These days it seems like whenever a well known evangelical joins a society or engages in some sort of official membership within a group controversy isn’t too far behind. I think back to the events of late 2003 with the Evangelical Theological Society’s “trial” of Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. Basically, the ETS had some members who believed that these individuals didn’t allign with the society’s doctrinal statement. I remember hearing about this ETS uproar as an undergrad and making a mental note to avoid evangelical societies in the event that my developing theology might be found controversial someday by folks who have some pretty strong pull in their respective circles. Fast forward ten years.
In recent years, while studying theology at the graduate level, I’ve often felt disconnected from the larger community with which I share many of my theological convictions. Specifically, Evangelical Arminians don’t organize themselves with the level of intent found among other evangelical groups. I suspect that this is because many Arminians lack a depth of theological understanding that is more often found among their Calvinist counter-parts. A similar sentiment was written by W. Stephen Gunter (Duke Divinity School) in his review of Don Thorsen’s recent book, Calvin Vs. Wesley (Abington Press). Wesleyan Christians have probably been the largest group of Arminian proponents in the 20th and 21st century (this is a suspicion, I don’t have the #’s to support this), but in my experience, they are often plagued by anti-intellectualism, or fragmenting liberalism. Arminians have a lot of ground to gain in the evangelical conversation.
That being said, I’ve seen some recent bright spots. First off, is the popularity of Roger Olson’s books and his blog. If you haven’t checked into his work, I highly encourage you to do so. Secondly, the publishing/media ministry of Seedbed is developing great material for the reemergence of a more robust Wesleyan evangelicalism. And then there’s the SEA (Society of Evangelical Arminians). This group of laymen and theologians are taking helpful steps toward a more robust expression of Arminian theology and practice. I decided to join this group in the hope of connecting with some fellow like-minded brothers and sisters while also being challenged to better understand and articulate Arminian theology.
I hope you’ll look into some of the groups and resources I’ve mentioned above. Perhaps something will spark some good conversation and reflection.
Until next time friends, grace and peace.