Perhaps you’ve considered my thoughts concerning Founders Press’ latest release, Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy, edited by Drs. Matthew Barrett and Thomas J. Nettles.1 My thoughts began with a short video presentation (I also mentioned one issue within the volume here). I plan another video book-note presentation shortly on Mark DeVine’s chapter entitled “Total Depravity” >>>
My thoughts, however, come from a practicing pastoral perspective rather than an academic, scholarly one. And, while I hope I make the best use possible of scholarly methods in my critiques, I nonetheless claim no scholarly expertise in any single area. Hence, that’s why the critique of an academic scholar is immensely helpful.2
Dr. David 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. He is also co-editor and contributor of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism. Dr. Allen’s latest scholarly works include a major commentary on the book of Hebrews in the New American Commentary series published by B&H Academic, as well as an additional, stand-alone scholarly monograph on the authorship of Hebrews--Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology). As a contributor to Whosoever Will, Dr. Allen offered a devastating critique of the "L" in the Calvinistic acrostic, T.U.L.I.P. --"Limited Atonement"--a critique based solely upon Calvinistic sources! Hence, Allen's scholarly credentials to offer a more academic critique in constrast to a practicioner's evaluation remains without question.
Dr. Allen posted Part I of his initial thoughts on Founders Press’ latest volume, Whomever He Wills. He says:
I was especially interested in reading this book since it is, in part, a response to Whosoever which I co-edited with Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Indeed, placing the books side by side, one readily observes they are virtually parallel in title, structure and content. The title of Whosoever is taken from John 3:16 and Revelation 22:17, key verses impinging on the character of God and the extent of the atonement. The title WHW is taken from Romans 9:18, a key verse in Calvinist theology likewise impinging on the character and sovereignty of God.
Further, Dr. Allen writes:
…I am troubled by what I see as a significant difference between the two introductions in one area. Dr. Lemke and I sought to be careful in both content and tone not to word our disagreement with our Calvinist brothers and sisters in a way that would foreclose on the discussion. I think we were successful in that attempt, but our readers will have to be the ultimate judge of that. The co-editors of WHW, by their quotes cited above, all of which occur in the final part of their introduction, reveal something of their mindset and why I believe it is difficult to have a discussion with those who appear to be entrenched in such a mindset. Here are the concerns as I see them. First, the authors persist in their attempt to label contributors of Whosoever as Arminian and to frame the discussion according to the traditional Reformed historical categories of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, in spite of the fact that none of the authors of Whosoever is Arminian and that we have disavowed this moniker on numerous occasions since the publication of the book in 2010…
Predictably, Allen’s introductory remarks may solicit immediate response from Dr. Tom Ascol, Florida pastor and Executive Director of Founders Ministries (and, presumably Founders Press). We look for a lively albeit amicable discussion concerning the doctrines of grace.
Ever how the discussion proceeds, however, in my view Dr. Allen was essentially correct when he indicated Southern Baptist Calvinists routinely suggest on one hand they desire cooperation with non-Calvinist Southern Baptists, but on the other hand unrelentingly pronounce non-Calvinistic Baptists as Arminians. Overlooked entirely too often by both those who have more neutral thoughts toward either theological moniker (i.e. “Calvinist” vs. “Arminian”) as well as Calvinists who respect non-Calvinists’ denial that they are either Calvinists or Arminians but are Baptists and consequently dub them so, is the historical fact that classic Calvinism as defined by the Synod of Dort formally denounced Arminianism as theological heresy. Anyone doubting this may go back to post-Dort Netherlands and add up the dead bodies of unrecanting Arminians when Dort finally blew their battle-cry trumpet on May 9, 1619.
Thus, when strict Dortian Calvinists insist on dubbing non-Calvinists "Arminians," it remains just shy of impossible to avoid the conclusion that, like their forefathers at the Synod of Dort, they are indicating that non-Calvinists are heretics. And, while no one would imagine that Dortian Calvinists today would, even if they could, inflict the state’s sword to force theological compliance, it seems to be the case nonetheless that Dortian Calvinists still embrace the notion that Arminianism constitutes theological heresy. Thus, when non-Calvinistic Baptists are purposely referred to as "Arminians," they appear to be purposely associated with heresy.
While Dr. Allen’s introductory piece is quite lengthy, please take the time to read the entire review essay. I will keep you informed as the remaining parts are posted.
A Selective Review of Whomever He Wills – Part 1 by Dr. David Allen
1Founders Press is operated by Founders Ministries, the largest network of Baptist Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention
2allow me to be clear. I believe in academic scholarship. I believe scholars deserve scholars to appraise their work. Even so, it hardly follows that pastoral practitioners such as myself or other pastors and ministers not to mention “lay” people offer no viable-- indeed proper and necessary--evaluations to all literary works addressing our faith not excluding scholarly works. The last thing we want is an hierarchical, Platonic approach in discerning what constitutes truth and reality. Not only does a working principle like this take us back to Pre-Reformation Christianity, it undercuts the core principle of Free Church belief.