Calvinists v Arminians (round 4)

Adrian Warnock’s post on a spectrum of thought between Calvinism and Arminianism created a fair bit of debate in the blogosphere. Interestingly Roger Olsen responded rejecting the possibility of a spectrum saying,

“I admire and applaud any attempt to show that classical Calvinism and classical Arminianism are both Christian theologies.  But placing them on a spectrum that includes only versions of Arminianism and versions of Calvinism implies that they are somehow commensurable which they are not.”

In the middle of this post Olsen gets to the heart of the theological differences in this ongoing and never to be resolved (this side of heaven) debate;

“God’s election to salvation is EITHER conditional or unconditional (when we’re talking about individuals).  Christ’s atoning death was EITHER meant by God for all people without exception or meant by God for only the elect.  Saving grace is EITHER resistible or unresistible.  On these issues, at least, classical Arminianism (which Warnock labels “Reformed Arminianism”) and classical Calvinism are worlds apart.  Putting them on a spectrum close to its middle says nothing more than that they share some common ground with regard to OTHER loci of Christian theology.  But, in most cases, so do the other, more “extreme” versions of Arminianism and Calvinism.”

What I appreciate from all of this is a willingness to hold some of these tensions within churches. I’m happy to have differing views on first and last things and the same goes for this debate. We can still pray together, worship together, study the Word together, reach out to the world together and make disciples even if those disciples end up a confused mix of Calvinist creationist and Arminian amillenialists or something in between.

I end up taking a very pragmatic view of the impact of differing theologies and how we go about making disciples and reaching the nations. So in terms of church unity difference in the areas above (though the debate can be both important and passionate) have less impact than disagreement on the nature of baptism, church governance, leadership, spiritual gifts, the work of the Holy Spirit and so on.

Where would you ‘hold the line’ and where would you allow for differences of theology?

As a postscript to this debate Adrian has since concluded his blogging on it for the time being with this quote from Spurgeon.

Leave a Reply