Saturday, September 01, 2007

Roger Olson on Calvinism

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

If I may retort: "The God of Arminianism scares me; I am not sure how to distinguish him from a wicked Surf Life Saviour who would like to save me from drowning in the ocean, but only on condition that I swim out to meet him half way".

HT: Justin Taylor

That said, Roger Olson's book Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities, is (I'm told) the best expression of Arminian Theology to date.


Bryan L said...

Olson's book on Arminianism isn't really a defense of Arminianism or argument against Calvinism. It's more just exploring what he sees as common myths about Arminianism and what Arminian believe. The only critique he really seems to offer is against misunderstandings about Arminians.

Bryan L

BTW Mike I like how you wear your theology proudly. Oddly enough it's not something that you see a lot of NT scholars willing to do. They generally seem to avoid letting their views be known especially when it comes to the Calvinism/Arminanism debate. Is it just me or do most seem to just avoid that altogether?

John Lyons said...


Perhaps it is not so surprising. Most NT people publish only about their narrow historical area and if any of them suggested that Paul actually was a Calvinist or an Arminian they'd get laughed out of Dodge. (What do you reckon, Mike?)

The systematic nature of these ways of thinking are not explicitly reflected in our primary sources (which are narratives or occasional writings) but are -- or at least might be claimed to be -- derivations from their implicit content.

Of course, the refusal of NT people to attribute creeds to Paul et al has been/is a major bone of contention between them and our systematics colleagues. There is a great essay in Vorgrimmler's Biblical v Dogmatic Theology where Rahner chides his NT colleagues for their refusal to show that the trinity can be found in Paul and tells them - orders them really - to do better in future. Of course, there is also a suspicion from the NT side that the systematicians are probably heretics because they are trying -- desperately? -- to make the texts fit their own rigid -- and flawed -- conceptions of the world.

Mike, is it a really fair description of Arminianism to say that its God wants them to swim halfway to met Jesus? Such a caricature barely seems credible even for the most ardent Pelagian. I'd have thought it more fair to say that their God wants them to put their toe in the water :)

Michael F. Bird said...

Bryan: I am not ashamed of my theological convictions, nor do I disdain systematic theology (systematic theologians however are another question). I only hope that my theology is above all biblical and exegetical.

John: Yes, my surf lifesaver caricature of Arminianism was indeed unfair - but that's the point - it is just as unfair to call the God of Calvinism the "Devil".

Bryan L said...