Roger E. Olson, as one of his “evangelical Arminian theological musings”, explains Why I defend Rob Bell’s Love Wins (and other controversial books). In doing so he offers some fascinating observations about Calvinist attacks on Arminianism and other perceived theological errors. He refers to “American evangelical Calvinisms’ DNA”, but much of what he says applies equally to some strands of British Calvinism, such as that of Adrian Warnock.
Olson considers Calvinist responses both to open theism and to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, and compares them with general Calvinist criticisms of Arminianism. He is careful to point out differences between these three positions, but point out that Calvinists who reject them offer the same arguments against all three, that
they are human-centered, belittling the glory of God, neglecting God’s justice and wrath in favor of too much emphasis on God’s love, etc., etc.
At this point I would add that there is a similar character to much Calvinist and “Reformed” polemic against those seen as rejecting penal substitutionary atonement, like Steve Chalke, with the same arguments being made that the rejected position is human-centred and neglects God’s justice and wrath.
Olson then considers specifically the arguments against Bell’s book. He looks at 1 Timothy 2:4:
God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
He rejects the Calvinist position that “all people” here means any less than everyone. He also agrees with Bell’s rejection of universalism. So the implication is that what God wants does not actually happen. And, Olson writes,
I think that is what offends critics of Love Wins–the suggestion that God doesn’t get what he really, perfectly wants. That seems to them to demean God, to lessen his glory. …
The deep, inner logic of the attacks on Love Wins seems to me of this variety. The ones I have read and heard ALL arise out of Reformed assumptions about God rather than out of Arminian assumptions about God. And there’s the main difference. Not all Arminians will agree with everything Bell says, but the general thrust of his theology in Love Wins is classically Arminian–that God permits free creatures to resist his love out of love and therefore love wins even as God seems to lose something. Because of the risk his love forces him to take, and human resistance to it, God ends up not getting all that God wants. ON THE OTHER HAND, of course, God DOES GET WHAT GOD WANTS–this world in which his love can be resisted. It’s dialectical but not contradictory.
Olson makes it clear that he does not accept all of Bell’s arguments. But he concludes with
I would like to suggest to both sides that what is really going on in this whole controversy over Bell’s Love Wins is another round of the old Calvinist versus Arminian debate.
That’s what it looks like to me as well.