Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Something Arminians Say, and Calvinists Would Never Say

James White, in an article for Patheos, points out that Roger Olson's argument against Calvinism is not primarily exegetical, but rather, that he judges God to be a "moral monster" if, in fact, Calvinists are right. White quotes this paragraph by Olson:
One day, at the end of a class session on Calvinism's doctrine of God's sovereignty, a student asked me a question I had put off considering. He asked: "If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn't question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?" I knew the only possible answer without a moment's thought, even though I knew it would shock many people. I said no, that I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster. Of course, I realize Calvinists do not think their view of God's sovereignty makes him a moral monster, but I can only conclude they have not thought it through to its logical conclusion or even taken sufficiently seriously the things they say about God and evil and innocent suffering in the world.
Here is the question - if you are an Arminian (or one of those who refuse to self-identify but who really don't believe in divine election): have you ever heard a Calvinist say in a conversation with you, "If your view of God is right, then I can't worship that God. Your God is evil, sadistic, twisted, horrible, and He isn't worthy of my worship"? Have you ever read anything like this in books by Calvinists?

Let me answer for you - in the whole breadth of conversation and books by Calvinists, I have never heard anything even remotely like this from any Calvinist. It shows, on the part of Olson and those who agree with him, an impiety in one's approach to knowing God. Whereas the Calvinist is unwilling to stand in moral judgment over God deciding whether this or that divine attribute is to their approval, the dissenter (lets call him Arminian for lack of a better term) is often free in offering condemnation of God if He does not measure up.

Some Arminian (pardon the label) reader may see all of this as evidence for the horrible blasphemy Calvinists are at risk of if they are wrong. However, consider that the Calvinist is unwilling to accuse God of wrongdoing. Which position would you rather find yourself in:

1) Holding an honest belief that the Bible teaches election, realizing that, if you are wrong, you taught a wrong view of human/divine freedom. In either case, you have affirmed God's goodness, justice, and holiness.

or 2) Holding an honest belief that the Bible does not teach election, realizing that, if you are wrong, then you taught a wrong view of human/divine freedom. If you are wrong, then you have accused God of wrongdoing - even evil - and have spoken in a way that can only be described as blasphemous and impious.

If the Calvinist is wrong, then he must change his views of divine/human freedom. If the Olsonian Arminian is wrong, then he needs to repent of blasphemy and holding himself as a standard above God.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Adam. Great observation.

  2. I have just found your blog and really like what you have here. I am hopefully going to start my own blog soon. But, I just read this post and wanted to state that if Olson is wrong, then he probably is wrong about his perception of the God of Calvinism rather than God himself. But if he is indeed fundamentally wrong about his conception of God, then it seems there is a major problem! (which may be the case.) But, I wouldn't go so far as to state which side he falls under. Any thoughts?

  3. Well, Tyler, this is just my take, but I believe that Roger Olsen very much understands Calvinism. I have seen presentations by Roger Olsen which seem to reflect a pretty clear understanding of what Calvinism says about God.

    The fact is, if God does, in fact, sovereignly decree who is His and who is not, Olsen would not consider that God worthy of worship. Ergo, if Olsen is wrong, he is guilty of blaspheming and accusing God of sin.

    Are you suggesting, Tyler, some sort of third category where Olsen is wrong AND the Calvinist is wrong?


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