Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Arminianism v. Calvinism, Or, What James White And John Piper Could Learn From Michael Horton

Recently Arminian Roger E. Olson and Calvinist Michael Horton held a polite discussion about Calvinism which can be heard here and here at Dr. Horton’s The White Horse Inn website. Although I am a Wesleyan-Arminian, I am going to focus on Horton’s remarks concerning Calvinism. First, he acknowledges, as so few Calvinists do, that Arminianism is not pelagianism, nor is Calvinism determinism. Nor is Calvinism TULIP. According to Horton, predestination and God’s sovereignty are not the center of Calvinist theology. Justification, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the sacraments are the center of historic Calvinist theology, not election and calling. Horton calls TULIP a terrible anachronism and criticizes the term “irresistible grace.” Horton denies that God coerced Adam to sin. He quotes an early Calvinist catechism: “The Reformed Churches detest with their whole soul the belief that God is as active in reprobation as He is in election.” He quotes the declaration of the Council of Orange (529 A.D.) stating that the New Birth is the result of the Holy Spirit amending our will, not forcing unbelief to be turned into belief. Covenant theology is better than TULIP, he says, and Calvinism should not lead one into believing in unconditional eternal security. Olson claimed that John Piper and R.C. Sproul misrepresent Calvinism. Horton agreed.

How different was the exchange between Calvinist James White and Wesleyans Roger and Faith Forster in 2009. This can be heard on the British radio program Unbelievable. (Click here and scroll down in the archive section to the 8/1/09 program.) When asked how he would define Calvinism, White stated that Calvinism is chiefly concerned with God’s sovereignty and His right to do what He wants with His creation. According to White, Calvinism and the TULIP are one and the same. Not to begin with God’s sovereignty is to rob God of His glory and substitute a God-centered theology with a man-centered theology. The Forsters correctly point out that correct theology begins with God’s nature, which is love. God isn’t glorified just because He is victorious over all His enemies, Faith Forster says. God is glorified because He triumphs over evil even though He allows man to make free decisions. The Forsters were firm but tactful in taking White to task for misrepresenting their theology and biblical exegesis.

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