Myth #4: the heart of Arminianism is belief in free will. Nonsense, Olson argues in his must-read Arminian Theology. The heart of Arminian theology is the character of God, God’s goodness, and its system yearns to glorify God by exalting his goodness.
The fundamental tension here is that Arminians think Calvinists must make God the author of evil and sin — since God (whether supra- or infralapsarian) predestines humans to sin. Arminianism begins with God’s essential goodness and derives free will from that; it does not begin with the necessity of free will.
Arminius responded to William Perkins with this:
1. But you [Perkins] say that ‘the will of man intervened in this desertion [from God].’ [This point is about Calvinists saying God simply deserted Adam and Eve so they could sin.]
2. Because ‘man was not deserted, unless willing to be deserted.’
3. I [Arminius to Perkins] reply, If it is so, then truly man deserved to be forsaken.
4. But I ask whether man could have willed not to be forsaken.
5. But if you say he could, then he did not sin necessarily, but freely.
6. But if you say he could not [have so willed to be forsaken], then the blame redounds to God.
Over and over Olson provides evidence from the major Arminian writers that the fundamental problem Arminians had with this view was that it made God less than good, it made God sinful, that it was repulsive to the glory of God’s holiness. In other words, the argument was grounded in the nature, attributes, and character of God. The argument was not grounded in the necessity of affirming free will.
“Suffice it to say,” Olson concludes, “that any critic would be hard-pressed to find any true Arminian, past or present, who holds free will up as the first principle of his or her theology” (113).