Sunday, September 02, 2012

The death of Arminianism

I recently did a couple of posts on Roger Olson’s infamous “John Piper, God’s Sovereignty, and Sin.”

Now some folks might feel it’s unfair of me to treat Olson as a spokesman for Arminians in general. It might be tempting to dismiss him as an eccentric curmudgeon.

Mind you, Arminians treated him as the authentic interpreter of classic Arminianism when he published his Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. That’s the book that really put him on the map.

But in any case, this isn’t just something he posted on his blog. For this has now been reposted at SEA:

As such, it’s not just the idiosyncratic opinion of a cranky Arminian.

I believe the president of SEA is Brian Abasciano. Abasciano is currently a pastor, with a BA from Amherst, MDiv from Gordon-Conwell–as well as a doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, where Paul Ellingworth was his doctoral advisor. Abasciano is also an author, both in referred journals as well as academic publishers. So he’s a leading Arminian NT scholar.

I assume that for something to get posted at SEA, Abasciano would either post it on his own initiative, or if something is submitted for posting, he’d have to greenlight it.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean he agrees with everything that’s said. But even if he disagrees, he has to regard that as a tolerable difference of opinion. As consistent with Arminian theology.

Keep in mind, too, that this is not a side issue. This is about Jesus. This is about how Christians should think of Jesus. Behave towards Jesus. Ultimately, Christian faith begins and ends with fidelity to Jesus. We are followers of Christ.

So what did Olson say? Among other things he said:

Again, as I have said so many times before, whatever Scripture passages used to support this view mean, they cannot mean that. (Wesley said that about the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9.) Why? Because if that’s what Scripture means, then the God of the Bible is not good in any meaningful sense. Then, if that’s what the Bible means (which it cannot mean), then the God of Jesus Christ is the ultimate sinner or sin is not really sin. The logic is inescapable.

You missed it, so I’ll say it again: No need to, as IF those scriptures mean what Piper says they mean, then Jesus Christ was not the perfect revelation of God and the Bible itself is not worthy of our trust because God is not good and thus not to be trusted.

i) To begin with, it’s startling that a NT scholar like Abasciano deems it acceptable to rule out certain interpretations a priori. That we don’t even need to consider certain interpretations on the merits. We can discount them out of hand if we imagine they have untoward consequences. Is that how the world of NT scholarship ordinarily operates? Or do we just make an ad hoc exception for Calvinism?

ii) But over and above that is an even bigger issue. Olson and Abasciano are issuing a license to commit apostasy. They are taking the position that if a Christian became convinced that Piper’s interpretation of Scripture is correct, then he should renounce the Christian faith. He should disown Jesus. Refuse to acknowledge his Lordship. Repudiate the Savior and abandon Christianity.

And not because it’s false, but because it’s true!

Indeed, they are taking the position that if Piper is right, then we should have contempt for Jesus. If Piper is right, then we should disdain Jesus as sinful. We should disdain Jesus as untrustworthy.

This is doubly ironic coming from Arminians who love to quote the dire warnings in Hebrews. For Olson and Abasciano have now staked out the position that if Piper’s interpretation of Scripture is correct, then Christians ought to recrucify the Son of God. Ought to trample him underfoot. Ought to hold him in contempt. Ought to profane the blood of the covenant. Ought to outrage the Spirit of grace.

At the end of the day, this is how little Jesus means to them.


  1. I wonder why Olson wouldn't just say that these passages, if they do teach something like Calvinism, are simply in error.

    He may want to hold to some kind of doctrinal inerrancy... but it's not clear why that doesn't die the death of qualifications that he thinks other forms of inerrancy do.

    1. "I wonder why Olson wouldn't just say that these passages, if they do teach something like Calvinism, are simply in error."

      The thing is he would say they are in error, but that would be because the entire Bible is in error since you could no longer trust it. Think about it- the reason Olson refuses to interact with certain exegesis on Piper's part is because if Piper is right, then according to Olson's self-idolatrous standards of morality, he would have to reject the Bible and become an atheist.

      It's either his way or atheism. He's teetering on the edge of atheism. The only thing preventing him from falling off that edge is his continued avoidance of seriously interacting with Calvinists who can take him to task. As soon as he senses there's a Calvinist who can refute his moral sensibilities with the Bible, he runs away and hides lest he be forced to come out for the unbeliever he really is by embracing atheism and thereby rejecting the Bible.

    2. The Janitor

      "I wonder why Olson wouldn't just say that these passages, if they do teach something like Calvinism, are simply in error."

      But if he made that move, it would still mean that he refuses to follow the Jesus of the Gospels (or the NT generally).

  2. "But if he made that move, it would still mean that he refuses to follow the Jesus of the Gospels (or the NT generally).

    True, but since he already rejects inerrancy it's not clear why he would want to be so dogmatic that the Bible cannot teach 'x'. It seems simpler to just say "maybe it teaches x, but it's errant on that subject." My only guess is that he wants to maintain some sort of doctrinal inerrancy, but I think this is subject to every criticism he levels against other forms of inerrancy.