Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Miseducation of the Masses

Having studied the Calvinism-Arminianism debate over the last year, as well as the issue of unconditional (eternal)/conditional security in Christ, I’ve come to see that there is much confusion about the issues within the church itself. And although I know the confusion exists, I am still nonetheless shocked when I hear someone say something that reveals the confusion of most believers regarding theology.

I found myself in this “rut” once more with a friend of mine yesterday who walked into the local coffee shop. He sat down and began sharing with me his good news: that he was soon to be interviewed by a church board for the position of Pastor at a church on the East Coast.

And then, he decided to bring up theology: “I heard that someone was asked about their stance in the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. If they ask me, I’m gonna tell them that I am a Molinist. If God is all-sovereign, then man has no responsibility; but if man has all power, then God has no sovereignty. Therefore, if I have to choose one, then I choose Molinism.”

Fortunately for him, I had been sleeping at the coffee shop (prior to his arrival) and thus, didn’t feel like engaging theologically right after I just awoke. But I would like to point out two things wrong with his statement:

(1) First, it reveals that this brother has a very ill-informed idea of
Molinism. Molinism is more than just the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Molinism has a particular way of showing how these two things work together. It is the process behind these two concepts that makes Molinism the system it is (not just the theological concepts of sovereignty and responsibility). So those who “water down” Molinism to just these two bare components do a disgrace to Molina and his system.

(2) He demonstrated by word of mouth that he knows VERY LITTLE about Classical Arminianism. He assumed that all Arminianism does is rely on the free will of man. He made it clear in his conversation that if everything is left up to man’s free will, then there is no room for the sovereignty of God. The problem with this claim is that Arminius held to both theological concepts in his theology. He did not deny either of them their proper place. Not only does Arminius reveal this in his theology, but Roger Olson confirms it in his “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.”

By this dear friend’s own confession, he revealed that he knew little about a theology he wouldn’t embrace (Classical Arminianism) as well as a theology he claimed he would embrace (Molinism). But how can a person disagree with a theological system they know little about, and embrace a theological system they know little about?

What troubles me most is that this friend may very well be on his way to becoming a pastor...which means that the church he serves may very well have questions about these systems. And when the church members question him, what will he say? What will he tell them? Just what he told me? If the future of strong, evangelical churches consist of men as pastors who know little about theology, what will our church members be like? How much about theology will our church members know?

Some may say that it’s “just theology,” but there can be no ecclesiology WITHOUT theology. If this is true, then a strong theology is the key to a strong church. Why then, are seminarians and college students so ill-informed as to theology? And if these persons are ill-informed, what are our churches coming to? I shudder to think of the outcome.

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