According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arminianism is NOT Semi-Pelagianism

American Christianity and Semi-Pelagianism

by Roger Olson
posted February 20, 2011

I have agreed with my Calvinist friends (such as Mike Horton) that American Christianity is by-and-large Semi-Pelagian. Where I tend to disagree with them is that this is the same as Arminianism. I have demonstrated conclusively in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities that Arminianism is not Semi-Pelagian.

What is Semi-Pelagianism? It s a technical term used in the discipline of historical theology for the teaching of the “Massilians” John Cassian, Faustus of Riez and Vincent of Lyons (and others such as possibly Prosper of Aquitaine) that the initiative in salvation is on the human side even though full salvation can only be by God’s grace. Cassian termed the initiative in salvation “exercising a good will toward God” and argued that God awaits it before he offers grace.

Semi-Pelagianism, then, is denial of prevenient grace. Classical Arminianism is, of course, all about prevenient grace. My friend Stan Grenz described it using four words: conviction, calling, enabling and enlightening. (There is no order to these; they are simultaneous in the work of prevenient grace.) These are all the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and without them no one seeks God. This is classical Arminianism. It is very different from Semi-Pelagianism which, I argue, is the folk religion of American Christianity.

My evidence for this is based on almost 30 years of teaching theology in three Christian universities (on the graduate and undergraduate levels). Almost inevitably, when I explain classical Arminianism some students exclaim “That sounds like Calvinism! How is it different?” Of course, it’s easy to explain the difference, but to Semi-Pelagians Calvinism and Arminianism sound alike because of the emphasis on total depravity and prevenient grace. (One crucial difference, of course, is that Arminianism regards prevenient grace as resistible while Calvinism believes it is irresistible.)

As an Arminian, I feel no need to apologize for this situation. Some trace it back to Charles Finney, the great evangelist of the Second Great Awakening. Calvinists especially like to categorize him as an Arminian, but I don’t claim him as a true Arminian. He did not believe in total depravity or the absolute necessity of supernatural prevenient grace. For him, prevenient grace (and thus God’s initiative) is in the reasonable appeal of the gospel to the intellect.

The situation is that most American Christian churches (including evangelical ones) are EITHER Calvinist or Semi-Pelagian by default. I say “by default” because it isn’t intentional; non-Calvinists simply haven’t been taught differently. The vast majority of Christians in America think these are the only two alternatives. If we Arminians have anything to apologize for, I guess it would be doing a poor job of getting our message out. But, then, we get all too little help from major organs of opinion-making such as Christian magazines.

I call Semi-Pelagianism the default theology of American Christianity. One of my main purposes for writing Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities was to correct those who think they are Arminian when they are really Semi-Pelagian. The other, of course, was to correct Calvinists who accuse Arminianism of being Semi-Pelagian.

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Index to past articles on "Calvinism v. Arminianism"



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