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Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Hardcover – October 5, 2006
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"Arminian Theology is a much-needed book, addressing many of the myths and caricatures about Arminianism that plague and muddle many contemporary theological discussions. Whether we advocate a particular theological perspective or not, it is imperative that we as Christians describe other theological perspectives with integrity, fairly and accurately. Dr. Olson is to be complimented for this excellent contribution." (Steve Lemke, Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, Fall 2013)
"Arminian Theology should prove to be a seminal text in understanding the historical contours of Arminianism. It is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to gain a cogent and perspicacious introduction to historical, evangelical Arminian theology." (Martin Povey, Stockport, Themelios 32/3, May 2007)
"Olson's purpose is to clear the good Arminian name of false accusations and charges of heresy. . . . InterVarsity Press has given a new voice to an evangelical position which has been, for the most part, suppressed and misrepresented." (Vic Reasoner, The Arminian 25:1, Spring 2007)
"Roger Olson recaptures Arminianism's original focus: pointing us to God's goodness rather than man's 'freed will.' This refreshing reappraisal should pave the way for better synergy between Reformed evangelicals and classical Arminians." (David Neff, editor, Christianity Today)
". . . a fine example of contemporary polemical theology at its best." (Daniel Castelo for Pneuma, 29, 2007)
"I heartily recommend this book to all who wish to gain a true grasp of authentic Arminianism." (Mark DeVine, Midwestern Journal of Theology, 2008)
"Olson's book is highly reommended for those who want to understand the Arminian-Calvinist controversy better." (Andrew V. Snider, The Master's Seminary Journal, Spring 2009)
"This is an extremely crucial work. It should be required reading for all students of theology. It is not a substitute for reading primary sources, but it is a helpful summary and introduction to the major issues." (Glenn R. Kreider, Dallas Theological Seminary, Criswell Theological Review 4/2, Spring 2007)
"Although many of the personal and institutional animosities that used to mark relations between Calvinists and Arminians have become muted in recent years, the differences are still with us. The issues are alive because they concern matters of central importance to Christian faith. In this book Roger Olson gently and firmly corrects misunderstandings of Arminian theology that are often held by Calvinists--and Arminians! His deft expositions of the historical texts offer a significant contribution to the health of theological reflection and relationships. At the same time he demonstrates how to be irenic without adopting an empty tolerance that makes doctrine irrelevant to the church's life and mission." (Jonathan R. Wilson, Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology, Carey Theological College)
"In this blockbuster of a book Roger Olson demonstrates that Arminian theology is faithfully Christian, faithfully Protestant and faithfully evangelical. He introduces his readers to a large world which many will never before have entered, the world of Arminian and Wesleyan theology, and even those familiar with this world will become more informed about it. In his contents page alone he provides more clarity on the contested issues in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate than many books on the subject. He methodically subverts many of the arguments that Calvinists routinely use against Arminian theology. This is Christian polemical theology at its best: massively informed, carefully and passionately argued, and friendly and courteous to the opposition. I recommend Arminian Theology enthusiastically, and I predict that, if it is read with the attentiveness it deserves, it will ratchet up the level of the American conversation on these issues." (Fisher Humphreys, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University)
From the Publisher
Features & Benefits
* Written by a respected and accomplished Arminian theologian
* Benefits those wanting clarity about classical Arminian theology, whether they are detractors, promoters or trying to make up their own minds
* As readable as Olson's Story of Christian Theology and Mosaic of Christian Belief
* A major voice to be heard in the middle of the current controversy between Calvinists and Arminians
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What I did find was that the crux of the difference between the two theologies really lies in the manner in which God chooses men to be saved. The Calvinist states that we as dirty, sinful, godless humans should be grateful to see that God is gracious to choose any to go to heaven, instead of allowing us all to go to hell. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that God is so loving that He would choose everyone to heaven if He could, but He leaves the choice in salvation to the libertarian free will of man through prevenient grace.
The Calvinist cannot see God ever giving up any of His sovereignty, even in the choice of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. The Arminian cannot see God, being loving, to ever control humans in their choices, or this results in God being the author and creator of sin. This chasm, as Dr. Olson plainly states, will never be brought together between the two sides. Which I completely agree.
The one place that I saw Dr. Olson arguing for over and over in the book is that Arminianism is not Semi-Pelagian because it is not that good was left in man after the fall, but that God, in His grace gave all men prevenient grace. Here is my issue with this argument. Did not God allow the good to be humans before the fall? So, whether you believe that a little good was left over (Semi-Pelagian) or that God, after the fall, gave all men prevenient grace (Arminianism), which is also good, how is this different? It's just a matter of timing, in my opinion. Dr. Olson also goes into a little dissertation on Open Theism where he does not really try and disprove, but says simply that some Arminians are going "that way" and some are undecided. This is where Arminianism gets real dangerous, in my opinion.
I did enjoy the book and Dr. Olson's thoroughness in it. Do not expect the book to be one that tries to "convince" you of the Arminian position, for this was not the intent (this is also the reason why there was very little biblical references). The intent was to clear up some misconceptions of Arminian theology. Which for me, it did the job that Dr. Olson was trying to do, but that does not mean that I agree with him. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for an honest assessment of Arminianism.
I also appreciate Dr. Olson's heart in wanting the two sides to be able to serve with one another and to proclaim the gospel together. I found this a place where a lot of my Calvinist friends could learn from.
Much of evangelical Christianity today doesn't pay much attention to theology. I grew up in a belief system that was an illogical mixture of semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, and eternal security. My belief system only worked if I didn't think too hard, or pay close attention to the entirety of the Bible. Investigating the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism, I read both Olson's book as well as listened to a set of seminars by John Piper (a Calvinist) that differentiated between the two. I was surprised at how both defined Arminianism in virtually the same terms. In other words, if a strong Calvinist and Arminian give the same definition of Arminianism, it must be accurate. It was also pretty close to what I had believed my whole life. To make a long story short, much more reading was necessary for me to make up my mind between the two systems fit the Bible better.
So, why is a Calvinist recommending this book? It does an excellent job of fairly defining the issues involved. And, while I ended up disagreeing with the theological system it supports, I gained real respect for my Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ by reading it. My guess is that many in the Calvinist camp do not have a fair appreciation for authentic Arminianism - they will likely gain more respect for those they disagree with by reading this. Both sides could act more Christian by interacting with the actual theologies of the other camp as opposed to straw men often constructed by both sides.
One downside of the book is, in my mind, the later chapters dealt with "myths" about Arminianism I did not hold. To me, at least, these chapters were less useful. For many readers, I do not necessarily recommend reading the entire book, only those chapters where they suspect the myth may be true. For me, at least, the myths were mostly dealt with in order of importance. I liked enough about this book I'm not detracting a star over this issue.
My recommendation to anyone who doesn't fully understand Calvinism or Arminianism, or (worse!) thinks they are someplace in between, to read this, as well as a good introduction to Calvinism (Sam Storms "Chosen for Life" is short, approachable, and solid). Then, read through the New Testament and ask yourself which viewpoint better matches the plain meaning of scripture.
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