Calvinist Michael Patton recently wrote an article in reaction to some of Roger Olson’s rhetoric against Calvinism. Olson has stated: “The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.” Despite the fact the Olson specifically states else where that he believes that Calvinism is Christian, and despite the subjective caveats that Olson places even within that sentence, Patton and others have reacted very strongly what they believe is an Arminian claiming that Calvinists worship another god. Instead of submitting to my impulse to say, “welcome to our world”, I instead wish to highlight a comment that one of our members, Nelson Banuchi, posted on Patton’s blog:
“I can understand Patton’s concern, however, I think he is blowing it up a bit.
“First of all, as I read Dr. Olosn’s article, I did not find it to be inflammatory although I do admit its bluntness, which is appropriate if disagreement is to be clearly understood.
“Second, although I cannot speak for Dr. Olson, when he uses the phrase the “God of Calvinism”, I take him to mean the way in which Calvinists understand/teach about God. Dr. Olson does not seem to mean an altogether different God but the erroneous understanding and the implications that result from Calvinistic teachings about God.
“As Olson says, elsewhere, “ I consider it [Calvinism] a part of the rich tapestry of classical Christianity. I can and do worship with Calvinists without cringing”. However, that being said, I can see how Olson’s remark that “The God of Calvinism scares me,” would confuse Patton. Maybe Olson should have worded that differently.
“Patton expresses agreement that the Arminian and Calvinistic “views of God are indeed different.”
“My question is, why bring that particular point up in the first place and make so much of it if, indeed, Patton really “believe[s] that [Dr.] Olson is [not] really suggesting” that Arminians and Calvinists worship different Gods?
“Thirdly, I think Dr. Olson’s basic argument that Calvinism’s theology has grave negative implications for the character of God is justified.
“Furthermore, Patton is misrepresenting Dr. Olson’s position, interpreting certain points from Calvinistic presuppositions and not from Olson’s Arminian presuppositions; and, in addition, adding implications that do not logically follow.
“For example, Patton says, “God, to Olson, is ‘in charge, but not in control.’ That is a bit ambiguous, so let me explain. For Olson, God is in providential control over all things. He is overseeing our lives in general but not intervening so as to violate our freedom. To Olson, God’s plans, hopes, and desires may be thwarted by human freedom.”
“From my perspectiive Dr. Olson is (a) not being ambiguous but generalizing; (b) being “in control” and “in charge” are not necessarily the same thing. In a company, one may be in charge over a whole department but that does not mean necessarily that he possesses exhaustive control over everyone’s actions in that department.
“Patton goes on to claim that, for him, “God’s perfect will can and has been thwarted, but his will of decree cannot.” I won’t get into it, but if one would dig deeper into this general, if not ambiguous, objection, he would most likely find Patton speaking double-think.
“Again, Patton accuses Dr. Olson of “ha[ving] much more confidence in man’s ability to make godly choices without His direct intervention. I do not.” Patton shows ignorance of Arminian theology. That is not what Dr. Olson is saying.
“It would benefit Patton to read Dr. Olson’s “Arminian Theology” and Arminius’ “Work”. It would give him a better grasp concerning what he thinks is Arminian theology.”