Myth #6 in Roger Olson’s book, Arminian Theology, is another oft-repeated accusation against Arminians: that Arminian theology is a human-centered theology with an optimistic anthropology. In fact, Olson argues, Arminian theology is every bit as God-intoxicated as Calvinist theology when it comes to the centrality of God’s work in redemption.
The basic accusation, filtered through some inconsistent Arminians, revolves around two themes: (1) that humans are only “damaged goods” rather than totally depraved [what I call comprehensive crackedness] and (2) the cross and gift of the Spirit renders all humans capable — but only as a result of grace, prevenient grace — of responding (or not rejecting) God’s grace.
I hope you can dip into his quotations from Arminius: thorough view of depravity and the absolute need of grace. “No man believes in Christ except him who has been previously disposed and prepared by preventing or preceding grace” (145).
He raises the issue of Wesley’s preference (at times) for “deprivation” rather than “depravity,” but he also has some quotations that make it very clear that Wesley didn’t have a human-centered theology, but a theology rooted in grace.
Human beings, then, in Arminian theology are simultaneously sinful and totally depraved and given, as a result of God’s grace, prevenient grace in order to respond.
Olson contends Arminians believe that “in redemption and creation, human beings are wholly dependent on God’s sustaining and renewing power for anything good, including an exercise of good will toward God and acceptance of God’s offer of salvation” (141).
Olson contends that, because of God’s prevenient grace, Arminians don’t really believe in “free” will but in a “freed” will — that is a will that has been set free by grace (through cross, resurrection, Pentecost) so that it can respond.