David L. Allen is Professor of Preaching, George W. Truett Chair of Ministry, Director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching, and Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen is co-author of Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.
Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.
Whomever He Wills (hereafter WHW) is the latest installment and a welcome addition in the ongoing discussion in the Southern Baptist Convention over the subject of Calvinism. Published by Founders Ministries, with Dr. Tom Ascol as Executive Director, the book is, in part, a response to David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke, eds., Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, published in 2010 (hereafter Whosoever). WHW is co-edited by Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Matthew Barrett, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University. This multiple-part review/critique is “selective” in that I will not address most chapters in the book, and it is a “critique” in that I will be evaluating the arguments of those I do address.
WHW contains a foreword by Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School; a preface by Fred Zaspel, pastor of Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, PA; and an introduction by the co-editors. Thirteen chapters comprise the book, divided into two parts. Chapters 1 – 9 are introduced with a sermon on Revelation 5:1-14 by Dr. Steve Lawson, pastor of Christ’s Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, AL.; followed by five chapters, each addressing one of the letters of the traditional Calvinist TULIP acrostic; and three chapters dealing with the issues of determinism and human freedom, God’s sovereignty over evil, and evangelism and missions in Calvinism. Part Two contains four chapters dealing with Calvin’s understanding of the atonement, sovereign grace and evangelism in the preaching of Bunyan, the SBC and evangelical Calvinism, and the impact of Calvinism upon local Baptist churches. The book contains an index of People and Places along with a Scriptural index.
He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, and Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.
People take pleasure in rooting for the underdog. I’ll never forget the boys of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team beating the brash Soviet Team for a gold medal in 1980. It was a David vs. Goliath magic moment as America surprisingly celebrated the thrill of victory instead of the agony of defeat.
To me, the reprobate is the underdog in the theological world. How would you like to be doomed for destruction? The contrasting proposition of Calvin’s view of divine election is reprobation.
Before we look at what Calvin had to say, I want to introduce a definition from a book that has chapters from prominent SBC Calvinists and non-Calvinists, it says:
“Reprobation – From the Latin verb reprobare, to reprove. This is the belief that God has eternally condemned all non-elect persons to eternal condemnation for their sins. Calvin insisted “that this is not just a matter of God’s ‘passing over’ the non-elect, but an actual hardening so that they are actually strengthened to resist the gospel,” although he also taught that humans are unable to understand the full counsel of God on this issue and must humbly trust His goodness and justice in this.” [i]
As I have read the comments regarding my interview and a portion of my book, a few things deserve a response from me. First, I am greatly heartened by those comments, agreeing or not, that sought to interact with my actual words in a gracious manner. Being human, I know how hard that is, and hence my magnified gratitude and admiration for your valiant reliance on the Holy Spirit. Thank you!
Second, the comments have exposed a few of my descriptions that either need further clarification or that can be restated in a better way without sacrificing my point; for example, I used “God of Calvinism”, which I think would be better stated, “according to Calvinism, God….” I changed the wording in my following responses and will also in future revisions of my book. Also, I can see that the contrast between “vertical and horizontal passion” needs more clarification since so many infer that I am commenting on whether a Calvinist can be evangelistic, etc., which I am not. Thank you for helping me to see these.
If my inability to communicate has caused my words to unduly hurt some of you who disagree with my position, I am truly sorry and ask your forgiveness. I am and will continue working on this weakness.
The following remarks are to only briefly offer a few clarifications concerning misunderstandings about some of my comments that have appeared in this forum. Please forgive me if I leave you still in want of a more comprehensive response. I am sure you understand that I simply cannot rewrite my book here or comment sufficiently on every puzzlement.
This is the fourth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child.
Teachings espousing a limited freewill simply do not square either with Scripture or with life experience. Man does have options, both godly and ungodly (Prov. 1:29). Regarding election, Thom Rainer says that anyone who is lost forfeits salvation because of his or her own disobedience, not because of election or predestination.1 He acknowledges that a tension exists between humanity’s freewill and God’s sovereign choice and asserts that election is a sovereign, eternal decree from God which involves the choice of people to be the recipients of grace and salvation.2 I am comfortable saying that if election is understood as to service, it is extended to some; but if election is understood as to salvation, it is extended to all.
By Rev. Bill Harrell, Senior Pastor, Abilene Baptist Church, Martinez, Georgia. A native of Tifton, Georgia, Rev. Harrell came to Abilene in January of 1981. He is married to the former Carolyn Gibbs, also of Tifton. They have three daughters.
Recently, while in a discussion about the pervasive influence of Calvinism in our Southern Baptist Zion, I was surprised when I heard the term “preservation” when referring to the fifth point of that theological model. I had noticed that others also made this mistake and didn’t seem to notice the error. In a very subtle way, I brought the error to the writer’s attention, and he was most grateful for the fact that I had done so. Some might ask why get so picky about such a thing? Everyone knows what my friend was referring to and trying to say.
Not so quick. There is a world of difference between perseverance and preservation and we must not confuse the two. The core difference is that perseverance is a MAN work and preservation is a GOD gift. One is earthly and the other is heavenly. One is a work and the other is a gift. One man can do, and the other only God can perform.