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Who is the Blame for the Rise in Calvinism?

I have been reading Dr. Roger Olson’s book Against Calvinism and in the book he opens up by talking about the rise in Calvinism as of late.  Olson points to Calvinist leaders such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, and Michael Horton as leading the rise in a more militant form of Calvinism.  The so-called “young, restless, and reformed” (YRR) crowd is certainly on the rise.  Olson believes that several factors play into this.  First, Olson points to the expansion of teaching ministries such as MacArthur or Sproul that are now being broadcasted all over the world.  This has in turn led to people not just becoming Christians (which we praise God for) but also becoming Calvinists.  Secondly, the number of books that are being published by Calvinists is mind-boggling.  MacArthur, Piper, James White, and Sproul alone could fill a room with their books.  They are publishing Calvinist book at a rate that Arminians are not.  Third, the deadness of the evangelical church and for that matter, Arminian churches as well has led people who are hungry for truth to embrace Calvinism as Calvinistic churches are boldly preaching Calvinism and doctrine in general.

That last point is the one I want to address here.  I believe the greatest reason that Calvinism has seen a rise in the past few years is the deadness of the Arminian church.  How many Arminian churches have given way to pragmatism?  How many historic Arminian churches such as the Assemblies of God, the Church of the Nazarene, or even the conservative Methodist churches have turned to “seeker church” and postmodern forms of “doing” church and have cast aside sound doctrine?  How many people sitting in Arminian churches can articulate their faith?  So few can despite 1 Peter 3:15.  So few Bible teachers in Arminian churches are teaching sound doctrine.  So few quote Arminius.  So few quote great Arminian theologians such as Richard Watson, John Wesley, John Fletcher, or Adam Clarke.  So few know the proud history of the Arminian church that led the Arminian church to dominate the Western Church for nearly 200 years.  So few know the stories of great Arminian missionaries such as Francis Asbury who rode up and down the United States seeking to preach the gospel to those in the wilderness and spiritual darkness.

Where are the great Arminians who will lead the Arminian church?  Where are the great Arminian theologians who embrace the Word of God as inerrant and infallible and will lead the Arminian church to study the Bible and proclaim its truths to the nation?  Where are the great Arminian preachers such as E.M. Bounds, A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Samuel Chadwick, or even D.L. Moody?  Where are the fired up Arminians who love God, love His Son, love His Word, and will sacrifice all to see souls set free from sin through the gospel?  Where are the Asburys?  Where are the Clarkes?  Where are the Wesleys?

The reality is that the blame for the rise in the YRR movement is at the feet of us Arminians.  We have failed to disciple our people.  While Calvinists gather in their churches to pray, worship, and study the great doctrines of the faith including Calvinism, we Arminians are too busy preaching goofy sermon series’ on “is there an app for that.”  Calvinists are passionate about Calvinism while Arminians seem to be passionate about building programs and pointless endeavors.  Where is theology being preached and taught?  Sadly, while Calvinists get the credit for a David Platt; Arminians get the credit for a Joel Osteen (despite the obvious that he is not an Arminian but a semi-Pelagian as is most of the evangelical church).

I ask you to pray with me for the Lord to change the Arminian church.  For the sake of the gospel, we need a revival of sound doctrine!  How can we claim to follow Jesus if we fail to proclaim Him theologically (John 8:31-32)?  How can we point people to the salvation of our God if we don’t even know our God (John 17:3)?  We must pray for the Holy Spirit to put it in the hearts of Arminian Bible teachers to boldly preach doctrine and avoid goofy sermons that are meant to entertain and not edify or instruct.  We need a touch from God.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/29/2011 at 6:19 PM

Posted in church

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7 Responses

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  1. I totally empathize, Roy…My perspective is that, frankly, many of the “non-Calvinists” I have experienced during my upbringing have not done a good job of giving an “alternative” to Calvinism. The “non-Calvinists” I speak of are what you might think of when I use the word fundamentalist…Bob Jones University, for example, non-Cavinistic baptists, etc. Even some attacks against Calvinism I find wanting. I love the emphasis on doctrinal clarity by many Calvinists today, perhaps the most known one on that point is MacArthur himself. Yet, the doctrinal and systematic expostion of a good, Arminian view point to be lacking. Seems all the “Arminian” churches I know of are ones that are liberal or ones that are radically semi-Pelagian and tend to be works based salvation in an unbalanced perspective…The only Arminian systematic theology I have been able to find is the very lacking and semi-Pelagian Finney Systematic Theology. I have Clarke, but even he I haven’t liked entirely. All I’m saying is that it’s like I am opposed to Calvinsm, and that’s how I’ve been raised, but I have not had a strong, but balanced Arminian influence that expounds the sound doctrine in a logical fashion…Even in a church movement that tries to focus on expositional teaching. The best voice I have found, as I’m trying to search the scriptures and discover what is the Biblical viewpoint (whether it be Calvinism or Classical Arminianism), is Roger Olson and, well, you :-) . You have a balance that so many other Arminians seem to lack, as does Roger.

    And more, I know little about the history of Methodism and Arminianism too, outside of Wesley that is! But, I’ve been blessed by reading Iain Murray’s biography of Wesley and three early Methodist leaders (Bramwell, Ouseley, and Collins)…So yes, I totally empathize with you on this issue.

    • I agree brother. I believe that few know the history of Arminianism. Many falsely assume that our “lost” at the Synod of Dort ended the Arminians and that we have, like heretics of old, hung around but never made an impact. The truth is that Arminians dominated the Church for nearly 200 years. The early missionaries to America were mainly Arminians. The early circuit riders who planted churches all across the early United States were Arminians. Many schools were founded by Arminians. Arminianism dominated the Church but sadly some gave way to secularism and humanism at the end of the 19th century that led to its demise. Princeton Seminary begin to produce more godly and respected church leaders than other leading Arminian schools and soon the Calvinist revival was launched.

  2. Amen Roy. Additionally to that, many Arminians are ashamed of the title. The abandonement of soteriological labels causes a decrease in systematic expression of soteriology itself. This, in turn, means that many in the congregation are left to their own devices figuring out how salvation works in the details, and for that, they are going to lean on the world.

    One thing that the Calvinists have in spades is that they are openly Calvinist. They are teaching TULIP. It is clear, concise, and accessable. If we Arminians are to do better, we need to teach Arminianism as Arminianism, and be proud of who Arminians have traditionally been.

    jcfreak737

    10/30/2011 at 4:16 AM

  3. As I see it so called Arminians are not so much Arminian as they are anticalvnist. Most folks I have met and seen in churches do not care about doctrine … you have no doubt heard the saying “Doctrine divides, love unites” … but they don’t want Calvinism. They end up, as Michael Horton poits out, with a kind of Christianity that is a little bit Oprah, a little what sounds good and right, a little bit bible and a little bit what they are willing to believe for themselves. It is something that is not quite Christianity but close enough that people have trouble calling it false. But in the middle of this mish mash of beliefs they know that God cannot rule over them personally in the way that Calvinists teach. They are happy to say God is sovereign as long as he is not sovereign over them. They like what they like but they know they don’t like Calvinism.

    This rambling post is to say that most non-calvinists are not Arminian or liberal or semi-pelagian (most of that would be an improvement in their doctrine) .. they are simply anti-calvinist. That is why Arminian fails, if I may use that term (and I am talking about the modern strains of what is called Arminianism) .. because it is not perceived as being FOR anything, it is against Calvinism. It is a reactionary movement against Calvinists. And that is how I see it.

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    John Sneed

    10/30/2011 at 1:03 PM

    • This rambling post is to say that most non-calvinists are not Arminian or liberal or semi-pelagian (most of that would be an improvement in their doctrine) .. they are simply anti-calvinist.

      I think a number of Methodist Arminians would beg to differ; they’d say they are just as much about being Wesleyan as being anti-Calvinist, if not moreso…Also, as a Catholic Molinist with Thomstic tendencies (here I speak of my view of providence and predestination), I like to think I’m more about trying to be a good Romanist and find the right way to reconcile my soteriology with God’s predestination and universal salvific intent, than to be not a Calvinist. And I think a lot of thinking Romans would feel the same way.

      Even if your statement about “most” is true, it doesn’t characterize all non-Calvinist movements, particularly those non-Calvinist movements like Thomism or, I would argue, Catholicism in general, which preceded Calvinism by hundreds of years…

      KKairos

      10/30/2011 at 3:16 PM

    • I should add that I was raised a Free Methodist, and that if I went Catholic to avoid Calvinism I certainly, if anything, thwarted my plans in the process; if anything I must now put more of an emphasis on sovereignty and God’s good pleasure than before, not less.

      KKairos

      10/30/2011 at 3:30 PM


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