What Roger Olson Said, Part 7

October 10, 2012

Here are a couple of interesting theological nicknacks from my favorite Arminian blogger. First, Olson shares his personal statement of faith, with which I substantially agree—at least, the non-Baptist parts. (His view of Revelation’s Millennium is one with which I am unfamiliar. I’ll file that away for further research.)

I especially like his careful and nuanced statement, “Salvation by Grace,” especially as we’ve wrestled with the question on this blog (here, among other places). I highlight the second paragraph: a saving relationship with God is “entirely God’s gift,” received by faith, which is “passive reception of God’s gift and not a meritorious work.” Passive reception. I like that! That seems exactly right to me.

I believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith and that people cannot save themselves by works of righteousness but that works of righteousness are products of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers by faith.

A right, saving relationship with God is entirely God’s gift as is inward transformation in righteousness, but these depend on faith which is passive reception of God’s gift and not a meritorious work.

As if to bat two-for-two, he also has a nice post on “Reasons for Believing the Bible is God’s Word.” I especially liked this paragraph, which highlights the danger of bibliolatry:

Finally, if you base your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord on the truth status of the Bible rather than the other way around (basing its truth on its power to transform through relationship with Jesus Christ), you are risking idolatry. Jesus is the “Sache” of Scripture. Luther knew it as did Calvin. But fundamentalists and neo-fundamentalists put Scripture over Jesus when they try to make belief in him as Savior and Lord dependent on the inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible, then, becomes the gift in place of Jesus Christ. It should be (and is) the other way around—Jesus is the gift. The Bible is simply the Christmas-wrapped box that delivers him to us. I believe in the Bible’s truth and authority because of him. But that in no way requires belief in absolute, technical, detailed accuracy of every statement of Scripture.

6 Responses to “What Roger Olson Said, Part 7”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Brent, at the risk of repetition, I don’t believe salvation is obtained by “passive reception”; I might say instead, “active acquisition.” Other than perhaps Ephesians 2:8-9, I don’t really see scripture painting salvation in a “passive” light–though I am willing to be educated. With Zacchaeus, it was not until he said, “I give half my goods to feed the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold,” that Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:8-9. When Jesus began preaching, he followed John the Baptist by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Peter at Pentecost said, when asked, “What shall we do?,” said, “Repent … for the forgiveness of your sins.” In fact, Jesus went so far as to say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” v.27. I just don’t see what is passive about this!

    As far as the Bible is concerned, I certainly agree that Jesus is the most important of all, and absolutely it is not necessary to believe in “inerrancy” to be saved (despite what I understood Adrian Rogers to once say). However, certainly as well we learn of Jesus, what he said, what he did, how salvation is obtained, etc., from scripture. We have to be pretty careful how much we are willing to “weaken” the “source book” when we say, “Jesus is all.”

    • brentwhite Says:

      We have to find a way of harmonizing everything the Bible says on the issue—Jesus’ words and Paul’s words and everything else. I think Olson represents this nicely. It’s not that we do nothing, but everything we do is a response to (“passive reception of”) God’s grace. It’s nothing about which we deserve credit. Our “doing” is agreeing to let the Spirit do through us.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        I agree with the “harmonizing” part. But, why don’t we try to harmonize Ephesians 2:8-9 with all that Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, and James said, instead of the other way around? I think we can do this by focusing on “faith.” Faith is not passive (in my opinion). It is actively taking action that you would not absent your confidence in and desire for Jesus. See James chapter 2. What about, “And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast”? Why don’t we see “not of yourselves” as meaning this is not something we have come up with–as contrasted with the Jews Paul addressed. They wanted to, and believed they could, “earn” their way into heaven by the amount of good works they did. Scripture is clear that cannot be the way. Instead, God, by his grace (“gift”), provided another way–by faith. But faith is not “nothing” (or, NEARLY nothing). It is a very demanding thing (as Jesus’ repeated statements about becoming a disciple show). James says you cannot demonstrate that you have faith without a very demanding “work” (a la Abraham and Rahab). The “roll call of the faithful” in Hebrews 11 focuses on what those saints of old DID. So, sure, we should harmonize, but I think we need to give greater weight to all those other scriptures in interpreting the one passage, rather than the other way around.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Who says we’re just talking about Ephesians 2:8-9? The Protestant Reformation was launched in the first place because a Catholic monk re-read Romans and Galatians. Harmonize that, too. If I read you right, Tom, you’re saying that our salvation depends on the quality of our faith, which we muster (largely) on our own, and the quality of our repentance, which we perform on our own. But we avoid works righteousness by saying that these things play only a very small role in salvation. But you would agree that human work plays a role.

        That’s fine. To me, a little bit of Pelagianism isn’t a terrible mistake, although pastorally speaking, I wonder if it doesn’t produce anxiety about one’s salvation. But you are disagreeing with the wide consensus of Church thinking on the subject.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        I agree with the aberration from the “wide consensus.” Perhaps I am a “lone monk” too! As far as “anxiety,” even Paul said, “Test yourselves, whether you be in the faith.” But I think anyone who has recognized his sinfulness, turned to Christ for forgiveness, and “turned his life over to Christ” will have a pretty good comfort level that he is saved. What does “turned over” entail? I think most people who are being honest with themselves and actually concerned about the issue should have a pretty good idea if they have really done that. “The Spirit bears witness.” What I DON’T want, though, is a lot of people thinking that they prayed a prayer to “receive,” and that’s enough, and then being in for a very rude awakening!

      • brentwhite Says:

        No argument on that last point, Tom!

        Sent from my iPhone. Please forgive any typos!


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