Friday, July 11, 2014

Non-Calvinist Calvinists

First, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that Romans 9 was never interpreted as teaching unconditional double predestination to salvation and damnation before Augustine in the early fifth century. For four centuries Christians read the New Testament including Romans 9 and never came up with that interpretation.

A few quick observations:

i) It's funny to see Arminians take refuge in early church history. After all, no one taught Arminianism until the late 16C or early 17C, and no one taught Wesleyan Arminianism until the 18C. Not to mention more recent permutations of Arminianism (e.g. purgatory, postmortem salvation, open theism).

ii) You needn't be a Calvinist to believe Paul teaches double predestination in Romans. Heikki Räisänen, in The Idea of Divine Hardening, and Ernst Käsemann, in his magisterial commentary on Romans, both think Paul taught double predestination or even supralapsarian predestination, yet both scholars are liberal Lutherans. You can be a non-Calvinist Calvinist in the sense that you believe Scripture teaches Calvinism, but you aren't committed to the authority of Scripture. You don't submit to what it teaches.

And, in a way, that's not essentially different from Olson's own position. He frequently tells us that if he thought Scripture taught Calvinism, then so much worse for Scripture. The only difference is that his position is more hypothetical. Yet he too admits that Scripture teaches things he rejects (e.g. the "genocidal" passages).  

So this isn't ultimately a question of Scriptural interpretation, but Scriptural authority. 

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