When I was a younger man going into ministry, I was much concerned about the over-sentimentalized versions of God. He seemed to me as perceived as essentially powerless without the serious qualities of sovereignty and Lordship. He was “on call” and always waiting at the door of our hearts until he was invited in. This was to me beneath his dignity and unworthy of his majesty. I wanted to scream out, “you can’t treat God that way!!!”
The theology of Calvinism seemed to be the way out of this sentimentality. Here, at last, I found a God worthy of being served, who was all in all. He was the General George Patton in whose army I felt called to enlist – the great leader, the great conqueror, the all powerful captain of salvation.
I was taught that Arminianism was behind the prevalent weak view of God to which I had been exposed. This school of thought was the enemy within the camp, and because it was within the camp, it was a greater danger than even the world of unbelief outside the camp. And when I went to Westminster Seminary, the great adversary was Arminianism, too. If one weighed the invectives poured out in classes, the criticism of Arminianism was the essential default position. Next came Roman Catholicism and then, finally, Evangelicalism. Little attention was actually given to rank unbelief and how to confront and lead to conversion. Seminary was simply an exercise in internecine tribal warfare.
Maybe it is because I am now as an older man not so testosterone driven, but unfettered power is not as alluring as it was. Or maybe it is because with time I have seen the metaphysical difficulties with power as the final absolute of the universe, uncoupled with virtue. Or maybe it’s because some of the inherent problems of Calvinism forced me to actually read the works of Arminius and his faithful adherents. But I have come to believe that the Bible teaches God’s willingness to self-limit for the purposes of human choice, a choice restored to us by his prevenient grace. I have come to believe that Calvinism often does in fact lay sin at the foot of God, or at least too close for my comfort. I have come to believe that the God of Calvinism comes to close to the Devil of the Bible, desiring for his own glory that innumerable human beings suffer eternally in Hell, being able to save them but choosing not.
I commend to you this presentation by Dr. Roger Olson as one of the best assertions of Arminianism as that system of doctrine which most promotes the glory of God.
Spend some time with this. I think you will see that the God of much modern day sentimentalism is not Arminianism but American folk religion that is essentially semi-Pelgianism. Semi-Pelgianism is that system of thought which denies total depravity. While admitting the Fall and corruption of our nature, it asserts that we are not so fallen that we are no longer able to choose the good in and of our own power. Arminianism DOES NOT teach this. It is not semi-Pelagian. Along with Calvin, it asserts total depravity, and that left to our natural inclination we would always choose self over God. This is what the Apostle Paul asserts in Romans 1-3. BUT Arminius taught that by an act of God’s love, a preventing grace was given to all people so that they through Christ were given a capacity to say an authentic yes or no to God in such a way that they became fully responsible for that choice apart from an unconditional predestining determination by God. I agree.
Here’s the link. Listen and let me know what you think. My soul rests in the basic assertions Dr. Olson makes.