One of the more acerbic blogs anchored firmly in the hard anti-Arminian camp weighed in recently with an opening salvo of misrepresentations regarding Dr. Roger Olson's recent blog postings. Olson, a Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University has started offering his thoughts on a variety of matters and while many of us welcome his foray into this media, it has unfortunately provided an opportunity for the more zealous anti-anything-not-Calvinist bloggers to start taking potshots at a well respected academic in the theological world. Statements and opinions are easily compared for accuracy and I marvel at why these incessant souls insist on purposefully misrepresenting the positions and beliefs of those they oppose. Dr. Olson stated in one of his recent posts ...
I have my doubts about the authenticity of a person's evangelicalism (to say nothing of his or her Christian faith) who blatantly and knowingly denied the deity of Christ, the Trinity (God is one substance shared equally by three eternal persons), salvation by grace alone through faith alone or the sole supreme authority of Scripture for all matters of faith and Christian life. HOWEVER, these core doctrines are open to varying interpretations and it is not always easy to tell who really does and who does not believe them.
I believe Olson has stated his position quite well and I can agree with him for the most part. We might have to discuss and define the full implications of what a person's evangelicalism entails but the thought process is clear and agreeable to me. These are core doctrines that while understood in a particular manner by this theologically conservative evangelical, might be understood somewhat differently by another. How do we define "sole supreme authority"? Should theologically conservative Calvinists set aside their creeds and confessions so many of them cling precariously to in the midst of heated discussions all the while proclaiming their Five Solas? "I'll have my Sola Scriptura, four more to go and a dozen of those creeds over there". Much of what we believe and understand of the scriptures and our faith has to be worked out and understood through prayer and meditation upon the things of God. Our understanding and maturity is not full blossomed upon the baptismal laver.
Now, coming back to the obfuscations and tricks of some of our opponents from other camps in Christendom. Steve Hays, who runs a rather harsh and sectarian blog dedicated to just about anything not in agreement with him, recently posted a few brief little nothings entitled "Why Arminians Say Arminians Are Damned" stating the following.
Arminian apologist and theologian Roger Olson questions the Christian faith of his fellow Arminians. As he recently observed, "I have my doubts about the authenticity of a person's evangelicalism (to say nothing of his or her Christian faith) who blatantly and knowingly denied…salvation by grace alone through faith alone ..."… Needless to say, Arminians, including Olson, blatantly and knowingly deny salvation by grace alone in favor of synergism. For them, God meets us halfway with grace, while it's up to us to say yes or no. Grace is a necessary condition of salvation, but salvation is also contingent on the independent variable of man's libertarian freedom… The fact that Olson doubts the salvation of Arminians must be unsettling to Billy Birch, whose devotion to Scripture is second only to his devotion to Olson…
Aside from misrepresenting the theological positions of both Dr. Olson and William Birch, it is plainly evident that Mr. Hays either is ignorant of Arminian theology or is deliberate with his falsehoods. It is my personal opinion that apologists from these sites have no excuse for the errors they propagate or continue and that their misdeeds are deliberate. If Mr. Hays would care to plead ignorance, I am sure there is a chair willing to accommodate him. Otherwise he should be considered rather dishonest. The thought Dr. Olson expressed did not stop with the quote by Mr. Hays. It continued on with his ecumenical clarification of his statement and that continuing clarification makes a lie of Hay's post. Nowhere do we observe the Arminian Olson stating Arminians are damned. Nowhere do we find in any of his writings that we " blatantly and knowingly deny salvation by grace alone in favor of synergism". In fact, from his statement above, the core doctrine (and one Christians everywhere should agree upon) is "salvation by grace alone through faith alone" (Eph 2:8-9). I suppose in a sense we could be considered to deny salvation by grace alone if it disregards faith as the condition of salvation however salvation by grace through faith is not abandoned in favor of "synergism". I am a synergist as is Dr. Olson with regard to how faith works as the condition of regeneration, justification and sanctification but if that is to be regarded as a blatant disregard for one version of the truth as held by Mr. Hays, then Hays himself could be considered to be "blatantly and knowingly" denying justification by faith, salvation by faith and all the promises of God brought to fruition through faith in the person and object of Christ. Such foolishness as Hay's comments are like a double bit ax in the hands of a neophyte swung at a study and uncooperative oak not willing to give into the bite sending it back at the offender's neck.
In any event, it is good to see Dr. Olson providing his comments and thoughts for those of us appreciative of them and I will certainly look forward to reading and interacting with them.