Monday, August 09, 2010

More goodies

Roger Olson has a good post on Calvinism/Arminianism:

But let me say here and now that, in spite of my serious qualms about Calvinism, I do consider Calvinists my fellow evangelicals. I would never say or suggest that someone is defectively evangelical because he or she is a Calvinist. What I think is that Calvinists are confused insofar as they believe God is love (as Scripture clearly says) and yet hold onto their belief in unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace.

What really bothers me at a personal as well as professional level is the present, on-going attitude of superiority and even exclusiveness being fostered among many of the young, restless, Reformed Christians...

I do NOT claim that Arminianism is the be-all and end-all of biblical, evangelical faith. It is one way of interpreting Scripture and, for now at least, I believe it is the most accurate way among all the known options. (One reason I believe that is that it is the closest Protestant theology to the soteriology–doctrine of salvation–among the Christians of the first four to five centuries. I don’t find anything like Calvinism appearing until Augustine in the early 5th century.)

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I can identify. What is with this exclusivity among the "young, restless, Reformed Christians"? The original evangelical movement, in the 18th century, was largely Wesleyan/Arminian! Sure, there was Whitfield and Edwards, but their followers were a small part, numerically. The movement was overwhelmingly Arminian, thanks largely to the Wesleys' willingness to use lay preachers.

As for the historical pre-Augustinian evidence, there is a very accessible book, recently reprinted by Wipf & Stock God's Strategy in Human History which has a nice appendix citing numerous Patristic fathers, all agreeing against an Augustinian predestination. By the way, early Augustine is not as Augustinian as he became after encountering Pelagius; it seems he jumped off the other side of the boat to try and right it...
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And, on a totally different note, Michael Gorman tells us about a paper he is going to be offering on the atonement. He calls it the "new covenant" model; sounds fascinating:

The fundamental problem with existing models of the atonement is not that they are inaccurate—though some may have problems—but that they are inadequate. Each one is constructed as if part of an atomistic theological non-system in which various key elements are not inherently connected to one another. Most existing models (whether traditional or more recent ones) of the atonement are not integrative; they are narrow and do not naturally pull other aspects of theology into their orbit.

The result is the separation of atonement theology from ethics, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and missiology.

We may summarize a model of the atonement in terms of its understanding of the fundamental effect of the cross on humanity. Whereas in the satisfaction-substitution-penal model the effect is propitiation, expiation, and/or forgiveness, in the Christus Victor model the effect is victory and liberation, and in the “moral influence” model the effect is inspiration, in the new covenant model the effect is best expressed in terms like transformation, participation, and re-creation.

And, finally, a good post on church music.

I believe the cessation of singing hymns and gospel songs has greatly contributed to the general ignorance of doctrine and biblical images and symbols among evangelicals who grew up in the 1980s and since. I’ve been teaching theology, including basic doctrine, in three Christian universities for almost 30 years now and I’ve seen this general ignorance growing. I think it is at least partly attributable to the fact that my students know very few hymns and gospel songs. (I should say for the benefit of my students reading this: You’re wonderfully bright and intelligent and quick to catch on. That you didn’t grow up singing hymns isn’t your fault. My comments here are not a reflection on your intelligence!)

...I urge music ministers and worship leaders to re-introduce hymn singing in churches. But don’t just have the congregation sing these great songs of the past and present (Brian Wren has written some wonderful contemporary hymns) in a perfunctory manner. Use them as teaching tools. Lead them with passion and enthusiasm and comment on the words so that people will awaken to their meaning. Too often congregations sing songs without even thinking about the words or the messages.

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Amen and amen!
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