Thursday, June 09, 2011

Roger Olson on true Arminianism

Roger Olson is a Baptist at Baylor who has written a number of things, but the most significant for those in my circles is Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.  He has been debating over another new book by Allen and Lemke called, Whosoever Wills, a book claiming to be a middle way between Arminianism and Calvinism.  Both books have the current forcefulness of 5 point Calvinism in their cross-hairs.

However, as you might expect, Olson is quite concerned that Lemke is mis-defining Arminianism in terms of those edges of Arminianism that do not represent all Arminians.  For example, most open theists are Arminian, but it would not be true to say that most Arminians are open theists.

I suppose at this point most of you get a little frustrated with all the labels and fighting over terms.  Believe it or not, I really don't care much for these labels on this level either.  They are just tools to discuss things, not ends in themselves.

  • So I'm Wesleyan, but I don't think Wesley was right on everything.
  • I'm Arminian, but all this really means to me is that I believe anyone could in theory be saved.
  • I'm Evangelical because the denomination to which I belong signed up, but my tradition really doesn't get worked up about the things most in this post WW2 movement get worked up about (penal substitution, a particular kind of use of the Bible, whether God judges us according to the light we have, a particular kind of social activism).
  • I'm Protestant, but through the Anglican-Methodist stream, which doesn't get as worked up as Luther did on a number of issues, can be considered somewhat of a mediating tradition with catholicism, and is often accused of not being solidly Protestant enough.
  • I'm Pietist, but at least believe I can articulate a coherent and systematic theology.
So here's to labels... ;-)


JRS said...

In Arminian Theology Olson suggests that many (most?) Arminians are functionally Semi-Pelagian. What’s been your experience? What are your observations particularly regarding Wesleyans?

Ken Schenck said...

I think that's true. It is a surprise, I think, for most Wesleyans to learn that, officially, our tradition does not technically believe that we have free will to choose God apart from his empowerment and, thus, that you cannot assume you will be able to come to God on your own time.

JRS said...

That's been my observation as well; with resistance to thinking otherwise! I find it rather alarming and as worthy of attention as the emphasis on holy living.

JohnM said...

Ken, Speaking of Semi-Pelagians, how would your definition of Arminianism - "all this really means to me is that I believe anyone could in theory be saved" -distinguish Arminians from Semi-Pelagians, or for that matter outright Pelagians? Surely there is more to it than that.