Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arminian Myth #4

From Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology, a wonderful read on understanding Arminianism.

See my coverage of Myths 1-3.

Myth #4: The heart of Arminianism is belief in free will.

Truth: The true heart of Arminian theology is God's loving and just character; the formal principle of Arminianism is the universal will of God for salvation.

The heart of Arminianism is the character of God as revealed in Scripture.

Arminians believe in free will because "it is everywhere assumed in the Bible" and because it is necessary to protect God's reputation.

Further, Arminians do not object to the idea that God directs human choice and actions; they just object to the idea that he controls all of them, especially evil and sinful ones.

Why do Arminians object to belief that God controls all human decisions and actions by his ordaining power?
  • Not because of a prior or basic commitment to human freedom
  • Not because they don't believe in God's ordaining power. They do. He orders and controls many things, and if he wanted to control every human decision and action, he could.
  • Real reason: That belief makes God the author of sin and evil. Therefore, he is not wholly good, which is inconsistent with the biblical picture of God.
Arminians begin with God's goodness and end with free will. They don't begin with free will.

Arminians don't believe God ordains evil. Rather, he permits it and brings good out of it.

Jacob Arminius argued against Calvinism, not because it violated free will, but because it impugned God, making him the author of sin. He said, "From these premises [that all things, including the Fall, are inviolably decreed by God] we deduce ... that God really sins.... that God is the only sinner ... that sin is not sin" (p. 105).

His problem? "This doctrine is repugnant to the nature of God" (p. 105).

John Wesley argued against Calvinism for the same reason. Regarding Calvinist belief in unconditional election and double predestination: "The merciful God appears as a capricious tyrant more deceptive and cruel than the devil himself, and the human person an automaton" (pp. 108-109).

Other prominent Arminians, such as Episcopius, Pope and Miley, took as their starting point God's absolute goodness in Jesus Christ.

John Miley: "The doctrine of reprobation is disproved by the universality of the atonement; by the divine sincerity in the universal overture of salvation in Christ; by the universal love of God" (pp. 112-113).

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