Friday, February 27, 2015

Where Did All These Arminians Come From?

In an earlier post I asked, “What’s contributing to the increase in X-Calvinists?” (Link). There I suggested two answers (or 3, if you include the obvious “there are more Calvinists”...): (1) Calvinism is not as deep and robust a theology as its leaders portray, and (2) Young Calvinists are growing up.  In this post I want to look at the other side.  That is, just because someone is post-Calvinist doesn’t mean they will embrace Arminian theology, yet many (maybe most?) do. Why?

Of course the real reason is a movement of God’s Spirit; the Spirit who “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13) -- this is the only explanation I can give for my own journey.  God cares when His holy character is maligned, and most Christians do too.  So the question, “Where did all these Arminians come from?” is really, “What means is God using to re-awaken Christians to Arminian theology?”[1]  Here are some of the suggestions I have come across:

    (1) “The slumbering Non-Calvinist ‘silent majority’ is starting to awake” (Kevin Jackson)

Back in 2008, Kevin Jackson, who blogs at Wesleyan Arminian, made a list of 4 "Signs of the growing Arminian Web presence".  Here is his list:
1) An Explosion in Arminian Blogs: A year ago Arminian blogs were few and far between. Roy Ingle’s Arminian Today was the first one I ever remember running across, and it took me a while to find that one. Now there are so many Arminian blogs I can’t keep up with them all. This is a fantastic development. For example, check out this list of blogs and resources that Billy from Classical Arminianism has come up with. A year ago I would have done a cartwheel for the list like that.
2) Networking: Arminians are starting to find each other, and outside of our respective denominational “silos”. Some of this is due to the blogging I mentioned above. Some it is also unfortunately due to excessively negative interactions with Calvinists. We have had to learn to defend ourselves. (May we be graceful in the process.)
3) A dedicated Arminian resource site: Evangelical Arminians. This site is beginning to make an impact. I hope that over time it will become the for Arminians.
4) The slumbering Non-Calvinist “silent majority” is starting to awake: This seems particularly evident in the Southern Baptist denomination, with the Building Bridges conference, and now the upcoming John 3:16 Conference. Limited Atonement is not an easy thing to get Bible believers to buy into (for obvious reasons). As insulated Christians become aware of this terrible doctrine, they will have a strong reaction against it. This awakening is starting to take place.
These factors are exactly what introduced me to Arminianism.  When I first told my Reformed friends that I could no longer consider myself a Calvinist, they challenged me to answer a stack of proof-texts.  It was Arminian blogs, and websites like Evangelical Arminians, that provided me with answers to their challenge.  On top of these, NOBTS Baptist Center for Theology & Ministry of the SBC (who don’t call themselves “Arminians”) introduced me to Arminian scholars like Robert Picirilli and J Matthew Pinson, not to mention the classic writings of Thomas Grantham.

Roger Olson’s blog was another significant influence for me.  For example, it was because of his endorsement of William Klein’s book The New Chosen People that I finally understood Corporate Election (Dr Olson called it, “The best Arminian exegesis of Romans 9” [Link], so I requested it through the University Library. Before this all I knew about C.E. came from John Piper's critique).

And more organizations continue to spring up.  Seedbed, for example, is another excellent online resource which I assume wasn’t mentioned in Kevin Jackson's list because it wasn’t around yet.

   (2) “Significant contributions to . . . the ‘Arminian Renaissance’ in contemporary theology” (Roger Olson)

Not only has the impact been online, but it has also been in scholarship.  I’ve already mentioned William Klein and the Baptist Center, which hosts the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry (and we could add to this all the contributors to Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism).  In addition to these, Brian Abasciano of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has written what is probably the most intensive study of Romans 9 from an Arminian perspective in his three books in the Library of New Testament Studies series.[2]

In his post on Don Thorsen’s book Calvin vs Wesley,[3] Roger Olson credits Thomas Oden and Ben Witherington for what he calls “the renaissance of Arminian/Wesleyan theology and its emergence into mainstream evangelical theological life”:
One thing that excites me about Don’s work here and in other books (he’s authored several) is the evidence it provides that Wesleyan evangelicals are breaking out of their insularity and joining the larger evangelical conversation about theology and Christian life. When I was a beginning student of theology it wasn’t easy to find good Wesleyan theology for non-Wesleyans. Most Wesleyan theology was published by little known “Holiness” publishing houses operated by Holiness-Wesleyan denominations. Abingdon was publishing mostly liberal theology. Most evangelical theology was written by Reformed theologians. Exactly when and how that began to change is difficult to tell, but changing it is. I think that Thomas Oden has much to do with the renaissance of Arminian/Wesleyan theology and its emergence into mainstream evangelical theological life. Other Wesleyan scholars such as Ben Weatherington [sic] have done much to convince non-Wesleyan evangelicals that Wesleyans have much to offer evangelical scholarship.(Link)

In another post, while responding to two new books on Arminius, Roger Olson wrote:
These two books are significant contributions to what I call the “Arminian Renaissance” in contemporary theology. For centuries Arminius’s theology and Arminianism have been defined by their critics, mostly in the Reformed camp.
Henceforth, after the publication of these books, no person who claims to know what he or she is talking about should dare to criticize Arminius’s theology without reading these two books first. Of course, one can hope such critics would also read Arminius himself! But these two books are scholarly guides to his theology that must not be ignored or overlooked. Of course, Arminians should also read them. As especially Gunter points out, many self-identified “Arminians” know little or nothing about Arminius’s own theology; before calling themselves Arminians they should at least know the theology of the man himself. Either one or both of these volumes will guide them in that endeavor. (Link)

We can also look forward to the upcoming release of David Allen's book on the atonement,[4] as well as the reprinting of Thomas Grantham's works by Mercer University Press.

(3) Hopefully, and with much prayer, soon I will be able to add “Church planting” as a third factor, but I’m not sure we’re there yet (Link, and Link).


[1] This question, as well as the title for this post, are both adapted from Mark Denver’s list “Where did all these Calvinist’s come from?” at The Gospel Coalition.  Dr Denver posits his list as “12 sources God has used to reinvigorate Reformed theology in this generation”.
[2] These are:
[3] Don Thorsen summarizes some key points from his book here.
[4] David Allen’s chapter-by-chapter review of From Heaven He Came And Sought Her which ran on his blog from June-October, 2014 was also a great help to me.  The complete list is available here.


  1. Excellent thoughts. May the Lord grant us His favor and may souls be saved for His glory.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement bro.


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