Baylor University’s Roger Olson: ” The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.”

(HT: Scott Lamb–see the discussion)

Update: I should point out that Olson has done this sort of thing before. For example, in 2003 wrote an article claiming, “The God proclaimed by John Piper is sometimes ‘too big’ in the sense that he doesn’t seem personal enough to come near and dwell with us for our sakes. He’s aloof and self-absorbed. That’s not the loving, self-emptying, often vulnerable, caring and suffering God of the Bible.” My response was published (you have to scroll down).

Olson likes to call for an “irenic” theology, but at the same time he has a habit of doing theology by caricature. It’s analysis by labeling one side with glowing terms and labeling the other side with put-downs. In my introduction to the book Reclaiming the Center I collected some of the quotes to this effect from just one article of his:

The postconservatives and their proposals are “liberated,” “bold,” “vibrant,” “interesting,” “new,” “relevant,” “committed,” “faithful,” “fresh,” and “fascinating.” The traditionalists are “old guard,” “obsessive,” “reactionary,” “highly rationalistic,” “rigid” “naysayers” with a “scholastic spirit” who love nothing more than “gatekeeping,” “control[ling] the switches,” and “patrol[ling] the boundaries.”

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96 thoughts on “Olson on Calvinism”

  1. Jayson says:

    Sounds like Olson and Greg Boyd would enjoy each other’s company:

    http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/2007/08/
    why-35w-bridge-collapsed.html

  2. Anonymous says:

    “But what if God limits himself so that much of what happens in the world is due to human finitude and fallenness?”

    If God is good and all-powerful yet limits Himself and thus prevents Himself from interceding when evil is about to happen, such as Olson’s question infers, then He is effectively no different than the situation Olson is trying to counter.

    God is good, He can prevent/change anything but instead intentionally leaves humans in their fallenness so they will screw up and not Him. That doesn’t sound better than Calvinism, that sounds worse.

    “What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?”

    Olson is suggesting that one day God “will make all things perfect.” This means that He will override wills, inflict punishment on the unrighteous and orchestrate events to bring about peace. I think Olson is unknowingly a Calvinist.

    Jared

  3. Anonymous says:

    On a different note entirely.

    Why do we feel the inclination to refer to someone (especially a public figure) without using their name? As if using their name meant you were being hostile? Olson says something like “a certain pastor and author that pastors a church just a mile from the bridge thinks…” Who could he be talking about? Does anyone know?

    Now what if someone really didn’t know? What if someone had no idea who John Piper was and had no clue of his recent statements concerning the bridge collapse? What would be the point of (barely) concealing his identity? Piper’s comments were made publicly, they are online.

    I guess I don’t understand this kind of correction in light of Paul’s confrontation towards Peter. Do we think that we are being more Christian? To me it kind of appears cowardly. As if when one is challenged on their statements they could go back and say “no I didn’t SAY John Piper, I just mean all those kind of people…”

    I don’t think Piper would be hesitant to attach his name to what he said. So the only reasons I can really see are 1. fear 2. a desire for unknowledgeable readers to stay unknowledgeable towards the person being referenced or 3. you don’t actually know who the person is and you’re trying to describe him as best you can.

    What does anyone else think about this?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Lol. What irony.

    I wrote the above comment.

    Jared

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here is what Greg Boyd says about Piper in regards to Piper view of the bridge–I think Boyd makes some good points:

    As all of you know, I’m sure, a little over a week ago the 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed. This is the most traveled bridge in Minnesota. It was a tragedy, though the fact that only 13 people died and/or are presumed dead is really amazing, especially given that this happened at the peak of rush hour. The catastrophe is rendered especially poignant by the fact that it involved the failure of human-made structure we instinctively trust. Like the Titanic, this collapsed bridge has become a symbol of our perpetual vulnerability.

    It’s also an occasion for theological reflection. A prominent local pastor in the Twin Cities reports that the night of the collapse his eleven-year-old daughter wanted to pray that people wouldn’t blame God for the event. He told her this was a good prayer since “blame” implies God did something wrong. He assured her God let the bridge fall, in part because he wanted people in Minneapolis to “fear him.” But, he assured his daughter, God isn’t to “blame” because he did nothing wrong (www.desiringgod.org/Blog/745).

    In this same blog the pastor discusses Luke 13:1-5 where Jesus responds to two catastrophes: Pilates’ slaughtering of some Galileans and the fall of the tower of Siloam that killed 18 people. About both events Jesus asked his audience, “Do you think these people were more guilty than anyone else? No. But unless you repent, you will all perish” (vs. 3-4, my paraphrase). This pastor interprets Jesus to be saying that “everyone deserves to die,” for “all of us have sinned against God.” And this, he insists, is “the meaning of the collapse of this bridge…”

    What is more, this pastor argues that catastrophes like this one are God’s “most merciful message,” since they mean there’s “still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction.” For this reason, the message of the collapsed bridge is “the most precious message in the world.”

    Now, I respect this pastor as a man of God, but this teaching honestly concerns me. I’ll make four points in response to this blog.

    First, his interpretation of Luke 13:1-5 assumes that God was somehow involved in Pilate’s massacre and the falling tower of Siloam. He thinks Jesus was teaching that the ultimate reason the Galileans were massacred and the tower fell on people was because “everyone deserves to die,” and Jesus was simply saying to his audience; “You’re as guilty as they are, and you’ll die too if you don’t repent.” But where in the text is there any suggestion Jesus assumed God had anything to do with either of these catastrophes?

    In fact, if you read on five more verses, you come upon another catastrophe Jesus confronted: a woman who had been deformed for 18 years. Rather than assuming that God was somehow involved in this deformity, Jesus says this woman was bound by Satan (13:16). He then manifested God’s will by healing her.

    This is what we find throughout the Gospels. They uniformly identify infirmities (sickness, disease, deformities, disabilities) as being directly or indirectly the result not of God’s punishing activity, but of Satan’s oppressive activity. So it is that Peter summarized Jesus’ ministry by saying he was anointed “with the Holy Spirit and power” and “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Ac 10:38).

    In light of this, I see no reason to accept the assumption that drives this pastor’s exegesis.

    Second, while I agree with this pastor that all people are sinners who deserve to die, I wonder how the death of Christ factors into all this. Scripture teaches that Jesus died “not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn 2:2). If so, then why is God still in the business of physically punishing people for their sins by sending catastrophes? Wasn’t Jesus’ sacrifice enough?

    Certainly God has the right to punish people by taking back the life he gives when he sees fit (e.g. Acts 5:9-10). But in the light of Calvary – and the entire ministry of Jesus – why should we think that this is his post-Christ ordinary mode of operation? Isn’t the Good News good precisely because, despite our sin, Jesus came to give us abundant life (Jn 10:10)?

    Third, and closely related to this, the model of God bringing about disasters to punish people is rooted in the Old Testament. Here we several times find God using nature and human agents to punish people. (Though even back then this wasn’t God’s normal mode of operation). But in these contexts, God first gives ample warning about a coming judgment and he tells people exactly what he is doing. Punishment without teaching is not pedagogically effective.

    Imagine a parent saying to their child, “I’m going to spank you whenever I want to but not tell you why.” It just doesn’t work!

    Now, God is no longer working within the framework of the Old Covenant in which these judgments have meaning, so we have no reason to think God is still trying to teach people lessons by sending disasters. But even if were to suppose he was still operating this way, where are the warnings and the teachings? If God was in fact collapsing the bridge to make people in Minneapolis “fear him,” as this pastor claims, why didn’t God establish a context where the people would understand what God was up to and have a chance to repent?

    I can make my point this way. How many non-believers in Minneapolis do you think interpreted the bridge collapse as an expression of God’s wrath? And of these, how many were moved to turn to God out of fear? I’m thinking it’s probably close to zero. If God was trying to get people to fear him, it simply didn’t work. But it did cost a number of lives and inflicted misery and sorrow on many more. It was a harsh spanking without any helpful instruction, and thus was unhelpful while being costly. Is this the way the God revealed in Jesus Christ operates?

    Fourth, and finally, if you accept that angels and humans are free agents who thus have the capacity to go against God’s will, there’s simply no need to appeal to a vindictive divine purpose to explain why catastrophes like this collapsed bridge happen. As Scripture depicts the matter, the world is oppressed by rebellious, evil powers that in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels have corrupted nature. As I’ve discussed at length in previous blogs, nothing in nature operates exactly the way God originally intended it to operate.

    On top of this, we humans have allowed ourselves to be co-opted in the epoch long battle these powers are waging against God, so we too have become corrupted. We thus don’t have the right priorities, which in part is why bridges we build sometimes collapse. Think about it. To give one illustration, we are generally much quicker to spend billions of dollars on war than we are making sure people are safe (and adequately fed).

    There’s undoubtedly plenty of blame to go around for why this bridge collapsed, ranging from fallen cosmic powers to a wrongly prioritized government to the wrongly prioritized people who elected these officials into office without holding them sufficiently accountable. But if you accept that God created a world with free agents, the one being you don’t need to blame is God.

    If, on the other hand, you don’t accept that the cosmos is populated with free agents who can therefore make decisions that are contrary to God’s will, then you have an even greater problem. (This is the camp the pastor whose blog I’m discussing is in). For in this case one has to explain how everyone can deserve to die when everything every person has ever done, however sinful, was part of God’s great plan from the start!

    Not only this, but if angels and people don’t have free will that can go against God’s will, then it’s no longer adequate to say God “allowed” a bridge to fall. You have to say God “caused” the bridge to fall. Other agents may have been instrumental in bringing about the collapse of the bridge, but they only did what God’s sovereign plan decreed they do. So one is fudging words to say God “allowed” the bridge to fall and that God is not to blame for the bridge falling.

    In the end, this view requires that we accept that God punishes people with catastrophes – and then eternally in hell — for doing precisely what he predestined them to do. Good luck making sense out of that!

    I suggest it’s far more biblical, and far more rational, to simply say that in a fallen, oppressed world, bridges sometimes collapse — and leave it at that. Rather than trying to see the vindictive hand of God behind catastrophes, it’s wiser to simply acknowledge that the world is an oppressed place where things sometimes go tragically wrong and focus all of our mental and physical energy turning from our self-centered ways to carry out God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”

    That, after all, was what Jesus was getting at in Luke 13:1-5.

  6. Cameron says:

    Regarding Olsen not mentioning Piper:

    I think Olsen is scared of naming Piper because he’s afraid that some of us “impressionable” Christians might find Piper’s arguments more persuasive than Olsen’s.

  7. Bryan L says:

    No Cameron, I think he’s afraid of Piper trying to get him fired or kicked out of something, or making him the subject of his next book or sermon series.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a doctor of theology, but it seems evident even to me that if God is only good when we approve His will, then He is no longer God… we have just usurped His place.

    I’m more than willing to accept that God has a purpose for events that is radically different from my own grossly limited and sin-stained perspective.

    – Jeff

  9. Corey Reynolds says:

    I think that it’s telling that a man who claims things like, “That seems more like the God of the Bible than the all-determining deity of Calvinism,” doesn’t use any Scripture in his argument.

    How does that seem more like the God of the Bible, Mr. Olson? From the way he argues, I think a better statement would have been, “That seems more like the God of my imagination than the all-determining deity of the Bible.”

  10. Anonymous says:

    I can identify with Olson’s struggles because I have only recently stopped taking up the mantle of a man-centered gospel and a semi-omnipotent god. When a person makes statements like the one Olson has made, he shows his true lack of understanding of biblical truth and, further, blasphemes the name of God.

  11. DamonTitus says:

    “This theology is sweeping up thousands of impressionable young Christians. It provides a seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil. Even what we call evil is planned and rendered certain by God because it is necessary for a greater good. “

    How is this a “seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil”? To me, it’s the most complex and marvelous tension of the bible. In fact, I think it’s what prompts Paul to break into the spirit-filled doxology of Romans 12.

    First he states:

    32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all (sounds like God’s in control here, I personally don’t see any “self-limitation).

    And then he rejoices over this fact:

    33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

    34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
    35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

    36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

    Amen indeed.

    For my money, the kind of God Paul describes and then worships is much less simple, and much more to be praised than the God of “OK, not my will then, but thine be done — for now.” It’s pretty easy to know the mind of that God. It’s mind-blowing to spend your lif(not to mention all of eternity) trying to know the mind of the God described in verse 32.

    Just listen to a few sermons by that unnamed preacher from Minneapolis if you want to hear it in action…

  12. R. Scott Clark says:

    Since Roger officially hates Calvinists, does this mean that we get to whine in the pages of Christianity Today and via IVP about how mistreated we are?

    rsc

  13. Terry says:

    Olson wrote:

    “And God says, ‘Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that’s one of my self-limitations. I don’t want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world.'”

    Where did God say that? In what version of the Bible did he find this? Or is this his own personal revelation?

    It may be more comforting for some people to imagine God the way Olson does; but a God that man is comfortable with or can completely understand is not the God revealed in the Bible. I believe this “comfort factor” is why many Arminians are Arminians.

  14. Daniel says:

    Who knows why Olson doesn’t name Piper? And honestly, who cares?
    Anonymous, perhaps your charge of ‘blasphemy’ (and the equation of blasphemy with a denial of Calvinism is interesting) could be backed up with an identity?

    Anyway, there’s something weird going on when Calvinists contrast their theology with so-called ‘man-centered’ theology. As if saying ‘God is good in a meaningful sense’ is ‘man-centered’. If God tortures people gratuitously, God is not good. Period.
    In fact, the cross requires that we see God as preferring suicide over the punishment of others. That is the depth and the breadth of the goodness of God.
    I don’t want to nitpick over death by bridge collapse, but the Calvinist claim that God in a real sense has willed for evil acts (e.g. torture, rape) to happen… that’s hard to swallow for anyone with a God-given conscience (I’m not saying Calvinists don’t have consciences, I’m just saying that the ‘hard-to-swallow-ness’ comes not from human fallenness, but from human goodness, which ultimately comes from God).
    All that to say, I can see where Olson is coming from.

    My two cents.
    -Daniel-

  15. Darby Livingston says:

    “But wait. What about God’s character? Is God, then, the author of evil?”

    Oh darn, in the midst of being unloving heretics, we Calvinists forgot all about God’s character! How silly of us! Those who reject the plain meaning of Scripture courageously expounded by certain nameless pastors with churches a mile away from the bridge only seem to care about the aspects of God’s character that serves their lusts. They never seem too concerned with… oh I don’t know – sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience, grace, justice, wrath. We Calvinists are so quirky.

  16. Morgan Freeman says:

    “The God of Calvinism scares me”

    Let it out, son. It’s the beginning of wisdom.

  17. Darby Livingston says:

    I don’t mean this to be mean. Please take this rightly, but I think this quote gets to the heart of it all.

    “If God tortures people gratuitously, God is not good. Period.”

    If one believes this, I see a key problem. Job. One cannot pawn Job’s circumstance off on Satan, or his libertarian free will. Job attributed it to God, and did not sin with his lips. So the dilemma is to let God determine what good is, or throw Job out of the Bible. In addition, God did not see suicide as preferred to punishing others unless one believes in universalism. So their must be more to the cross than mere sentimentalism. Glory perhaps?

  18. CalvDispy says:

    With regard to Boyd’s comments on the bridge collapse, Job teaches us some interesting things.

    First, God can have a purpose for calamity and remain innocent. Consider Job 1:21-22:
    “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

    Secondly, Boyd says with regard to the infirm woman of Luke 13:
    “Rather than assuming that God was somehow involved in this deformity, Jesus says this woman was bound by Satan.” This is an unwarranted assumption on Boyd’s part. Jesus did not have to mention God in the matter. Satan is an instrument of God. He cannot act independently of God’s purposes and must answer to God for all he does. In the passage just cited in Job, Job says it was God who gave and took away not Satan. In making this statement he did not blame God but acknowledged God’s sovereign purpose in the whole affair. Furthermore, this staement was not a sinful statement. That says to me that it was a correct statement to attribute ultimate responsibility for Job’s calamity to God.

    Later Job tells his wife:
    “‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). This is even more explicit in terms of Job making a correct statement regarding God’s responsibility. Satan is never attributed with the responsibility even though He was God’s instrument.

    Finally, in Job 42:11 in the aftermath of Job’s suffering we read this:
    “Then all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all who had known him before, came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought on him.”
    Here is a clear statement of the source of Job’s “evil” from the inspired writer and it was not Satan.

  19. Mike Edwards says:

    The thing that scared me about Olson’s comments is that it just “seems to him” based on his experience in the world that God is this or that. It is not about the normative revealed truth of Scripture that informs his theology, which is backwards.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Bryan L,

    “No Cameron, I think he’s afraid of Piper trying to get him fired or kicked out of something, or making him the subject of his next book or sermon series.”

    Does this mean you agree with reason #1 that I offered?

    Daniel,

    “Who knows why Olson doesn’t name Piper? And honestly, who cares?”

    Because he is communicating something by it, whether consciously or unconsciously. I try to understand people completely when they talk.

    Furthermore, my question wasn’t just of Olson but us Christians (specifically in this culture) in general. What causes this desire to not come out and say who you are talking about but to divulge enough about them for people to figure it out? Do you not see the paradox there?

    No harm was meant by the question. Oh and BTW, I’m not suggesting that Arminians are the only ones that doe this :-)

    Jared

  21. DRM says:

    As most of you, I hear this argument against God’s sovereignty all the time.

    One phrase stuck out to me in Dr. Olson’s letter that creates a flaw in his argument. His problem with Calvinism is that, “Even what we call evil is planned and rendered certain by God because it is necessary for a greater good.” Is this not where the problem starts? Who defines evil? Many of us hold God to a standard outside of himself to judge if what he did was good or evil when we are taught in the Bible that right is defined by what God does. When this truth gets turned around, we start saying things like “If God allows this or that evil, He cannot be good.”

    We witness such tragedies as the bridge collapse and like Dr. Olsen many see it as a “seemingly pointless calamity” or evil. Then we read Genesis 6:17 which says ” For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.” Somehow we summarize the bridge collapse as a “seemingly pointless calamity” that a good God could never “author”.

    So the Calvinist is accused of ignoring the character of God, but in reality, he is accepting the character of God as righteous. By not holding God to an outside (man-made) standard of good, but believing that God is the standard the Calvinist submits to God’s character and rather the Arminian ignores the character of God.

  22. Bryan L says:

    I love how worked up y’all get about this. It’s funny.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  23. Open 24 Hours says:

    “I love how worked up y’all get about this. It’s funny.”

    I notice how you visit virtually every Calvinist blog I bookmark, posting your now well known and tiresome disagreements over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And then over and over and over and over and over and over some more.

    Yeah, its everyone else that gets worked up!

    Brother, all I have to do is see a blog article title that has something to do with Calvinism, and I ask myself immediately, “how many comments has Bryan L posted already?” And the answer turns out to be, usually, more than one.

    Things slow over at your blog?

    O24H

  24. Connie says:

    bryan:

    With all due respect–speaking for myself–anytime God’s character is misrepresented Christians should at least get a bit “worked up”. :-)

  25. Bryan L says:

    Wow O24H. That’s pretty harsh. I didn’t know I was on your mind so much. I’m surprised you still refer to me as brother.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  26. Anonymous says:

    Bryan L,

    I ask you to recall the words I wrote to you on this blog not to long ago. Be careful, I say this not to condemn you but to sharpen and encourage.

    You do offer value to this blog when you carefully and clearly offer insight into varying opinions. Don’t undermine that because of other people’s responses or provoke it with little jests. I, for one, would like to see you continue to be taken seriously.

    Your brother,

    Jared

  27. Jerry says:

    Baylor? Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Justin says…

    Does anyone know if it’s true that John Wesley became an Arminian because he flipped a coin for it? In a letter that Toplady wrote, that’s what he said, but I want to know if anyone can verify that.

    It would make sense because anyone who reads the Bible aright should come out a Calvinist.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I can’t imagine that being true. However, if he did it would be quite ironic considering that would mean he left his theology of God up to a casting of the lot and somehow didn’t consider this Scripture…

    “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD.” ~Proverbs 16:33

    Jared

  30. Anonymous says:

    A question for R Scott Clark: why conclude that RO “hates” Calvinists (officially or otherwise)? Perhaps you only make reference to the unfortunate CT title, but RO has made it clear that the title did not originate with him.

    More generally: what does it mean for a determinist (such as Piper) to affirm that God “allows” (or “permits”) something? Does “God permits X to occur” really mean “God determines (perhaps via secondary causality or whatever) that X occurs and then does not intervene to stop its occurrence?”

    The very fact that a determinist wants to say that God “allows” or “permits” sin and evil is interesting to me, and I wonder why it is important for the determinist. I also wonder if perhaps Calvin was right about the langauge of permission.

    Thanks, Justin, for this blog.

    Tom McCall

  31. Billy says:

    How very true.

  32. Daniel says:

    There is a very interesting philosophical puzzle here. Let’s not belittle it (I say this to myself as much as to others).
    How do we know anything is good? Perhaps the Calvinist will say, “I don’t know what good is, but God does, so I let him define good for me.” All well and good, but how did you judge that Calvinism and its emphasis on the glory of God was ‘correct’? Did you not in some way see that this made sense of things? Of your experience? Did you not judge for yourself that these beliefs were good? Did you not judge for yourself that your interpretation of Scripture was good? Otherwise why would you trust it?
    And the Arminians and the open theists face the same problem. We want to say that God reforms us, and so our definition of ‘good’ might be changed… but adopting a particular worldview presupposes we know enough to recognize good when we see it (at least to a certain extent).

    I want to claim that I let God define ‘good’ for me, but only because I believe God is good. Why do I believe this? Because I have seen that he is good. How can I see that he is good unless I already know what good is? And if I already know what ‘good’ is, can I not say ‘this belief about God is false because it compromises his goodness’?

    Thoughts?

    -Daniel-

  33. Russ R says:

    Frankly, I’m glad he said it. For years Olson has tried to portray himself as an Arminian who tried to reach out to the mean Calvinists, all the while sounding like an Open Theist who despised Calvinists. Finally he’s straightforward about what I think he’s always believed.

  34. Darby Livingston says:

    Daniel,

    You make an interesting point, and asked for thoughts. I’ll take the bait. You said,

    “Did you not in some way see that this made sense of things? Of your experience? Did you not judge for yourself that these beliefs were good? Did you not judge for yourself that your interpretation of Scripture was good? Otherwise why would you trust it?”

    I think you’re making a dilemma where there isn’t one. The reason I believe God is sovereign over everything is because he simply says he is. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all thing according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 11). There are other texts as well. I don’t have to make a value judgment of that text. I just have to read it. If I say, “I have the keys to my car,” there’s no reason to decide if that’s good or not. It just is. God is in control. God also tells me he’s good. It doesn’t matter what my values allow me to accept. He just is. Additionally, I don’t have to think my interpretation of Scripture is good in order to believe what it plainly says. Adolf Hitler claimed to have a struggle. I don’t have to think his struggle was good in order to properly understand what he said. So I think your point is a non-issue that skirts taking the whole Bible seriously.

  35. Anonymous says:

    “Finally he’s straightforward about what I think he’s always believed.”

    ***

    The single sentence that Justin quoted comes across more harshly if you read it on its own (incidently, why not quote the whole essay, since it’s so brief?). When read it in its context, however, this sentence clearly has to be read in light of the questions Olson asked earlier in the essay:

    “What about God’s character? Is God, then, the author of evil? Most Calvinists don’t want to say it. But logic seems to demand it. If God plans something and renders it certain, how is he not culpable for it?”

    Saying “I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil” is just another way of saying, “Calvinist logic seems to demand that God is the author of evil.” To put it in question form: if God determines every event in history, then how can we distinguish the acts of God and the acts of the devil?

    That’s a fair question, and it deserves a fair answer. Calvinists, of course, have answers they think make sense; Arminians find those answer unconvincing. That why the debate has continued.

    But that question, and Olson’s point in this sentence, is nothing different than what Jacob Arminius, John Wesley, and every other classical Arminian like them have been saying for centuries. It does not reveal, in other words, some secret special blasphemy or hidden meanness or hate in Roger Olson’s heart. It pales in comparision to the nasty things Calvinists say about Arminians all the time; and it simply reveals that Olson–gasp!–actually thinks like an Arminian.

    If you think he’s wrong, the solution is simply enough: answer his questions.

  36. Anonymous says:

    wow:

    “If you’ve come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also
    good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.”

    “MUST” have limited himself? I wonder if Deut. 29:29 is in the bibles down there at baylor, or if they’ve read Job’s assesment of
    reality?

    (Well, maybe i’m not being fair…I believe he limits himself every second he chooses not to destroy me and every other idolater who profanes his holiness and takes away from his glory…we call God’s self limiting GRACE)

    His logic is worse than Greg Boyd’s in response to Piper.

    Do these people believe that Peter was filled with the spirit when he preached at pentecost? He speaks with authority right?

    Oh and on the cross God used evil actions to reach a Good purpose…it must be an unreliable account if Olson says the bible forbids
    this kind of act?

    WOW, I’m a baptist and this guy teaches at a baptist school.

    Ron

  37. Anonymous says:

    Anyone composing a response for the editorial board of the Baylor Newspaper?

  38. Anonymous says:

    to anonymous…
    “To put it in question form: if God determines every event in history, then how can we distinguish the acts of God and the acts of the devil?”

    What was the Cross? Was it an act of the evil one? If yes please explain, if no please explain. Also please ponder,

    Isaiah 45:7 “I (God) form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

    The Cross is a gracious, loving act upon an undeserving Person and given to undeserving persons. The evil was inherent in it all but if we did not have the Cross we would all be forever lost. Is that gracious considering what I have seen mentioned about rape and torture? We are all better than we deserve and if we will accept that God’s providence can bring us through the most ultimate evil, that He has allowed for his greater good, we are able to cope. Our coping is not a denial but an acceptance of the ultimate good and loving Father. It brings me to repentance, faith, love, hope, mercy, holiness.

    Tim

  39. Tim Burgess says:

    In typical fashion, Calvinists are bullies. And, in like manner, that seems to be the going trend on this post.How odd it is that a “God-centered” theology has to be defended by fallible individuals. Why is that other fallible individuals who love the Word and claim illumination by the Holy Spirit come to different conclusions than Calvinism. To some degree, Calvinists claim an unstated preference for special knowldge (dare I call you a Gnostic?)

    One final statement, I would love if anyone can empirically prove Calvinism without using the Bible.

  40. Daniel says:

    Darby–thanks for your response. Might I point out that your reading of Scripture presupposes Calvinism? Plenty of Arminians read the same passage without arriving at anything like exhaustive predestination. So perhaps your reading isn’t fully determined by the text, but also carries some ‘worldview baggage’…
    Some of us think passage like James 1:13-15 (“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.” – NET) preclude Calvinism. But then, we take our worldview baggage to the text as well.
    The point is that you’ve already judged ‘following Scripture’ to be good. You’ve already judged the Reformed tradition to be good. Just as I’ve judged that Calvinism is misleading (its picture of God isn’t ‘good’). We have an idea of ‘goodness’ before we ever get close enough to Scripture to let it reform us–and this pushes us to interpret Scripture the way we do.
    I don’t know if there’s a way around this. But I’d welcome your further thoughts.

    Cheers,
    -Daniel-

    (ps: Tim, saying that Calvinists are bullies unqualifiedly is perhaps not a good move. Certain Calvinists are bullies, of course, but sin is not limited to those who hold to the doctrines of grace. Overcome evil with good my friend.)

  41. Chase says:

    The God of Calvinism can be distinguished from the devil in that He is the one who is in control and his purposes are of the highest good, for His glory. A god not so sovereign might be more difficult to distinguish from the accuser.

  42. Matt O'Reilly says:

    John Wesley was not an Armnian because he flipped a coin for it. He was an Arminian because he was convicted of the truth of it as revealed in the Scriptures. In his own words, Wesley desired to be, “a man of one book.”

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  43. Gus says:

    Speaking in defense of Darby, did his reading of Scripture always presuppose Calvinism? Probably not Daniel. More than likely there was a point in time when he saw the plain sense of Scripture and embraced this understanding of God’s sovereignty. Mr. Daniel, your last post had the faint smell of a postmodern mindset. You must, as a matter of good stewardship in handling and interpreting the Word of God–and in humility recognize the glaring truth of what Darby is saying. We can at face value understand and embrace in faith what God says concerning Himself regarding His freedom (not ours) to do as He wills in the powers of heaven and earth. Sometimes logical wrestling matches aren’t necessary to arrive at a correct understanding of Scripture. I commend Darby for challenging you. I commend you for your thoughtful and gracious response. From one (weaker:)) brother to another.

  44. Anonymous says:

    The God of Calvinism can be distinguished from the devil in that He is the one who is in control and his purposes are of the highest good, for His glory. A god not so sovereign might be more difficult to distinguish from the accuser.

    Chase, Olson’s question is slightly different than the one you answered. He is asking: if God sovereignly determines every event in history, what is the difference between the the actions of God and the actions of the devil.

  45. Darby Livingston says:

    Daniel (and Gus),

    I was baptized in an independent fundamentalist militant Arminian baptist church. I became a pastor as a Southern Baptist non-fundamentalist Arminian. I despised Calvinism, along with most other Arminians. I, like many others heard a sermon by R.C. Sproul where he said he, too, at one time hated the doctrines of grace. But he came to the conclusion in seminary that he had to preach what the Bible says, not what he wanted it to say. That humility before the Bible, when I had accused him of arrogance, drove me back to Scripture. I came away a couple days later firmly believing in the doctrines of grace. I came to realize exactly what you’re saying. I wanted to trade what the Bible clearly says for what I thought sounds better. My brother, please don’t go down the road of thinking words only mean what we want them to. Eph. 1:11 is clear. If you explain it away, then at least admit that’s what you’re doing. Because to say that you and I can’t read that text with the same eyes, and agree with what it says (whether you think it “good” or not) is plain dishonest. If you try that logic with the tax code, you’ll end up in jail. If you try it with the Bible, it might end up worse. You’ll end up with no Gospel.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Just out of curiousity I would really like to hear some of the Olsen supporters interact with Job when it comes to this topic. It has been highlighted already by a few of the Calvinist commentators, but none of the Olsen supporters have responded. It would just be nice to hear them engage the text of Job, especially since it seems so applicable to the situation to which Olsen was writing to. It might be a bit more beneficial to the discussion at hand then to just say, well if God wills it then he is mean and I can not stomach that. May the Bible be the authority for all, and may we all be willing to conform to it, and not the opposite.

    ryan

  47. Daniel says:

    I think that it is fair to say that both Calvinists and Arminians are concerned with bringing glory to God by accurately understand His character as revealed by Scripture. Calvinists and Arminians just go about different ways of doing that.

    Personally, I somewhat identify with Olson’s comment because in my opinion Calvinism lacks a good theodicy.

    In our most honest moments, I think that we both have to admit that there are difficult passages in Scripture for both sides of the issue.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Sure there are difficult passages in Scripture to understand Daniel. But this does not do away with Job, and the passages already quoted above. Might be good to interact with them and see which one’s seem more convincing. I would be more than happy to interact with any of the one’s you believe to be “problem” texts for the Calvinist perspective. I do not want to turn this into a spectacle but I think it is important that we actually engage the character and actions of God that are revealed by the Bible not just the concepts which we can stomach or rationalize.
    ryan

  49. Anonymous says:

    interesting discussion…

    a hypothetical:

    if a bereaved family member of one of the victims of the bridge collapse, sinks and sinks, then finds at the very bottom of his grief, God in the face of Jesus Christ, can something be said, if anything, about his family member’s death in relation to his salvation?
    see, maybe it can be said that for the measure of grief experienced over the loss of one life, it must either be a foretaste of the immeasurable suffering of never knowing God’s salvation–and therefore never knowing True Life as it was meant to be lived –or else a foretaste of
    the immeasureable joy in coming to know and live in, God.
    I think of this when I think of Jesus using the tower of Siloam as an illustration of life outside of himself, which is no life at all.
    So yes, I think I could say “sometimes bridges just fall,” but I have accept that sometimes God reveals himself through acts of severe mercy.

  50. Michael F. Bird says:

    If one had to retort, I’d say: “The God of Arminianism scares me, I am not sure how to distinguish him from a cosmic guidance counsellor who would like to help me but feels that he needs to leave it up to me to help myself”.

  51. Bryan L says:

    I think Arminians live with a dual reality. I like Mike’s caricature of the Arminian God “…I am not sure how to distinguish him from a cosmic guidance counsellor who would like to help me but feels that he needs to leave it up to me to help myself”. I laughed when I read that.
    I like it because I think it is somewhat true. But as most caricatures (including Olson’s), it’s not all the way true or accurate, at least not from the point of view of those being caricatured.

    I think Arminians do affirm that God would like to help us but we do resist him. It is a reality that we reject God and his help and guidance and his leading. If someone wants a scripture just read the Bible. It’s everywhere in there. God wants us to do things but we don’t. Would anyone deny this?

    But then the other side of this is that Arminians believe that when we do what God wants it’s only by his grace and help. We don’t view ourselves as being able to help ourselves, but instead we view ourselves as accepting God’s help. So I don’t think God “feels he needs to leave it up to me to help myself”, but instead God feels he needs to leave it up to me to accept his help and his power (because we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do what God wants us to do).

    Anyway that’s my way of looking at it.

    BTW ryan, I have discussed the book of Job in this debate (many times before as someone has pointed out :). If you are interested in my take on the question of Job then you can just do a search on this blog or on Denny Burk’s blog and you should see something come up. I’m not trying to dodge the question and truthfully I don’t have the energy right now to get into an extended debate on Job’s role in the this issue, but for what it’s worth you can see how someone might have responded to your question.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  52. Matt O'Reilly says:

    “If one had to retort, I’d say: ‘The God of Arminianism scares me, I am not sure how to distinguish him from a cosmic guidance counsellor who would like to help me but feels that he needs to leave it up to me to help myself’.”

    This fear reveals a misunderstanding of Arminian theology. As an Arminian I’ve never found myself thinking that God has left it up to me to help myself. This would be an accurate concern if you were dealing with Pelagius, but you are not. God has helped me. He has initiated a loving relationship with me which, by its very nature, demands a free response. Being unable to respond in myself because of slavery to sin. God, by grace and through the preaching of the gospel, enables me to respond by faith, the necessary condition for salvation. I’ve never helped myself to my salvation. If my body is raised from the dead at Christ’s return, it will not be because I helped myself. It will be a work of God’s grace.

    May he grant us all grace to live in peace.

    MO

  53. Tim Burgess says:

    If Calvinism is true, then there is absolutely NO proof that you are saved. For all you know, you could merely be giving a good lip service to God or ascending to theological propositions. You may in fact be deceiving yourself. Perhaps, if you are a Calvinist, you have to convince yourself that you’re saved, because as you would argue, nothing of our own will receives Christ.

    I all hope that every Calvinist is sure of their salvation.

    One more more thing, I think we assume that sovereignty should be associated with power, coercion, and exertion. Now, I will grant there are times in the Bible that God does in fact exert his will, but there are also times in which he relinquishes control. I just wish that we would give “sovereignty” its full due and understanding of its many meanings.

  54. JT says:

    Tim Burgess: that’s a pretty profound misunderstanding of Calvinistic theology!

    Brothers, in order to engage in helpful, intelligent conversation on these matters, we have to be able to describe the position we disagree with in a way that truly understands what that position is saying.

    JT

  55. Anonymous says:

    Seriously?

    “If Calvinism is true, then there is absolutely NO proof that you are saved… You may in fact be deceiving yourself. Perhaps, if you are a Calvinist, you have to convince yourself that you’re saved, because as you would argue, nothing of our own will receives Christ.

    I all hope that every Calvinist is sure of their salvation.”

    I hope every arminian is sure too!
    How do you know you’re saved? How do we ALL know we’re saved? FAITH. (And I believe the bible talks a lot about fruit of repentance and faith that is a sign of it true belief…)
    This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in the calvinist vs. arminian debate.

    The laugh was well worth it.
    I can’t stop smiling. Thank you sir for the comment. You made my day.

    laughing Ron

  56. Anonymous says:

    Matt O’Reilly said:
    “This fear reveals a misunderstanding of Arminian theology.”

    That’s the point of this whole post. Olson said this first (Calvinist’s god scares me…)and he has no grasp on Calvinist theology either. We maintain that God is sovereign and good (and that these two are not exclusive). Olson has a problem with that and says that it simply can’t be, we must limit him some how or he’s the cause of things that make him evil. We say he’s not the cause of any evil. Your comment is the irony of this entire post.

  57. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Anonymous said: “Olson said this first (Calvinist’s god scares me…)and he has no grasp on Calvinist theology either. We maintain that God is sovereign and good (and that these two are not exclusive).”

    From an Arminian perspective, I would agree that God is both sovereign and good. I think the disagreement comes in the way in which God excercises his sovereignty. It is certainly the case that God manifests his sovereignty by turning the hearts of kings and working in human history to bring about redemption and new creation. However, I do not think that he excercises his sovereignty irresistibly in matters of soteriology. Rather, he has sovereignly made human faith the condition of election. This faith is not a meritorious work. On the contrary it is the antithesis of any sort of work. It is an authentic and free response entirely enabled by the initiative of free grace.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  58. Daniel says:

    First, please note that there is more than one Daniel in this conversation (if you go to post a comment, Blogger helpfully posts pictures of the posters in question–which is quite helpful).

    What of Job? Job is an exercise in Hebraic philosophy. It is the Jew’s theodicy. It is also a thoroughly polyvocal text which cannot be reduced to “God does stuff and we shouldn’t question him.” The author of Job was clearly wrestling with the same issues we’re wrestling with: is there a distinction between causation and allowance? Where is God in the midst of evil? Can the enemy harm those who fear God? How are we to behave in our afflictions?
    Using the book of Job to point to pat answers and reinforce a bulky systematic apparatus entirely bypasses the point of the Lord’s interventions in said book.

    Additionally, it’s worth asking the question of whether or not the people of God are bound to have the same theodicy as the author of Job (in what way does Scripture inform our worldview? must we agree with the biblical authors on all points?), or if perhaps we might disagree on some points…

    Cheers,
    -Daniel-

  59. Billy says:

    The God of Calvinism can be distinguished from the devil in that He is the one who is in control and his purposes are of the highest good, for His glory.

    Exactly. He made people fall, gives them no free will, murders people, tortures people on earth then in hell forever, makes people suffer horribly, creates and commands wars, will come down and destroy all the unbelievers, etc. all for His glory! What a wonderful deity you worship! How loving and just and merciful!

    Or maybe, how utterly frightening that you believe such nonsense. And hopefully you are nothing like him!

  60. chase says:

    Billy,

    I a not like him. He says in Psalm 50, “you thought I was alotgether like you.” What a foolish thought that would be. My thought is grounded in Scripture. Just to name a couple, Lam. 3:37-38 and Amos 3:3-6. I don’t find this easy to believe, but I do find this as a part, though not all of who God is. He is wonderful in the true sense of the word.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of theodicy Daniel, the questions still remains that if Olsen is still willing to say that a God who would permit something of a bridge collapse or planes going into a tower is hard to stomach and indistinguishable from the devil; I am left wondering would not a God who would know about them (Arminian view) and then not stop them be even worse or hard to stomach? Personally I believe it would be. But if you can conceive of a God who is big enough to not just allow it but then redemptively work through it for purposes that are widely beyond our understanding, now that sounds captivating and something that requires great faith.
    Just a thought,
    ryan

  62. Courtney says:

    MO said:
    “This fear reveals a misunderstanding of Arminian theology. As an Arminian I’ve never found myself thinking that God has left it up to me to help myself. This would be an accurate concern if you were dealing with Pelagius, but you are not. God has helped me. He has initiated a loving relationship with me which, by its very nature, demands a free response. Being unable to respond in myself because of slavery to sin. God, by grace and through the preaching of the gospel, enables me to respond by faith, the necessary condition for salvation. I’ve never helped myself to my salvation. If my body is raised from the dead at Christ’s return, it will not be because I helped myself. It will be a work of God’s grace.”

    Hey Mo (ha! I feel like one of the three stooges now)

    Seriously though, don’t look now, but you sound like a closet calvinist. You said that the call of God requires a “free” response but then you followed that by saying you were unable to respond because your will was enslaved to sin. So, God enabled you. What you just described is Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace.

  63. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Courtney said: “Seriously though, don’t look now, but you sound like a closet calvinist. You said that the call of God requires a “free” response but then you followed that by saying you were unable to respond because your will was enslaved to sin. So, God enabled you. What you just described is Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace.”

    I thought someone might respond like this. The thing that keeps me from being a closet Calvinist is that by “free response” I mean “able to choose otherwise.” So, because I am a slave to sin, God enables me to respond freely to his grace either positively or negatively. I do believe in Total Depravity; but grace is resistible. Call me a one point Calvinist if you like, but I don’t think that’s much of one.

    It’s important to realize that there are a lot of people out there who call themselves Arminian but gravely distort the classical Arminian position. Pure and free grace is at the heart of Wesleyan-Arminian theology. The point of departure between Arminian and Calvinist theologies seems to be in the issues surrounding human response to God’s grace.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  64. Jason says:

    Is it “coincidence” that all life has to die?
    Isn’t all death a judgment, and therefore, a warning, to the human race?

  65. Jason says:

    one more question:

    is it death itself that terrifies people, or is it HOW people die that gets people’s dander up?

  66. Anonymous says:

    Matt you are still left with the quandry of how do you respond to God’s grace if you are a slave to sin? What allows a dead person to choose? If you are depraved and a sinner how do you save yourself so to speak, and pick God’s grace?

    todd

  67. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Todd said” “Matt you are still left with the quandry of how do you respond to God’s grace if you are a slave to sin? What allows a dead person to choose? If you are depraved and a sinner how do you save yourself so to speak, and pick God’s grace?”

    The NT indicates quite clearly that God is capable of communicating with unregenerate persons who are also able to respond to his communication. A recent Bib. Sac. (164:259-76) article by Rene A. Lopez notes Acts 10:30-48 where God heard the prayer and remembered the alms of the Gentile Cornelius who sent for Peter and upon the preaching of the gospel the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles. I take the reception of the Spirit to be the moment of regeneration and conversion. Cornelius was clearly able to seek God prior to his conversion.

    It seems that being dead in one’s trespasses and sins does not mean that one is incapable of meaningful response to God’s divine initiative.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  68. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Todd said: “If you are depraved and a sinner how do you save yourself so to speak, and pick God’s grace?”

    I meant to say this in my previous post. But I never said “save yourself”. I would never put it this way.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  69. Anonymous says:

    Matt you have to put it that way in some regard. It is you who makes the decision, so therefore you are playing an active role in your salvation. I know that might not sit that well but it is the truth. I do not mean it in the strongest sense possible, but to choose or decide to accept the grace offered from God, involves you in the process of saving yourself. I do not know any other way to phrase this, and still be truthful. The work of your decision must be added into the equation of your salvation.

    todd

  70. Martin Downes says:

    Calvinism is a big red herring in Olson’s article.

    His basic problem is the incompatibility of his denial that God is “all-determining” with his own presuppositions.

    If, as he claims, God has limited himself in order to relate to his creation then this self-limiting has brought consequences for providence and suffering that God foreknows and foreordains. These consequences are determined by his volitional self-limiting. This is an issue for Calvinists and Arminians to wrestle with. At stake is not the validity of Calvinism but Christian theism.

    Open theism would offer him a possible way out, but that would be to move out of orthodoxy altogether.

  71. Daniel says:

    “Open theism would offer him a possible way out, but that would be to move out of orthodoxy altogether.”
    On who’s definition of ‘orthodoxy’?

    Todd, freaking out about doing ‘work’ in salvation is so passé…
    If I expect to hear the Lord say “well done good and faithful servant,” then I’d darn well better have done something meritorious. If there weren’t an important distinction between choosing and not choosing, then there’d be no good reason for the non-choosers to be damned! Right? And so yes, there is ‘merit’ (of some sort) in choosing to love God after he first loved us.
    This is only ‘problematic’ for those who adhere to an unbiblical monergism (notice how ‘political’ the word ‘unbiblical’ can become). Is not the entire point of Hebrews 11 that when humans respond to God by faith, that is a good thing?
    The “oh no! I did a good thing!” fear of Calvinists (which may perhaps only exist at a popular level… I don’t know) is not rooted in Scripture.

    My two cents.
    -Daniel-

  72. Martin Downes says:

    Daniel,

    “You say potato, I say potato…

    You say tomato, I say tomato.”

    I could have left that comment about orthodoxy out, it was not essential to the point I was making which was that Olson is inconsistent with hos own presuppositions. This isn’t about Calvinism, it is about Christian theism.

  73. Andrew Walker says:

    Interesting article to say the least by Olson.

    Does anyone know of any good resources on the web that give Calvinism its fair critique? I am not opposed to Calvinism one bit, but I do want to engage with critical sources (and by critical, I do not mean liberal). And I’m sure, if all of us are to be honest Calvinists, we should have all interacted with the critiques.

    I want to intellectually spare with both sides on this.

    Thanks.

  74. Anonymous says:

    Wow Daniel seemed to have rankled your feathers. But since you get to set the standards of what is passe maybe I should just fall in line even though I did not get that memo. Maybe matters of salvation have become antiquated to you but not to many others. Not to mention your usage of the parable of the talents is completely mis-applied and out of context. It is not referring to salvific matters it is talking about gifts and talents. It is quite a exegetical stretch to think there is a case for one adding merit or work to salvation.

    I am not saying that we are to do absolutely nothing with our lives. And I think your view on Calvinists being afraid of doing something good is a distortion and ungenerous. Truth is most Calvinists I know would say that God has prepared good works in advance for us to do, and we do them by the power of the Holy Spirit who is sanctifying us through our joining in his Great Commission. Calvinist do no live in fear of doing something good, thats silly, it is just that what we do that is good is done by Christ in us and through us. Our merit does not come of my own volition and effort but comes through God’s grace to save a sinner like me, and empower me to advance his Kingdom and give him glory. Try and be more fair Daniel.

    politely,
    todd

  75. Anonymous says:

    What concerns me about comments that Piper made after the bridge collapse is that they are very similar comments that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell made after 9/11 of why God did such and such. I just wish Piper would take counsel from his Elders, that have more of the gift of mercy. And time his response more appropriately based on the condition, emotion and heart of where people are at. When he penned his bridge response people were still missing and not accounted for. Piper—-please, please show more mercy yourself and learn to weep with those who are weeping. I know the pain you have tasted within your own family. Why would you not be more sensitive and compassionate therefore to others??? Say what you said but have more discernment on when you say it. You have a huge following and they spew out your words everywhere. Why give Pastor Boyd the “ammunition” of a ill timed response when you could have waited at least a week or so to respond the way you did.

  76. Anonymous says:

    Andrew I would read;

    1. “Why I am not a Calvinist”
    or
    2. “Arminian Theology” by Roger Olsen. I read it in conjunction last year, with Sam Storms “Chosen For Life.” Both are well written and good contrast to one and other.

    hope that helps,
    ryan

  77. Daniel says:

    Ryan, just a heads up, Olson is spelled with an ‘o’.

    Andrew, I’d recommend anything by Wright or Dunn (since the historical work of the New Perspective undermines the systematic foundations of Calvinism rather than merely offering an alternative system–though it does this as well).

    Todd, my feathers are actually not rankled at all. You had just said that under a free will paradigm, “The work of your decision must be added into the equation of your salvation”–as if this were a bad thing. I was just trying to say that this kind of nitpicking over who does what and how it happens is entirely beside the point. God invites, we respond. So what?

    Cheers,
    -Daniel-

  78. Anonymous says:

    Daniel plain and simple I think it does matter that we carefully articulate our soteriology, you may disagree, that fine. And deeming what is passe and mis-using the parable of the talents, is what I really disagreed with. Besides your caricature of Calvinists was way off base, saying they are fearful of doing something “good.” Just asking you extend the same courtesy that you would want when people explain your theological positions.

    This is actually a really good example of what JT commented on in the update to this post. That sometimes conservative or Calvinist theology is given all sorts of derogatory labels by those who disagree with it, and are much more charitable with their own belief systems.

    politely,
    todd

  79. CalvDispy says:

    MO said,
    “Pure and free grace is at the heart of Wesleyan-Arminian theology.”
    It seems to me that the heart of grace in Arminian theology is God giving mankind libertarian freedom. God’s freedom to save is limited by the unlimited freedom of man to choose as he desires.

    In Calvinism, the heart of grace is found in the reality that mankind is utterly helpless, whose will is bound by his corrupted heart which is self-seeking rather than God-seeking. Divine grace breaks the bonds that our wills are fettered to by replacing the stony heart with a fleshly heart. That kind of grace makes me fall to my kneees in wonder and adoration that God should be so pleased to extend His regenerating Spirit of grace to a rebel that previously hated God.

    Daniel,
    Your rhetorical flourishes about the character of Job’s genre seems terribly inadequate to me in dealing with the cold hard text, especially 1:20-22; 2:9-10; and 42:10-11.

  80. Chimi says:

    The repeated hostility shown on this web site is disgusting. O24H is the perfect example of why people hate Christians. Cold, rude, and judgmental. It seems like some people can’t handle others disagreeing with them. Perhaps the anger and bitterness in Calvinists continues from its roots…John Calvin. Hate anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

  81. Anonymous says:

    Chimi,

    I write this with a broken heart. I hope you can hear the sincerity of my tone in my writing.

    I agree with you. Many times it is disheartening to see interaction between Christians, especially over disagreeing theology. But don’t you see that you are doing the same thing that upsets you?

    Calling someone “the perfect example of why people hate Christians” is a false accusation. We can’t know that, it’s an exaggeration. To say that he is cold, rude and judgmental in the way that you did is to completely undermine your voice. I don’t understand why you would want this.

    For you to make those claims about 024H, Calvin as well as the rest of “Calvinists” is off base. There are many passionate, gracious, selfless Calvinists. I fear for you with love because it seems you are treading into dangerous waters. Remember we must build others up, plead with them, season our conversation with salt, pray for them. If you recognize what is wrong you must lead by humble example. It just doesn’t seem like you did that, but instead called everyone else out for not doing it.

    Enjoy God and live mightily,

    Jared

  82. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Todd said: “Matt you have to put it that way in some regard. It is you who makes the decision, so therefore you are playing an active role in your salvation. I know that might not sit that well but it is the truth. I do not mean it in the strongest sense possible, but to choose or decide to accept the grace offered from God, involves you in the process of saving yourself. I do not know any other way to phrase this, and still be truthful. The work of your decision must be added into the equation of your salvation.”

    It sounds like our disagreement is over the way we think about faith. Even if it is me who makes a decision to believe (and I think it is), this is not a work in the sense of merit before God. In Scripture faith is the antithesis of works. So, faith cannot be spoken of as a work. I say this politely but I just don’t think your thinking on faith is really consistent with Scripture. I imagine that you would say the same to me. The Bible never portrays faith as a work of salvation. It does say that belief in Jesus as Lord and in his resurrection are necessary for salvation. In Acts 2 when the people ask Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” He doesn’t respond by telling them there’s nothing they can do. He responds by commanding them to repent, be baptized and believe. These are not merit earning or salvation achieving activities. I’d like to be clear. The exercise of faith is no pulling yourself up by your own moral bootstraps. Salvation was wrought on the cross. I had no part in that. It comes to me by grace through faith. Again, please note I say the following politely: One of the problems I’ve often had with Calvinism is that it just doesn’t seem to retain an accurate biblical understanding of faith. Faith is always presented as something human subjects have to do. However, it is never presented as a merit earning work. I think the Arminian system does a better job of holding on to the biblical sense and meaning of faith.

    Grace and peace brothers,

    MO

  83. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Calvdispy said: It seems to me that the heart of grace in Arminian theology is God giving mankind libertarian freedom. God’s freedom to save is limited by the unlimited freedom of man to choose as he desires.

    Arminians do believe that libertarian freedom is a necessary component of meaningful love relationships. Otherwise, one is an automaton. However, this does not remove grace as the foundation and center of our theology. Unitl we are freed from the bondage to sin, we cannot choose God freely.

    This is John Wesley:

    “All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God.” (Works 5:7)
    http://wesley.nnu.edu/john_wesley/sermons/001.htm

    Calvdispy also said: In Calvinism, the heart of grace is found in the reality that mankind is utterly helpless, whose will is bound by his corrupted heart which is self-seeking rather than God-seeking. Divine grace breaks the bonds that our wills are fettered to by replacing the stony heart with a fleshly heart. That kind of grace makes me fall to my kneees in wonder and adoration that God should be so pleased to extend His regenerating Spirit of grace to a rebel that previously hated God.

    I’m not sure you would find Arminians who would disagree with the way you put this. I might want to nuance it this way or that. But, in general, I agree. Here’s Charles Wesley:

    Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
    fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    my chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

    I too fall to my knees in wonder and amazement at a God who could love me, a sinner.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  84. Adam Omelianchuk says:

    Hmmm. I must admit that this piece by Olson is certainly disappointing. I’ve studied a lot of Olson’s books and have found them to be very erudite and irenic. But his magazine articles have a bit more bite to them. Perhaps they are written as editorials rather than dialectics?

    Nevertheless, I’m not surprised. Piper and Olson have been sparring directly and indirectly for the last decade.

  85. CalvDispy says:

    MO,
    I appreciate the quotes from the Wesley brothers. Calvinists like Whitefield and Spurgeon had a strong affection for these men as I believe many Calvinists do today. I think they understood more of the grace of God than many in Church history regardless of theological persuasions.

    I suppose one area where Calvinsists and Arminians disagree is the way in which God conveys his grace to sinners. If I understand classic Ariminianism correctly, it holds to the idea of previenent grace in which God nullifies the effects of the fall for all men by giving them libertarian freedom.

    Calvinism on the other hand holds that the will is bound by the corrupted heart until God draws individuals sinners to himself in the effectual call of election and the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit that changes the heart so that the will responds to Christ in faith.

  86. Chimi says:

    Jared/Anonymous,

    How is saying Calvin hated those who disagreed with him off base when he wanted them dead? His policy basically amounted to death to heretics. And I’m not talking about spiritual death. It sounds like hatred to me.

  87. Anonymous says:

    MO
    thanks for the thoughtful reply. I would agree that we would probably see faith differently. I am sure we could continue to go round and round on the topic to no conclusion. Maybe the conclusion is that we can converse in kindness and unity.

    todd

  88. Chimi says:

    Jared/Anonymous,

    Out of curiosity, why is it that you chose to respond to me about my comments and not to O24H about his/her comments toward BryanL? I’m not angry, but curious about the selectivity.

  89. Matt O'Reilly says:

    Todd and Calvdispy,

    We could indeed go round and round. Thanks for the thoughtful and polite dialogue.

    Grace and peace,

    MO

  90. Anonymous says:

    Chimi,

    You asked,

    “How is saying Calvin hated those who disagreed with him off base when he wanted them dead?”

    There is much controversy surrounding the claims by many that Calvin hated “heretics” of the time and actually pursued their death. I don’t want to be the one that professes what is heart was towards them when I read of him visiting them in jail and pleading with them to renounce their “heresy.” I don’t think it’s fair for you to set yourself up as that judge either.

    Also, to suggest that the “hatred” of Calvinists stems from Calvin himself is really owing too much to one man. If there really is this sweeping hatred among Calvinists as you suggested then surely we would attribute that to a false theology of God and a lack of love due to sin. Blaming Calvin hardly gets us anywhere productive.

    “Out of curiosity, why is it that you chose to respond to me about my comments and not to O24H about his/her comments toward BryanL?”

    Great question! Partly because of timing. If you noticed I commented a few times at the beginning of this chain but then not again until towards the end. It’s a long conversation and if I jump back in I would prefer to do it with someone that recently posted so I’m not just talking. Also, I consider Bryan L a friend (to the extent that two can be friends having never met each other). We have debated several times on this blog, often, in my opinion, with great charity.

    I like Bryan and want to encourage him. That’s why I wrote to him when I noticed he was starting to lose his cool instead of writing to everyone else. I can’t change anyone, only challenge, encourage etc. I am glad when people of other positions call out Calvinists and their (sometimes) lack of love, so I had no problem with you challenging us. But I was saddened when you did it in such a way that seemed to point four fingers back at yourself. I love my Calvinist brothers and there are many of them that are very patient, loving, gracious and well spoken. But there are also (as with most groups) those that don’t seem to get that the thing we profess should make us charitable and so when others can point this out I am thankful and want to support them so they can see that I am “siding” with an Arminian (gasp) but, I think, for a much nobler cause than converting them to our theology. Sorry that was really long.

    My problem was not SO MUCH with what you said, but how you said. Seemed to me that you were acting in anger and I just don’t want to see “us” get to you. Truly I responded out of love. Hope that answers your question!

    Jared

  91. Chimi says:

    Jared,

    Great points about my hostile expression, but Calvin’s hatred can’t be dismissed. Don’t ignore murder.

    But thanks for your input into my communication.

    I wish more people responded like you when others on “Between Two Worlds” called Greg Boyd a dumb sh*&. There is a glaring inconsistency with who gets called out on stuff. That can be ignored, but when Calvinists are called out there seems to be an uproar. Don’t you think there would have been an uproar if someone called Piper a dumb sh*&?

    I am shocked the comments have been allowed to stay on this “Christian” blog.

  92. Chimi says:

    BTW…the comments on Boyd were in the comments in the blog about Boyd and abortion…and there were no abbreviations in the comments. Just flat out profanity.

  93. open 24 hours says:

    Chimi,

    I was thinking of getting some mexican food before I peaked at the computer, now I’m thinking of chimichangas. Mmmmm.

    Anyway, I’m sorry I offended you. I had thought many weeks or months ago about posting something like what I posted, and didn’t. A couple days ago a couple Calvinistic titled blog posts popped up, and I really did wonder how many posts Bryan L would have made already. Really I did, beause it was on my mind before. And true enough, there he already had been. I saw he had a link to his own blog, so I looked at it as an opportunity to tell him more privately what I had been observing. Only registered bloggers can post on his blog though, and I’m not one. So I looked for an email address on his blog, and found none. I dropped my thought again. Later that day I saw the at-the-time last post on this thread was his laughing at how worked up others get on this topic. Now that was ironic, being I had thought he was getting carried away on the topic himself for sometime, having posted many many many posts for the number of months I’ve visited here. Pot calling the kettle black sorta thing…you know, everyone else gets worked up…yet he has the most posts of an individual I’ve noticed on the topic. I too have conversed with him some on here before, and have read his interactions with others. Standard objections and disagreements. And that’s fine. It’s the repetitiveness of visiting popular Calvinistic blogs to be a contrarian that admittedly was catching my attention, especially when his own blog exists to post his thoughts. Obviously that blog is only lightly trafficked.

    My encouragement to Bryan L is not for him to go away or be quiet, but to maybe consider it is he himself that is the one excessively worked up on the topic, and to humbly ease up.

    I was taken slightly aback that Bryan L acted shocked that I would refer to him as a brother. Too bad, I still consider him such!

    Concerning the words you employed against me, I am thankful for the opportunity to humble myself lower than I can be humiliated. I take no offense against you, brother. Peace to you.

  94. bribri76 says:

    What is bryan’s blog?

  95. open 24 hours says:

    bribri

    if i remember, you click on his name on one of his posts here, and it takes you on to his blog or at least to a page that has a link to his blog.

    o24h

  96. Henry says:

    CalvDispy said 8/31:
    Satan is an instrument of God. He cannot act independently of God’s purposes and must answer to God for all he does.

    That from a Calvinist defending the Calvinist God. And we wonder how in tarnation Olson, who is not a Calvinist, could confuse the Calvinist God with the devil???

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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