Saturday, January 03, 2009

Semi-Pelagians Unite!

Sorry for the blogpost title. Some of our more Reformed fellows (e.g., Mark "Blankety-blank" Driscoll) like to equate Arminianism with Semi-Pelagianism - which is exactly equivalent with equating their Calvinism with fatalistic determinism.

So of course, I couldn't resist.


In what can only be described as a tremendous inversion of normal reality, Christianity Today actually published a good and edifying article.

You can imagine how long it took for me to recover; I think the shock of it all nearly did me in.

Again: anyway.

Roger Olson wrote a great article, Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian which I think bears reading and re-reading.

My blog-friend Vee clued me in to this article in her blogpost; it was her quote from the article which convinced me when I read it to carefully read & consider the fuller article:

Powell was concerned about my rather firm Arminian beliefs. One day he took me aside and said, “Roger, you should know that Arminianism has usually led to liberal theology.” Like many Reformed theologians, he believed that an Arminian emphasis on free will grants too much power to humanity and therefore contains a humanistic impulse. While I appreciated his implicit admonition, I knew from my own experience that this was not entirely true. Ever since, I have strived to prove that Arminian theology and an evangelical cutting edge can be combined comfortably.

[…]A turning point in my spiritual and theological pilgrimage occurred at a funeral. Aunt Margaret’s Christian Reformed pastor in Kanawha, Iowa, preached one of the most evangelical sermons I had ever heard. He challenged all present to give their lives to Jesus Christ just as Margaret had. Cognitive dissonance finally broke out into complete rebellion against the anti-Calvinist polemics I had heard from Pentecostal leaders and teachers. While I could not agree with all five points of the Calvinist TULIP—especially unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace—I knew that the tent of authentic evangelical Christianity was bigger and broader than I had been led to believe. That conviction strengthened as I drank deeply at the wells of evangelical Reformed theology throughout my seminary and university studies.

Even as I retained my Arminian beliefs, my evangelical mind expanded and deepened as I read Reformed theologians such as G. C. Berkouwer, Bernard Ramm, Donald Bloesch, J. I. Packer, and Francis Schaeffer. They showed me new dimensions of the doctrines of God and of salvation that had been missing or obscured in the Arminianism of my youth and early theological education: the mysterious, holy otherness of God; God’s majestic sovereignty over nature and history; humanity’s utter helplessness to achieve any goodness or even decide to accept the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death apart from grace.

I have since learned that these themes are not absent from classical Arminian theology, but I had to learn them from Reformed evangelicals. I emerged from my theological studies convinced that my Arminian theology, though basically correct, lacked depth and that it could be enriched by the heritage of Reformed Christianity. I also emerged convinced that Reformed theology—especially in its most consistent forms—lacked the marvelous note of God’s universal love for his human creatures so evident in the best of my own Arminian tradition. I was convinced that the evangelical community needs both George Whitefield and John Wesley, and that their heirs need one another to achieve the beauty of balance.

Oh, gooooooooooood...

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