Review of Roger E Olson, “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities” -- By: Kevin Gary Smith

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 11:1 (Mar 2011)
Article: Review of Roger E Olson, “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities”
Author: Kevin Gary Smith


Review of Roger E Olson, “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities”

Kevin Gary Smith

Olson RE 2006. Arminian theology: myths and realities. Downers Grove: IVP. (The review is based on the Kindle edition of the book, which has section numbers instead of page numbers.)

1. Introduction

From the perspective of an Arminian, the publication of Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology is most welcome. It is welcome because of two trends that are powerfully evident in churches across South Africa, and no doubt, in other countries too.

Firstly, Semi-Pelagianism exerts a pervasive influence amongst traditionally Arminian churches. Many churches that would consider themselves Arminian, as opposed to Calvinist, actually preach and practice their Christianity in a way that shows their core beliefs are not consistent with classical Arminian doctrine. Olson highlights the critical distinctions between classical Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism throughout his book. If semi-Pelagianism is a serious deviation from evangelical doctrine—as it certainly is—then a comprehensive corrective is much needed.

Secondly, there is a strong move towards Calvinism in churches which have historically held Arminian views. Under the influence of popular

writers and teachers like John Piper, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, and Don Carson, many independent Pentecostal-Charismatic congregations have embraced a kind of Reformed-Charismatic belief and practice. Their turn is partly due to their inadequate understanding of their Arminian heritage. I am not an anti-Calvinist crusader about to denounce this trend as heretical. However, I am sad that many of the pastors making this shift do not fully understand the issues addressed in Olson’s book.

I shall now give a fairly detailed summary of Arminian Theology, before offering a personal evaluation of the book.

2. Summary

Olson’s purpose is simple: to provide a clear description of the major tenets of classical Arminian theology. Olson is deeply troubled by two things. First, the lack of a benevolent spirit or fair representation of alternative views which characterises much of the debate between Calvinists and Arminians, on both popular internet forums and in scholarly circles, bothers him. Second, he realises that friend and foe alike propagate various myths about Arminian beliefs. Both Calvinist critics and self-proclaimed Arminians have a tendency to confuse true Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism. This confusion has given classical Arminianism a bad reputation, and Olson hopes to set the record straight regarding Arminian theology.

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