Roger E. Olson

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Roger E. Olson
Roger Eugene Olson

(1952-02-02) February 2, 1952 (age 70)
Becky Sandahl
(m. 1973)
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Pentecostal · Baptist)
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisTrinity and Eschatology (1984)
Doctoral advisorNiels Nielsen[1]
Academic work
Sub-disciplineChristian ethics
School or tradition

Roger Eugene Olson (born 1952) is an American Baptist theologian and Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at the Baylor University.


Personal life[edit]

Olson was born on February 2, 1952, in Des Moines, Iowa. He is married and he and his wife have two daughters and one granddaughter. He is member of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco.[8]


Olson studied at Open Bible College in Des Moines, North American Baptist Seminary, and Rice University, where he obtained his Ph.D. in Religious Studies in 1984, under the supervision of Nields Nielsen.[1] He is also an ordained Baptist minister.[9]

He was influenced by: Donald G. Bloesch,[2][3] Robert Jenson,[4] Jürgen Moltmann,[5] Bernard Ramm,[6] and Jack Rogers.[7]


Since 1999, Olson has been Holder of the Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, Waco, Texas.[9]

Theological contribution[edit]

Advocacy of Arminianism[edit]

Olson identifies himself as a classical Arminian, and is known for his stance in favor of Arminianismn.[10][11] He has written several books including Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (2006) in which he defined and defended his vision of Arminianism.[12] Olson fundamentally defines Arminianism by God's "limited" mode of providence and by God's "predestination by foreknowledge" mode of election.[13][14][15]

According to him, adherence to classical Arminianism is defined by being classically Protestant, affirming total depravity, conditional election, unlimited atonement, prevenient grace, and that God is in no way, and by no means the author of sin and evil but that these are only permitted by him.[16] Olson's definition, without taking a position on the conditional preservation, is close to the view of the Remonstrants prior to 1618.[17]

For Olson, "classical Arminianism" as defined is centered on God's Grace[18][15] and sovereignty,[19][20] and is intrinsically an evangelical theology.[21] Olson also refers to "classic Arminianism" as "evangelical synergism":[22] "Synergism" referring to cooperation between God and creature (through prevenient grace)[23][24] and "evangelical" to distinguish it from Catholic or Easter Orthodox synergism.[25]

Olson says that the first principle of Arminianism is "Jesus Christ as the full and perfect revelation of the character of God".[26] This principle has a particular significance within the Calvinism-Armininian debate, where the character of God (and especially his love) as revealed by Jesus-Christ, is for Olson, better represented by the Arminian view.[27][28] Olson says that, as a consequence of this point, Arminians only believe in libertarian free will to avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and because it is an experienced reality necessary for responsibility.[12][29]

Theology history and analysis[edit]

Olson wrote a popular and widely acclaimed survey of Christian theology titled The Story of Christian Theology (1999).[30]

He is noted for a broad view of what constitutes Protestant "orthodoxy." For example, on annihilationism he commented that some evangelical theologians have "resurrected the old polemical labels of heresy and aberrational teaching" in order to marginalize other evangelicals holding the view The mosaic of Christian belief, (2002).[31]

Olson is one of the writers who sees two "loose coalitions" developing in evangelical theology.[32]

Olson coined the label "Pannenberg's Principle" for Wolfhart Pannenberg's argument (1969) that God's deity is his rule - "The divinity of God and the reign of God in the world are inseparable."[33]

He was the editor and author of the Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 14th edition (2018).[34]



  • Olson, Roger E. (1984). Trinity and eschatology : the historical being of God in the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (Ph. D). Houston, TX: Rice University.
  • Grenz, Stanley J.; Olson, Roger E. (1992). 20th-Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Grenz, Stanley J.; Olson, Roger E. (1996). Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God's Word. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Olson, Roger E. (1999). The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2002). The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Olson, Roger E.; Hall, Christopher A. (2002). The Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2004). The Westminster handbook to evangelical theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Olson, Roger E.; English, Adam C. (2005). Pocket History of Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2005). The SCM Press A-Z of evangelical theology. London: SCM.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2006). Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2007). Pocket history of evangelical theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2007). Reformed and always reforming : the postconservative approach to evangelical theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2007). Questions to all your answers : a journey from folk religion to examined faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2008). How to Be Evangelical without Being Conservative. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2009). Finding God in The shack : seeking truth in a story of evil and redemption. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2009). God in Dispute: "Conversations" among Great Christian Thinkers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2011a). Against Calvinism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2013). The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2014a). Arminianism FAQ: Everything You Always Wanted to Know. [Franklin, TE]: Seedbed Publishing.
  • Olson, Roger E.; Collins Winn, Christian T. (2015). Reclaiming pietism : retrieving an evangelical tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2015). Counterfeit Christianity : the persistence of errors in the church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2017). The Essence of Christian Thought : Seeing Reality Through the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Olson, Roger E.; Mead, Franck S. (2018b). Handbook of denominations in the United States (14th ed.). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.


  • Olson, Roger E. (1990). "The Creative Suffering of God. By Paul S. Fiddes. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988. Pp. 281. £29.50". Scottish Journal of Theology. 43 (1): 114–115. doi:10.1017/S0036930600039727.
  • Olson, Roger E. (1992). "Metaphysics and the Idea of God . Wolfhart Pannenberg , Philip Clayton". The Journal of Religion. 72 (2): 285–286. doi:10.1086/488878.
  • Olson, Roger E. (1995). "Whales and Elephants Both God's Creatures but can They Meet?: Evangelicals and Liberals in Dialogue". Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology. 72 (2): 165–189. doi:10.1177/106385129500400206. S2CID 220286351.
  • Olson, Roger E.; Fackre, Gabriel (1999). "FEATURES - Evangelical essentials? Reservations and reminders - Summing up the gospel". The Christian Century. 116 (23): 816.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2001). "The Barthian Revolt in Modern Theology: Theology Without Weapons. By Gary Dorrien. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999. Pp. 239. $29.95". Scottish Journal of Theology. 54 (2): 260–263. doi:10.1017/S0036930600051498.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2001). "BOOK NOTES - The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform". Theology Today. 58 (2): 276.
  • Olson, Roger E.; Augsburger, Daniel (2002). "BOOK REVIEWS AND NOTES - The Story of Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform". Church History. 71 (2): 446.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2003). "Tensions in Evangelical Theology". Dialog: A Journal of Theology. 42 (1): 76–85.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2003). "The Tradition Temptation". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2004). "Christology: A Global Introduction By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2003. 300 pp. $21.99". Theology Today. 60 (4): 580–581. doi:10.1177/004057360406000422. S2CID 170214333.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2005). "Alan P. F. Sell, Confessing and Commending the Faith: Historic Witness and Apologetic Method (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002), pp. 550". Scottish Journal of Theology. 58 (3): 358. doi:10.1017/S0036930605241558.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2006b). "PENTECOSTALISM - Pentecostalism's dark side - Suspicions and scandals". The Christian Century. 123 (5): 276.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2007). "Deification in Contemporary Theology". Theology Today. 64 (2): 186–200. doi:10.1177/004057360706400205. S2CID 170904062.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2009). "'Theology' after 'God' - A conversation". The Christian Century. 36 (25): 32.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2012). "Predestination: The American Career of A Contentious Doctrine - By Peter J. Thuesen". Religious Studies Review. 38 (2): 81–82. doi:10.1111/j.1748-0922.2012.01596_31.x.
  • Olson, Roger E. (2012). "Pietism and Pentecostalism: Spiritual Cousins or Competitors?". Pneuma. 34 (3): 319–344. doi:10.1163/15700747-12341235.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b Olson 2011b.
  2. ^ a b McWilliams 2018, p. 138.
  3. ^ a b Olson 2019a.
  4. ^ a b Olson 2017b.
  5. ^ a b Olson 2014b.
  6. ^ a b Olson 2014c.
  7. ^ a b Olson 2019b.
  8. ^ Olson 2018a, p. 2.
  9. ^ a b Olson 2018a, p. 1.
  10. ^ Olson 2010b. "I [...] have always identified myself as a classical Arminian."
  11. ^ Stanglin & McCall 2021, p. 243.
  12. ^ a b Kirkpatrick 2018, p. 12.
  13. ^ Kirkpatrick 2018, pp. 54, 65.
  14. ^ Olson 2018c. "What is Arminianism? A) Belief that God limits himself to give human beings free will to go against his perfect will so that God did not design or ordain sin and evil (or their consequences such as innocent suffering); B) Belief that, although sinners cannot achieve salvation on their own, without “prevenient grace” (enabling grace), God makes salvation possible for all through Jesus Christ and offers free salvation to all through the gospel. “A” is called “limited providence,” “B” is called “predestination by foreknowledge.”"
  15. ^ a b Olson 2017a. "“Arminianism,” [...] is simply a term we use in theology for the view, held by some people before Arminius and many after him, that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves. But true, historical, classical Arminianism includes the belief that this free will is itself a gift of God through prevenient grace; it is not a natural ability every person has of himself or herself. All people have free will to do many things, but free will to repent and believe unto salvation is always a gift of God’s grace."
  16. ^ Olson 2014a, p. 21. "[...] in my mind, any person is an Arminian who: 1) is classically Protestant, 2) affirms total depravity (in the sense of helplessness to save himself or contribute meritoriously to his salvation such that a sinner is totally dependent on prevenient grace for even the first movement of the will toward God), 3) affirms conditional election and predestination based on foreknowledge, 4) affirms universal atonement, 5) affirms that grace is always resistible, and 6) affirms that God is in no way and by no means the author of sin and evil but affirms that these are only permitted by God’s consequent will."
  17. ^ DeJong 1968, pp. 220-, art. 5, points 3-4. "True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish."
  18. ^ Kirkpatrick 2018, p. 67.
  19. ^ Kirkpatrick 2018, p. 74.
  20. ^ Olson 2010e.
  21. ^ Olson 2010d.
  22. ^ Olson 2006, p. 18.
  23. ^ Kirkpatrick 2018, pp. 75, 142.
  24. ^ Olson 2014a, p. 1.
  25. ^ Olson 2010c.
  26. ^ Olson 2014a, p. 11.
  27. ^ Kirkpatrick 2018, p. 262.
  28. ^ Olson 2013a. "Basic to Arminianism is God’s love. The fundamental conflict between Calvinism and Arminianism is not sovereignty but God’s character. If Calvinism is true, God is the author of sin, evil, innocent suffering and hell. [...] Let me repeat. The most basic issue is not providence or predestination or the sovereignty of God. The most basic issue is God’s character."
  29. ^ Olson 2010a. "Classical Arminianism does NOT say God never interferes with free will. It says God NEVER foreordains or renders certain evil. [...] An Arminian COULD believe in divine dictation of Scripture and not do violence to his or her Arminian beliefs. [...] Arminianism is not in love with libertarian free will –as if that were central in and of itself. Classical Arminians have gone out of our way (beginning with Arminius himself) to make clear that our sole reasons for believe in free will AS ARMINIANS [...] are 1) to avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and 2) to make clear human responsibility for sin and evil."
  30. ^ Olson 2018a, p. 22. Award for best book in theology/ethics for 1999, Christianity Today, April, 2000. “Gold Medallion Award”, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, June, 2000. Award for “Best Book in Theology/Doctrine” for 2001, Christian Publishers Association of Brazil, April, 2002
  31. ^ Knight 2003, p. 473. "In a similar vein, Roger E. Olson has pointed out that "many conservative evangelical theologians have resurrected the old polemical labels of heresy and aberrational teaching to marginalize those evangelicals who would dare to embrace a belief that was once relegated to the sectarian margins of Protestantism. This hardly seems like a valuable expenditure of time and energy. Annihilationism does not strike at the heart of the gospel or even deny any major Christian belief; it is simply a reinterpretation of hell."
  32. ^ Toulouse 2006, p. 241. "Roger E. Olson has developed the discussion of these two "loose coalitions" in "The Future of Evangelical Theology," Christianity Today (hereafter CT) (February 9, 1998): 40-48. He offers Edward Veith's Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide."
  33. ^ Grenz 2001, p. 49. "[...] to cite his own poignant statement, which Roger E. Olson has labeled "Pannenberg's Principle""
  34. ^ Olson & Mead 2018b.


External links[edit]