Friday, July 17, 2009

Roger Olson's Problem with John Calvin and Calvinism

Well known Arminian theologian Roger Olson was asked by an evangelical publication to write what his biggest problem with John Calvin and Calvinism is in a 600 word essay. He did so, but the essay was rejected by the publication. However, Dr. Olson has made the essay available to the Society of Evangelical Arminians (click here to view).

10 comments:

Steven said...

Hey Brennon!

It seems like he doesn't complain that Calvinism is unscriptural, but rather that the Calvinist God is a meanie and isn't essentially "love", whatever that might mean. Sounds like he has more emotional reasons for rejecting Calvinism than scriptural; or perhaps he feels the debate over interpretation of scripture may continue on forever, but one of the options is quite unsavory, therefore the other one. Who knows! I think it's interesting that he didn't bring up any scriptural reasons for rejecting it, but rather used some sort of "shock tactics" by claiming that some Calvinists believe God causes the reprobates to sin and to misbehave themselves.

Kevin Jackson said...

Hi Steven,

It's not the nature of a short essay to list scriptures. For a similar example done by a Calvinist, check out this link by John Piper.

If you're interested in Olson's scriptural reasons for rejecting Calvinism, check out his book "Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities".

Steven said...

Hey Kevin,

It's not so much that I am interested in scriptural reasons for rejecting Calvinism, as I'm sure I can guess what they might be. I was more just slyly suggesting that perhaps his problem isn't primarily scriptural; though this claim might be unsubstantial and ignorant.

I don't care either way; it was intended as mostly joke with a bit of seriousness as a side dish. Though I think it is interesting that he never even mentions scripture interpretation at all; he could've said something like "Firstly, because I don't think the Bible teaches it, but also..." but he didn't.

bossmanham said...

My problem with Calvinism first and foremost is that it is not consistent with the Bible. That was my problem with it when I considered it a few years ago. I think that is partly what Dr. Olson is getting at as well. The picture of God painted by Calvinism does not line up with what the Bible says about Him. That is the issue and will be till Christ's return.

The Seeking Disciple said...

I think any rejection of a certain beliefs will be based on experience and exegeis or it should be. Obviously some Arminians and some Calvinists reject each others systems based on emotions but I believe both will come into play. I reject Calvinism first because I was raised Arminian, became a disciple in an Arminian church so my first rejection was emotional but now it is much more biblically based.

Kevin Jackson said...

Hi Steven,

Actually he did refer to the Bible.

"To view the devil as God's instrument makes a mockery of the entire biblical narrative."

This is the problem at the heart of Calvinism. It attributes evil to God.

DonaldH said...

I rejected it on other grounds. One is on the interpretation of scripture. And the other is instead of a decent dialogue on points of contentions, I've seen well meaning brethren on both sides of the issues speak past each other. Typically, it's the internet crew.

As a former calvinist, some of my friends and I still talk, love each other, debate. Online it's a different issue.

Basically, because it's person to person and not face to face. IMHO.

Online some (not all) calvinist are vicious. In person those that I know or met have been more gracious. And that's not to say some Arminians haven't been a piece of work on the net.

But we all get little emotional.

natamllc said...

Hmmmmm,

well, I am a first time commentor in here. Can I have cookies and milk for my reward? No, now that I think about it, maybe vegetables would be better suited because the fat around my belly is bulging. Why? Well, I find myself sitting and blogging more these days than those days when I did not have the time!

So, foregoing anymore irony here, here is something that seems odd to me that Mr. Olson wrote in his essay!

Olson: "....Furthermore, I find Calvin's doctrine of God repulsive. It elevates God's sovereignty over his love, leaving God's reputation in question. What I mean is that Calvin's all-determining, predestining deity is at best morally ambiguous and at worst morally repugnant...."

Wow; I am sure he does not intend on finding God so repugnant as he perceives Calvin does? But what's God to do when His creature does what the devil did and continues unrepentantly to do, but use him to make clear his error among the unrepentant, which I might say, in my view, is what this whole world is all about at the end of it?

Arminians, as I understand them, want to reduce "their" faith to their Salvation's objectivity as something they do "with" God, instead of acknowledge that the Gift of His Faith from God that saves His Elect out of this world is the Faith which saves them out of this world devils full, too!

I find that they take fierce offense with such a charge against their free will choice and ability to walk and talk with God, partly on their terms and not solely on God's. His predetermined end as Jesus, Who is the Truth, lucidates here, establishing, no one but God determines the outcome of what is happening in here, in this world with a god, the devil being the god of this world and moving it along an evil course away from the Glory of His Grace found only and solely in "the gift" of Righteousness, Jesus Christ:

Mat 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Mat 25:32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Mat 25:33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

To those Arminians reading this then, I have a couple of questions for you:

"If this is the "determinate" Counsel of the Council of His Will, that citation above from Matthew's Gospel, where are you left at the end of the day when you will not have a choice in the seating arrangement already pre-arranged for you"?

"Is it at those moments just before that time that you will surrender your sovereign will to the "predetermined" Council of God and do it of your own free will so as to take a seat with the sheep and not the goats on that day when Jesus comes to judge the earth"?

bossmanham said...

natamllc,

I think you have an incorrect impression of what Arminians in general and myself in particular think. Trust me, most of those who are in the Society of Evangelical Arminians (I say most because I don't know all of the members) have a strong belief in the righteousness and sovereignty of God. I personally place a far higher priority on God's holiness and righteousness than anything as I hope you can see in this post".

But what's God to do when His creature does what the devil did and continues unrepentantly to do, but use him to make clear his error among the unrepentant...

I think you're missing the point. Arminians have no issue with the righteous judgement of God. Our issue is taking God's sovereignty so far that He becomes the one who even determines, ordains, and causes sin. Some Calvinists think the devil is as much of a tool of God as humans are. That is what Dr. Olson is taking issue with; making God the author of evil. We want to affirm that it is man's own evil desires that cause him to sin, not some fore-ordained plan of God that we would sin. This is by no means an attempt to limit the providence of God, as I believe God is completely sovereign and providentially guides the history of this world for His glory. But I do not believe God in any way has anything to do with sin. He only permits sin.

Arminians, as I understand them, want to reduce "their" faith to their Salvation's objectivity as something they do "with" God, instead of acknowledge that the Gift of His Faith from God that saves His Elect out of this world is the Faith which saves them out of this world devils full, too!

I think you have a faulty view of Arminian theology then. The gift of salvation is all of God. We do think man must accept this gift through faith and God gives us the ability to accept this gift, but it is not about what we do, it is about what Christ has done. You can read about that here.

I would suggest maybe reading Olson's book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities to clear up some misconceptions you may have about what Arminians think in general and what he thinks specifically.

Thank you for stopping by :)

God bless.

Jc_Freak: said...

"Arminians, as I understand them, want to reduce "their" faith to their Salvation's objectivity as something they do "with" God, instead of acknowledge that the Gift of His Faith from God that saves His Elect out of this world is the Faith which saves them out of this world devils full, too!"

That's not really Arminian theology. In true Arminian theology, salvation is accomplished fully and completely by Christ. Our "part to play" as only Calvinists call it is to submit, and stop trying to save ourselves. The human role is passive, God's role is active.

The point of Arminian theology is to maintain what Scripture says that it is God's desire that all be saved, while maintaining that all are not. This is a dialectic that Scripturally must be maintained, and Calvinists reject it through the doctrine of Limited Atonement.