Contend Earnestly: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book. I actually tried to stay away from reading any reviews beforehand so that I could give it a good, honest, unbiased opinion as I read through it. I will tell you this, I think Roger Olson is very fair and very honest about the Arminian theological system. I was expecting to get attacked as a Calvinist, but I truly found just the opposite. I have seen reviews since I started the book that call out Dr. Olson as being angry and hateful, but I found just the opposite. I expected to be "railed against" but really just found an honest dissertation of some of the myths of the Arminian theology.

What I did find was that the crux of the difference between the two theologies really lies in the manner in which God chooses men to be saved. The Calvinist states that we as dirty, sinful, godless humans should be grateful to see that God is gracious to choose any to go to heaven, instead of allowing us all to go to hell. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that God is so loving that He would choose everyone to heaven if He could, but He leaves the choice in salvation to the libertarian free will of man through prevenient grace.
The Calvinist cannot see God ever giving up any of His sovereignty, even in the choice of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. The Arminian cannot see God, being loving, to ever control humans in their choices, or this results in God being the author and creator of sin and the human not having true love for the Creator. This chasm, as Dr. Olson plainly states, will never be brought together between the two sides. Which I completely agree.

The one place that I saw Dr. Olson arguing for over and over in the book is that Arminianism is not Semi-Pelagian because it is not that good was left in man after the fall, but that God, in His grace gave all men prevenient grace. Here is my issue with this argument. Did not God allow the good to be humans before the fall? So, whether you believe that a little good was left over (Semi-Pelagian) or that God, after the fall, gave all men prevenient grace (Arminianism), which is also good, how is this different? It's just a matter of timing, in my opinion. Dr. Olson also goes into a little dissertation on Open Theism where he does not really try and disprove, but says simply that some Arminians are going "that way" and some are undecided. This is where Arminianism gets real dangerous, in my opinion.

I did enjoy the book and Dr. Olson's thoroughness in it. Do not expect the book to be one that tries to "convince" you of the Arminian position, for this was not the intent (this is also the reason why there was very little biblical references). The intent was to clear up some misconceptions of Arminian theology. Which for me, it did the job that Dr. Olson was trying to do, but that does not mean that I agree with him. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for an honest assessment of Arminianism.
I also appreciate Dr. Olson's heart in wanting the two sides to be able to serve with one another and to proclaim the gospel together. I found this a place where a lot of my Calvinist friends could learn from. Link to Buy


Reforming Baptist said...

That's the book that Phil Johnson recommended at Shepherd's Conference. He then said to read three Calvinist books afterward to get the taste out of your mouth!!

Puritan Lad said...


Those who try to reconcile the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism do not really understand the nature of the debate. (Most of those who do so are Arminian).

The debate isn't just over salvation (as important as that is), nor is it a debate over 5-points. It is a debate over two entirely different worldviews concerning the natures of both God and man.

Keep up the good work.

Baptist Man said...

I do not agree with Calvinist theology regarding the doctrine of soteriology. However, I am VERY thankful for the spirit of this post. There is no reason for bitter arguing. I agree with the statement Dr. Olson made in that the two sides will probably never come to agreement. We can still serve God and preach the gospel as He commanded us to.

Seth McBee said...

Thanks for stopping by and I am glad that you could see my intent and spirit with this post as sometimes with written dialogue it can often come off brash or hateful, which was never my intent. Stop by anytime.

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