During the great awakenings of the eighteenth century, John Wesley and George Whitefield stopped cooperating with one another due to differing beliefs about predestination. And though they eventually made up, their disagreement has lived on in American evangelicals' waxing and waning debates about God's sovereignty and the doctrines of election and free will.
Despite this history, the postWorld War II evangelical coalition in North America has held Calvinist and Arminian believers together within one great movement. At least as many member churches of the National Association of Evangelicals are Arminian in theological orientation as Reformed.
But now signs of great stress within the coalition are appearing, including a new stridency and aggressiveness on the part of theologians in some more conservative Reformed circles. As a lifelong Arminian as well as an evangelical, and as one who cares deeply about the unity of the evangelical community, I find this very distressing.
Some of these theologians think that evangelicalism faces a crisis that centers on the issue of predestination. "Can Christians who deny unconditional election and irresistible grace be authentically evangelical?" they ask. Michael Horton, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, argues in Modern Reformation magazine that "evangelical Arminian" is not an option but an oxymoron. "An evangelical," he writes, "cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic." Even the great Arminian revivalist John Wesley is suspected of defective evangelical faith by Horton and some of his colleagues in two organizations, Christians United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE). These and other ...