The debate between Calvinism and Arminianism has long been of intense interest to me. Mostly because the heart of the debate is over the nature of God and salvation. What could be more important? Two new books have recently been released: For Calvinism, by Michael Horton, and Against Calvinism, by Roger Olson. Both look like good representations of each position, though Olson’s book, just from the excerpts I’ve read, seems to be more polemical. Then again, the title is Against Calvinism. This is somewhat disappointing (though I haven’t read it), because Arminians need more books that argue for their position based on scripture, not on rhetoric. The standard for this remains Robert Shank’s, Life in the Son, and his companion volume, Elect in the Son.
Horton and Olson have been posting on their blogs about the new books, and both have been defending certain assertions. In one of Horton’s posts he points out (fairly in my opinion) that objections to predestination are mainly about foreknowledge. He goes on to articulate that certain problems for Calvinism, regarding God’s foreknowledge, are also problems for orthodox Arminians. This much is true, in fact, our modern day Marcion and open theist, Greg Boyd, makes this point abudantly clear in his work Satan and the Problem of Evil, when he states that Arminians are logically inconsistent when it comes to free choice and divine foreknowledge.
But hyper-Arminianism, as Horton calls it, is not the subject of my post here. I wanted to make one point about Horton’s assumption regarding Arminianism – namely, that God is merely passive and purposeless in allowing evil. He states: “Any view that makes God the author of sin does indeed turn the object of our worship into a moral monster. However, any deity who merely stands around reluctantly permitting horrible things for which he has no greater purpose in view, is equally reprehensible.” Of course, if God was reluctantly permitting horrible things with no greater purpose he would be reprehensible. But has any orthodox Arminian said this? Arminians believe that God has purposes in allowing evil: that men and angels be held accountable for their choices and that by allowing suffering He sanctifies His saints. Horton goes on to say: “Once you acknowledge that God foreknows a sinful act and chooses to allow it (however reluctantly) when he could have chosen not to, the only consolation is that God never would have allowed it unless he had already determined why he would permit it and how he has decided to overcome it for his glory and our good.” What Arminian tenet is in disagreement with this statement?
I guess the real rub is what purpose is more biblical, and therefore more in line with the character of God. I’ve been on both sides of the fence regarding this issue and the statements I have made above are not meant to reflect my current theological position; however, what troubles me is a misrepresentation of either side. I believe that Horton has misrepresented Arminianism. Much of what he said regarding Calvinism is not inconsistent with an Arminian view of providence.