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Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 4

In Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology, chp. 3, a 3d Myth is addressed: that Arminianism is neither orthodox nor evangelical. I cannot say that I have ever heard anyone say Arminians are not orthodox, but I have heard more than I care to admit say Arminians are not genuinely Protestant. Olson responds:
Do you hear Arminians accused of being unorthodox? non-Protestant? Or that they are “just barely Christians”?
First, he shows that Arminians are not Pelagian (who affirmed that humans had the natural and moral capacity to do God’s will apart from grace) and are not semi-Pelagian (which believes humans can exercise good will toward God apart from God’s special gracious assistance). Arminius repudiated Pelagius and semi-Pelagianism by affirming uniformly the absolute necessity of grace. The charge against Arminians — that they are not Protestants — stems from their rejection of absolute monergism.
Second, Olson proves through clear citations that Arminians have an orthodox (high) view of Scripture — sola scriptura. (He illustrates from Arminius, Simon Episcopius, Wesley and others.) They also have an orthodox view of God and Christ — affirming that God’s essence and existence are one and the same, and Arminius affirms the monarchy of the Father (with Athanasius, Easterns, and Westerns), a view presently up for debate as a result of the Grudem and Giles debate.
Third, Olson — and he will defend this throughout the rest of the book — argues that Arminians are Protestant. However, some want to narrow “Protestant” to monergism and contend that justification by faith can’t be held consistently without affirming monergism. Such would exclude Melanchthon, Richard Hooker, and all the Anabaptists. True, monergism is found in Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Bucer, Cranmer and Knox — but not all Protestants held to monergism.
Arminians clearly believe in “by grace alone and by faith alone.”

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James Petticrew

posted October 2, 2006 at 4:58 am

Oh that this books could be distributed to those in the Reformed camp. Who refuse to believe you can be evangelical and not share their theology. I was so disappointed to read an article by James Packer, about how to ‘remedy’ the ‘disease’ of Arminianism. The problem is that those of the 5 point, point of view, will simply refuse to accept the evidence however Olson marshals it, they believe they have the right to define for Arminians what Arminians really believe. I have found that debate with Calvinists is pointless because of this, they simply tell you what you believe and refute it whatever you say.
Maybe they are predestined to these attitudes? Maybe a limited atonement gives you limited perspective? Maybe they believe that their arguments are irresistible? Whatever the cause, they certainly persevere in their beliefs and this stubborn refusal to see the other point of view is certainly an example of human depravity. (sorry couldn’t resist, oops maybe they are right after all!)

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posted October 2, 2006 at 5:32 am

In Bloesch’s book, “Essentials of Evangelical Theology” v1 he points out the Evangelical theology is eithor-or (e.g. sola scriptura), in contrast to Catholicism which is both-and (e.g. faith and works)pg 10. Perhaps the problem with those “Who refuse to believe you can be evangelical and not share their theology” (James #1) is the fact that this has been the perpective historically. I mean look at the many different Baptist denominations… Not that I am criticising this view. I just think it is only fair to those in the Reformed camp to realize that traditionally such differences in Evangelical circles has led to splits, and the different groups basically saying if you don’t agree with our theology then you are out.

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Keith Schooley

posted October 2, 2006 at 7:21 am

The “not genuinely Protestant” view puts me in mind of Erasmus, who, when asked to refute Protestantism, wrote “The Freedom of the Will” in opposition not to sola scriptura or sola fide, but to monergism. Maybe that’s why my Reformed brothers tend to see us Arminians as crypto-Catholics. We tend to get stuck in the theological controversies that defined us in the beginning.
Arminians clearly believe in “by grace alone and by faith alone.”
Yes. And from our point of view, Calvinists believe in “by grace alone” period. Faith is just a byproduct of having been given irresistable grace.

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Dr Mike

posted October 2, 2006 at 7:58 am

I fear you are preaching to the choir. Those of us who call ourselves Arminian or “modified Calvinists” (which = Arminianist to the Reformed) will read and rejoice, while the Reformed will read and reject. Calling anyone who disagrees with them an “Arminian” is a favorite aspersion of the Reformed camp: do you really think they will drop this whip and listen to reason and sound exegesis?
FWIW, I think Olson’s distinction between being a protestant or a monergist is excellent. And I agree with Keith’s assessment of many Reformed believers who diminish faith by relegating it to a mere by-product of grace. Wasn’t Abraham declared righteous based on his faith in the promise of God? Why did neither Moses nor Paul mention grace in this regard if grace is truly the operator in this declaration?
Personally, I’m neither a five-point Calvinist nor an Arminian – and I consider many from both camps to be brothers in Christ.
Thank you for pointing us to Olson’s book.

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Craig Moore

posted October 2, 2006 at 10:08 am

Scott..I think what many Calvinists reject is the “revivalism” of some Evangelicals who think that saving faith can be turned on or turned off at will. To many “decisions” for Christ that turn out to be knee jerk reactions to cleaver evangelists and easy believism is what alot of Calvinists view as Arminian.

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posted October 2, 2006 at 12:47 pm

This post and comments put me in mind of a long-ago discussion in Sys. Theo. I, in which our professor attempted to convey the position of the Assemblies of God. After much discussion, we decided that we were (as Dr. Mike describes himself) neither but were in the middle somewhere. Not a comfortable place to be (and I lean to the Arminean side), but there nonetheless.
Grace through faith. Isn’t that enough to say?
It appears not.

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posted October 2, 2006 at 1:29 pm

What I don’t understand is what Olson and others really mean by humans doing good “by God’s grace”? Is this “grace” meticulous assistance, or inherent human abilities bestowed by God upon our creation. So does this dependence on grace mean that God must actively assist us in every instance of doing good, such as every time we smile at someone?? Or rather, is the grace simply the creation of the person as a free agent with God’s imprint? Or is it both? If God has to extend “grace” to us for every good thing we do, then are we really self-determining free creatures. It seems that if we are truly free to do good, it must generally be without God’s specific offering of help. otherwise it wasn’t our doing, but more God’s. we are dependent of God for “active, space-time” help to do good at certain challenging times, but isn’t it true that we can do good at times based on how we were designed, without God’s active, meticulous participation (influence). Either way, it is God’s grace, but this may mean different things at different times to different people (active vs. built-in grace)

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posted October 2, 2006 at 1:45 pm

if you think of God as a wise and loving Parent and Teacher, then it is intuitive to understand his “grace”, or assistance not as constant and meticulous for doing good in every situation, but rather you cannot do good based on what you have learned thus far from your Father and Teacher. If a parent was always showing their child how to do good, without allowing their child to do it on their own then there would never be growth, only an unhealthy dependence. so when i think of dependence on God’s grace, i think generally and in new challenges of life i face. God lives in us by the Holy Spirit and will always provide grace when we need it, but He also wants us to learn our lessons and show this by doing good on our own, by our self-determining free-will (which God graciously made us with).

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Dr Mike

posted October 2, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Singing Owl:
Great name, BTW.
“In the middle” is not really a bad place to be. It is not the same as being in limbo or having no position; it means that there are other options. One of the options, which I find conducive to my own sense of integrity, is to admit that at times I just don’t have the answers. This may be anathema in some circles, but living with the questions – which admittedly requires a bit of faith at times – is for me the only honest thing I can do.
Personally, I’ve yet to find any theology – including my own – that can do justice to all of Scripture without eisogeting here or performing hermeneutical gymnastics there. So I know what I believe and why, but it doesn’t fit in either of the two evangelical camps discussed here.
And, yes, by grace through faith ought to be enough – as long as we don’t emphasize one at the expense of the other.

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posted October 2, 2006 at 3:18 pm

In some ways I agree with James that at times dialog with Calvinists can be frustrating. Yet, I remain more optimistic than the conversation being “pointless”. And I feel that’s where Olson’s book has given a service to all evangelicals.
Has anyone noticed how Olson conceded much of Calvinist critique of modern day “arminianism” by agreeing with them that today’s pulpit is in deep trouble? Yet, it really isn’t Classic Arminianism that’s preached but pure, undefiled semi-pelagianism, a deviant of Arminianism, much like Calvinists like to suggest is such when it comes to HyperCalvinism as a illegitimate spawn of theirs.
Moreover, he breaks the favorite Calvinist pony by further agreeing with them about the unorthodox, semi-pelagian Finney–even so much as calling Finney a “heretic of the heart.”
With that, I am…

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posted October 2, 2006 at 4:37 pm

Scot, I’m really thankful that you’re continuing to work through these myths. The discussion has been enlightening and encouraging–especially today, as these issues have been discussed with a spirit of humility you don’t rarely find. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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posted October 2, 2006 at 8:41 pm

I think you may have already said something about this in a previous post, but I really appreciate that Olson draws out the significance of the monergism/synergism aspect of this whole matter. He talked about that a lot in his Story of Christian Theology as well – I think that helps in understanding this whole conversation much better. Anyways, thanks for going through this book – I am much intrigued.

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Jake Hermanzoon

posted October 3, 2006 at 3:17 am

I hadn’t realized this book was released until my pre-ordered copy arrived today. In fact, I posted on another thread when my wife told me it was already here. I’m odering more for my friends at TEDS and Marquette.
If you like this book, you’ll probably like Robert E. Picirilli’s book on the same topic. I have a problem with a few of Picirilli’s arguments, but overall it’s very good.

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posted October 3, 2006 at 4:41 pm

The Lutheran view is closer to the Reformed on monogerism but Lutherans believe in Single predestination and not double. God is not responsible for one’s unbelief but God is responsible for one’s salvation. To speculate why some believe and others do not believe is a theology of glory. The theology of Cross is centered on the gospel(Christ’s life, death and suffering and resurrection for us) not whether one is elect and the other is not. Election is in Christ and through the Word and Spirit. God does not exclude people from the kingdom but people resist and reject God.

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