Ben Witherington and Roger Olson, “Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology – Part 9”

, posted by SEA

BEN: The issue of how to interpret the phrase ‘only begotten of the Father’ has bedeviled Christological debates forever it seems. Is this Scriptural notion the basis of Arminius and various his successors arguing that the Son is fully God, but he has his divine essence from God the Father who is the only one who can rightly be called autotheos, since he is the font of all deity for both the Son and the Spirit? What do you make of Wayne Grudem’s attempt to suggest that Christ is eternally (perhaps even ontologically) subordinate to the Father, which he takes as the basis for arguing that women are and should be by very nature subordinate to men (see his interpretation of 1 Cor. 11)? Professor Giles (a theologian from Melbourne) has vigorously refuted Grudem in a couple of books, saying his views endanger good Trinitarian thinking. How do you react to these sorts of discussions?

ROGER: I have responded to them on my blog and the issues are far too complex to do justice to them here. Arminius was criticized for saying that the Son, Jesus Christ, is autotheos, so I think you have it wrong. He believed (at least some of the time) the Son has his deity from himself and does not derive it from the Father as the “fount of divinity” (monarchy of the Father). At least as I recall. I’m open to correction. This whole debate seems to me to be speculative. I don’t think we can peer into the inner workings of the immanent Trinity in this way. I prefer to stick to what we can know from revelation and I don’t think we can base a doctrine on such a thin foundation as that passage.

BEN: I must say that I find the typical Reformed exegesis of the Genesis story about Adam and Even and the Fall lacking in logic, especially when it comes to the surpralapsarian view of the matter. What I mean by this is the story says nothing about Adam or Eve needing extra grace from God in order to refrain from sinning. After all, they were created good, indeed tov me’ov is God’s view of the creation, including Adam and Eve. I see no reason to argue that a pre-Fallen Eve or Adam were unable to choose between eating or not eating unless God graced them to do so. They were created good, and were not in the bondage to sin. Indeed, they were created good in the image of God and expected by God to make choices, for instance to fill the earth and subdue it. Therefore, the notion that Adam and Eve fell because God withheld grace from them fails to take into account the condition of Adam and Eve before the Fall, it would seem. It is interesting however that there is a tree of life in the garden as well, which may suggest that while they were created good, they were not inherently created with everlasting life. When they sinned, they had to be expelled from the garden so that they would not eat of that other tree and so become everlastingly fallen and wicked creatures. It is also interesting that the classic Reformed interpretation of Genesis simply assumes God had a covenant with Adam and Eve, a treaty arrangement. But the OT does not refer to an Adamic covenant, and neither do Jesus or Paul. What would you take to be the traditional Arminian exegesis of these Genesis passages, and how would they differ from the Calvinistic interpretation (noting that Wesley even talks about the loss of the image of God through the Fall)?

ROGER: I don’t think there is “an” Armianian interpretation of Genesis except that God created Adam and Eve good but with free will and that when they misused that free will they lost original righteousness (fellowship with God) which needed to be restored by God’s grace and mercy and their free acceptance of such. I think many theologians have read far too much theology into (or out of) the Genesis narratives.

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