Disingenuous Calvinists?

Disingenuous Calvinists? June 27, 2013

Disingenuous Calvinists?

Recently I blogged about the Southern Baptist statement “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension.” I provided a link to it, but some have told me they could not access it using that link. So, I suggest you simply “Google” it by that title and “SBCLife” (The Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention). That has worked for me. The entire statement is there if you click on the title of the statement when you get to that web site.

That blog message is only a few days old; you should be able to find it by looking back at recent blog messages here.

While I applauded the irenic and conciliatory tone of the statement (which was accepted enthusiastically by the recent Southern Baptist Convention in Houston) written primarily by Al Mohler and Eric Hankins—a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist—I have some qualms about some of its wording.

The Calvinism Advisory Committee that approved the statement and presented it to the convention consisted of several Southern Baptist theological heavy weights (as well as non-theologians). On the committee were the two authors I just mentioned and: David Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (a non-Calvinist), Tom Ascol, president of the Calvinist Founders Ministries (A Calvinist group), Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. (a Calvinist), Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University (a Calvinist), Steve Lemke, provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (a non-Calvinist), Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (a non-Calvinist) and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (a Calvinist).

One of the statements in the statement is “We agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone, but we differ as to why only some are ultimately saved.” Read that again—carefully!

My question is: Can a consistent Calvinist really affirm honestly, without immediate and emphatic qualification, that “God loves everyone and desires to save everyone?”

Yes, yes…I know all the “footnote” qualifications Calvinists offer up to explain how they can say this without crossing their fingers behind their backs. That’s irrelevant to my concern here.

My concern here is whether it is ever right for a Calvinist to say that without immediately explaining what is meant—namely that God actually does not love everyone in any ordinary meaning of the word “love” and does not actually desire to save everyone in any ordinary meaning of “desire.”

So, to be clear about my complaint here: I am asking whether it is perhaps disingenuous for a Calvinist to claim that God loves everyone and desires everyone to be saved without immediately (in context so that it cannot be missed) explaining the peculiar uses of “love” and “desires”—because in this cultural context the vast majority of people are going to assume the ordinary language meanings of “love” and “desires.”

Let me illustrate by turning the table around. Suppose I, an Arminian, wrote or signed a public statement that I know will create an impression about what I believe among constituent churches that says God elects people to salvation and that people do not have free will to choose whether to be saved or not. With the proper qualifications I could write such a statement and/or sign one. But suppose I wrote and/or signed it without those proper qualifications—knowing that the statement would create an impression about what I believe among a group of churches some of which are strongly Calvinist. Wouldn’t Calvinists who know what else I believe call me disingenuous? I’m sure many would. I would expect them to.

Why does this matter?

Well, one of the reasons for the “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension” statement was to calm the troubled waters in the SBC created, in part at least, by Calvinist candidates for pulpits in SBC churches who do not tell the pulpit search committees or the churches before they vote on their call everything they believe (e.g., “TULIP”). This statement contains wording strongly encouraging all candidates for pulpits to be entirely forthcoming about their doctrines.

But, given the wording of the statement to which I am objecting (viz., “We agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone”), why couldn’t a Calvinist candidate for a pulpit say that without any qualifications other than are offered in the immediately surrounding context—which would completely elude most lay people?

I tend to think that no self-respecting Calvinist can or should ever say that “God loves everyone and desires to save everyone” without following that immediately with “but sovereignly chooses to allow some he could save to go to hell for eternity without any real opportunity to be saved.” That would be totally honest and forthcoming. Less is not.

Again, I tend also to think that no self-respecting Arminian can or should ever say that “God elects some to salvation and people do not have free will to choose whether to be saved or not” without immediately adding “but the election I believe in is conditional and the free will I do not believe in is natural, without special, prevenient grace.”

I suspect that this statement, “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension,” papers over some of the depth of division between ardent Calvinists and Arminians. To me it sounds like saying “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to the good intentions and effort of the committee. I’m just pessimistic about how well it is going to work. I suspect it is going to lull many SBCers and others into a sense that Calvinists and Arminians (who are called “non-Calvinists” in the SBC) really agree on all the important matters. In fact, many on both sides consider the doctrines about which they disagree extremely important and will continue to press their cases among the churches.

Does the statement mean, for example, that the Founders Ministries, a Southern Baptist group committed to promoting Calvinism among Southern Baptists, is going to stop promoting Calvinism as part of “historic Southern Baptist principles” that all Southern Baptists should return to? Many Calvinist SBC churches do not allow members to serve as leaders unless they affirm Calvinism. Some Southern Baptist seminaries hire only Calvinists and I know that many non-Calvinist students at some Southern Baptist seminaries feel persecuted, treated as second-class Christians, by fellow students and some faculty members. I know that some faculty members at some Southern Baptist seminaries routinely misrepresent Arminianism in lectures. (How do I know these things? Well, I have had students who transferred from those seminaries report them to me convincingly.)

I hope the statement brings about a new era in Southern Baptist (and perhaps by extension in evangelical) life where Calvinists and non-Calvinists are completely transparent about all they believe in all situations and completely stop misrepresenting or demeaning the other belief system. But my hope is dim.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chris Jones

    Calvinists know that their position presents a rather undesirable view of God to most people so they avoid the language. Watch the documentary called “Hellbound” and watch Mark Driscoll and Kevin DeYoung weasel around the clear teachings of Calvinism.

    • Roger Olson

      Ah, so right. But they not only avoid the harsh language they should use, to make their view perfectly clear; they also use words they’re not really permitted to use if they want to communicate what they believe to people who use and understand ordinary language only. No one hearing (or reading) them say that they believe God wants everyone to be saved would guess that they also (or really) believe God predestines a significant portion of “everyone” to suffer in the flames of hell for eternity for his glory without.

  • Tony Springer

    Denominational histories are littered with peace statements that did not bring peace. They are usually written after the rift has happened. Attempts at consistency give way to control. We shall see whether this statement affects the future of the Southern Baptist Church.

    • Roger Olson

      Just a quick correction: There is no “Southern Baptist Church,” only Southern Baptist churches. The Convention is nothing more than a collection of voluntarily cooperating autonomous congregations. I already have a post written about this, so when I post it, please don’t take it as written in response to your error. Yours is an extremely common error (about Baptists).

      • Tony Springer

        Yes, I know, especially as a SBC seminary grad. Only a little attempt at sarcasm about ubiquity of the SBC in certain parts of the South and in some people’s mind.

  • Micah

    With all due respect, I think this post is disingenuous. Calvinists easily affirm the statements you cite without qualification because they are biblical statements. But there is much more to the biblical concepts of God’s love, salvation, etc., that require some explanation for a fuller sense of where one stands theologically. You know this, of course.

    That said, the issue is not about one’s belief in the multifaceted love of God but whether or not salvation hinges on unconditional election. Kudos to Southern Baptists for recognizing the tensions in this discussion and attempting to forge a path ahead together amid disagreements.

    • Roger Olson

      But you didn’t respond to my example of “what if” an Arminian said he believes in God’s election of people to salvation and does not believe in free will. Would you permit that without calling it disingenuous? That was a major point of my post. Please respond.

      • Micah

        I think the question is framed poorly. Of course it is disingenuous for an Arminian to declare that he does not believe in free will. But if he signed a statement that reflected biblical statements/language, I would not see the need for clarification or greater precision in that case (per Tom Ascol’s comment).

        But it should not be startling to hear that Arminians believe in election, since the concept is clear biblically, and there is precedent historically. To your point, however, I believe you’d want to qualify what you mean by “God’s election of people to salvation.” 🙂 Nevertheless, in a consensus document, unity is the key with the understanding that theological differences exist and are permitted to be expressed with precision elsewhere.

        • Roger Olson

          I disagree; the point of such a document (IMHO) is also to communicate what both sides believe in common and (IMHO) the statement that both believe God loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved is misleading. I would say that without immediate clarification and qualification that is not what Calvinists believe. And, when I have told students over the years that is what Calvinists say they believe the almost uniform reaction has been laughter. But I’ll put you to the test here sometime. I’ll wait a while and post a message here saying that, as an Arminian, I believe God elects some people to salvation and that I do not believe in free will. Let’s see what the reaction is–especially from Calvinists.

          • Micah

            I’m sorry, maybe I’m misunderstanding you. But it seems qualitatively different for you to say “I don’t believe in free will” (because you do, although not a biblical teaching clearly understood without explanation, description, etc) and for Calvinists to say they believe “God loves everyone and desires all to be saved” (which they do on the basis of clear biblical texts). Am I missing something?

          • Roger Olson

            Um, excuse me. Quote the whole thing. I said I can say that I don’t believe in free will to choose to be saved or not. And you don’t address the problem I am point out with the Calvinist claim that they believe God is love.

          • Micah

            Dr. Olsen, I’m not sure what kind of Calvinists you are in dialogue with, but without exception every Calvinist I know believes that God is love and that God is loving toward all. There’s no way to progress if you continue to misrepresent Calvinists and refuse to hear what they actually believe. And to conclude, I still think this post is disingenuous because of the straw man you’ve constructed around what you ‘think’ Calvinists believe and the standard to which you think they ought to be held in speaking with clear biblical terms/phrases.

          • Roger Olson

            What kind of Calvinists I’m in dialogue with? Really? You have to wonder? Obviously you don’t read me very much or know much about me. And I didn’t say Calvinists don’t believe God is love. I said the “love” they mean is totally contrary to every other love we know including the love of Jesus. When they (consistent Calvinists) say they believe God “loves everyone,” in light of what else they believe, I have no idea what the word “love” means.

          • Micah

            Sigh. I find it difficult to believe that you’d want to be judged according to the same standard for your views on the will of man, election, etc. You know as well as anyone (if you’re worth your salt as a theologian), that the “love” of God in Scripture is multifaceted, ala D.A. Carson’s “Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.” Seems we’re at an impasse here. 🙂 Grateful to be able to discuss. Thanks for the chance to engage. Blessings, doc.

          • StriderMTB

            Micah may I suggest the reason you are struggling to deal with the pivotal point Dr. Olson has honed in on, is because no where in Scripture do we find any sense of God’s “multifaceted love” couched in terms of damning people unconditionally to an eternal agony. The onus is you to explain how any such sovereign decision could meet the most MINIMUM degree of love.

  • JohnE_o

    Oy! So many people – all so sure they know what God thinks! They all schmooze with Him, maybe…

    I kid, I kid – but to claim they know so well the opinions of The Almighty – that’s some chutzpah there, if you ask me.

    • Roger Olson

      I’m afraid I don’t even know how to respond to this because it’s unclear. Do you think no human being has any knowledge of God’s opinions (assuming God has “opinions” which is questionable)? Or….?

      • JohnE_o

        Yes, exactly this. The idea that humans – even humans with advanced degrees in theology – are so certain that they know the specific details of How Things Work that they can state with any confidence that God does this or that seems simply ludicrous to me.

        Now, my own opinion is that Calvinism is a particularly reprehensible example of this as it seems to require what seems to me to be a monstrous God who would create souls that He predestined for eternal torture – simply because those who hold that belief have certain finitely understood ideas about statements recorded in Scripture and apply the finite tools of logical argument to that finite understanding. It looks like – to me – that they have created a box for God that defines how He ‘must’ relate to His Creation.

        My own hope, which I recognize might very well be unfounded, is that a God that created all humans in His image, – would at the very least – desire that all men and women might eventually return to Him as sons and daughters. I like to think that this is clearly illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

        But, again, I don’t know that any of that is true either. It seems to me that all of this is vain speculation and that the only thing I am able to say with any certainty is that I very much hope that God will have mercy on me, a sinner.


        I realize that all of the above is a response to much bigger questions than the one you posed, so to address the point of your post, I would say that the statement:

        “God desires to save everyone”

        is utterly incompatible with the claim that

        “The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.” (Westminster Confession of Faith)

        and so that it would disingenuous for a Calvinist to affirm both statements.

        As always, I could be wrong.

  • Dean

    I wish more folks would ask Calvinists that question, does God love everyone? For anyone who caught the movie Hellbound, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor were asked this exact question point blank and both of them had to explain it the way Dr. Olson mentioned above, which is “yes, but not in the same way…” What I would be curious to know is whether your average Reformed Christian sitting in the pews would answer similarly? Something tells me most of them would not, in other words, I think most of them would agree with the statement that God loves everyone and desires that all be saved. I wonder if points like these were hammered home to the YRR more often whether it would have an impact in stopping Calvinism’s growing popularity? Most people are not going to be able to hold together the inherent logical contradictions necessary to worship the Calvinist God, in my opinion.

  • Tom Ascol

    Dr. Olson,

    Thank you for your thoughtful interaction with the statement from the SBC Advisory Committee on Calvinism. You are correct that many of the assertions in that statement could stand to be elaborated and qualified to promote greater precision. I assure you that I, and I feel certain that others, argued for such elaborations at many points (the reason I must limit my certainty to a feeling is because the manner in which the document was edited in its final stages did not allow for each committee member to be aware of the nature and source of every suggestion).

    What we were repeatedly asked to keep in mind is that this is a consensus document, not a confession of faith. As such we were given the opportunity to produce and affirm a document that no one of us would have produced on our own. The process of engaging in theological dialogue over vitally important issues with those from such varied points along the Calvinism/Arminianism divide was both challenging and incredibly profitable.

    I cannot agree with your charge that the Calvinists on the committee are “disingenuous” for signing the statement. I know those men well enough to know that no one of them is afraid of standing alone or suffering personal loss for the sake of his convictions. Your suggestion that they have sacrificed integrity for expediency is regrettable and demonstrates a failure to grasp how the committee viewed its work.

    For anyone to suggest that the consensus statement should limit any Southern Baptist from contending for his or her distinctive convictions also betrays a misreading–or perhaps only a partial reading–of it. For example, consider this paragraph from the statement:

    “We affirm the responsibility and privilege of every Southern Baptist to advocate his or her doctrinal convictions. We affirm that theology should be honored and privileged in our conversations and cooperation. We also affirm that theological and doctrinal debate can be a sign of great health within a denomination that is devoted to truth and is characterized by trust.”

    If you weighed the point of this paragraph sufficiently I don’t think that you would have raised the following question in your post: “Does the statement mean, for example, that the Founders Ministries, a Southern Baptist group committed to promoting Calvinism among Southern Baptists, is going to stop promoting Calvinism as part of ‘historic Southern Baptist principles’ that all Southern Baptists should return to?”

    While the statement is certainly no panacea for all that ails us as Southern Baptists, it can be, I hope, a stepping stone toward future efforts to honor our Lord in the way that we maintain our gospel unity in the midst of genuine doctrinal diversity.

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful interaction. I have fond memories of speaking to your class at Truett back in 2000. You were a gracious host and have maintained my respect since.

    With every blessing,


    • Roger Olson

      Tom, Thank you for responding. But could you help me and my readers by responding more directly to my question. Does the statement mean that the Founders Ministries will not attempt to turn the SBC toward Calvinism in any other way than persuasion (i.e., not by attempting to get seminaries or churches or other groups within the SBC to hire only Calvinists)? And what about my question about an Arminian saying in such a statement that he believes God elects people to salvation and denies free will–without qualification? Wouldn’t you consider that disingenuous?

      • Tom Ascol

        Roger, Founders Ministries has never attempted to convince anyone of our views in any way other than persuasion (we are convinced Baptists, after all!). Your question suggests that you think this is not the case. If you know of an example where something other than persuasion has been used, please let me know about it. From day one–literally–we have insisted that Founders is not a political movement or entity. Everything we have done has been public and open to evaluation and critique.

        If an Arminian put the affirmation you cite in a confession of faith, then I would call him disingenuous. If he signed a consensus document with that statement in it, then I would do my best to give him the benefit of the doubt and recognize that he probably would (and should) say much more than that, if given the opportunity.

        Again, my theological views have been consistently, publicly and rather specifically affirmed for decades. No one should think that I or any other signer of the Calvinism Committee’s statement only affirm what that document asserts. It is not intended to be a confession of faith.

        • Roger Olson


          Again, thanks for entering into this discussion. I don’t see the distinction you do–between a “consensus statement” and a confessional statement. Both should be entirely forthcoming about what is meant–with an eye toward readers’ possible misunderstandings. I think many people who read the statement will assume, from the portion I am challenging, that the Calvinist signers believe what they believe–that God really does love everyone in the ordinary language meaning of “love” and really does desire everyone to be saved in the ordinary language meaning of “desires.” That is, I fear that many non-Calvinists in the pews and pulpits will read that and assume that the difference between Calvinism and non-Calvinism is not really so great after all. Furthermore, without intending to give any offense, I have to say that I do not believe that consistent Calvinists believe God loves everyone or desires everyone to be saved. I don’t know how any consistent Calvinist can say those things with utter and total honesty. I’m not saying they are lying; I’m saying they have deluded themselves about the matter. Just as they think I have deluded myself (if I’m not actually lying) when I say that I believe in election and do not believe in free will. As for the Founders Ministries: No, I do not have any reason to believe it (you) have used anything other than persuasion. Except that you told me a Baptist cannot join your church (even with a letter of transfer of membership from another Baptist church) unless he or she agrees with the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. You told me that when you spoke to my class in 2000. Frankly, I was shocked by that. Perhaps you meant they can’t be elders or deacons or officers of the church. So that raised a question in my mind. I wondered if you would attempt to impose the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith on a minority in the SBC if you could. That is, if you knew you had the votes at an SBC annual convention to make the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (or just the Calvinist phrases in it) official and binding for all SBC churches (like the 2000 BF&M), would you want to do that? I’m not implying that you would. I honestly don’t know. But I would wonder why you would make it binding on your church if you wouldn’t on the convention as a whole.

          • Tom Ascol

            Roger, I suppose we will simply go on disagreeing in our approach to this issue, particularly over the distinction between a consensus statement and a confession of faith.

            Regarding your complaint about my affirmation of God’s love in the “ordinary sense.” You seem to suggest that love is a simple, monolithic concept. Yet, I daresay your own love is not so. No doubt you love all of the brothers and sisters in your church and you love your colleagues and you love the neighbors on your street. But do you love any or all of these in the same way that you love your wife? If not, should I call you disingenuous for claiming to love them when if fact you do not love them in the “ordinary sense” of marital love?

            We no doubt disagree on the nature of God’s will and I would guess that we both have sufficiently engaged that debate so as not to be in danger of gaining any new insight were it to be rehearsed it here. I will simply leave it with the statement that the death of Jesus is the prism through which I try to understand and speak about the divine will.

            If I told you that no one could join the church I serve unless he or she agrees with the Second London Confession of Faith then I misspoke and stated something that we have never practiced and that several of our members would be surprised to hear attributed to me. Our officers do have to be in substantial agreement with that confession. I have no doubt that I would have claimed that a letter of recommendation from another church is, in and of itself, insufficient for us to receive a member. The elders examine all candidates for membership and only after doing so do we make recommendations to the congregation.

            Thank you for making this statement:

            “As for the Founders Ministries: No, I do not have any reason to believe it (you) have used anything other than persuasion.”

            That allays my previous concerns that arose from your earlier question: “Does the [consensus] statement mean that the Founders Ministries will not attempt to turn the SBC toward Calvinism in any other way than persuasion (i.e., not by attempting to get seminaries or churches or other groups within the SBC to hire only Calvinists)?” Since you have no reason to believe that we have used anything other than persuasion in the past I trust that you will harbor no fears that we will change our approach in the future.

            I find speculating in your hypothetical scenario to be a waste of time with no good purpose. I could just as easily concoct a scenario for the rise of Arminianism and ask you similar questions. To what end? As I have stated on many occasions, one does not have to engage in extensive research to discover what I believe the Bible teaches. I hold my convictions dearly but am willing to be convinced from God’s Word to see things differently than I do. Further, I do not demand that anyone agree with me in every point of doctrine before I extend the hand of fellowship or the arm of cooperation, provided that we agree on gospel essentials and share a common goal.

            Thanks for letting participate in this comment thread. This will be my last post. May the Lord encourage and strengthen you in every good work.

          • Roger Olson

            Thank you, Tom, for participating here. I’ll restrict myself to responding to your question about my understanding of the word “love.” Yes, of course, there are degrees and kinds of love in human experience and language, but I cannot think of any that is compatible with predestining people to eternal torment and withholding from them the irresistible means of escape from it while extending those means unconditionally to others.

          • Nathan Beverly

            Thank you, Dr. Olson, for honing back in on the issue of the meaning of “love”.This is the heart of the matter. God certainly has degrees of love, for He is a relational Being just like He created us to be. However, the Bible allows for no “lower” degree of love that seems to be its actual opposite.

          • StriderMTB

            Amen! Any “love” that would desire the most severe form of eternal agony on the one loved…is no love at all! It continually shocks me to see the absurd examples Calvinists will pull from (i.e. You love your wife more, right?) to substantiate a morally bankrupt theology that makes an arbitrary divine hatred a synonym for love.

    • Roger Olson

      One other comment in response to yours, Tom. I was careful (in my post) not to accuse anyone of being intentionally disingenuous. That would be to claim to know people’s intentions. I don’t. But some statements in the statement strike me as disingenuous regardless of the writers’ or signers’ intentions. That is, they seem to me to convey a wrong impression, a misleading one. By no means did I intend to impugn anyone’s integrity! I think people can be and often are disingenuous unintentionally–by being less than fully forthcoming in their expressions of their opinions. It’s not a matter of character; it’s a matter of having blinders on, of being blinded by their own belief system and passion for it to the fact that their communication may not be wholly revealing. It’s the duty of those who think they see this to point it out to them so that they can correct the problem that they do not see themselves.

  • Van

    “My concern here is whether it is ever right for a Calvinist to say that without immediately explaining what is meant—namely that God actually does not love everyone in any ordinary meaning of the word “love” and does not actually desire to save everyone in any ordinary meaning of “desire.”
    Agreed! However, I contend that according to their own doctrine of eternal conscious torture (hell), the Armenians also have a problem with the words “love” and “desire” as it relates to how many souls God ultimately intends to save. By my “ordinary meaning” of God’s love and his desire that “everyone” be saved, there is no reason to imagine that God’s desire (Gk: “will”) will not be fulfilled or that in the end, LOVE WINS!

    • Roger Olson

      Did you read Rob Bell’s Love Wins or C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce? Their point is that love never coerces anyone into a relationship.

      • Van

        “Did you read Rob Bell’s Love Wins or C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce? Their point is that love never coerces anyone into a relationship.”

        I have read Bell and Lewis. I concur that “love will never coerce anyone into a relationship.” But, of course, that does not preclude God’s ability to woo, convince and ultimately win the love and submission of even his most virulent enemies, e.g., Saul/Paul. The estimated 96 billion souls who have lived and died since Adam who never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ (including all his enemies) will fold up like Saul/Paul did when they see, hear and experience the Savior of ALL humanity in the world to come.
        The Apostle Paul claimed to have been sanctified (set apart) and called by grace “even from my mother’s womb.” He further said, “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son IN ME…” (see Gal 1:15-16 NAS). What? The Son was IN Saul, aka Paul, from his mother’s womb and he didn’t know it? Is this the same person who at maturity persecuted Christ and his followers? Oh, yes! Christ can be in ALL (even in his enemies) and still go undetected until such time as he chooses to reveal himself. Christ will not force anyone to love him, but lovingly and patiently (whether in this life or the next) he will win the love of everyone.

        • Roger Olson

          A lovely and optimistic hope without guarantee.

    • littlehead

      I think the use of the word “LOVE” in all of this is frankly inappropriate and a misconstruing. We don’t all think it means the same thing, as its applied to Christian doctrine.
      I personally believe Jesus meant it in the conventional dictionary sense. I believe He meant a spirit of affection and attachment; to be invested in others in a kind, courteous way.

      Love doesn’t mean “desire”, in the dictionary. Desire is passion, generally of a sexual connotation. Or to want. That’s not “love.” Love is affection and care.

  • Fred Karlson

    I can hear my favorite Calvinist teacher explaining how the Reformed believe that God loves everyone, i.e. all classes of people. How else can you explain a determinist God not saving everyone? The trick is crossing the bridge from all classes of people to loving the world in John 3:16.

    • Roger Olson

      And how many people untutored in Calvinist thought would ever guess that “all people” means “all kinds of people” or that “loves” means “gives them temporal blessings on their way to their predetermined destiny in hell?”

  • gingoro

    Thanks for this post Roger. Even as a moderate Calvinist I do not find the all kinds/all sorts interpretation satisfying but one would expect that Arminians have some loose ends also.

    • Roger Olson

      Of course. But there’s a difference between “loose ends” and making statements that are completely misleading.

      • gingoro

        Well… as I understand the Arminian position (mostly from reading your blog and books plus I grew up in an environment that was maybe even semi-Pelagian at times):

        1: Prevenient grace is given to those who hear the gospel in some meaningful sense ie not those who know something about the gospel just from growing up in western culture.

        2. Without prevenient grace no one is able to make a positive decision to accept Christ due to man kinds sinfulness which has infected all parts of our being.

        3. Inclusivism is an optional doctrine held by some Arminians and not by others.

        Those Arminians who do not accept inclusivism seem to me to have a similar problem that Calvinists have with applying the love of God to all mankind. Maybe their problem is not as great as for Calvinists but to my mind at least they could be also seen as somewhat disingenuous. I understand that you accept inclusivism so no you would not fall into this class.


        • Roger Olson

          You are correct about me. As for other Arminians: I agree that those who absolutely restrict salvation to those who hear the gospel explicitly communicated with the name “Jesus Christ” as part of it have a problem with the love of God. Why would God do that? As you probably know, my own approach is somewhere between restrictivist Arminianism and Wesley’s view that prevenient grace is universal. I am agnostic about means of prevenient grace other than the gospel preached, but I believe God has other means he has simply not chosen to reveal to us.