12 years of fermentation

When working recently on my Academia.edu profile, I decided to upload my MA Thesis from 2002 on the doctrine of election and predestination in early Christianity. Over the past two years, while working on other projects, I did make an effort to shop this thesis around to a couple publishers, who did not express an interest. I personally did not have much of an interest in doing the kind of heavy revising that I would want to do to make it more appealing and to bring it up to my current standards of academic research and writing. (There’s nothing quite so humbling as reading one’s work as a student, especially one’s very preachy work as a seminary student.)

That said, I would like it to be part of the scholarly and even popular conversation today about election and predestination, particularly for the sake of ecumenical dialogue among various Christian traditions (esp. Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed, and Wesleyan-Arminian). I’ll leave it to others to decide whether it makes a significant contribution to the topic and discussion. If download counts are any indication, then it is already making a bit of splash, ranking in the top 3% of all texts downloaded from Academia.edu. Those interested can download the thesis in its entirety from this page.

When re-reading it, I happened upon a quote that seemed quite poignant, the seed of the idea that eventually became the Rethinking Arminius conference in 2012 and the Reconsidering Arminius book just released by Abingdon.

Arminius does not sever himself completely from the Augustinian heritage. He
still tends to picture the elect in terms of those persons who will finally inherit salvation, equating election with salvation. In this vein, he expresses uncertainty about whether the elect can indeed fall away from grace, basically leaving open the question of the possibility of forfeiting election. He also follows the conventions of his day in thinking about election mainly from an eternal vantage point, though his intuition prompted him to reject the supralapsarian option as contrary to the goodness of God. Though Arminius did not wholly diverge from the Augustinian and Calvinist heritage, he managed to avoid the trap of determinism. This re-envisioning of election and predestination set a precedent for the Dutch Remonstrants, persisting into the Anglican and then Wesleyan tradition. Some persons within the Reformed tradition, like Richard Müller, have started to see the importance of Arminius in historical theology, as well as his close affinity to the Reformed tradition of his day. Though the sharpness of Arminius does not equal the genius of Calvin, perhaps the time is ripe for both Calvinists and Wesleyans to explore his theology in its own right, and to let him invite both groups to a table of mutually informing and beneficial dialogue. (p. 179)

– Mark Bilby

 

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