Here’s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace. Do you separate from a denomination that allows pastors and seminary teachers to believe and teach this error? You can. We do. (See desiringgod.org for the whole talk; HT: Scot McKnight's Weekly Meanderings)
By way of clarification, I would say: In an Arminian institution, Arminians should be allowed to teach. But in institutions that regard Arminianism as a defective view of God’s grace, they should not be allowed to teach. Or, more broadly, in an institution that thinks the truth is better served by having advocates of Arminianism and Calvinism, both should be allowed to teach.Why, one might ask, is the church better served by institutions that require all faculty to side with
Then the question shifts to whether churches and Christian educational institutions should be devoted to a mix of Arminianism and Calvinism. No, I don’t think they should be. I think the truth, the church, and the world are better served by confessional institutions—that is, institutions which settle on the great things about God that they believe, and then build their teaching and research upon them.
If I did not agree with Piper to some extent, I would not be teaching at a confessional institution. We all work within a framework of understanding, and it is appropriate to agree on where the major boundaries are. However, Piper makes it sound as though everything boils down to what one considers the big issues on the dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy. Piper thinks Arminianism is a heresy worthy of excommunication. I don't. End of story.
When this kind of teaching and research are done well, the charge of indoctrination does not stick. No one’s ultimate aim should be to be Calvinist or Arminian. The aim should be to be biblical. Therefore, teaching and research will labor with all their might to show students what the Bible teaches. That will not be indoctrination. It will be true education.
The fact that we all have blind spots and profit from perspectives different from our own does not imply that we should hire someone to teach those perspectives in our pulpit or class room. It means we read and listen and carry on whatever conversation or dialogue or debate is appropriate.
In my 22 years of formal education . . . it became increasingly clear to me that diverse theological positions on the same faculty of a Christian institution diminished the importance of those differences. For some issues, that is good. For others it is not. Which those are is one of the great challenges of every generation.
But there is more to my uneasiness with Piper's comments than mere disagreement about the boundary lines of Christian orthodoxy. At issue is two differing conceptions of the goal of a confessional Christian education. Piper seems to live, think, and teach as though he has the Truth within his grasp, and he knows what it is. I am much more comfortable with Miroslav Volf's chastened epistemology, but my concern here is that this posture seems to disregard the process of learning:
As Piper acknowledges, the goal of a "true education" is not adherence to a party line. But it is also more than showing "students what the Bible teaches" as if students are only so many empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. A true education will encourage in students the ability to think for themselves so that they can continue to be nurtured by their own ongoing study of Scripture. What better way to encourage careful thinking than in a setting where faculty are able to model respectful debate (and disagreement) about vital issues within the framework of broader Christian orthodoxy?