There is some interesting interaction going on at Roger Olson’s blog between Olson and Michael Horton concerning how Arminianism’s view of salvation should be defined.
Olson begins by taking Horton to task. Although Olson considers Horton to be one of the more gracious Calvinistic voices out there, he take issue with something he said in his book Christless Christianity.
“On page 44 he writes that “Arminianism still holds that salvation is a cooperative effort of God and human beings.” . . . To Mike I say: Please! When you are saying what Arminianism holds, say what Arminians really say and don’t put words in our mouths. Sure, you can say “This is what I think Arminianism SHOULD say even if it doesn’t.” True, classical, historical Arminianism does NOT hold that salvation involves any “effort” of human beings–certainly not on the same level as God’s.
It’s just as ludicrous to describe the Arminian belief about the roles of God and a repentant sinner in salvation as a “cooperative effort.”
Horton’s description of Arminianism is more generous than many Calvinists’, but it still falls short of complete honesty and violates one of my basic rules of engagement between Calvinists and Arminians: Always express the other view the way people who hold it express it and only then say what’s wrong with that. Again, Arminians do not say that salvation is a “cooperative effort.” What we say is that God won’t save anyone without their free consent. But we adamantly deny that conversion involves “effort” as if the person being saved must do some (good) work to be saved.
What if I published something saying that “Calvinism holds that God is the author of sin and evil?” Calvinists would rightly howl in protest. Then I could say, “Well, that’s how I see it.” Then, they would quite rightly protest that how I see it is not how they say it. They’re right. What I say is that Calvinism’s doctrines of providence and predestination lead to the good and necessary consequence that God is the author of sin and evil even though they (almost) all deny it.
What Horton should have said is that “Arminians deny that salvation involves human effort, but I think their theology implies that.” Okay. I disagree, but I can respect that. I would have no right to protest that even though I would argue against him.
When, oh, when are evangelicals going to stop this uncharitable and even unChristian habit of setting up straw men out of others’ theologies and then chopping them or burning them down as if they had really scored a point or two?
Horton’s error doesn’t quite rise to the level of demagoguery, but there’s plenty of that going on and this is too much like it for Mike’s comfort. He should correct what he said publicly.”
Horton does respond on Olson’s blog.
On that same page I carefully distinguish Arminianism from the Pelagianism that we both agree pervades much of American Protestantism today. As you note, I refer to your Arminian Theology on that count and express appreciation for Tom Oden’s defense of the gospel.
Nevertheless, I add, “Arminianism still holds that salvation is a cooperative effort of God and human beings.” The first post responding to your critique, by an ardent Arminian, seems to justify my statement. Synergism, which you acknowledge as an Arminian tenet, means working together. If one does not cooperate with grace, one will not be regenerated and persevere. If one does cooperate with grace, one will be regenerated and persevere. Am I correct in describing the Arminian position like this? If so, then it is a cooperative effort of God and human beings. I’m not sure how saying that constitutes demogoguery, if synergism is in fact the Arminian view and a fellow Arminian could see no reason for objecting to that description.
Thanks, Roger, for your otherwise encouraging remarks!”
What do you think? Who is right? Is it legitimate for Arminians or Calvinists to say that Arminianism is cooperative?