Ben Witherington and Roger Olson, “Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology – Part 5”

, posted by SEA

BEN: One of the major emphases in Stanglin and McCall’s fine book on Jacob Arminius is that Arminius did not agree with Beza et al. on the issue of monergism, which is to say that God is the direct or effective cause of all things. Arminius continuously sought to exonerate God from the charge that he is the author of evil and sin, and the way he went about it was to say that human choices when it comes to the matter of sin or evil were not predetermined by God. In addition he wanted to insist on synergism when it comes to accepting the gift of salvation even though salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. In the view of Arminius grace is resistible but if the sinner will positively draw on the grace given, he can respond positively to the Gospel, and without prevenient grace, he could not do so. It seems therefore that Arminius, and later Wesley do not view grace as something that acts automatically and unilaterally, but rather is some sort of enablement or empowerment which humans can draw on to respond positively to God. Would you agree?

ROGER: Clearly that is correct.

BEN: In your second major chapter you are striving to make clear that trying to merge Calvinism with Arminianism doesn’t work because, while in some respects they agree on theological essentials, but in other respects they take virtually opposite views, such as conditional election vs. unconditional election, or resistible grace vs. irresistible grace, and even when they agree on something like limited atonement, they can’t agree on who limits it! Your point seems to be that while it is good to recognize and affirm common ground, at the same time we have to accept that there are ‘irreconcilable differences’ on various key points, not just on minor things. How then do we work with other Evangelicals in an irenic way, without giving away or neglecting things we see as essential?

ROGER: Controversially I have argued that “real Calvinists” and “real Arminians” cannot co-exist in a single church. I would say it is even difficult for them to co-exist in a single denomination. UNLESS the subject of God’s sovereignty is simply avoided. Unfortunately, that is too often the case. But that does not mean Calvinist and Arminian churches and individuals cannot have fellowship and cooperate. American evangelicalism (the National Association of Evangelicals) consisted of both “hard core” Calvinists and “hard core” Arminians. And that worked up until the hard core Calvinists began pushing the idea that Arminians cannot be authentically evangelical.

[Link to original post on Ben Witherington’s blog]