Category: Calvinism

Review: Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter
“Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions”

A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 3A

Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter “Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions”
by David L. Allen


In Part 3 of my review of Whomever He Wills (hereafter WHW) I will cover Chapter 9, “Calvinism Foundational for Evangelism and Missions: A Biblical and Historical Survey” by Dr. Tom Ascol. Dr. Ascol attempts to demonstrate the positive relationship between Calvinism and evangelism and missions. Along the way he responds to portions of my chapter in Whosoever Will (hereafter Whosoever). For the purposes of this review, the phrases “limited atonement,” “particular redemption,” and “definite atonement” as used by Dr. Ascol and myself should be defined to mean “Christ died only for the sins of the elect.” The “limited” in “limited atonement” refers to the limited sin-bearing nature of Christ’s death; he only satisfied for the sins of the elect.

Dr. Ascol organizes his chapter around an introduction (269-71), two major headings: Scriptural Testimony (271-79) and Historical Testimony (279-88), followed by a short conclusion.

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A Primer Against TULIP
A Review of “Considering Calvinism: Faith or Fatalism”
by Gil VanOrder, Jr.

By Dr. Rick Patrick
Senior Pastor
Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church
Hueytown, Alabama


Author Gil VanOrder, Jr., in “Considering Calvinism: Faith or Fatalism,” presents a clear and logical case against Five Point Calvinism. While his book is accessible for any layperson, it is written in such a way that theologians and pastors will also benefit from the discussion, since his writing is especially transferrable for use in preaching and teaching, and also includes excellent (if leading) discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

VanOrder cannot possibly be accused of failing to draw his doctrines from Scripture itself, for Chapter One alone contains thirty-six Scripture references! He also makes ample use of parables (which I have titled in the list that follows) illustrating key doctrinal issues in Calvinism: The Selective Healer (page 13), The Compassionate Healer (page 14), The Drowning Man (page 21), The Lost Wanderer and the Rescue Party (page 68), The Rescuer of Shipwreck Island (page 69), The Man Atop the Mountain (page 74-75), The Assistant Chemist (page 76), The House Builder’s Offer (page 125), and The Drunkard’s Helpful Brother (page 157).

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“Jesus makes universal invitations in the very same context where He affirms
God’s particular choice of some and rejection of others”

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2I

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


In an attempt to reconcile definite atonement with a universal gospel offer, Schrock suggests five considerations. First, “Jesus makes universal invitations in the very same context where He affirms God’s particular choice of some and rejection of others” (114). The verses he appeals to in no way support limited atonement and are more a part of the discussion concerning the nature of election. Second, Schrock raises the issue of those who have never heard the gospel. This is a thorny question no matter what view of the extent of the atonement one takes. The appeal to the Old Testament priests who made atonement and then went out to instruct the people followed by the question “did Jesus really die to make provision for the sins of all men and then neglect to send His Spirit to give them the news?” fails to convince. Are we really expected to imagine that not one single person in Israel failed to be so instructed? What is the point of this contrived parallel? The reference to sending out the priests to instruct the people can only pertain generally. Thus by analogy this would be a picture of the church going out into the world to tell all people the good news. This is no argument for limited atonement. Third, Schrock states the proclamation of the gospel was restricted before and during Jesus’ lifetime, but after his crucifixion and resurrection, the gospel offer commanded by God to be offered to all the nations. What is the reason for this? There are sheep of other folds for whom Christ died (John 10:16) (116).

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Sometimes the Bible’s use of “all” and “world”
does not literally mean all people in the world.

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2H

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


Schrock next addresses the issue of universal language in Scripture. This is a difficult hill to climb for Schrock and all proponents of particular redemption due to the fact that there are so many New Testament passages which on a straightforward reading affirm unlimited atonement. He fosters two arguments to help explain how the universal language of the New Testament supports definite atonement: the linguistic argument and the historical context of the apostles. Schrock begins by noting what all affirm: sometimes the Bible’s use of “all” and “world” does not literally mean all people in the world. He rightly reminds us that context is the key. He praises John Owen for his “attention to the text” in determining the author’s meaning. This is curious because Schrock seems oblivious to the many Calvinists, not to mention others, who have critiqued Owen for his failure in this very area. For example, as Neil Chambers demonstrated, in circular fashion Owen reads his conclusion back into the reasons for his conclusion (“A Critical Examination, 122). His procedure constantly begs the question. Furthermore, Schrock appears to miss the point that sometimes this universal language is stylized and hyperbolic in nature. His appeal to Matthew 3:5 is a case in point. The idea of limitation here is not “some of all kinds” of people, but rather that large groups are intended.

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“For egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.”

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2G

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.

 

3. The Universal Impact of Definite Atonement.

Schrock’s final section addresses three vital subjects in the discussion: 1) the universal love of God, 2) the universal language of Scripture, and 3) the universal offer of the gospel (105-18).

Unfortunately, problems abound in this section as well. Schrock states that I equate God’s love with his universal will to save all people. I do indeed. In fact, so does Reformed orthodoxy. Though I disagree with the notion of God’s two wills (decretal and revealed), this concept is well known in Reformed orthodoxy. In God’s so called “revealed will,” God’s love is indeed a universal saving love (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9, et. al.). Schrock makes another error when he states, “for egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.” Since he has already lumped all who reject limited atonement into the egalitarian basket, Schrock’s statement is untrue and misrepresents the beliefs of many of his fellow moderate Calvinists since they do indeed distinguish degrees in God’s love. His statement is even untrue for many non-Calvinists who do the same.

What Schrock writes on pages 108-09 is especially troubling to my spirit. Christians are not saved “because of some insipid universal love; it is because in His grace, God set His love on you before the foundation of the world.” (108). It is the first part of this statement that is so troubling to me. “Insipid universal love”? My heart sinks just reading it. Place that comment alongside John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Schrock then continues, Christ “does not throw the pearls of His sacrificial love at those from whom He does not expect, yes even engender, a return of love” (109). Pause and reflect on that statement. With echoes from Jesus’ statement “Do not cast your pearls before swine” Schrock applies the analogy to the non-elect. From these non-elect, Jesus neither “expects” a love response nor, in good Calvinist fashion, does He “engender” such a response within them. Schrock notes that Christ pursues His bride so that she “can experience the fullness of His love” (Ibid.). He then states: “This is far different from saying that God loves all, unconditionally, without exception” (Ibid.). Sadly, it certainly is. To top it all off, Schrock makes a direct statement to anyone who is an unbeliever: “Maybe today, you are reading this but don’t know Christ: let all the kindnesses that God has given you – your gifts, joys, family, children, your very own life – and the promise of everlasting love lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4); trust in His Son and then you can experience the personal love of which Paul speaks” (Ibid.).

For all the hue and cry made over the use and misuse of altar calls by some Calvinists, may I be permitted to reciprocate here and express my deepest concern about this statement in the sharpest of language. Such a message to the unsaved is bereft of the love of God and is virtually bankrupt. Look at it. Is it only the “kindness” of God that is designed to lead us to repentance? Is it only the “promise” of some vague everlasting love offered to the unsaved? This is not only bad theology, it is bad Reformed theology. It borders on, if it is not outright, hyper-Calvinism.

It reduces the gospel message to bare statements about facts and conditional statements, in which God’s own compassion and willingness that the unsaved be converted is entirely absent from the appeal. Can Schrock not even find it within himself to say to the unsaved “Jesus loves you!” or desires them all to be saved? The love of Christ for the unsaved has been shorn of its passion, and in its place comes an insipid, even embarrassing appeal to the unsaved. God may love you; you will only know for sure if you believe. I’ll bet Schrock was not converted under the preaching and teaching of such a limp expression of God’s love for him. This portion of Schrock’s chapter is disappointing beyond words, and illustrates why the discussion of this issue in the Southern Baptist Convention is so vital at this time. I hope this is not the direction we are headed. This is one of the reasons why I concluded my chapter in Whosoever with the statement: “Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward ‘five-point’ Calvinism, such a move would be away from and not toward the gospel” (107). Limited atonement brings with it other errors into the church, both theological and practical. I believe Schrock’s brand of Calvinism is seriously problematic on the question of the love of God and the extent of the atonement.