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Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 10

This is our last in the series on Roger Olson’s book, Arminian Theology. Myth #10 is that Arminians adhere to the “governmental theory of atonement.” Most may not know what this theory holds, and most may never have heard that Arminians believe this.
First, what does this theory hold? It is not easy to describe. It maintains that the death of Christ upheld public justice and moral government; it honors God by demonstrating God’s justice; and Christ’s death is a “substitution” for our penalty, but not an actual suffering of our punishment. (The view seeks to avoid limited and universal atonement.) So, the death of Christ exhibits how seriously God takes sin and shows that God wants his justice to be upheld. The death of Christ, in the governmental theory, was non-necessary.
Second, do Arminians believe this? Some do, but most don’t. Arminius doesn’t. Wesley doesn’t. Thomas Oden doesn’t. Who does? John Miley, H. Orton Wiley, Charles Finney, and the architect of the view, Hugo Grotius.
What we learn from this book is that we need to be careful what we call “Arminian.” I’m now ready for a book that summarizes the myths Arminians use against Calvinists. If someone writes such a book, I hope they are as careful and charitable as Roger Olson was.

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posted October 31, 2006 at 10:35 am

Thank you for this series. My view of Arminianism has been mostly from afar and in caricatures. This has been interesting and helpful reading. I know I will refer back to it in the future.
I would love to see the Calvinist counterpart as well.

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posted October 31, 2006 at 10:48 am

I think an important point here is to understand the, “some do, but most don’t” concept. Because on almost every contention listed in the series, there are some that do.
So the stereotypes, if you want to call them that, are true in part. But to ignorantly label all who may fall under the larger umbrella of Arminianism as holding to them would be wrong. The same applies for Calvinism; and I would hope that whether on either side, each would not be as equally ignorant to make broad, unwarranted accusations.

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Jon B

posted November 1, 2006 at 7:44 am

I’ve just finished the book too, and found that it deepened my understanding of both Arminianism and Calvanism. The way Olson tries to be irenic (biased, yes, but I think always fair) allows him to draw the parallels that show the strengths and weaknesses of each system well.

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