John Piper Does It Again: My Response to “The Self-centeredness of Arminianism”

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Roger Olson's book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities is indispensable for anybody wanting to understand what Arminianism actually is. Most Calvinists have a caricature of Arminian theology in their minds that is virtually synonymous with semi-pelagianism. This is terribly wrong. 

I don't agree with Arminian soteriology, but I deeply appreciate Olson's book explaining what that soteriology actually is! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

The misunderstandings and chariucatures go both ways.  Most Arminians have a very distorted picture of Calvinism.  However, since many present-day Calvinists are converts from Arminiamism, it can be argued that more Calvinists have a reasonably accurate understanding of Armianism than vice-versa. 

As an aside, I denied being Arminian before I became a Calvinist.  I thought I was a "Biblicist."  It was only from the vantage of Calvinism that I could understand clearly what I formerly believed, and realized that it was basically Arminianism, though certainly not consistent Arminianism.  But then, J. I. Packer called John Wesley an inconsistent Calvinist.  When I first read that statement many years ago, I thought it was absurd.  But now, I think I understand why he said it, and I have to agree.  Most of the Fundamental Baptists from my background were basically Arminian, and yet maintained some significant elements of Calvinism.  Like myself, they were usually full of inconsistencies. 

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

You are correct. I recently spoke to a Pastor friend of mine who basically believes that Calvinist soteriology is fatalism. I have met many, many people who believe this. 

Many people don't really understand what Arminian and Calvinist soteriology is. They just know they aren't either of them! Yet, they actually are . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul Henebury's picture

"Many people don't really understand what Arminian and Calvinist soteriology is." 

Amen to that!

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

Many people don't really understand what Arminian and Calvinist soteriology is. They just know they aren't either of them! Yet, they actually are . . .

there are very few truly Calvinist Calvinists or Arminian Arminians. Most people hold to aspects of theology that agree with points in both systems. I don't think it much matters, as long as one repudiates salvation by works and insists on salvation by faith alone. I'll let God settle the details in his own good time

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

My point wasn't about labels per se. It was about how Pastors must take the time to understand theology enough to know where they stand, or don't stand. I don't think the problem is that people hold to theological systems inconsistently. The problem is that many Pastors don't even understand the systems to begin with. I know a man who doesn't know what dispensationalism is. Never heard of it. It's a fancy term he saw in a textbook once. But, he is a dispensationalist. He just doesn't know it. 

Hence, Olson's lament about how Calvinists often don't even understand the Arminianism they rail against. Add to that Bro. Barkman's point about how the opposite is also true. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Tyler,

I agree with you.  I would add, however, that the reason many hold to theological systems inconsistently is precisely because they do not understand them.

G. N. Barkman

dmyers's picture

1.  I grew up Arminian (Church of the Nazarene), spent most of my adult life in IFB and other Baptist churches, but have been reformed in my theology since my mid-20's.  I have read tons of Piper's material.  His descriptions of Arminianism have always been quite consistent with the Arminian doctrine I was taught for 20 years.  Olson would prefer Piper to spin Arminianism as based more on an insistence that God is too moral to have ordained the bad things that happen in our world than on an insistence on free will ("self-centeredness").  But Olson makes no attempt to deny, let alone to disprove, that Arminianism also (if not primarily) insists on free will/self-centeredness.  Not much of an argument.

2.  Why do we care what Olson thinks about anything?  From this one article alone, we learn from his own mouth that he is shaky on inerrancy, that he is sympathetic to Open Theism (which is in fact heresy), and that he rejects the plain teaching of the Bible that God is in fact sovereign over everything that happens, good and bad.  Olson's reasoning is the same as the unbelieving skeptic who asks one of the primary questions that apologetics addresses:  how can a good God allow all the evil in the world?  Instead of giving an orthodox answer to that question, Olson gives the same answer  as the rabbi who wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People:  God isn't really in charge.  I don't see how Olson is a credible critic of Piper.

josh p's picture

While I agree that many Calvinists and moderate Calvinists misunderstand Arminianism, I also must say that I was assigned Olson's church history book and found it heavily biased toward Arminianism. Not sure if anyone else read it but I could barely get through it precisely because it seemed that Olson was constantly railing against Calvinism even when it had little to do with the material. 

On the one hand Arminians call Calvinists fatalistic and on the other Calvinists call Arminians semi-pelagians. In both cases it's usually slander. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I posted the filing, so I'll address the question - who cares what Olson thinks? 

Generally, I don't care what Olson thinks. However, I think it's sometimes helpful to be challenged by the perspective of folks from outside our orbit. I haven't posted any of Olson's pieces about inerrancy or the like, and I won't. Sometimes, though, he makes a few good points. I thought this was one of them, because it reminds us we need to commit to actually understanding theological systems before we critique them. Otherwise, we simply end up attacking straw-men. That doesn't do anybody any good. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jonathan Charles's picture

The problem is that it takes a lot of study to understand a system as well as its adherents do.  As a result, we rely on brief summaries, or information about that system that has been handed down to us by men like Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, etc.