I think it is fair to say that our contemporary Christian subculture is saturated in a Reformed theology.
This isn’t necessarily bad. Many of these voices hail from brilliant scholars whose knowledge and wisdom adds powerful depth and vibrancy to our understanding of God and scripture. D. A. Carson’s commentary on the New Testament use of the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, is always within reach when I dig through one of Paul’s epistles. The cultural reflections of The Gospel Coalition provide ready handles for grabbing hold of contemporary issues and thinking through them from a Christian perspective. Tim Challies has a powerful gift for breaking down complex theological ideas into easily accessible concepts. These voices add something of value to our modern Christian landscape.
At the same time, the sweeping move within Western Christianity to adopt a theological lens rooted in Calvinism means that other pieces of the puzzle — important pieces —are either left behind or left wanting.
As a pastor, I have found that proclaiming an Arminian theology to my congregation has become increasingly important amidst the growing influence of Reformed theology. Not only does Arminianism staunchly defend the character of a good and loving God, but it also retains the power of the Christian hope. In a world where hope is challenged by the repeated barrage of the suffering we see in the media, the beauty of the Christian message is sorely needed.
An Arminian understanding retains this hope, and it does so on three levels.
1. Hope For Our World
Rather than a marked selection of individuals chosen by God to one day leave earth behind and step into a heavenly kingdom, Arminianism presents a God whose kingdom is invading our world even as we speak. This is part of the glory of Christianity — that when Jesus arose from the waters of His baptism proclaiming that “the kingdom of God is at hand”, He meant what He said. Our world is a broken place, afflicted with the realities of suffering and pain, but the Spirit that hovered over the waters in Genesis 1 still broods over His creation. What we find is a hope for the present, a restoration that begins now, and a God who invites us into the midst of His work.
2. Hope For Our Communities
The Reformed doctrine of Unconditional Election paints a stark picture when faced with those who do not yet know Christ. If God chooses some for salvation and not others, the parallel implication is that He thus rejects some and not others. Hope languishes in the face of an unchanging God that has chosen to reject from salvation some of the very people we have come to love. An Arminian perspective addresses this, however, removing that rejection from God and placing it where it belongs: in the human heart. The beauty of this is that such a rejection is not yet final. While God is unchanging, we are not. God is still working, still extending His grace, still inviting our friends and family to respond to His love. This imparts to us a responsibility to make that love known, but it also fills us with hope in knowing that just as He wooed us, so is He wooing them. They, too, have the opportunity to respond to the grace that He so lovingly extends to all.
3. Hope For Ourselves
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Arminian theology is found in the broader concept of salvation. To us, salvation is so much more than those slated for heaven and those abandoned to hell. Instead, salvation is about life — abundant life — that begins here and extends forth into eternity. What we are being rescued from is not just eternal condemnation, but sin itself. Sin, left unchecked, will ultimately consume and destroy us. The beauty of grace, however, is that these chains are slowly being stripped from our soul. This is the image of sanctification to which we cling: that we are progressively being freed from those very things which rob us of our own humanity. Freedom does not wait until the kingdom of God is manifested in the eschaton. It begins now, transforming and shaping us, and leading us on into the eternity where our glorious hope shall finally be viewed in full.
This is why I preach an Arminian theology. It is not only because I hold it to be true, but because I believe it to be necessary. In an era where the objects of our hope are challenged on a daily basis, we need to be reminded that God is still here. He is still working. He is still restoring. He is still loving and extending His grace.
It is in his grace where our hope finds wings.
This post originally appeared at here (at Roger Olson’s blog) where comments can be made. T E Hanna is the author of Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age, and he writes regularly on issues of faith and culture on his blog at Of Dust and Kings TEHannah.com.