Thursday, November 12, 2009
Roger E. Olson on Arminian Theology
I have not had a chance to read Professor Roger E. Olson's book "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities" and so I was glad to stumble upon two interviews of Olson at wesleyanarminian.blogspot.com . In these interviews he deals with the misconceptions of Arminianism that are the result of ignorance or misrepresentation. He defends Arminianism against the charges that it is semi-pelagian; he correctly states that Arminians believe in total depravity, that humans are dead in trespass and sin and that the initiative in salvation is always God's. Olson rejects the view that Charles Finney, a semi-pelagian, was in fact an Arminian. The starting point for Arminianism is not free will but the character of God; it has been the charge of Arminians against Calvinism that Calvinism makes God the author of evil. Instead, God allows a reasoned involvement of Man, his highest creation, in history; God does not want us to be robots but be in a personal relationship with Him, a relationship that allows for disobedience on the part of man. The Calvinist understanding of Predestination is rejected by Arminianism in favor of the Biblical view that God predestines those who will believe for salvation. Arminianism does not inevitibly lead to Open Theism as Calvinsts charge, but it shares Calvinists' view that God is totally sovereign. In fact, according to Olson, the enemy of Calvinism is not Arminianism, but the enemy of both is full blown Pelagianism. Professor Olson does disagree with John Wesley on Wesley's view of Christian Perfection, so that distinguishes him from those such as I who hold to that understanding of Scripture. Olson describes himself as a Pietist and defends that venerable tradition from the charges that its adherents are "holier than thou" and anti-intellectual. He describes Pietism as experiencing God in prayer and service. You can hear these interviews here and here.