Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arminian morality

On the one hand:

Several have asked me here why I am defending Rob Bell.  Haven’t they been listening?  I don’t defend Rob Bell; I defend the principle of “Before I say I disagree I should be able to say I understand.”  No one can truly say “I understand” Bell’s book until he or she has read it.  What I have attempted to do here is caution Christians to act like Christians and gentlemen (and gentlewomen) and wait until they read the book to make up their minds and pronounce a view about it.  This rush to judgment before even reading the book is pathological.  It smack to me of book burning and certainly of a kind of censorship–implying that “good Christians” should not read the book lest they be infected by its alleged heresy.  This is a sure sign of anti-intellectualism at best and demagoguery at worst...So, let’s all just wait until Bell’s book is released and we have a chance to read it critically with a hermeneutic of charity (as opposed to a hermeneutic of suspicion) and then (and only then) offer opinions about its theology.

On the other hand:

I admit that I’m very late coming to read Walter Wink (professor emeritus of Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City).  People have recommended his books to me for years and I’ve managed to avoid reading even one of them!  From what I knew about his central thesis it seemed to me very similar to the thesis of Walter Rauschenbusch in A Theology for the Social Gospel–that there is a “kingdom of evil” that causes much, if not all, of the evil in the social world.  Also, his books seemed exceptionally long!  So I read reviews and articles and thought I got the point that way [Emphasis mine].


  1. Morality, or hypocrisy?

  2. Arminian Morality = Libertarian Free Will Exercise of Hypocrisy.

  3. Oh come on! God loves everybody, right?


  4. I am guilty of not reading a book or two before coming to a conclusion about its contents. After all, haven't Bell's "ideas" been floating around cyberspace and in print for some time now? It's the concepts that we disavow that existed before his new book, not the book per se, so I don't see why reading it is a requirement. It's not like he hasn't been interviewed about his ideas or anything.

    On the other hand, I won't do a book review on my blog without having read it first. That's just stupid.

  5. It's amazing how close the dates are on those! I knew where you were going, and I surely thought that you'd dug up some distant post. But this was a week apart!

  6. Steve, this is really not fair. We all fall prey to the weaknesses we denounce on occasion. Notice he begins the second quote with "I admit that I'm late coming to read Walter Wink..." That suggests he is making up for this failure to take Wink seriously the first time around. And the whole second post is his attempt to remedy this neglect by reading the book and taking its theology seriously. So I hardly think this is some grand demonstration of the hypocrisy of Arminian morality.

  7. JD,

    This is not an isolated occurrence. I've documented a persistent pattern of hypocrisy among most internet Arminians.

    In addition, I don't have a problem with his judging Wink by book reviews. That's one reason we read reviews. It's a way of prejudging the merits of a book. Is it worth the time and money?

    I don't think it's wrong to form a first impression of a writer from several book reviews.

    If, say, I was a pastor, and a parishioner asked me what I thought of some book I hadn't read, I could tell him that, "Based on reviews I've read, I'd recommend it (or not recommend it)."

    Olson is the one exploiting the Bell affair as a pretext to settle old scores and moralize about others. So it's entirely fair to highlight his own shortcomings.

  8. Here is the irony in all this:

    "... as a pretext to settle old scores ...".

    Oddly, the God they claim is loving is the same God who through His rep on earth, Jesus Christ, taught this:

    Mat 18:35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

    It really is a joke to deny this especially when we have and live by this promise given to all His Elect:

    Joh 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
    Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
    Joh 14:17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
    Joh 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.