Links to my “Forum” appearance at Seattle’s City on a Hill Church (March 17)

The subject was Calvinism and Arminianism. The setting was City on a Hill Church in suburban Seattle (Federal Way). The reason was to explain Calvinism and Arminianism and answer questions about both. The audience was mostly young people from many churches–some as far away as Sacramento (CA).


Part One:

Part Two:

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  • J.E. Edwards

    Awesome. Looking forward to hearing it.

  • Thank you doctor Roger E. Olson for your time and explaining the Arminian belief for us! I enjoined so much!

  • I thought the illustrations of pelagianism, semi-pelagianism, calvinism, and arminianism were helpful. Usually people only talk about calvinism and arminianism but I like how you explained the other two. Thank you for sharing.

  • Fred Karlson

    Thanks for using your critical sense of thinking. Scripture is in the final analysis our tradition, but we must get to the place where we can hear it.

  • Dr. Olson: I have just finished watching your Seattle interview and teachings about Calvinism and Arminianism. It was excellent and I learned a lot. That said, I do think the discussion about universalism somewhat missed the mark. The inevitable question was raised about the possibility of all humanity being ultimately saved. I understand that such a possibility is rejected by both Arminianists and Calvinists, e.g., the Arminianists believe that most of humanity will be eternally damned by their own choice, whereas, the Calvinists believe that most of humanity will be eternally damned by God’s choice.

    You took the Arminian position and proposed a parable to make your point suggesting that no one could be saved without personally “accepting” Christ in repentance. The parable went something like this: “Supposing a person had a debt (mortgage?) they couldn’t pay, but someone took compassion and wrote a check to that debtor; enough to cover the entire obligation. But, despite the benefactors generosity, the debtor refused to endorse the check and pay off his debt.” You likened that scenario to a sinner who stubbornly refused the free gift of salvific grace as offered by Christ.

    Please permit me to point out the problems with your above proposition as follows:
    1.) Christ doesn’t “offer” salvation to anyone; he is the “offering” and grants his salvation to everyone.
    2.) Let us suppose that the sinner/debtor is an addicted gambler and there was a Casino on the same route as the bank where he would be expected to pay off his debt. The benefactor, being a wise person, would be crazy to entrust that kind of money for endorsement to such a weak character; a person who is known to be addicted to fleshly pursuits.
    3.) Suppose the Benefactor (Christ in this scenario) personally owned the bank (even the whole world) and took cash to the bank and paid the debtor’s obligation in full and, then, put the satisfied note in his own strong box and marked it “paid in full on the cross. Dated 2000 years ago.”
    4.) Finally, suppose a convinced universalist (like me!) would contact the former debtor with the ‘good news’ that the heavenly Benefactor had graciously (unmerited favor) paid off the sin debts in full (past, present and future) and that needn’t worry about it anymore.
    5.) Then suppose the great Benefactor (Christ) sent his personal representative (the Holy Spirit) to patiently and lovingly rehabilitate the addicted former debtor. This, of course, would be consistent with how Jesus deals with people who have a sin-debt they cannot pay. Let us remember how graciously Jesus dealt with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, saying, “I don’t condemn you, go and behave yourself.”

    • rogereolson

      All of that could be true but the debtor still opt out. What if the debtor so despised the benefactor that, in spite of his debts being paid, he chose to leave his home and wander the streets and live under bridges–because he did not want to be grateful to the benefactor? Living under the bridge so unnecessarily is a picture of hell.

      • Dr. Olson: Yes, it is true that the debtor might “opt out” of his benefactor’s generosity and live under bridges, but this is highly unlikely. It would be analogous to a person winning a 5-million dollar lottery (someone he “despised” bought the ticket in his name?) and then refused to claim the winnings. But, even if such a thing were to happen (“opting out”), it would only be self-inflicted in this world and in the flesh. Once the debtor stood before his loving and generous Benefactor (Christ) in the world to come, he would immediately be spiritually enlightened to realize his big mistake, bow his knee in humble submission, and praise his Benefactor for the unmerited favor (see Isa 45:23-24). Of course, he needn’t fear a so-called hell because there is no such place! By the way, it seems a BIG stretch to suggest that “wandering streets and living under bridges” in this short life can in any way be compared to consignment to a so-called hell for all eternity.

  • J.E. Edwards

    Hey you were stylin’ in those St.Patty’s Day socks. I really appreciated what was said and the spirit it was given in. Russell Korets challenge at the end was really good. I even listened to the additional sermon you gave. The translator was a little unexpected, but it is a Russian church. That alone was a perfect illustration of (I believe) tongues were meant to be used in the church.

    • rogereolson

      After my time there I told my hosts that I came wondering if I would hear speaking in tongues but that I didn’t know. They laughed.

  • John Mark

    I benefited a lot from this, and say “amen” to not just your wise and gracious presentation but want to join in thanking Russell Korets for hosting this event. I just ordered Against Calvinism, something I should have done long ago.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you.

  • Edgardo José

    Hi Roger,
    Very good talk! I’m interested in theories about the Atonement. Where can I dig depper into the governmental theory? Thanks!

    • rogereolson

      I have written about it here. Look back into the archives. There are very few good books on it. My book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities contains a chapter that includes some discussion of it. Boyd’s and Eddy’s Across the Spectrum contains some discussion of it in the chapter on evangelical views of the atonement. If you want a first hand account and description go to any of several Wesleyan theologians such as H. Orton Wiley (Christian Theology) or John Miley (Systematic Theology).