Grace for All (2015) [Chapters 1-2]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Arminianism is God Centered Theology

(pp.1-17)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Roger Olson is Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. Before joining the Baylor community, he taught at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul Minnesota.

His alma mater is Rice University (Ph.D in Religious Studies). He also graduated from North American Baptist Seminary (now Sioux Falls Seminary). [1]

“A past president of the American Theological Society (Midwest Division), Olson has been the co-chair of the Evangelical Theology Group of the American Academy of Religion for two years.” [2]

[1] www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerolson/biography-2/

[2] https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=927923

B) Chapter Summary:

“What would count as truly God-centered theology to these Reformed critics of Arminianism? First, human depravity must be emphasized as much as possible so that humans are not capable, even with supernatural divine assistance, of cooperating with God’s grace in salvation.”[1]

“Second, apparently, for the Reformed critics of Arminianism, God-centered theology must view God as the all-determining reality including the one who ordains, designs, governs and controls sin and evil which are then imported into God’s plan, purpose and will. God’s perfect will is always being done, even when it paradoxically grieves him to see it (as John Piper likes to affirm).”[2]

“The only view of God’s sovereignty that will satisfy these Reformed critics of Arminianism is meticulous providence in which God plans everything and renders it certain down to the minutest decisions of creatures. Most notably this includes the Fall of humanity and its consequences including the eternal suffering of sinners in hell.”[3]

David Bentley Hart: “It is a strange thing indeed to seek [God-centered theology] … at a cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.”[4]

“Third, to satisfy Arminianism’s Reformed critics, God-centeredness requires that human beings are mere pawns in God’s great scheme to glorify himself; their happiness and fulfillment cannot be mentioned as having any value for God. But this means, then, that one can hardly mention God’s love for all people.”[5]

“… It accomplishes very little to construct a God-centered theology if the God at its center is sheer, naked power of ambiguous moral character. “Glory” is an ambiguous term. When divorced from virtue, it is unworthy of devotion.”[6]

“God is glorious because he is both and good, and his goodness, like his greatness, must have some resonance with our best and highest notions of goodness or else it is meaningless.”[7]

“Real Arminianism has always believed in human freedom for one main reason – to protect the goodness of God and thus God’s reputation in a world filled with evil. There is only one reason why Classical Arminian theology emphasizes free will, but it has two sides. First, to protect and defend God’s goodness; second to make clear human responsibility for sin and evil. It has nothing to do whatsoever with any humanistic desire for creaturely autonomy or credit for salvation.”[8]

John Wesley: “you suppose him [viz., God] to send them [viz., the reprobate] into eternal fire, for not escaping from sin! That is in plain terms, for not having that grace which God had decreed they should never have! O strange justice! What a picture do you draw of the Judge of all the earth!”[9]

“The point that Boice and other critics continually make is that in the Arminian system the saved person can boast because he or she did not resist God’s grace and others did. All Arminian theologians from Arminius to Wesley to Wiley have pointed out that a person who receives a life-saving gift cannot boast if all he or she did was accept it. All the glory for such a gift goes to the giver and none to the receiver.”[10]

“All [Classical Arminians] emphasize the sovereignty of God over his creation including specific providence and all underscore God’s power limited only by his goodness. What throws off Reformed (and perhaps other) critics is the underlying Arminian assumption of God’s voluntary self-limitation in relation to humanity. However, that God limits himself by no means implies that he is essentially limited. According to Arminian theology God is sovereign over his sovereignty and his goodness conditions his power.”[11]

[1] p.4

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea (2005), p.99

[5] p.5

[6] p.6

[7] Ibid.

[8] p.7

[9] John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (1872), p.221

[10] p.10

[11] pp.10-11

God’s Universal Salvific Grace

(pp.18-28)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Vernon C. Grounds ”

received a BA from Rutgers University. His BD was granted by Faith Theological Seminary and a PhD from Drew University. Wheaton College awarded him an honorary DD and Gordon College an LHD in recognition of his long service as a Christian educator and leader.

For 10 years he pastored the Gospel Tabernacle in Paterson, New Jersey, during which time he taught at the American Seminary of the Bible, the Hawthorne Evening Bible School, and King’s College. From 1945 to 1951, he was dean and professor of theology at Baptist Bible Seminary in Johnson City New York. He joined Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary in 1951 as dean, becoming president five years later. Retiring from that position in 1979, he continued to teach at the Seminary in areas of ethics and counseling and is now the Cauwels Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Care and Christian Ethics. In January 1993, he was officially named chancellor of the Seminary.” [1]

[1] https://denverseminary.edu/resources/initiatives/vernon-grounds-institute/dr-vernon-c-grounds/

B) Chapter Summary:

After citing Romans 3:23, Romans 4:4, and Ephesians 2:8-9, “Grace, then, viewed negatively, baffles reason totally and completely. Viewed positively, however, it is the omnipotent help which God in his freedom chooses to give through Jesus Christ and by his spirit, liberating man from his self-incurred bondage and misery, reestablishing a right relationship with himself.”[1]

“Theologians who align themselves with John Calvin, proudly naming fourth-century Saint Augustine and others such as twenty-first R. C. Sproul as representative spokesmen, contend that divine grace, though unlimited in its sufficiency, is nevertheless limited in its efficiency – and limited by God himself. According to this major tradition in Christian thought, grace does not universally and indiscriminately provide every human being with an opportunity for a redemptive relationship to God that includes the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal beatitude.”[2]

“Instead, as Calvinistically interpreted, grace in its effective outworking and outreach avails only for elect individuals, those human beings whom God in his sovereignty has predestined from all eternity to be the recipients of his mercy. Whatever linguistic and logical legerdemain is employed to mitigate the inescapable corollaries of this position, it maintains that non-elect individuals are outside the orbit of God’s effective grace.”[3]

“A mere catena of passages discloses the fact, for fact it is, that the divine purpose in Jesus Christ embraces not a segment of the human family but the race in toto …”[4]

Refers to John 1:29, John 3:16, and Romans 5:17-21.

“Note the repetition of “much more” [in Romans 5:17-21] which asymmetrically outbalances the ruin of humanity in Adam by the race’s redemption in Christ. Since all humanity came under judgement in Adam, humanity must come into at least the possibility of eternal life through Christ.”[5]

Karl Rahner: “If we wish to be Christians, we must profess belief in the universal and serious salvific purpose of God towards all men which is true even within the post-paradisean phase of salvation dominated by original sin.”[6]

“The universality of grace, it must be made clear, does not mean universalism! It means merely that God is at work in Jesus Christ and by his Holy Spirit is sovereignly and sincerely – yes, and seriously, as Rahner points out – providing the potential of salvation for every human being. But that potential depends for its actualization on a believing response.”[7]

Kenneth Foreman: “The very fact that the Christians used the words kerygma, kerusso, euangelion, to describe their missionary efforts, suggests that the news could be understood, the heralding heeded. But it was more than an announcement, it was a summons. “God … commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30) … If it be objected that this leaves too much to man’s decision, we can only say that to control man as one would a log or rock is to treat him as something less than a man, and this God does not do. God deals personally with personal beings, as Dr. Oman laid it out so beautifully years ago. Grace that left no option whatever would not be grace, it would be something else. We should have to say. By force were ye saved, and not of yourselves.”[8]

“The truth of God’s universal grace needs to be proclaimed with adoring fervor, a grace that springs from a love which cannot be limited temporally (Matt. 28:20), geographically (Mark 16:15), racially, religiously, economically, sexually (Gal. 2:18), or culturally (Rom. 1:16), a love which has no limits except the limits which unbelief imposes.”[9]

[1] p.21

[2] p.22

[3] Ibid.

[4] p.24

[5] Ibid.

[6] Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations (1966), 5:122

[7] p.26

[8] Kenneth Foreman, Identification: Human and Divine (1963), p.116-117

[9] p.27

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