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40 Questions About Arminianism

I recently received a copy of J. Matthew Pinson’s new book, 40 Questions About Arminianism, published by Kregel Publications. I have looked forward to the appearance of this work, because I had benefited from Pinson’s earlier work, Arminian and Baptist: Explorations in a Theological Tradition. I had appreciated Pinson’s appropriation of “Reformed Arminianism,” which is closer to the theology of Calvin and Beza, but differs from the Wesleyan Arminianism which I had frequently encountered in conversation with other Arminians.

I have high regard for the theologians who endorsed Pinson’s new work, and this further whets my appetite for what I am going to be reading with keen interest. To stimulate your own interest in the book, here are the endorsements:

Endorsements:

W. Stephen Gunter, Research Professor Emeritus, Duke Divinity School and author of Arminius and His ‘Declaration of Sentiments’:

“Scholarly in its technical foundations of theology and history, but written in language accessible to lay reader and scholar alike, this book is the best resource in print that provides trustworthy insight into a comparison of Arminianism and Calvinism. Scholars will admire the full footnoting of all sources, and lay readers will appreciate that technical language is avoided but explicated when needed. Pinson knows full-well that there is no such thing as a single homogenous phenomenon of either Arminianism or Calvinism. This is where Pinson shines the brightest. He carefully guides the reader through nuanced differences and emphases, but he also honestly sets forth his own position on challenging differences. The careful reader will discern that Pinson is consequential in his pursuit, which means that no detail of difference is too small to set out. Simply put: this is the most comprehensive book available on the essentials of Arminian theology. The beauty of the book is that Pinson fulfills the ideal dialectic that he set out in his Introduction. He has produced an irenic apologetic for which Arminius himself would issue high praise. The spirit of Arminius shines through.”

Roger E. Olson, Professor of Christian Theology and Holder of the Foy Valentine Chair in Christian Ethics, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University:

“Matthew Pinson displays a broad and deep understanding of Arminius’s theology, classical ‘Reformed Arminianism,’ and varieties of Calvinism. Here he ably answers questions about classical ‘Reformed Arminianism’ and demonstrates how it differs from both Calvinism and Wesleyan Arminianism. At the same time, in very irenic tones, Pinson acknowledges and celebrates areas of agreement between these lines of Protestant Christian theology. The novel contribution of this book is the author’s insightful discussion of how Arminianism can be ‘Reformed.’ According to him, and I agree, classical Arminianism is a branch of the broad Reformed tradition even though Wesleyans are also Arminians. Although he does not mention this ‘fun fact,’ the original Arminian denomination, the Remonstrant Brotherhood of the Netherlands, is a charter member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. That fact supports his theological argument for Reformed Arminianism. Anyone who wants to be thoroughly informed about Arminianism and also entertained in the process must read 40 Questions About Arminianism.”

Michael A. G. Haykin, FRHistS, Chair and Professor of Church History, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“Matthew Pinson has surely produced what may well rank as the best available exposition of evangelical Arminianism. I found the book enormously helpful in tracing the Arminian vision from the vantage point of Scripture, theology, and history. And while I remain unconvinced by his argument in a number of places, his book is a gracious and profoundly learned response to the biblical Calvinism that I embrace. In fact, reading it was not only a learning experience—it was a joyful exercise!”

Timothy Tennent, President and Professor of World Christianity, Asbury Theological Seminary:

“Matthew Pinson in 40 Questions About Arminianism has beautifully recaptured the classic question-answer format which framed the great historic theologies of the past in order to present the distinctives of Arminian theology and thought to a new generation. Rather than dividing Christians into theological camps, Pinson conveys a beautiful irenic tone, helping inform fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about many of the frequently misunderstood features of the great tapestry which makes up Christian theology.”

Robert E. Picirilli, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Greek and Former Academic Dean, Welch College:

“This work provides readers the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with a vibrant, evangelical Arminianism that is rooted and grounded in Reformation theology. This theology draws directly from Arminius himself. Through the centuries, the very best Arminianism—whether that of the early English General Baptists and their progeny in America or of Wesley and those who have followed his lead—has preserved the solas and the most important elements of that understanding of biblical truth. Pinson takes on all the questions involved, the hard ones included, and gives thorough, biblically based answers. You may be surprised!”

Nathan Finn, Provost and Professor of Theological Studies and History, North Greenville University:

“I’m not an Arminian. However, I am deeply appreciative of the Arminian theological tradition and its contributions to the church catholic. As such, I’m thankful that Matt Pinson has written this important volume. The book is well-written, the questions are well-chosen, and the content is presented in an informative and winsome manner. Readers will benefit from learning more about the variations within Arminianism and the key differences between Arminianism and various forms of Calvinism. Perhaps more important, this book makes clear that orthodox Arminianism in its reformational and Wesleyan forms is distinct from the errors of semi-Pelagianism, the latter of which have been condemned by Arminians just as much as Calvinists. This book is a fine addition to a great series.”

Steve W. Lemke, Vice President for Institutional Assessment and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:

“Arminius in particular and Arminians in general are often misrepresented or inaccurately defined by their detractors. Some people who write or speak about Arminianism evidently have never read Arminius himself. The great value of this work is that Matthew Pinson cogently articulates what Arminius and Arminians actually believe, and why they believe it.”

William den Boer, postdoctoral researcher, Theological University Kampen, the Netherlands, and author:

“By reading Arminius myself, I discovered how surprisingly Reformed Arminius himself really was. Through Matthew Pinson, I discovered to my surprise that this ‘Reformed Arminius’ has faithful followers through the seventeenth-century English General Baptists up to the present day. At the same time, the early ‘Arminians’ (Remonstrants), as well as those who pass for Arminians today, deviate more from Arminius than Arminius did from Calvin in many respects. It is easy to contrast this mainstream Arminianism with ultra-Calvinism by making the differences as great as possible. Yet it is much more exciting to confront Reformed Arminianism in the line of Arminius with ‘mainstream’ Calvinism. Pinson does the latter. Reformed Arminians profess the five solas of the Reformation in their emphasis on Christ, on grace and imputed righteousness by faith. Many Calvinists do not believe their eyes when they read an Arminian who writes about ‘the rich Reformation portrait of our enslavement to sin and God’s redemptive remedy for it’ and about, for example, the need for penal substitutionary atonement. However, it is entirely in the spirit of Arminius. Calvinists can learn much from the clear, scriptural way Pinson sets forth questions regarding salvation, speaking warmly of the richness and necessity of God’s grace in Christ. Pinson is very well versed in both Arminianism and Calvinism. In an honest and clear way, he lays out the differences without turning his theological ‘opponents’ into straw men with whom it is easy to ‘win.’ This book challenges both Arminians and Calvinists to rediscover their shared Reformed roots, to get a clear picture of the real differences, and to engage once again in the real conversation about them.”

The Questions

I make no promises about how frequently I will be able to write posts to share my own interaction with Pinson’s work, but I hope to plod my way through all 40 of the questions which Pinson raises. He divides these into five parts, as follows:

Part 1: Introductory and Historical Questions.

Part 2: Questions About the Atonement and Justification.

Part 3: Questions About Free Will and Grace.

Part 4: Questions About Election and Regeneration.

Part 5: Questions About Perseverance and Apostasy.

Let the theological profit begin!!

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By Terrance Tiessen

I am Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Canada.

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