Arminianism FAQ 4 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…)

Arminianism FAQ 4 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…) July 11, 2014

FAQ: How does Arminianism explain Romans 9? A: This is without doubt one of the most asked questions by hard core Calvinists, but even many Arminians want to know as they have always only heard the Calvinist interpretation of Roman 9. First, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that Romans 9 was never interpreted as teaching unconditional double predestination to salvation and damnation before Augustine in the early fifth century. For four centuries Christians read the New Testament including Romans 9 and never came up with that interpretation. Second, it’s important to read Romans 9 in context–Romans 9 through 11 is a “thought chunk.” The chapter divisions were not in the original autographs. Nobody would have read Romans 9 and stopped there. Romans 10 and 11 complete the argument and show that Paul was not talking about individuals and their salvation (or not) but about groups and service in his plan. Arminian interpretations of Romans 9-11 are not hard to find. Look into that section of the Society of Evangelical Arminians’ web site ( There you will find essays and lists of commentaries. But, for me, what is more important is what Wesley said about the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9: “Whatever it means it can’t mean that!” He was not merely brushing it aside. He meant (and I agree) that IF the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is true, then God is a moral monster, an arbitrary damner, not in any way like Jesus Christ who wept over Jerusalem and said “I would…but you would not.”

FAQ: Why are there no Arminian spokespersons, great preachers, leaders, like John Piper, John McArthur, R. C. Sproul, Matt Chandler, et al.? A: This isn’t really a question about Arminianism as a belief system; it is a question about a passing cultural fad. About thirty years ago this question would have been asked about Bill Gothard and non-Garthardites. “Why do the non-Gothardites” not have any influential spokesmen like Gothard? Gothard ad his Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar movement erupted among evangelicals like a Mount St. Helen’s and then all but died away. Whenever an unusual, strange (even if very old) message is proclaimed loudly and often by one or two or three extremely persuasive proclaimers, it gains a following. That doesn’t say anything about the alternatives–that they do not rise to meet the new messsage/movement with equal fervor and passion. Usually, the new message/movement is extreme and proclaimed by extremists. They gain a following–mostly composed of people attracted to extremes. After a while the extremism dies down and the movement matures and the rough edges and corners are shaved off. All the time the majority around the “new message/movement” are going on with ministry avoiding the extreme. But the media loves extremes, so the extremists get all the attention–by being extreme! I consider it a good thing that few Arminians have become loud absolutists to match the leaders of the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement most of whom are (in my opinion) fundamentalists.

FAQ: What makes a person an Arminian? The label is so little used–outside Wesleyan circles. A: This is true; many theologians (and others) who I believe are Arminian in that their soteriology fits the profile of classical Arminianism shy away from the label or deny it altogether. I suspect that is because of the ways it has been misrepresented by its (mostly) Calvinist critics. A few years ago I met Thomas Oden and we talked. He rejected the label “Arminian” even though he is Methodist and his book The Transforming Power of Grace presents one of the best expositions of Arminian theology I’ve ever read. My late friend Stan Grenz admitted to me that he was Arminian but asked me not to tell anyone. (At the time he was a colleague of J. I. Packer who strongly opposes Arminianism.) Over the years I have had Free Methodists, Pentecostals and others tell me they are not Arminian but turn right around and affirm all the historical elements of classical Arminianism. To me this is like a Presbyterian who affirms the Westminster Confession of Faith saying he’s not a Calvinist. (I actually heard that recently.) So, IN MY MIND any person is an Arminian who: 1) Is classically Protestant, 2) affirms total depravity (in the sense of helplessness to save himself or contribute meritoriously to his salvation such that a sinner is totally dependent on prevenient grace for even the first movement of the will toward God), 3) affirms conditional election and predestination based on foreknowledge, 4) affirms universal atonement, 5) affirms that grace is always resistible, and 6) affirms that God is in no way and by no means the author of sin and evil but affirms that these are only permitted by God’s consequent will.

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