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jmiklovic • 7 years ago

I like this article a lot, but would offer a slight criticism. Young Restless Reformed people are NOT infiltrating non-reformed traditions. It is not an 'influx' of new people. Instead people from within non-reformed traditions are 'converting' (for lack of a better word) to reformed theology. Myself for instance, have I infiltrated the Methodist Church? Of course not, I have worshipped with Methodists since I was 7 years old. It was many years later that my theology shifted to Lutheranism. That put me in the spot where Olson demands that I get on board with Methodism or leave for church that is a better theological fit. I agree with him in principle, but these things don't happen in a vacuum. When you are surrounded by people you love and have grown up with, and you come to a theology that you find liberating it is only natural that you want (right or wrong) to liberate these people with the theology. This isn't necessarily arrogant or a matter of trying to cause dissension. It's usually done with pure motives, but also with ignorance at how a differing theology rips at a church. That is the problem that is faced, not influx. Beyond this, many pastors are simply excited that their congregation is doing any reading or theological searching, and we turn a blind eye to the details of what is being taught.

You touched on confessions. I think we can agree that Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic traditions have done a much better job articulating and defending their positions in an official capacity. I'd say Methodism could benefit from a solid catechism and a stronger appeal to their articles of faith... but alas its hard to tell if the church even agrees with its own articles of faith.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

I have little patience or sympathy with people who find that 1) they believe something entirely different from what their church believes (according to his tradition whether formally stated or not), and 2) want to remain within it and "reform" it (change it) to an entirely different tradition. Wesley is the founder of the Methodist movement; his writings are still considered foundational for Methodism. He was adamantly opposed to Calvinism. The Articles of Religion are not compatible with five point Calvinism. I left the denomination and tradition of my childhood, youth and early education once I realized that staying within it would create dissonance and tension between me and them. It wasn't easy (my uncle was president of the denomination!) but I had to do it for the sakes of integrity and peace.

David Brainerd • 7 years ago

The Calvinists are part of the New World Order. They've been tasked with destroying Christianity to pave the way for it. They are part of the Jesuits created by the Catholic church to destroy non-Catholic churches.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

This is so bizarre that I have to assume you're making some kind of point with parody or satire. Please explain, though.

David Brainerd • 7 years ago

The NWO plan consists both of a one world government and for a one world religion to replace Christianity. On both points Calvinism is instrumental.

First, Calvinism paints God as evil, causing a massive rise in atheism, precisely what the NWO needs to accomplish its goals.

Second, Calvinism massively divides Christianity so that the NWO can conquer it.

Third, Calvinism breeds in its followers the sort of military state mentality that the NWO needs. It breeds notions of a totalitarian theocrasy. Granted, the resulting theocrasy will not be Calvinist, but it prepares the young minds full of mush that are raised Calvinist, become atheists, and then become the supporters of the NWO, to have a mindset of total government control of all thought.

Fourth, Calvinism and Masonry came about at the same time, as did the Jesuits. Its often been thought in Catholic circles that the Jesuits were created by the Calvinists to Protestantize the Catholic church. It can easily be viewed the other way, or that both were spawned by the Masons to destroy both the Protestant and Catholic churches.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

This is so bizarre that I don't even quite know how to respond. Would anyone else like to try?

David Brainerd • 7 years ago

This is how I've always known you are really a Calvinist. You always want to defend them. Here, however, although you desire to, you can't. Because I've exposed their plot too thoroughly.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

You are too funny! :)

Cw • 7 years ago

Actually Arminianism began in the Reformed Church. You might research the Synod at Dordt and the Remonstrance. Thus 'Reformed Arminian' or 'Arminian Reformed' are not historically oxymoronic.
Furthermore, Methodism was not, at its inception, 'Arminian' or 'Calvinistic' (whatever that means). Whitefield and Wesley were varied. To this day there are 'Calvinistic Methodists'.
And what of this 'TULIP Calvinism' talk? What would Calvin think of all this? Maybe his name is being misappropriated. Maybe 'Calvinism' is a misnomer. Calvin mentions what could be termed 'double predestination' sparingly and that well into the third book of 'Institutes'. I don't think Calvin was overly interested in the 'doctrines of grace' as so many are in these teats on a boar hog 'reformed vs. arminian' debates.
Did anyone ever consider that there might be another alternative to this supposedly bipolar dichotomy? If someone is dead set on theological abstraction, covenant theology may be a better framework than 'doctrines of grace'.
Enough of the useless caricatures.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Read my newest blog post. I agree that Arminianism began within the bosom of the Reformed tradition. Arminius also used "covenant theology" (if by that you mean "federal theology). But for him the covenant is conditional. I'd be interested to know what logically consistent middle ground you can imagine between Calvinism and Arminianism. Read my book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities where I show (not just argue) that there is no middle ground or common ground between them on certain points of theology crucial to each.

Cw • 7 years ago

Please acknowledge that Methodism was not, at its inception, 'Arminian' or 'Calvinistic'.
Also, please acknowledge that you have caricatured John Calvin, presenting him as being oh so interested in the 'doctrines of grace', when, in fact, he was not
Admit that 'TULIP Calvinism' is a misappropriation of Calvin's name.
I can't imagine a logically consistent middle ground to two positions that are themselves logically (and biblically) inconsistent. But then again I don't get overly involved in theological abstractions. I don't find myself prying into God's decrees. Do you?

You want to know why people are restless? It's because they see people in churches which scarcely bear the marks of the church. They see people dying on the vine.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

At its inception the Methodist movement included Calvinists and Arminians, but "Calvinist Methodism" died out eventually. They merged with Presbyterians. The vast majority of Methodists were Arminians even in the 18th century. The exception was the Countess of Huntington's Connection which was a Calvinist Methodist group that looked to Whitefield. After Whitefield died, some Methodists remained Calvinists but they eventually merged with Presbyterians. I have searched for any Calvinist Methodist church in North America and have found none. Calvin believed in all five points of TULIP except the "L." I make much of that in Against Calvinism. Anyone who thinks Calvin didn't believe in double predestination needs to read Calvin's Institutes, Book III carefully. I have read many, many attempts to explain Protestant soteriology in a way that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian. I always discover they are either some form of Calvinist or some form of Arminian. The crucial issues are whether saving grace is resistible and whether individual election to salvation is conditional or unconditional. There is no middle ground there.

Anastasios • 7 years ago

The early church condemned double predestination at the 2nd Council of Orange in 529: "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrennce that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema".
Next time a Calvinist tells you that the Church Fathers were Calvinist, you can hit 'em with that.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

What's really ironic is that I have seen Calvinists refer to the Second Council (Synod) of Orange (529) and its condemnation of semi-Pelagianism to argue that Arminianism is heresy. First, as I have conclusively demonstrated, Arminianism is not semi-Pelagianism, and second, they choose conveniently to overlook that the council/synod condemned their own theology!

trevor • 7 years ago

Thanks, I've been going to a church in Vancouver for 8 months but it never quite felt right to me though there are many nice people. Well we got to Romans 9 and sure enough the Pastoral staff is Calvinist. I was horrified. I'm looking around for another church now. The thing that annoys me is it's almost like they are embarrassed by the doctrine and dance around it. The pastor said to bear with him while he works through the rest of Romans, so a couple of sermons later and just a bunch of wishy washy talk and the telltale "you can't understand it, it's a mystery" Ugh, I can't in good conscience attend a church that teaches that God loves whom he loves (that's a quote from one of the pastors). Yuck, how would that ever motivate one to evangelism since everyone is either elected to salvation (something not even found in the bible), or destined to hell.

I'll be sure to download Against Calvinism from amazon. I'm reading What Love is This by Dave Hunt and I have to say that the life of John Calvin would not fill me with confidence if I were a Calvinist. A man who set himself up as an autocrat of a brutal police state and personally had one man burned at the stake as a heretic. By your fruit you shall know them. He bore some pretty rotten fruit. Arminisius sounds like he was a genuinely gentle, loving Christian and the funny thing is he didn't even believe a believer could lose their salvation which is what I believe.

Anastasios • 7 years ago

Well, as far as Dave Hunt is concerned, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Hunt was a nutball in a lot of ways (eschatology and ecclesiology, for example). Dispensationalism's portrayal of God is no better than Calvinism's. Have you read the "Left Behind" books and how they depict Jesus coming back to cause major carnage? Those books were based heavily on Hunt and Hal Lindsey's eschatological theories. Calvinism makes God into a capricious puppetmaster; dispensationalism makes Jesus into Godzilla.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Just a qualifying note here--one must not confuse the two Dave Hunts (father and son). The son is a leading Arminian theologian who, to the best of my knowledge, does not promote dispensationalism.

Steve • 7 years ago

Very clear article. What I would add, is that both sides of this, err..these two different theological differences, is that both seemingly have valid arguments. If the matter was as un-muddied as both sides would have it appear, there would be no disagreement. Formerly I was not Calvinistic in my beliefs. In an attempt to resolve some loose ends in my belief system, I stumbled upon this "disagreement". After careful and pray-full consideration, I realized that Reformed Theology makes more sense and puts God in authority over man. I must admit, tho, some positions of Reformed Theology are not palatable to me and my religious rearing. I am resolved to the fact that God is in control, I can not and will not understand everything. I do not run around engaging people or picking heady fights about this topic. I am still learning. The more I learn, however, the more I realize that I have just skimmed the surface. Thank you for your article, for not firing aimless shots and agreeing to disagree.

JeffCamp • 7 years ago

As a Calvinist, I can respect this article as a call for denominations to be theologically "pure". Of course, I would argue that it is important for denominations to right. Overall, I think it is important for denominations to be clear on their stance on things like Calvinism.so that we can have a clear-cut dialogue.

PuritanD71 • 7 years ago

Huh, never knew that there was a distinction between Calvinists and TULIP Calvinists. I think your article would be better suited to drop TULIP. It would be similar to making a distinction between Arminianism and Wesly-Arminianism.

Though I am sure there might be some who desire to make that distinction and may rightly so when doing a study purely on Arminianism. However, it seems that there was a desire to make an albatross around Calvinism calling it TULIP Calvinism.

One thing that raised a flag was the suggestion that Calvinist never represent Arminianism fairly. I cite your claim that it is okay if Calvinists are present in "mixed" denominations only if they "fairly represent" the other side. What about the other side in those denominations?

With the struggles that denominations like the Nazarene church has with inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, one may not be surprised by the attraction the "other side" may offer. It would be great if you could dig a bit deeper as to why Calvinism is showing up in these historically Arminian denominations. Is it possible that the controversies within like I just mentioned above would start pushing people the other way?

Anastasios • 7 years ago

Well, "inerrancy and sufficiency" were not how the early church understood Scripture. They seem to be relatively novel doctrines/concepts. Early Christians believed that the Holy Spirit was present in Scripture in an incarnational way (Scripture is the written Word; Christ is the living Word). This is rather different from how modern evangelicals view Biblical inspiration (which IMHO is closer to a Muslim view of revelation).
As far as sufficiency is concerned, obviously no one believed in sola scriptura in the 1st millennium because the canon of Scripture hadn't even been completely decided yet (It took until the 9th century for a few books, including Revelation, to become universally accepted).
I'm just curious why some people consider these extremely modern/new doctrines to be more important than the classical doctrines such as the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc. When did "newer is better" become a Christian slogan?

PuritanD71 • 7 years ago

Maybe, maybe not. It is just as likely that these were not issues that needed to be discussed and therefore not brought up. Therefore, it is just as possible that inerrancy and sufficiency were not only understood but assumed by the early church. In other words, they never questioned the authority of Scripture so there was no need to fully develop the doctrine.

By the way, no one is arguing that these doctrines are more important but are just as of a necessity. Interestingly the earliest of Christians did not have the hypostatic union nor the Trinity developed either. If one is to use your criteria we could say that for the first two hundred years no one developed such thought therefore they are newer and "when did newer is better, become a Christian slogan?"

I hope you see the weakness in your argument, here.

John I. • 7 years ago

I also have for many years used the descriptor "TULIP Calvinist" because "TULIP" was never an acronym used by Calvin. Moreover Calvin was not as forceful on that doctrine as many of his successors were, nor did hi use it like a club or as a doctrinal essential as many do today. Of course He did believe the doctrines encapsulated within the acronym but it was not an essential defining point of his doctrines. Rather, if flowed out of certain interpretations of his. In addition, there are many people and denominations who are Calvinistic but who do not ascribe to all 5 tenets.

"TULIP" Calvinist is a useful phrase because it can be used to refer to that group of Christians who ascribe to all 5 tenets and see it as essential to doctrine and to Calvinism. "Calvinism" would then refer to the broader grouping that includes those who do not believe in all 5 petals of the TULIP, but who are otherwise Calvinist in their theology or part of denominations that are historically Calvinist in some way.

Of course my use of the phrase may not be the same as Dr. Olson's, but I think that my use of it is sufficient to indicate its usefulness.

PuritanD71 • 7 years ago

Again, historically speaking the "TULIP" would not exist if it were not for the French five points in the first place.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

It is the inerrantists who are troubling the Church of the Nazarene which has never affirmed inerrancy. Inerrantism is not part of its history or ethos.

RGC • 7 years ago

Roger, where are the Arminian leaders and models for us. Reformed leaders and pastors are in the spotlight. These leaders have relevant websites and resources to the young crowd. We need to do the same. Also, have you read Guy Duty's book If Ye Continue? Fantastic read for Arminianism.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

I read Duty's book many years ago. Watch for a forthcoming book by a young Arminian pastor entitled Young. Restless. No Longer Reformed (by Austin Fischer). He's certainly worthy of the kind of attention you talk about. But you have to understand there's a LOT of money behind the aggressive Calvinists.

Paul Freswick • 7 years ago

As one who holds to the Doctrines of Grace I can really appreciate the tone and call for consistency in this article. There are some historically Calvinist churches (the CRC to be more specific) that have not called out the Arminian thinkers among them and it has caused much turmoil.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Would you care to name a classical Arminian minister of the CRC? I have never met or heard of one.

Paul Freswick • 7 years ago

Point taken. It would probably be more fair to say CRC allows Arminian thinking than to say there are classical Arminian thinkers. I would base this off of friends I know in the CRC who have Arminian leanings which are not at all discouraged by their churches. The increasing plurality of views in the CRC is more clearly seen in other ares such as Creation or Sexuality.

William • 7 years ago

This approach reflects wisdom and integrity.

EscondidoSurfer • 7 years ago

I believe the tulip/reformed crowd are drawn to it because it is an airtight system that addresses and confronts the individual interpretation problem of Protestantism. Reformed theology takes the place of tradition and papal authority of the Catholic Church which they miss. That Open Theism could be considered biblically defensible is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

I disagree. The straw that broke the camel's back was that one of their own--Clark Pinnock--first switched to Arminianism and then open theism. They were angry at him. I have evidence for this claim, but I won't go into that here. As I pointed out, Don Bloesch was writing what later came to be called "open theism" as early as 1971 and nobody made a peep about it.

Alethia • 7 years ago

Roger, here’s my personal experience: My wife and I were part of a Baptist church with a clear affirmation of free will in its statement of faith. The church wanted to plant a new church across town, and the church planting pastor actively pursued us to be charter members. We were given a short, generically evangelical statement of faith to sign, and off we went. After several years of hard work in the church plant (signing that same statement of faith each year), we felt the call to be foreign missionaries. With the support of both churches, we left the U.S.

Fast forward five years and a new statement of faith appeared on the church plant’s web site—extraordinarily detailed and pure TULIP. Then I had the temerity to criticize John MacArthur (big mistake). The next time we were home for furlough we were called in for a regular inquisition before all the church plant elders, complete with a list of accusations. Needless to say, because we would not affirm Calvinism as the only correct interpretation of scripture, they are no longer going to support us as missionaries.

The really striking thing about the inquisition was that when I re-affirmed the free will position of the mother church, they seemed to be genuinely dumbfounded that I could have developed such outlandish ideas. They genuinely did not believe that they were the ones who had moved. At one point I asked the pastor about the website’s new statement of faith. He responded that although it had only been posted recently, it had been the official statement of faith since day one (news to us). The two statements of faith were equivalent, he said, because they don’t contradict each other. Really. He seemed to have no sense of how deceptive that was. Calvinism on the sly indeed.

Darrin Rodgers • 7 years ago

Roger, as an Arminian, I am grateful for your scholarship! As the director of the Assemblies of God archives (www.iFPHC.org), I would like to point out, however, that Calvinist Pentecostals have always existed in the movement. Joseph Smale, the pastor who set the theological stage for the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, was a British Calvinist - and a Spurgeon College graduate nonetheless. He initially embraced Azusa, but grew uncomfortable with the emerging movement and was mostly written out of the history books. See the 2009 AG Heritage for an article on Smale: http://ifphc.org/pdf//Herit... The Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada, one of the earliest classical Pentecostal denominations in Canada, was Oneness and Calvinist. Read my review of a recent history of the ACOP here: http://ifphc.wordpress.com/... The ACOP, in recent decades, has embraced the doctrine of the Trinity (which it called the "tri-unity of the godhead"), although this has been largely unnoticed by outside observers. The Grace and Glory Movement, an unorganized group of churches that drew their name from the Pentecostal periodical Grace and Glory, was another early classical Pentecostal Calvinist group. Interestingly, an AG founder, J. Roswell Flower, was a founding editor of Grace and Glory's magazine, initially titled The Pentecost. See more info here: https://ifphc.org/index.cfm... Large segments of the Assemblies of God in southern Africa have been Calvinist since the earliest days. This may be due in part to the influence of WFP Burton, a prominent British Pentecostal missionary who was Calvinist and who wrote extensively in support of eternal security doctrine. The AG USA, as early as 1918, adopted its stance against "extreme eternal security teaching." This seemed to be in opposition to the idea that, once saved, it didn't matter how one lived. While "extreme eternal security teaching" was condemned, some AG leaders embraced what they termed "eternal security" -- including AG Ward (the father of Revivaltime radio host CM Ward). This may be because Ward was Canadian and was sensitive to the ACOP arguments. Calvinism is a (small) minority voice within Pentecostal history, but it has been present since the movement's beginnings.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Darrin, I bow to your greater knowledge of the margins of Pentecostalism. But before posting what I did I communicated with someone whose name you would know well (I don't want to post his name here in order not to drag him into a discussion he might not want to be part of) whose father was an AG leader and is a church historian with wide and deep knowledge of Pentecostalism. He agreed with me that Calvinism has historically not been part of the Pentecostal movement. We can talk more about this. My response is basically that there are always exceptions when one is talking about a movement as large as Pentecostalism. But, in general, Calvinism is a foreign element now.

Darrin Rodgers • 7 years ago

Thanks for your kind response, Roger! I agree that Calvinism would have been a "foreign element" to the vast majority of American Pentecostals until recent years. This would particularly be the case if looking exclusively at the major denominations. However, it is interesting to note that early issues of the AG's Pentecostal Evangel published a number of warnings against the Grace and Glory group -- the Calvinist Pentecostals. This shows that Calvinism was not unheard of within Pentecostalism, rather, it was viewed by the majority as a doctrinally problematic minority within the movement. And it wasn't just a few individuals, there were entire Pentecostal networks or denominations that had distinctive Calvinistic doctrines. The Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada, which was historically Calvinistic, has long been the second largest Pentecostal denomination in Canada. Most Pentecostals today are probably unaware of these Calvinist streams within Pentecostalism. The prominent Grace and Glory leaders have died and the group has become less visible. I have friends who left Grace and Glory and have joined the AG or Reformed Baptist churches. The ACOP has mainstreamed, has joined the PCCNA, has declared itself Trinitarian, and doesn't seem as strongly Calvinistic as in the past. I just hesitate to use absolute statements regarding the non-existence of Calvinism within the Pentecostal tradition. The Pentecostal movement is so diverse as to make it difficult to make such generalizations. It's easier, perhaps to make such generalizations about churches (which have boundary markers), whereas the borders of movements are rather porous. I'd be more comfortable with your statements about Calvinism if they were applied to, for instance, the AG, rather than Pentecostals in general.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Okay, I accept that. You're right that Pentecostalism's boundaries are porous and virtually invisible. It's what I call a centered set category. I would just continue to maintain that classical Pentecostal denominations are virtually all Arminian in orientation and ought to resist such fundamental change as Calvinists within them and coming into them want to bring about.

Darrin Rodgers • 7 years ago

I agree that the major classical Pentecostal denominations are virtually all Arminian in orientation and ought to resist the changes that Calvinists wish to bring about. Again, I am grateful for your scholarship!

James Mckaskle • 7 years ago

TULIP Calvinism? is there another kind?

John III • 7 years ago

TULIP wasn't used as an acronym until the 20th century. A lot of Reformed folks don't actually like the acronym. The Reformed tradition is a lot broader than just the doctrines of grace, and it's a mistake to conflate this entire theological stream of thought with one of the seminal points within that train of thought.

Anastasios • 7 years ago

Not to mention, Zwingli (who actually lived before Calvin and is regarded by many as a co-founder of the Reformed movement) was most definitely not a believer in TULIP. In fact, Lutherans frequently accused him of being Pelagian!

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Um, well, Zwingli did believe in divine determinism, though. Read his treatise On Providence. He was also a nominalist who thought and argued that whatever God does is automatically right just because God does it.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

All true. But words take on new meanings over time. I always emphasize (as in Against Calvinism) that TULIP is not all there is to Reformed theology and that many who call themselves Reformed are just Baptist Calvinists.

John III • 7 years ago

True of some "Reformed Baptists" though some are Confessional and covenantal and just don't think that covenant theology implies infant Baptism.

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

Right. But those in the historically Reformed churches (mostly brought here from Europe) disagree. I look at the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). So far as I've been able to tell they all baptize infants and regard Baptist "re-baptism" as wrong (sectarian).

John III • 7 years ago

Granted, granted. There's a lot of discussion that goes back and forth about whether you're Reformed or not if you hold to the London Confession of 1689 :)

Roger Olson • 7 years ago

I know lots of evangelicals who call themselves "moderately Reformed" and like to pretend they are Calvinists but aren't--at least not in the full-blown TULIP sense. And then there are the "four pointers."

Kimberly Ervin Alexander • 7 years ago

I find many preachers listening to the new young guns of Calvinism because the like the preaching style or they like the number of people allegedly being converted by these Manly Men. The problem is there is a whole package that comes with the "style"---one that likely oppresses women and one that downplays "authentic Christianity" and the experiential, transformative view of spirituality that is part and parcel of Wesleyan and/or Pentecostal traditions. Of course, Roger and I (and many of those commenting above) will be considered critical and judgmental for having said so. The irony is, as is pointed out in the blog post, it is the Calvinist who espouse exclusivity.

Mark McNeil • 7 years ago

How about, LIT UP Calvinism?