Monday, June 15, 2009

Arminian Theology in View

I'm reading a book that was recommended by's called "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities" and it's written by Roger E. Olson from Truett Theological Seminary. Overall I highly recommend the book as it portrays classic Arminianism as defined by Arminius himself. One thing that everyone hates is when their position if defined...and it's wrong!

Given that I am reformed in my theology I want to be able to accurately represent views that don't agree with my theological framework so that I can engage and discuss the topic in truth. I had to share a quick quote from the book that made me go, "Huh?!" I'd love for Arminians to comment and tell me if you believe this.

On page 104 he makes the following statement about the fall of man. He quotes Arminius and then makes this statement "This is crucial to Arminius' argument against those who say that the Fall happened necessarily by God's decree and that God willed it and rendered it certain. Then God is not as he is revealed to be in Jesus Christ, nor is GOd perfectly good."

WOW! Is he really trying to assert that God didn't want the fall to happen? Then why did it happen? Did God know they were going to fall...but just didn't stop them? Then according to the author's emphasis on God's love He is NOT loving either...else He would have stopped the fall that He knew was going to happen. If he, on the other hand, says that God didn't know the fall would happen, that He threw the cosmic dice, then he is truly an open theist (they don't believe God doesn't know everything).

I don't know how he gets around this and how he gets "God off the hook." Here is how I look at it:

#1- Either God knew (omniscience) that the fall would happen...but He created the world anyway and thus, according to this logic He is not good since He created a world that was going to fall and He didn't stop it. If anyone defends this by saying that God respected their free will and wouldn't violate it I say, would you think you were being evil by not respecting the free will of your own child to stick a shotgun barrel in their mouths and pull the trigger? Then why would God do that will all of mankind?!

#2- God didn't know they would fall would happen and therefore He is not not the God of the Bible and we have open theism.

#3- God knew they would fall, and for His own glory and for His own eternal, redemptive purposes He chose to provide redemption for all who repent and trust in Christ...

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Anonymous Mark Shannon said...

many people have been truly converted, reborn spiritually and disciples of Christ who don't know what Arminian Theology is.

Does it matter to them?


June 16, 2009 at 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting point there.

There have been many folks truly born again without out knowing ANY Theology proper. But they know Christ, or better still, are known by him. (Thief on the cross. Did he care about Arminianism or Clavinism?)

So does ANY theology matter to the born again Christian? Yes indeed!

The lost sinner who comes to repentence comes to know Christ. They care not for Theology. Theology saves no one. It only makes Pharisees of the unconverted, like Saul of Tarsus.

Neverhteless, Theology matters. At its simplest meaning, it is the study of God, and that is critical to the ongoing Christian life.

While justification by faith does not require theology, sanctification is unattainable without it. Again, I'm simply referring to the study of God's word.

But, then again, of course theoloogy is important to the lost as well. Though they themselves do not care for God or the study of him, proper doctrine, theology, and sound scriptural teaching and gospel preaching (along with love and discipleship) is essential for the lost to truly be saved, for they cannot be mistaught, misguided, or misled as so many today are. False conversions surely outweigh true conversions.

And lest I be taken wrong, the study of God (theology simple) is not some mere intellectual academic process. It must be combined with prayer and obedience in an ongoing relationship with God, thus the working out of salvation and the exercising of faith as shown by works.

Furthermore, the study of God alone is not ultimate, but rather it is the worship and adoration of God.

God will not just be taught, he will be GLORIFIED! How awesome the story goes told by John Piper how he was called to preach from out of teaching (not that teaching is useless or bad!).

Glory to God, he will NOT be just analyzed and studied! He will be glorified and adored!!!

But grow in the grace and the knowledge of him be the glory.!!! Notice that true knowledge of Jesus is not without him being glorified!!! 2 Peter 3:18

June 16, 2009 at 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Jim Leavenworth said...

No...many people who are saved don't know how to define "Arminianism", however, that was not the point of my posting. Just because someone doesn't know the technical name for a theological stance does not mean that it doesn't affect them.

Should Christians just be spiritually ignorant of the differing point of views on theology because that's for the pastor to know...or some seminary professor? I don't think so.

A good majority of people today hold to some sort of Arminian theology and they need to know what they believe and why they believe it. Any believer is supposed to be ready to give an answer to the hope within them...

To answer Jason- "While justification by faith does not require theology"...I don't know if I agree with that. Justification by faith, the core of the reformation and the core of Biblical salvation IS a doctrine- it's part of soteriology. To be honest, everything we know about God is theology!

Back to Mark- "does it matter to them?" No...if you're talking about impressing people with theological terms. Should the doctrine matter to them? YES! Unless we believe that searching the Scriptures, studying God's Word and differing interpretations is unimportant.

My whole point in the post was my shock that someone who so many follow, whether knowingly or not, believed that God didn't know the fall would happen. That is just plainly false and plainly unscriptural. Does that matter to a believer? It should...but because it doesn't nowadays it explains why our churches are in such a mess.

Hope this helps.

Hope this helps.

June 16, 2009 at 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OOPS! Even before I read your comment Jim, I re-read mine and thought it sounded incomplete and thus inaccurate! Folly of man oh me oh my!

I TOTALLY agree. Dude, Romans 10:17is like BEDROCK to me!

Faith comes by hearing the word!

So yes, a lost person must hear the word in order to receive faith unto salvation.

But, they may not understand that what their hearing in a right gospel presentation is theology proper.

Moreover, that person should be hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.

The unchurched don't know what the word soteriology means, nor do they need to for salvation! But I think your point is even the church don't know what the word soteriology means but they should and thus need to!

I think the other question first posted then would be something like, do saved people really need to know all these fancy words in theology. And I think you answered that question well.

So, let my initial comment serve as a lesson. That's what happens when I write off the cuff in knee-jerk response to something!!

So see the need for proper articulation which comes from proper understanding which comes from proper study of God, i.e. Theology!!!

Digressing...what's a common roadblock to proper diligent study? Laziness for one. (There's a hidden confession in there.)

If you wanna walk in the light, you gotta let the cat out of the bag. If you don't, it will meow and claw you to you bleed. Thanks be to God.

June 16, 2009 at 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Justification by faith does not require theology" means:

A lost person is not required to define doctrines or fancy theological words in order to belief on Christ. A lost person does not need to have a seminary degree to be saved. A lost person does not need to even have read the entire Bible to be saved.

To be saved, a lost person needs Christ, and in Christ. And that comes from hearing God's word.

Hearing God's word does not necessarily require lengthy study of God's word or listening to a large number of sermons.

There are many ways in which the seed of God's word is spread, in which it is planted, in which it is watered.

I believe hearing God's word taught all the time and preached all the time would be the best way for a person to "hear" God's word and come to saving faith in Christ.

But try to get a lost person in a church to hear God's word all the time and I'll call it seeker sensitive hogwash.

So how do we bring the good news to a lost person to hear unto saving faith? Quote Bible verses to them? Give them personal testimony how Christ saved you? Articulate theological definitions? All of the above?

This is growing into a broader subject, but then there's the whole notion of preaching the gospel to all the world, and if necessary, using words (St Francis of Assisi unless I'm mistaken.)

I think that ties into the the modern saying of "the lost don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Then again, we preach Christ to the lost because we care so much, both for his glory and their salvation!

June 16, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Related example to what I was saying...

The Trinity.

A born again Christian may truly be bron again and yet not be able to accuratley define the Trinity. In fact, their definition in their own words or by way of example might sound modalistic, but that does not necessarily mean that they are not saved. In that case, we should be careful to not be too quick to call them heretics. They may simply be untaught, misinformed, or mistaken. It happens. And yes, to avoid mistakes, Christians should study diligently God's word and be able to correctly handle it and accurately explain doctrines such as The Trinity.

So on one hand, we should be able to say what The Trinity is or means. BUt if we read the entire Bible to get the answer, the word Trinity will not be found. But I would think a Christian having read or heard much of the Bible would be able to at least explain that God is one in three persons at the same time. But they could fumble up their explanation until they've thought it through better or studied more.

I still feel I'm not saying what I'm feeling or thinking...

I feel like all the academic study of God and his word too often and easily becomes dry and mechanical and stifles out simply exulting in God. Does that make sense?

Can I define God? Maybe...according to the catechism...I can state his attributes...BUT...where is the conviction and the glory, the deep heart felt exulting in God!?

Define God: God is...AWESOME!!! Knowing THAT does not come from theology. It comes from knowing God. It is the expression of joy and glory in God, not the recitation of a technical definition!

Yet I understand that God's word starts as LIGHT for the MIND and by application of the Holy Spirit becomes HEAT for the HEART, from whence glorying comes!

John Piper articulates it very well. So as much as I want to articualte things well, I want to glory in God even more, and that, I feel, is what I'm missing in this season.

You see, I know in my head the importance of Theology. But I know in my heart the importance of being able to say like the Psalmist in 34:8, "O tase and see that the Lord is good!" or doxology if you want a more theological term.

June 16, 2009 at 9:40 PM  
Anonymous mark shannon said...

good points all.
But what is the balance between studying theology and being a "doer" of the word.
Knowing the difference between Arminian Theology and Calvanistic Theology is a noble thing to acheive, but does not excuse us from not fulfilling the great commission
The Lord left us with a might big chore list to do in His name.
When then should put down the writings and be a doer of the Word ?
Learning is equipping, but equipping for what? More learning?

New Testament Churches that have pure teaching and grounded followers of Christ but do not teach to the level of these deep theological standards, but "go"& "do" what Christ commanded are justified I think.

I am just saying we shouldn't spend all of our time studying while our friends and neighbors perish in a world without knowing Christ

just a challenge for balance thats all


June 16, 2009 at 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Jim Leavenworth said...

Thanks for the lively discussion.

Just to make sure...never in the post did I say, or insinuate, that we all need to recite technical definitions in order to be saved...I know nobody said that but some of the posts keep talking about "you don't need to know this specific technical term to be saved or effective in witnessing." Agreed.

To Mark- where in the world did I say anything about "Knowing the difference between Arminian Theology and Calvanistic Theology" and hopefully I'm not giving the impression that I'd rather study technical terms than witness? My church is Reformed and I've seen them witnessing more than I did in my previous IFB church.

Knowing theology is NOT a crutch to avoid witnessing & fulfilling the Great Commission- very true.

You said, "The Lord left us with a might big chore list to do in His name."

My whole point has nothing to do with these discussion...we're off on a tangent/hobby horse. I'll ask the question again...

Is it true that God didn't know the fall would happen? If He didn't know, isn't that a direct affront to God's omniscience and doesn't that result in a God that does not know all...and therefore is not God?

On a side note...which is worse of the two below?

#1- Zealous believers that don't know anything about the bible and its inherent theology who spread ABC repeat after me evangelism? The result being a bunch of unsaved church goers? Or...

#2- Christians who study theology...know the Word, know about theology and doctrine and can give an accurate presentation of the Gospel so that Romans 10:17 can take effect?

You're right...people can be too studious and not practically effective...but the opposite (#1 above) is just as dangerous and maybe more so.

June 16, 2009 at 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I hear ya Mark.

Balance is good I think, unless it stems from a false dichotomy, which I had thrown at me one time when I was trying to be all Theological! Still not sure about that one...

Anyways, right you are. We must be doers of the word. And studiers of the word. I could quote you two driect verses, oe for each of those!

We knoe we must do the word because we heard the word and studied the word to find out it says to do the word!

I think I can agree that some churhes that are not as DEEP in the word can nevertheless be SOUND in the doctrines they do know, and be just as diligent to live it out.

Faith comes by hearing the word (perhaps even studying it), and faith without works is dead. So, we must study and do.

Now for the monkeywrench!!!- "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

Whoa! Ha-ha. I actually first heard that from a joking Theologian! I did not hear it from hearing God's word though.

Ah, another monkeywrench. What about the apostle sin Acts who had to preach the word but not serve or wait on tables. We're they NOT DOING the word, or were they doing the word by teaching it? Was the doing they were required to do teaching it and preaching it?

But that's not all the apostles did. They did much more.

And who could justify a pastor who preaches on Sunday morning that Christians should be witnesses in their world but that pastor never doing so himself? Isn't that hypocritical?

Just some more ramblings.

June 16, 2009 at 10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good articulation. I wish I were so diligent.

Answer- God knew the fall was going to happen. He's God! He knows everything (i.e. omn iscient)! That was a no brainer.

Answer- I think the worse thing is just like Paul said of the Israelites in Romans 11-ish. Zeal without knowledge is not good!

Anyone can be sincere or zealous for something, but that something could be the wrong thing! To KNOW it's the right thing, you must have KNOWledge! That requires studying diligently.

So, Theology, good.

For the rest of my ramblings, I am coming from a different thing so that's why I digressed. Didn't mean to get it off track though. Sorry bro.

(And sorry my typing has been HORENDOUS tonight. Egads!)

June 16, 2009 at 11:05 PM  
Anonymous mark shannon said...

Guys this is what I intended when I left my first post was to hear your views on what the balance should be.
I love Jim and his family very much and respect his desire and talent to learn these deep truths.
Not all Christians have that desire or ability to research to that level. Some have more desire in other areas. That is what makes the body of Christ so wonderful. I just used Jim's article to start a dialogue about what that balance should be between hearing and doing.

I have enjoyed it and I hope nobody thought I was being antagonistic or judgmental.

it was an excellent exchange.

June 17, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate your input. I took no offense to it. I figured it was a probing question. Bring on the Socratic Method.

Is it possible to err on the side of hardly any Bible study and being nothing but a "do-gooder" just doing good works all the time?

Can a person think they've read enough of the Bible and decide to just try to live it out to the "T" rather than learn more new things from it that they must add to their list of things to be doing good about?

E.G. let's say I just read the verse "Love your enemies." Then I decide to start doing that, or working on that, and until I get that down well, I'm not going to read more scripture but rather focus on that one thing for now.

I'm sure there is an "-ism" word for that mentality. If not, someone should coin the term.

June 17, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous mark shannon said...

I see your point and to take it to an extreme, in history there have been some groups who have taken one or two passages and lived them out, even to the extent of leaving contextual meaning.. those are called cults.

When Paul spoke to the church at Ephesus, he mentioned he had taught them the "whole counsel of God"

which means (to me) we are to strive to excel in every task our Lord set before us.

also in the same Epistle..

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ"

I just feel that if we fill ourselves with this wonderful truth, there must be a purpose for it. Some work to be a "doer" of.

I am guilty of hiding talents myself and have come under conviction of that lately.
I am no where near filled with knowledge, but I do have the Holy Spirit to guide me into being a doer of the word. We all need to ask God for more opportunities to share the Gospel with the lost world.

June 17, 2009 at 1:16 PM  

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