Saturday, July 23, 2011

You May Be Arminian If…. Pt.1: Common Ground

I recently picked up a copy of Armininian Theology Myths and Realities after hearing a great interview with it’s author Roger Olson on the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast.  In this book Olson attempts lays out some of the fundamental tenents of Arminian theology as well as some of the general myths associated with Arminian Theology.  I would like to devote a few posts to the topic of Arminian theology as I work my way through this book.

In chapter 1 Olson deals with the myth that Arminianism is the opposite of Calvinism.  Quite to the contrary Olson finds that there is much common ground between the two theologies.  Here are some of the aspects of common ground between Calvinisim and Arminianism:

  1. Salvation by grace alone – Both Calvinism and Arminianism hold to the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace alone and not by works.  “Arminius stands firmly in the tradition of Reformed theology in insisting that salvation is by grace alone and that human ability or merit must be excluded as a cause of salvation.  It is faith in Christ alone that places a sinner in the company of the elect. (quote by Carl Bangs)”   So while there may be many strong differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, the Arminianists are definitely in the Protestant camp.
  2. The sinfulness of man – Another point of common ground between these two theologies would be the total depravity of man.  As Arminius wrote, “In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost:  And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except as are excited by Divine grace.” (P.56)
  3. The glory of God – Olson also finds common ground between the theology of Arminius and the Reformed confessional statement–-“What is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Arminius’ statements on the chief end of man are no doubt similar, “In this act of mind and will,—in  seeing a present God, in loving him, and therefore in the enjoyment of him,—the  salvation of man and his perfect happiness consist.”  “For what purpose or end has God restored the fallen to their pristine state of integrity, reconciled sinners to himself. And received enemies into favour?—We shall plainly discover all this to have been done, that we might be partakers of eternal salvation, and might sing praises to him forever.” (P.51)
Reformed and Reforming - In the end Olson sees the theology of Arminianism as being a correction on Reformed theology not a departure from it.  In another sense it is Arminius’ efforts at continual reformation of Reformed theology that keep him perhaps more true to the spirit of the great reformers.

1 comment:

Penny Murray said...

Love this as an idea for a series. There misconceptions about the Calvinism/Arminian debate, especially just how much there is in common between the two! Olson has really helped me with this.