Okay, I know some of you will think “Olson, it’s time to move on!” Perhaps. But this is my blog and a place for my musings; skip this post if you’re just tired of this subject. I promise to turn to something else soon.
I propose that evangelical and Baptist theologians and church leaders sign a consensus statement to attempt to bring peace and light into an otherwise too polemical atmosphere. The framers and signers will include: Five Point Calvinists, Classical Arminians, and Open Theists.
The statement will say:
“We affirm that God loves everyone and desires everyone to be saved and that God elects some to salvation and that people do not have free will to decide whether or not to be saved and that God knows the future exhaustively and infallibly.”
No qualifications will be added to those statements.
The purpose of the statement is to demonstrate our unity as evangelicals and convince doubtful people in evangelical pulpits, pews and classrooms that we, evangelical Calvinists, Classical Arminians, and Open Theists actually do agree on these elements of evangelical faith about God and salvation.
Signing the statement will not signal any change in what the signers believe as Calvinists, Arminians and Open Theists.
Some Calvinists, Classical Arminian, and Open Theists say they believe these things.
Remember, this is a “consensus statement,” not meant to be a “confessional statement” of all that the signers believe. But the framers do hope to have it published in major evangelical publications to demonstrate evangelical unity in spite of disagreements about “details.”
Which of you Calvinists, Arminians, Open Theists out there will sign it without qualifications?
To any of the above who would sign it–without qualifications–I can only say “shame on you.” Why? Because, given the audience and purpose of the statement, signing it would be misleading at best and dishonest at worst. (However, I am willing to consider taking back my “shame on you” in light of your defenses if you can convince me it would be appropriate for you to sign it.)
First, you would surely know that many theologically unsophisticated readers would be given the wrong impressions by it. Second, you would surely know that you actually DO NOT believe that the other two parties (than yourself) believe what they are there saying they believe. By signing it you would be implying that you agree that the other two parties do believe what they say they believe. In other places you argue that they do not.
Let me offer another illustration. I was having dialogue with a group of Mormon theologians. I asked them if they believe that Jesus is God. Two of them said “yes”–without further qualification. They knew perfectly well what I meant as an orthodox Christian by “Jesus is God.” So I then asked “Do you believe he always was God?” Only then did they somewhat reluctantly say “no.”
I think it was disingenuous of them to answer MY first question “yes”–knowing full well what I mean by “Jesus is God.” On the other hand I realize that, among themselves, within their own frame of theological reference (worldview, language game, whatever) they DO believe “Jesus is God.” But when speaking to ME it was less than fully honest for them to answer my first question “yes” without qualification.
(Please do not address Mormon theology in your responses; that’s not the purpose here. Address only the issue I’m actually raising which is how to be fully ingenuous, forthcoming, informative, perfectly honest, in speaking publicly to a diverse audience about your beliefs.)