you say in the past, if you were a Calvinist, you would have to believe God is a moral monster. You go on to state, that Calvinist do not believe this, but you would have to in order to be a Calvinist. Listen this does not soften the blow at all, you are simply saying here, this is where Calvinism leads. This is why I do not understand your insistence on using the statement, “good and necessary consequence.” I am sure I could be wrong about this, so please correct me if I am in error, however this seems to be saying, the necessary consequence of Calvinism is that you believe God is a moral monster. If the consequence is necessary, then it would seem to be unavoidable.

    At any rate I would like to ask, if you do not respond to any of the above, could you please respond to this question. Would you take offense if I were to say?

    Arminianism, leads to the belief that our decision saves us. Now Arminians insist, they do not believe this, however it seems clear, this is the necessary consequence of their belief. Also it seems, you continue to avoid your comments in the Horton discussions, I am just wondering if I am correct in my wording. Again, thanks so much.

    • rogereolson

      Jack, you and I, we, have been all around this subject several times. I’ve explained my position and you’ve explained yours. Why keep beating a dead horse? We need to move forward, not stay stuck in the same discussion.

    • Truth Preacher

      There is no such thing as the “sovereign grace of God”, so your pious-sounding concerns are fraudulent. And you engage in Circular reasoning, since your premise is unproven and rejected by Biblically literate people

      • Roger Olson

        I’m not sure to whom you are responding, but please tone it down. This is a safe space for civil discussion of theology, not a place for name calling or harsh polemics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PedmundTconroy Edmund Conroy

    I came across this article, odd because I’ve been reading much of your stuff for a while, but today I had to comment – this Andrew McGowan was formerly the Principle at my Theological College (Highland Theological College) – Which I can tell you is a hotbed of anti-arminianism within the student body (speaking as an Arminian) and McGowan formerly led the charge against everything he disagreed with – he steped down “quietly” a few years ago (prior to my joining the college) because he published a book where he said that Scripture was infalible but not inerent, the US funders of the college were not particularly happy, as you can imagine. A.T.B.McGowan is famous for upsetting myself in the student body – mainly because he is anti-everything that isn’t his view – his view is the most narrow minded I have ever had the missfortune to read, and he’s the minister at a large Church of Scotland “kirk” (Church) in Inverness – frankly I wouldn’t pay him much heed Roger… It’s a shame ’cause I didn’t quite get the Arminian-Calvanist debate before I started at the college, until I started and realised they don’t like Arminians! :O But anyway I was ranting about McGowan’s view on Continuationism the other day (again as narrow minded, I’m really at the wrong theology college aren’t I?) lol

    Just to cover myself: This “comment” is entirly my oppinion, impression and reading of a few of A.T.B.McGowan’s works, as well as college heresay (and you can find info on the Internet about McGowan (heresywatch.blogspot.com or something) but it IS my oppinon, don’t want Dr Olson getting in trouble cause of me! I may be wrong (which personally I doubt, but I may be) – does that cover my bum?

    • Roger Olson

      Okay, but it’s borderline. Thanks for making clear these are not my views. I know nothing of this and I welcome anyone who would like to jump in to defend McGowan.

  • Alex

    Another calvinist misinterprets an arminian? I want to know the difference. I just observed that a calvinist is more reasonable is explaining the idea biblically.

    • Roger Olson

      What idea?


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