Thursday, October 13, 2011

Arminian Criticisms of Calvinism

Excerpts from Book Review | Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson | Review by Thomas S. Kidd

Arminian theologian Roger Olson represents both a small and also a very large theological tribe. The large group comprises American evangelicals and mainliners for whom common-sense Arminianism is the default theological position. These Christians think it is obvious that a loving God would never send people to hell without giving them a fair shot at salvation (if indeed God sends anyone to hell at all). The smaller group, today at least, comrprises principled Arminians, defenders of the theological tradition of Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, and Charles Finney. 
The principled Arminians seem beleaguered when set in contrast to the vibrancy of the “new Calvinism,” Olson’s primary opponent in his book Against Calvinism. In recent decades, American Calvinism has sharpened its influence and intellectual coherence through a host of conservative Presbyterian seminaries and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and through remarkably effective popularizers, including John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, John Piper, and Tim Keller. New Calvinists are particularly adept at using the tools of the internet and social media (led not least by the work of The Gospel Coalition) to spread their message. The impression that these Calvinists are making on college students and seminarians is not likely to pass quickly.
Overall, Olson’s Against Calvinism lays out Arminian criticisms of Calvinism in a cogent manner that will prove useful to even the most thoroughgoing Calvinists. It is worth reading both by people newly energized in their faith by Calvinism, and by those who may have doubts about Calvinist tenets. These are flush times for American Calvinism, but new Calvinists need to remember that there is a formidable Arminian tradition that has to be answered, not just disparaged or dismissed. 

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