The Federal Government has done it again! They’ve given (or are in the process of giving) $1,400 to millions of Americans. Because I know very little about Keynesian economics, I will refrain from discussing the wisdom of this policy. I’ll move straight to the question of how to use this money wisely. Since I know next to nothing about personal finance, I probably also have little to contribute in this regard. Despite my deficiencies, I would like to offer a suggestion on what to do with your stimulus money — buy some Arminian books.
There are many good ways to spend or save this money: paying off debt, capital investments, family vacations, date night(s) with your spouse, donations to your church or missionaries. The list of good things goes on and on. Odds are you may be able to do more than one of these. At the very least, take your lucky lady out for sushi and make her feel like she’s the wasabi to your Philadelphia roll. After you’ve brought the magic back into your marriage, it’s going to be time to do some serious reading. Your mind is a horrible thing to waste, so don’t waste your life only reading John Piper.
The suggestion of this article is to improve your library of Arminian theology. While many theologians from other traditions have written great works of theological and biblical studies, I will advocate for those theologians whom every Arminian (or person who has an opinion about Arminianism) needs to read. Here is my list:
1. Thomas Oden – Classic Christianity (2009).
Oden is a theologian of the Church Universal. Although he is Arminian, his object is not to argue for specific points of Arminian theology, but rather to explore a consensus Christianity. What Christians have believed for the past 2,000 years. The result is one of the most enjoyable Systematic Theologies around. Oden draws heavily on the wisdom of the church fathers, medieval thinkers, and reformers much more so than modern theologians. I confess that I have not read all of this 950-page work, but what I have read has been refreshing. If you tend to think that Arminian theology is intellectually lacking, Oden will dispel those notions.
As great as the theological controversy attached to Arminius and his theology is, there is precious little scholarly work done on Arminius’ theology. This book is one of the only scholarly assessments of Arminius’ theology. While it can be difficult to slug through at times, it is an essential read for anyone wanting to have an informed conversation about Arminius. Stanglin and McCall paint a historically accurate picture of Arminius as a man deeply committed to the goal of the Reformers, their commitment to Scripture, and salvation by grace through faith alone. Arminius truly was a theologian of grace.
3. Robert Picirilli – Grace, Faith, Free Will (2002).
I know I’m partial to Picirilli. I took philosophy with him. Many of my family members go to church with him. I’ve played many a card game with his grandkids. He is a wonderful servant of God. While I can’t put my biases aside, I still feel pretty certain that this book is the best introduction to Arminian theology around. Picirilli tackles key texts like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 with profound clarity. Every year, I have students come to me asking about Calvinism and Arminians. I wish I could give out copies of this work to all of them. (I have given away 2 or 3 copies already.) Picirilli synthesizes systematic and biblical theology effectively and practically. If you are only going to buy one of these books, make it this one.
Olson is not my favorite theologian on this list, but this book is a much-needed corrective to prevailing characters from Calvinist theologians. I remember coming across such erroneous assumptions in reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. The world needs this book to save us all from such mistaken caricatures. Olson is a gifted writer and a capable theologian. While I do not always agree with his conclusions, this book is Olson at his best. He dispels common “myths” such as “Arminians do not believe in predestination” and “Arminian theology denies the sovereignty of God.”
5. Timothy Tennent – For the Body: Recovering a Theology of Gender, Sexuality, and the Human Body (2020).
Like Thomas Oden’s theology, Tennent is not writing in defense or explanation of Arminianism, but he is writing from a Wesleyan-Arminian vantage point. Tennent is one of the most brilliant minds in missiology but is not content to stay in his theological lane. This book needs to be read by everyone because it speaks powerfully to our cultural moment. We are a culture confused by issues of gender and sexuality. Tennent provides a cogent answer to some of the greatest theological problems facing our society. I say “theological” for a reason; gender confusion and sexual sin are at their core a theological problem. Its great value is that it does not speak reactively to hot-button issues, but instead, establishes the biblical vision of being an embodied creation and image-bearer of our Creator.
You have literally been given thousands of dollars by the metaphorical Uncle Sam. I say it’s high time to step up your theology game. These five books are a good place to start.