To be Methodist is to be Arminian

July 14, 2014

Roger Olson, a Baptist theologian at Baylor who has greatly influenced my thinking over the past five years, just finished a useful series of blog posts (starting here) on Arminianism, that school of Protestant thought that Wesley himself loudly affirmed. Olson is an Arminian and is probably Calvinism’s loudest contemporary critic. (In his day, John Wesley might have held that title.)

These posts are in the form of FAQs (frequently asked questions). Here’s a nice summary question:

FAQ: Can an Arminian explain the few crucial ideas that distinguish Arminianism from Calvinism for non-scholars? A: Yes. There are three of them. First, God is absolutely, unconditionally good in a way that we can understand as good. (In other words, God’s goodness does not violate our basic divinely-given intuitions about goodness.) Second, God’s consequent will is not God’s antecedent will except that God antecedently (to the fall) decides to permit human rebellion and its consequences. All specific sins and evils are permitted by God according to his consequent will and are not designed or ordained or rendered certain according to God’s antecedent will. Third, salvation of individuals is not determined by God but is provided for (atonement and prevenient grace) and accomplished by God (regeneration and justification by grace through faith).

4 Responses to “To be Methodist is to be Arminian”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Just back from vacation (visiting family). I largely agree with this, excerpt I have a concern over “accomplished by God,” considering that to get back close to Calvinism. There has to be some human component to the accomplishment of salvation, lest it be “all of God and none of man,” which is what Calvinists proclaim, since it appears to make salvation solely “God’s choice.” I believe the human component is “faith.” My Dad, retired Southern Baptist missionary to South Korea, says the faith comes from God but we have to appropriate it. I don’t know that I would even go that far with him. Certainly all our “abilities” are ultimately provided by God, but the “ability” to have faith is given to all men. We have to “exercise” that faith to be saved, and that is our part. (Maybe that is not so far from my Dad’s view.) “YOUR faith has saved you,” Jesus says several times. (And what about repentance?)

    Also, I am presently not sure whether I believe that the salvation once obtained by faith can therefore thereafter be lost. Good arguments with scriptures in support on both sides. And certainly “observationally” it appears some do have faith and yet certainly do appear to lose it. So I confess to be in a state of confusion over that Arminian tenet (as I believe Arminius himself was).

    • brentwhite Says:

      Hey, Tom. Now I’m on vacation.

      We Arminians do agree with our Calvinist brethren that man is “totally depraved,” such that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (through prevenient grace) humanity is unable to possess saving faith. But there is human responsibility to respond to this grace.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        But isn’t that “response” still something from us? It may be “responsive” to what God gives, but it is still something “from us” that is required to accomplish salvation.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Absolutely!


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