Recent Articles

Unconditional Election and Universal Atonement

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

Contrary to what one respondent claims, classical Calvinism does believe that God’s election of persons to salvation is absolutely unconditional. To say it is not absolutely unconditional because it is based on God’s “good pleasure” does nothing to ease the problem. What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation? I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another. The answer is always an appeal to mystery or something like “God has his good reasons” (without any suggestion what they might be), or “according to his good pleasure,” which doesn’t even begin to answer the question. Jonathan Edwards was consistent in admitting it is an arbitrary choice on God’s part. I just wish more contemporary Calvinists would admit that.

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Diversity of Calvinism / Reformed Theology

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

One person, responding to one of my postings, said something about the diversity of Arminianism compared to Calvinism. The thrust of his message, as I recall, was that Arminianism is so much more diverse than Calvinism that it makes it difficult to respond to Arminianism.

I argue that Calvinism or Reformed theology today is just as diverse if not more diverse than Arminianism.

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Grace and Free Will: A Parable

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

A Calvinist seminary professor lectured on the incompatibility of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and belief that, in order to be saved, a person must freely accept the grace of God. “Arminianism makes the individual person’s free choice the decisive factor in his salvation. Therefore, in his theology, salvation cannot be a free gift. By choosing it freely the person is contributing something to his own salvation. That’s a meritorious work and therefore his salvation would not be absolutely the work of God.”

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The Problem with Calvinism is . . .

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

People often ask me what is my single most serious problem with Calvinism. Why am I not a Calvinist? First, I like to point out that nobody is obligated to be one. Some evangelicals are under the mistaken impression that Calvinism is the norm for all evangelicalism and that if you’re not a Calvinist you’re somehow defectively evangelical. It is wrongly believed to be the default theology of authentic evangelicalism.

I grew up in the thick of evangelicalism — spiritually nurtured by mentors and peers in Youth for Christ where I rubbed shoulders with evangelicals of many different denominations. We used to debate Calvinism versus Arminianism all the time and we generally agreed to disagree and nevertheless worship and witness together. I don’t remember anyone then telling me I had to be a Calvinist to be a faithful Christian or an evangelical.

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And Now, A Word About Arminianism

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

My blog is called “My evangelical, Arminian theological musings.” I’ve “mused” about evangelicalism. Now it’s time to begin a brief (I hope) series of posts about Arminianism.

Not long ago I met a well-known philosopher-theologian whose first comment to me was “Well, I’ve never met anyone who actually called himself an Arminian before.” Many years ago John Wesley wrote a brief essay entitled “The Question ‘What Is an Arminian?’ Answered by a Lover of Free Grace.” He began it with this line: “To say ‘This man is an Arminian,’ has the same effect on many hearers, as to say ‘This man is a mad dog’.” Near the essay’s end Wesley wrote, “[h]ow can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means….”

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What is an Arminian?

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

Contrary to what some critics say, an Arminian is someone who believes that salvation is all of grace and through faith alone without any merit (except, of course, the merits of Christ). An Arminian is also someone who believes, contrary to Calvinism, that the person being saved is enabled by grace to cooperate in his or her salvation without “contributing” anything meritorious to it. In other words, God does all the saving but he won’t save without our consent.

All this is spelled out so clearly in Arminius and Wesley and other classical Arminians that one has to wonder about those who say otherwise. For example, Calvinists and some Lutheran critics who argue that Arminianism makes “man” his own savior. One leader of the “young, restless, Reformed” movement says that according to Arminianism the cross of Jesus Christ doesn’t actually save anyone but only gives people the opportunity to save themselves. That is, of course, pure hogwash.

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What is Evangelicalism?

, posted by WilliamBirch

by Roger E. Olson

I proudly consider myself an evangelical Christian theologian, but some commentators on evangelicalism probably do not consider me that. I recently wrote a chapter on the subject for a forthcoming edited volume on evangelicalism to be published in 2011 by Zondervan. There I argue that “evangelical” is an essentially contested concept without boundaries. In other words, contrary to many commentators, I do not believe “evangelical” is a bounded-set category.

Evangelicalism is a movement marked by certain common characteristics or family resemblances. Movements, by their very nature, cannot have boundaries. As soon as they have boundaries they are no longer movements but organizations. Movements are centered-set categories. Other examples from religion are “charismatic,” “New Age” and “fundamentalist.” These, like evangelicalism, have no headquarters, no magisterium (controlling authority) and no definite membership.

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The Enemy of my Enemy

, posted by Godismyjudge

Calvinist Greg Welty states: Clearly then, the controversy between Calvinists and non-Calvinists over unconditional election is not the Calvinists’ assertion that God elects some for salvation, since non-Calvinists believe this too. Rather, the controversy is over the Calvinists’ negative claim, namely, the denial that divine election unto salvation is on the basis of works or foreseen faith. (link)

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Arminius’ Impact on Calvinism

, posted by Godismyjudge

Arminius didn’t teach anything new, but his shoulders were strong enough to carry the cause of the many non-Calvinist Protestants of his day. While his influence on non-Calvinists was the strongest, I did want to point out his influence on Calvinism.

As those familiar with Arminius know, his primary issue with Calvinism was supra-lapsarianism – the idea that the decree of unconditional election logically precedes the decree of the fall. In supra-lapsarianism, God uses the fall as a means of coming up with the end. It’s like planning a trip. First you set the destination, then you plan the route. In supra-lapsarianism, God first decides who to glorify and who to destroy, then He plans for man to fall so they will need salvation and punishment in Hell.

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Friday Files: The New Perspective and Ephesians

, posted by Martin Glynn

Not everyone agrees with the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Naturally, with any new perspective, there are many who are excited about it, many who are against it, and many who know nothing about it. It is no different within SEA. Our members span this full spectrum, since adherence or rejection of it is not part of our statement of faith. For those who are interested in theology, especially this debate, it is one of the most exciting discussions going on right now.

NPP is usually talked about in how it affects our reading of Galatians and Romans. Here, one of our members discusses it’s impact on the very important book of Ephesians. I hope you enjoy:

The New Perspective and Ephesians

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The Influence of Arminius on American Theology

, posted by WilliamBirch

The following is part of Gerald O. McCulloh’s address presented at the Arminius Symposium in Holland, August 1960. He stated that it was his honor to chronicle the influence of the theology of the great Dutch theologian, Jacobus Arminius, noting how the “discussions and disputations which exerted great influence in shaping Protestant Christianity in Holland, England, and America [can] be heard again to warn against doctrinal neglect or errors and to lead to new understandings of Christian truth.”1 McCulloh writes the following.

In the theological education and personal development of a person preparing for the ministry of the church, Arminius’ emphases upon God’s will in Christ to redeem all men, and that portion of responsibility which rests upon the Christian in the life under grace unto sanctification, are essential in the intellectual and spiritual equipment of the man. . . .

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Arminius and the Structure of Society

, posted by WilliamBirch

The following is part of James Luther Adams’ address presented at the Arminius Symposium in Holland, August 1960: “Arminius and the Structure of Society.”

Not as a total stranger does the citizen of Massachusetts visit Amsterdam, a seat of the old Dutch Republic. Not as a stranger does a member of Harvard University join in this celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of Jacobus Arminius. Many are the spiritual children of the Dutch Republic and also of Arminius who have contributed to the heritage of Massachusetts and of America in both politics and religion. . . .

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Nichols

, posted by Godismyjudge

James Nichols did a great amout of work getting Arminian books published, but he also wrote a bit himself. Here’s his work Calvinism and Arminianism Compared in Their Principles and Tendency. (link)

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Friday Files: Answering Greg Elmquist’s “Four Unanswerable Questions”

, posted by Martin Glynn

Many of us here at SEA have a passion to correct the errors about Arminianism that are being pushed by those that care more about being angry about it than actually knowing what it is. It always surprises me how upset Calvinists are that God made us believe something other than Calvinism.

Anyway, this blog post is a wonderful example of such an issue. A certain Calvinist named Greg Elmquist attempted to disprove Arminianism in one of the silliest displays that we have seen. We are showing you this as the kind of attitude that we come across all the time. If you are an Arminian, and have come across this kind before, understand that you are not alone. If you are a Calvinist, please take this as a lesson that arguing against a caricature of someone’s beliefs only makes that person laugh at you. If you are going to disagree with us, please take the time to learn what we say.

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Answers to Common Calvinist Questions

, posted by Kevin Jackson

Some answers to common Calvinist questions:

Q: Why does one person believe in Jesus and not another?
Q: Man is dead. How can a dead person believe or do anything?
Q: If man is dead in sin, how can he believe outside of the grace of God?
Q: If man can make choices, doesn’t that weaken God’s sovereignty?
Q: If man can make choices, how can God have exhaustive knowledge of the future?
Q: Here are [insert list of scriptures] to prove that Calvinism is true.
Q: Doesn’t Arminian Theology lead to boasting because man contributed to his salvation?

Q: Why does one person believe in Jesus and not another?
A. This question assumes a deterministic framework. Each person is a unique being who has the God given capability to make his own choices ex nihilo. One person believes and not another because one chose to believe, and the other did not.

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