Article about Me at Baptist Press Global (December 13, 2014)

Article about Me at Baptist Press Global (December 13, 2014) December 16, 2014

The article is entitled “For Baptists, a lone Arminian voice crying in a Calvinist wilderness.” You can find the article simply by Googleing the title. Or you can go to the Baptist Global Press web site and find it. (Baptist Global Press is the new name of the Associated Baptist Press.)

I’m not really happy with the title, but publishers like eye-catching titles that draw readers in. (My similar article published in Christianity Today years ago was entitled “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m an Arminian”–a title I didn’t choose and had no knowledge of until I saw the page proofs of the article when it was too late to change it.)

First, I wouldn’t exactly refer to any “Calvinist wilderness.” Today’s Young, Restless, Reformed Movement (YRRM) is less like a wilderness than a jungle. (I think of a “wilderness” as barren landscape with no life; a “jungle” teems with life.)

Second, I don’t consider myself a “lone Arminian voice” although I admit that I wonder why more non-Calvinists don’t step up with me and become vocal advocates for classical Arminian theology. Too many Arminians won’t even identify as Arminian. There are many good, vocal, evangelical Arminians “out there”–even among Baptists. But most of them don’t call themselves that. That is a bit frustrating to me. Even some Wesleyans won’t call themselves Arminians!

Third, during our almost one hour conversation I wrapped many of my comments (that were published) in nuances and subtleties–attempting to make clear that by “Calvinism,” when I oppose it, I mean a certain flavor or brand of Calvinism–not every “Calvinism.” And I made clear to him that I began this journey because of common Calvinist misrepresentations (not just misunderstandings) of Arminianism. But that led many to ask my why I’m not a Calvinist–as if being Calvinist is somehow normative for evangelicals or Baptists. That led me to explain why I’m not a Calvinist which often comes across (of course) as being against Calvinists themselves (which I’m not unless they misrepresent Arminianism or claim Calvinism is the only authentically evangelical Christian theology–both of which many do!).

Throughout most of my adult life among evangelicals I have found that Calvinism, in some form, is considered normative for non-Wesleyan evangelicals. And evangelical Calvinists tend to look askance at even Wesleyan Arminians–as somehow more man-centered than God-centered. One evangelical theologian asked me (just about the time I began this journey of defending Arminianism) whether I had ever considered that my Arminianism might be evidence of humanism in my thinking. I told him bluntly that it is not evidence of that, but his question is a very common Calvinist one to (or about) even fellow evangelical Arminians. I still hear it all the time.

I read a lot of Calvinist literature and much of it was written and published in the late 19th century and early to mid 20th centuries (e.g., B. B. Warfield, Lorraine Boettner, et al.) Many of them decry the unpopularity of Calvinism and what they saw as its misrepresentations and misunderstandings. (Unfortunately they almost always misrepresented Arminianism in attempting to clear up misrepresentations of Calvinism!) I see myself as doing no different than they–but in a context where Calvinism (of some flavor) is considered normative among conservative evangelicals and increasingly among Baptists.

I have never asked a Calvinist “Have you ever considered that your Calvinism may be evidence of misanthropy in your thinking?” And yet claiming that fellow evangelicals’ Arminianism, classical Arminianism!, is evidence of humanist thinking is common among Calvinists.

I admit that, to a certain extent, I have raised my normal level of rhetoric to hold up a mirror to anti-Arminian Calvinists to let them know what it feels like to have their theology challenged in a very vocal and even sometimes harsh manner. However, I go out of my way not to misrepresent what Calvinism actually is (even though I recognize some Calvinists will always think I do that just because I oppose Calvinism) or suggest that Calvinists are sub-Christians or sub-evangelicals.

Right now (and for the past thirty-to-forty years) Calvinism is widely considered normative in evangelical circles–especially among the more theologically-minded evangelicals and among evangelical spokesmen. I know many Arminians who call themselves “moderately Reformed” because they know to say they are “Arminian” is the kiss of death for their careers or standing in the evangelical academy. I think that situation is beginning to turn around, but very slowly. I invite other out-of-the-closet Arminians to join me in protesting the hegemony of Calvinism (or just non-Arminian Reformed theology) in trans-denominational evangelicalism and among Baptists whose confessional standards are not explicitly Calvinist.

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