Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Dr. Roger Olson’s New Blog and it’s First Purple Heart

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.

Roger E Olson Blog


bossmanham said...

I think we should reclaim the word monergist from the Calvinists. I am a monergist. I believe that God alone works within me to draw, convict, and enable me to come to Him, and once I am in Him, it is He alone who regenerates, justifies, and sanctifies me. It is all Him and by His grace! We Arminians are monergists, durn it!

A.M. Mallett said...

I feel the same way about phrases such as "Doctrines of Grace". It's an absolute theft of words.

Derek said...

This is both frustrating and sad. Frustrating because it these men (as Hays) are supposed to be intelligent. Sad because I believe they will be held accountable for their slander.

They claim to be so "holy" and so focused on God's Glory. Does it glorify God to lie?

So pathetic that I am driven to my knees in prayer for Mr. Hays.

Anonymous said...

Just to say thanks for your post.
I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian myself although I have been following the Calvinist/ Arminian debate closely for some time. Unfortunately, I do agree with your findings regarding the debate. While of course there are good blogs (reasonably objective) there are many with a 'sectarian' approach that I have found not to be encouraging or promoting of faith.
To me, continual 'claiming' of higher theological ground isn't what we are supposed to be about, even though we are to defend (although it's a very fine line, however).
While the 'Doctrines of grace' under Calvinism is tantamount to a theft of words, it increases the gravity of our calling to understand what grace really is for us - even the Reformers would have agreed (it seems to me) that our understanding(s)/appropriation(s) of grace/righteousness/salvation/ are to be continually subject to examination, explication, investigation (as opposed to the fixed strictures of a generated Calvinism - TULIP, for instance).
Even a brief examination of the history of Calvinism itself will reveal the many difficulties it has had (and has) in several doctrinal areas through the centuries (the long study by Curt Daniel, for instance, is most enlightening).
A similar comment could be made for Arminianism I suppose, although historically it generally does not seem to have been so riven with acrimonous debates as appear in historic Calvinism(s).
Puritan Calvinists, for example, engaged in some very heated debate on central doctrines (e.g. John Owen versus Richard Baxter over the doctrine of 'imputed righteousness').

I would have to say that knowledge of the history of doctrines can be of a very great benefit in understanding where we are up to, and why - I have found this to be quite invaluable in my own understanding of faith.
(On that score, I have enjoyed reading Roger Olsen's 'The Story of Christian Theology' is an accessible, highly informative work bringing historical theologies readily to the reader.)

On our faith journey we can surely learn from our forbears and from each other.

We are covered.
Mark Sherring, Springwood, Australia.

A.M. Mallett said...

Prayer is what is required in these matters along with a healthy dose of Sunday School education.

Thanks for stopping by

A.M. Mallett said...

I am of the opinion that gaining an understanding of the historical background of the various movements of the Reformation is critical to understanding how we evolved to this modern church world we are part of. Unfortunately, as you noted, the acrimony that has existed for centuries now (longer actually)taints a lot of the discussions we might have. Ecumenical is a dirty word among the zealous and I do not know if there is a solution outside of prayerful entreaty.

Blessings .. Thanks for stopping by.