Calvinism vs. Arminianism Among Baptists of Two Stripes

I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, and I work for a non-profit organization (sort of).

Plus, I’ve already used that joke before, and it’s not even mine.

But I still think what I’m about to predict will come true.Wait for it… Calvinism and Arminianism will be a source of disagreement within my Christian circles—a disagreement which will tempt people on both sides to be, at times, spiteful and un-Christian.

Before (or even after) we become guilty of sowing discord among our brothers, we should all read about what our cousins the Southern Baptists are up to now—especially Al Mohler’s irenic piece on the topic, in which he says that “the presence of more than one tradition and stream of doctrinal influence [namely, Calvinism and Arminianism] has been healthy for Southern Baptists.” He also calls on Southern Baptists not to develop a “theological tribalism.”

The institution for which I work has a don’t-fight-about-it-or-proselytize-for-it policy when it comes to both Calvinism and Arminianism. (I have tried to honor and follow that position, especially when acting directly as an employee or student of said institution.) So our situation, in my judgment, is parallel to that of the SBC. We either have to change our theological by-laws, as it were, to favor one side and purge out the other, or we have to learn to live peaceably with all men as much as lieth in us.

And lest you consider it unfair that I link only to a clear partisan in the debate, make sure to check out this must-read article by Roger Olson. His piece might at first seem to run in the opposite direction from Mohler’s, because Olson says that Calvinists and Arminians can’t go to the same church. But Olson thinks that the two groups can live and work together peaceably within the overall body of evangelicalism.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Mark L Ward Jr on November 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    RWA Letham says in IVP’s New Dictionary of Theology (nearly) the same thing Olson does in his article: “Whenever prayer is offered the church is engaging in Reformed theology, acknowledging what on other occasions its theology and praxis may sometimes deny.”

Leave a Reply