A Couple Dream Debates

Here’s my big dream:

I would love to see a debate between Roger Olson and John Piper on Calvinism and Arminianism.

I would also love to see a debate between Wayne Grudem and Gordon Fee on Complementarianism and Egalitarianism.

But in these two debates, I’d want Olson arguing for Calvinism and Piper arguing for Arminianism. Likewise, I’d want to see Grudem arguing for Egalitarianism and Fee arguing for Complementarianis.

Not only would it be incredibly entertaining. I think it would be helpful beneficial for everyone. My experience has shown that generally, we don’t understand the other side as well as we think we do. I know for a fact that Calvinists don’t understand Arminians or visa versa. And I often think the same thing about the Gender debate. I’ve said a few times, rather tongue in cheek, that if you understood my perspective on men & women’s roles, you’d agree with me. In both cases, I think that the sides of these issues don’t tend to examine themselves critically. Some do, but they are often the exceptions, not the rule.

If such debates ever occurred, I think that Grudem, Fee, Olson and Piper would all walk away with a greater understanding of their own view and the other side that they didn’t have before.

One thing I learned during my senior year of college was that you cannot understand the other side completely until you’re on it. We held debates on issues in Biblical Theology for my senior seminar class. In every instance where the people who didn’t agree with the side they were defending, that side won the debates. Hands down. They knew both sides.

[Update] If there are any complementarians reading this post who would be interested in participating in such a debate, please do leave a comment!

15 thoughts on “A Couple Dream Debates

  1. Mike, that’s an interesting idea. You might not get the real heavyweights to do it, but how about challenging some bloggers to do this? I might be prepared to give my best complementarian arguments if you can find someone who is a real comp to put the egalitarian side. It just might work for the Complegalitarian blog.

  2. While the idea sounds good I fear that you would not get a very good debate. After all, a common expression is “Well you just don’t understand Arminianism/Calvinism”. Both sides would claim that their position was not done justice.

    Just asking, but do you favor one side over the other in this? If so, would you mind sharing?


  3. Jon: I read gross mischaracterizations on both sizes regularly. Granted I haven’t seen them coming from all of this scholars. I happen to know for a fact that Piper works very hard to comprehend the other side. But for each one above that I haven’t, there are other big names that I have. For example:

    There are a number of places where Grudem mischaracterizes his opponents. But tit for tat, Kevin Giles does just as good of a job doing the same thing. Honestly, I find it pretty amazing. The only good explanation I have for it is that the issue is way to emotionally charged for them to see the other size without distortion.

    I’ve been on both sizes of this issue. I started as an egalitarian and later because a complementarian in college only to become an egalitarian again at the end of my senior year. And I think it’s possible that I could make such a switch again someday. Unlike some, I like to think that I’m actually willing to be convinced by the evidence. I don’t just argue to prove people wrong.

  4. Great post! I agree whole heartedly. I’ve never for a minute thought I understood Calvinism and it’s always bothered me a bit. Would that make me a good candidate for such a debate or a bad one? I truly wish there were a way to actually believe the other side, if only for a few hours, just to better grasp it. In lieu of that, I have learned to suspend my own belief while considering the other side which does great things for my biases but not what you write here. So while I’ve never been complimentarian, I haven’t always been egalitarian either.

  5. I make my introductory students write dialogues for all their papers. I figure it’s more important for first-semester philosophy students to get skilled in presenting arguments than it is to defend their own views, so I make sure they have a chance to defend both sides of every issue before they indicate where they stand and why. I’ve noticed that they’re always very bad at indicating why they favor one side or even at making it clear which side they favor once they’d shown that there are arguments for both sides. Only the best students can really turn such a paper into an argument. I think it’s because they’re so unused to being in a situation where they can explain both sides.

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