Friday, October 03, 2014

The necessary tension between Calvinists and Arminians

In these recent days, I became quite attracted to books on Calvinism and Arminianism. I am now reading Norman Geisler's Chosen but Free and planning to purchase the combo 2-volume-in-1 For Calvinism by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson.

I think I know why. I just found out that Pastor Marvin will be preaching on a TULIP series soon.

(If you don't already know, I am an Classical Arminian and I do not agree to the Calvinist 5-point TULIP - Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.)

So maybe God has led me to these books to be prepared for the "onslaught", both in church where the sermons will be preached and CG where bible study week be held on the same topic. This could be so I will not be too surprised by what I hear, to know what to expect and how I would counter, albeit just in my own mind, and if necessary out loud in CG.

I also began to wonder why would God allow this to happen, i.e. to have such a stark contrast in both stance to exist and yet both sides professing to be faithful Christians, whom I believe we all are, as one body in Christ.

I am beginning to believe that God allows it because we actually need each other to keep ourselves in check. We are both kept in a tension so that neither side would go off at both ends.

When I shared this with Noel, my fellow Arminian brother, he agreed saying, "Yes, it is possible that Arminianism is the antidote to extreme Calvinism and Calvinism is the antidote to extreme Arminianism. So we must listen with respect to both sides of the argument."

Indeed we must, and I had better quickly catch up with my reading. It is taking me awhile to read Geisler's book and I want to take on Horton and Olson too! Oh dear.

And this is interesting: a Jacob Sweeney who is a Calvinist gave a review of Roger E. Olson's Against Calvinism and he said,
I think it goes without saying that I disagree with Olsen's conclusions about Calvinism. His book does not offer anything significantly new in the debate between these two systems. However, he does model gracious and understanding disagreement. Why does this matter? Because it rarely happens between Calvinists and Arminians. This is usually a high-tension "discussion" (read: argument). But, he manages it with fairness. At times it appears that he is using loaded terms to help his argument, but based on the work as a whole I don't think that's the case.

I think every Calvinist...needs to read this book. I should say, they need to read it and understand that someone can be an intelligent, committed Christian and not be a Calvinist. My generation of up-and-coming pastors and theologians needs to relax and learn how to have honest, frank and generous discussion with our brothers in Christ who disagree. Olson's book will help us accomplish that.



  1. I find that Armenian theology is not as rigidly black and white as Calvinism. Especially in the divine sovereignty area. Will be interesting to hear what you learn Pearlie.

  2. It took me awhile to get to this comment of yours - thinking about it off and on - and I would like to hear from you first in what way the sovereignty of God is not black and white? And what are the other areas not black and white?

  3. The question is not if God is sovereign but how he is sovereign. In the first chapter of Genesis he seems to have ceded a bit of his sovereignty when he gave humans dominion over the earth. In reality, each of us exercises a bit of sovereignty each day when we make choices that impact our lives and the lives of others. To think, as some do, that God is a micromanager of the world is to ignore the fact that he gave us dominion over the earth. I have posted about this on my blog ("Is God a Micromanager?") if you want to read more about my thinkings about it.