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
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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

IS Arminianism the Root of Christian Liberalism?


Dr. Olson calls foul on a blatant example of neo-evangelicalism viewed in bold rhetoric arguing against popular emergent books and discussions in the areas of Universalism, Arminianism, Free Will, Heaven and Hell. Showing again why Calvinism and Reformed Theology has come under emergent scrutiny for upholding a caustic biblicism that is now feeling the heat for its dogmas, judgmental preaching, harsh remonstrations (pun intended) upon the unsaved, while lowering and demeaning the love of God in its richness and fullness. On a recently published youtube video evangelical pastors, preachers and theologians give their one-sided insights to their particular brand of homebrewed theology. But as can be documented here on this website - as well as many other emergent websites and resources - each of their statements have been examined and found libelous and misleading. In recent web articles Dr. Olson has pointed out what makes for proper "heresy and what doesn't"; he also has discussed Liberal Theology, Inerrancy, and generally, the Calvinization of Evangelicalism (all of which may be viewed in this blog under his commentary section). This quasi-Reformed video production clearly falls well out-of-bounds of these definitions and is nothing short of denominational grandstanding for lack of public support and want of attention. Let's call it for what it is... unattractive.

- skinhead

**********

Do we need an Arminian Defense League?

by Roger Olson
posted August 24, 2011

Okay, so I used that title to get your attention. No, I don’t really think we need an Arminian Defense League (although sometimes I feel like the only person doing anything to defend Arminianism from its enemies and could use some help!).

Earlier, here, I talked about a video on youtube.com (it might also exist on DVD or something, but I’ve only seen it on youtube.com) that viciously attacks Arminianism. It’s a slick video–well produced (not a home-made talking head video like so many). I understand it is part of a longer series on Reformed theology.

To view it, just go to www.youtube.com and enter “Arminianism.” It’s usually the first thing that comes up. It’s called “Arminianism: The Root of ‘Christian’ Liberalism?” It’s filled with unsupported innuendos about the seemingly (to them) inescapable results of Arminianism. The producers strongly imply that Arminianism leads to denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. That’s something I want to address here now. Later I’ll take on some other claims of the video.




So, near the beginning of this clip, the narrator talks about Jacob Arminius, the Remonstrants (his followers after his death in 1609) and the Synod of Dort (1618/1619). The narrator (reading from a script) says something about how the Reformed delegates to Dort loved their Arminian brothers and hated to judge them, but it had to be done (to protect orthodoxy). In fact, anyone who reads an objective historical account of Dort knows that many of the leaders of that synod (really a kangaroo court) hated the Remonstrants passionately. Their vituperation against them was personal. They forced them to sit at a table in the middle of their meeting while they berated them. Sometimes some of them were in chains–not because they were a danger but because the real power behind the synod, Prince Maurice of Nassau (the Stadthalter of Holland, the most powerful of the United Provinces) viewed them as enemies of the state (which they were not).

Before I continue, let me cite my immediate source for what I say above and below. It is Socinians and Arminians: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Europe edited by Martin Muslow and Jan Rohls (Brill, 2005). This is a volume of scholarly historical essays, not theology per se, but it deals with the theological views as well as the political beliefs and motives of all parties in these early 17th centuries debates mostly in the Netherlands (then called the United Provinces).

One of the great historical ironies is that the Remonstrants were accused of wanting the civil authorities (magistrates) to rule the church (the Reformed Church of the United Provinces), but their enemies were the ones who actually relied on the state (Prince Maurice) to enable their synod and enforce its decisions (which included the exile of all Arminians who refused to be silent about their beliefs). Some of the leading Remonstrants were thrown into prison (including Hugo Grotius, a leading European jurist and statesman). One was beheaded.

Somehow or other, some of the leading Reformed divines (pastors, theologians) convinced Prince Maurice that the Arminians/Remonstrants were a threat to the independence of Holland and the United Provinces generally because, allegedly, they were in cohoots with the Jesuits of Spain. Spain had dominated the “Low Lands” (what are now the Netherlands and Belgium) for decades and the United Provinces (now the Netherlands) had just recently thrown them out and become independent. There is, of course, absolutely no evidence of any collaboration between Spain and the Jesuits, on the one hand, and the Arminians/Remonstrants , on the other hand. These were trumped up, false charges, but they swayed the Prince against the Remonstrants. (When Prince Maurice died in 1625 his brother succeeded him and allowed the Remonstrants to return to the United Provinces.)

The particular claim made in the video clip that I want to challenge as tantamount to a lie is where the narrator (again, reading from a script written by someone whose identity I don’t know) strongly suggests that Remonstrant leader Conrad Vorstius denied the deity of Christ and the Trinity (i.e, was a Socinian).VorstiusSocinians or in league with the anti-Trinitarian Socinians (17th century unitarians).

The volume I cited above clears things up beautifully. Apparently Vorstius (not the leader of the Remonstrants but a leading Remonstrant thinker who was recommended to succeed Arminius as professor of theology at Leiden) was not particularly astute with some of his statements. He admitted to “learning from” the Socinians and that was enough to get him condemned as a heretic by the Reformed party leaders. However, he NEVER denied the deity of Christ or the Trinity. What he “learned” from the Socinians related to their arguments against high Calvinism. Nevertheless, he was accused, wrongly, of being anti-Trinitarian and denying the deity of Christ. (This was a false charge brought up against Arminius, as well, but before he died he cleared it up decisively.) And he publicly defended those doctrines.

For the makers of this video to drag out this old canard against Vorstius and use it to IMPLY that Arminianism inclines towards denial of Christ’s deity and the Trinity is simply nothing other than vicious calumny. They should be ashamed of themselves and fair-minded evangelicals of all flavors (including Calvinists!) should shame them for it. They admit that not all Arminians went on to deny the deity of Christ or the Trinity (or, for that matter, the inerrancy of the Bible), but the implication is left that Arminianism leads in that direction. Why else bring it up?

I am publicly calling out the author of the script of this video clip and its producers and asking them to take it down. I’ll talk about other reasons in later posts here. Stand by….



continue to -
 
 
 
 
 

Comments


Barry says:
The video you reference is pure propaganda! As you say, it is slick and had some money and professional production behind it. Of course, it tells just one side of each and every point, but all propaganda is like that. While you are citing scholarly sources, your opponents are cherry picking quotes using pseudo-scholarship. Of course, most of their time is spent passionately pouring out slop fit for swine.

I was not surprised to find that mixed in with the bomb throwing at Arminians was the careful development of the idea that the Republican Party represents God, while the Democratic Party — as you may have astutely guessed — represents every evil in society today. According to this twisted idea, it is impossible to be a true Christian unless you vote Republican.

You are not alone in defending Arminian ideas, but you are certainly the most well known person doing so. A lot of people are afraid to speak out against Calvinism of the rabid type depicted in the video because they don’t want to be attacked. Not that I am telling you anything new!
Keep up the great work, Dr. Olson. Your efforts are having greater effect than you think. Otherwise, your opponents would ignore you.
rogereolson says:

Tim says:
I cringe when I hear of such conflicts between Christians (in the past as well as the present). I recently watched an animated retelling of William Tyndale’s story with my wife and kids. We did not discuss how tragic it is when people of the Christian faith misrepresent and abuse good-willed people of the same faith, but the kids are still pretty young.

Maybe my “must believe” doctrines are fewer than these involved – and that gives me the flexibility to embrace both of these groups as co-workers and brothers in Christ.
rogereolson says:
  • Disagreement is fine; what riles me is dishonesty in slamming those with whom you disagree. That’s what I see in the video–no real attempt to be fair.
Ronnie says:
Who knew that Arminianism is responsible for Enlightenment skepticism, Darwinism, statism, tyranny, and the Madonna/Britney kiss? Brilliant!

Dr. Olson, I’d love to agree with you here but I’m compelled to agree with the video’s ironclad chain of logic.... I’m sorry, but sometimes all you can do is laugh at this kind of foolishness.

rogereolson says:
  • Yes, my classes laugh out loud at it! But I’m afraid some people will be swayed by it’s logic (however invalid) because there’s no one among evangelicals standing up and saying it’s wrong (except me). I wish some spokespersons for evangelicalism (and it would be especially helpful if it would be Reformed evangelicals) would speak out against stuff like this. That they don’t tells me they are afraid of offending part of their constituency.
Ross says:
Hi Roger, this really isn’t a comment on the above, just a great big thank you for all your posts. In the last month or so, I have most all of the last year of posts. Incredibly helpful, and no exaggeration. I love the thoughtful, referenced, even handed insights. Your thoughts have opened my mind and informed my views on many of the controvercial issues that also plague my faith. I just finished both A Proper Confidence and The Myth of Certainty which you had recommended. Wow. Restorative to me. A thousand thank you’s and may you be blessed.


Leslie says:
Roger, I’ve not yet been persuaded to join the Arminian Defense League. I am willing, however, to be counted among those fighting the Calvinization of Evangelicalism. Since both Arminianism and Calvinism are systematic constructs, is it a viable option for me to say that I’m not either one? I am truly wondering whether these are the only two options?

rogereolson says:
  • Whether one calls oneself an Arminian or not doesn’t especially matter to me. (Although, I have wondered why some who clearly are Arminians shy away from the term.) But many of us do and have always identified as Arminians (e.g., virtually all Wesleyans and Free Will Baptists) and we bristle when Calvinists misrepresent what we believe. As for whether these are the only two options: I happen to think they are the only two options among Protestants, even though Lutherans don’t identify with either. Still, in my book, anyway, if someone is a Protestant (i.e., embraces sola gratia et fides) and does not accept the U, the L or the I of TULIP, they are Arminian whether they call themselves that or not.
Russ says:
Hi. Unfortunately, I think each of the statements within the film will need further elucidation. You may wish to nudge Scot McKnight and Christianity Today for further response as well.

Too, true emergency will look past these vid clips as pointless rhetoric and continue to seek the lost and establishing justice in the world. Thus, after a response or two I’d recommend moving on. Knowledgable people in the know will understand this clip for what it is, and the rest simply don’t care… they have deeper problems to solve than a denomination’s “clipped” wings.

Russ says:
I forgot to mention that this video leads to the very statism they accuse Aminians of (ironically witnessed as well in the Calvinist’s STATE court of judgment at Dort). Here they play the republican v. democratic state card on cultural immoralities, creating fear through dis-information, and providing all the hot buttons they can think of to heap on their version of the “truth”.

Steve says:
Hi Roger
Haven’t visited for a while. I must admit I enjoy finding holes in the ‘iron clad’ logic of any theology but especially Calvinists and those who jump up and down about it. And with Calvinists and the Synod of Dort etc etc it is nice and easy to do. It is possible to carry on about it until the cows come home but I also must admit to being a little jaded over the whole Calvinist v Arminian thing. Calvinist reformed people seem to be almost irrational about their version. Here in Australia it has taken on a personal vitriolic nonsensical shade. Very strange stuff indeed. There are extreme right-wing political overtones where disucssion about gender, sexuality, environmental topics are loony. Oh yes and Catholicism is just a no no. Just can’t talk about anything with them any more. If you aren’t part of Club Calvin then you are not saved. Simple as that.

I asked a question somewhere else on this blog (can’t remember where) about what is a good Arminian Bible. I mean, what do you read? I have recently started to feel uneasy about some of the more popular translations at critical points and thought maybe there was something a little better.
rogereolson says:

  • I read the New Revised Standard Version. I don’t need an “Arminian Bible” because the whole Bible is Arminian! :) (Just thought I’d parody what I hear Calvinists say about their theology and the Bible.)



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