Calvinism, Arminianism, & Education

In the notes that we posted from my talk last week at Resurgence I asked,

But how should we regard these errors [Wesleyanism and Arminianism] in relationship to the teaching office of the church and other institutions?

The answer I gave was not precise enough. Here is what I said:

Here’s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace.

What is not precise here is the implication of the word “should.” “The less Arminianism should be tolerated.” By way of clarification, I would say: In an Arminian institution, Arminians should be allowed to teach. But in institutions that regard Arminianism as a defective view of God’s grace, they should not be allowed to teach. Or, more broadly, in an institution that thinks the truth is better served by having advocates of Arminianism and Calvinism, both should be allowed to teach.

Then the question shifts to whether churches and Christian educational institutions should be devoted to a mix of Arminianism and Calvinism. No, I don’t think they should be. I think the truth, the church, and the world are better served by confessional institutions—that is, institutions which settle on the great things about God that they believe, and then build their teaching and research upon them.

When this kind of teaching and research are done well, the charge of indoctrination does not stick. No one’s ultimate aim should be to be Calvinist or Arminian. The aim should be to be biblical. Therefore, teaching and research will labor with all their might to show students what the Bible teaches. That will not be indoctrination. It will be true education.

The fact that we all have blind spots and profit from perspectives different from our own does not imply that we should hire someone to teach those perspectives in our pulpit or class room. It means we read and listen and carry on whatever conversation or dialogue or debate is appropriate.

In my 22 years of formal education from age 6 to 28 (Summit Drive Elementary School, Greenville Junior High School, Wade Hampton High School, Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary, University of Munich) it became increasingly clear to me that diverse theological positions on the same faculty of a Christian institution diminished the importance of those differences.

For some issues, that is good. For others it is not. Which those are is one of the great challenges of every generation.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.