Is There a Middle Ground Between Calvinism and Arminianism?

, posted by SEA

by Roger Olson

I’ve blogged about this before, but just yesterday Southern Baptist philosopher/theologian/seminary dean Steve Lemke, one of the editors of the excellent book Whosoever Will (which I highly recommended here) posted a message to the SBCToday blog accusing me of committing the fallacy of excluded middle for arguing that Southern Baptists like he are either Calvinists or Arminians and should admit it and (in his case) embrace the label Arminian — something he and the other authors of Whosoever Will reject.

Lemke’s post is here.

I would like to know what exactly he or anyone else thinks is the “middle ground” between Calvinism and Arminianism. Just saying “Majoritarian Baptist” doesn’t answer it. You can find Arminians and Calvinists in the mainstream of Southern Baptist life and many Baptist denominations are explicitly Calvinist or Arminian.

There is no middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism with regard to the three crucial doctrines about which they differ: election (conditional or unconditional), atonement (limited or universal) and grace (resistible or irresistible).

I wish Lemke and others like him would read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, where I argue that, whereas Calvinists and Arminians have much in common, there is no hybrid of them or middle ground between them. In fact, Arminianism is the middle ground — the middle ground between Calvinism and Semi-Pelagianism!

So far, in response to some queries in response to his blog post, Lemke has not explained exactly where he disagrees with classical Arminianism. If there is no significant difference between his/their theology and classical Arminianism, why the reluctance to embrace the label? I think it can only be because the label has been so distorted and misrepresented by Calvinists. Why give in to that? Let’s rescue the label from its distortions and misuses rather than discard it.