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.Â Who does?Â 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.