Monday, March 14, 2011

Roger Olson behaving badly

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. 
Today’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune carries a letter to the editor criticizing Bell’s forthcoming book based on hearsay.  
Apparently Boyd’s web site was hacked recently and brought down by (presumably) critics of his views.  What in the world is going on in the Christian world these days?  Well, I can answer that from personal experience.  There are people out there who think their cause is so righteous that its promotion justifies unethical means.  [Emphesis mine] I have been the victim of that as have other progressive, postconservative evangelicals.  Lies and rumors have been spread about some of us. 
I am not in favor of inquisitions, but I find it ironic that we have them with regard to some beliefs and practices among evangelicals but not with regard to mean-spiritedness or demagoguery.
So, going out on a limb…I will take it on myself, as a senior evangelical theologian, to call out those who are attacking Rob Bell based on rumor, innuendo and suspicion and not on a careful, charitable, critical reading of his book.  
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.

Having inveighed against a "hermeneutic of suspicion," "rumor," "hearsay," and "rush to judgment," notice that without any specific evidence whatsoever, Olson immediately jumps to the conclusion that Christian critics of Boyd hacked his blog. 

I keep witnessing this persistent pattern among Arminians: Do what we say, not what we do. 

Why is that? Does their theology foster in-group spiritual pride that inures them to elementary moral consistency? 


  1. In my estimation, the answer to your questions is simple: such stalwart (read: unrepentant) free-willers are unregenerate. Not popular to say so, but it's what I strongly believe of folks like Olson, Hunt, Vines, Geisler, Caner, Chuck Smith, et al. If that makes me a divisive, pompous Calvinist...good. In these times I'd rather be "too discerning" than too charitable. We see where generations of excessive laissez faire leniency have gotten us (the church visible).

    It would be just lovely if well-meaning Calvinist leaders and pundits would knock it off, the ubiquitous pleas for the mysterious unnamed faction among "us Calvinists [or Reformed]" -- presumably a sizable minority if not an overwhelming majority -- to remedy "our" (prideful/puffed-up/judgmental/divisive) ways. Sort of reminds me of the deranged white-guilt-ridden lefties who doggedly maintain that Whitey is to this day inherently evil, oppressive and racist; that "we" bigoted crackers "still have a long way to go" before we can call the racial playing field leveled.

    So it seems to be in the P&R world at large: "Reformed guilt," the unshakable conviction, whether conscious or latent, that one's being a Calvinist must necessarily make one proud, mean and intolerant. We must constantly, publicly remind ourselves and each other that we are inherently nasty snobs -- just as the poor, picked-on Arminians have it! -- and are therefore obligated to eschew any stance or speech that might give the faintest confirmation of this, even if reason and discernment be forsaken in so doing.

    I've yet to see anything even approaching this in Arminian circles. Certainly it is necessary for all Christians to guard against pride, quarreling, et cetera; however, it is beyond wearisome to see Calvinists a priori presume themselves, as the Arminians do, to be on "the Mean Team."

  2. Um, you go too far in saying they're unregenerate. You make some good points elsewhere, and I realize that you said you'd rather be "'too discerning' than too charitable" but still, that's not a good position for you to take. Makes you seem extremely "cage stage" (to use Dr. White's phrase).

  3. So, going out on a limb…I will take it on myself, as a senior evangelical theologian, to call out those who are attacking Rob Bell based on rumor, innuendo and suspicion and not on a careful, charitable, critical reading of his book.

    Hmmmm, so, he be critical of those being critical is ok and those being critical as he is is not?

  4. Peter: Um, you go a bit far in mentioning the "cage phase" card...while showing admirable restraint in stopping short of throwing it down. Thank you for that.

    I do appreciate your sentiments, and understand how I might come across as flirting with cage-phase fanaticism. Time won't permit me to make my case for asserting unregeneracy here, but I hope you'll trust that -- even if I'm wrong -- in my mind is substantially more "evidence" than merely their being Arminian.

    Suffice it to say I wouldn't date an Arminian, but I don't condemn you for making that call. :-)