Feb 25, 2010

Interview With David Allen on the Forthcoming Book Whosoever Will

One book that I am looking forward to reading is Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Calvinism edited by professors David Allen and Steve Lemke. The p
ublisher is Broadman & Holman. Whosoever Will contains revised versions of papers originally presented at the John 3:16 conference, which was held November 2008 at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia.

In anticipation of the forthcoming release, David Allen one of the editors of, and contributors to, Whosoever Will graciously agreed to be interviewed for this blog.

1. How did Whosoever Will come about?

This book is the result of a conference held at the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA, in November, 2008, entitled “The John 3:16 Conference.” The purpose of this conference was to provide a biblical and theological evaluation and critique of Calvinism by non-Calvinists. Not a single speaker at this conference is an Arminian. Many today wrongly assume that there are only two theological positions on these issues: Calvinism and Arminianism. In fact, there are varieties within both camps. Most Southern Baptists are neither Calvinists nor Arminians, but would better be called “Calminians,” in that they affirm some aspects of each theological tradition. The book critiques Calvinism beginning with a critique of each of the so called “five points” in the TULIP acronym, followed by chapters addressing key issues such as whether Calvin himself affirmed limited atonement, the validity of the public altar call, the role of “determinism” in Calvinism, and how Calvinism handles the question of evil in the world.

2. Why did you write Whosoever Will?

We wrote the book to address the growing resurgence of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention, especially among students on college and seminary campuses. As a result, this issue has been on the front burner for the past few years among Baptists. Often there is confusion and caricature on both sides of this issue. We felt the time had come for a scholarly presentation, irenic in spirit, that would critique the key elements of Calvinism. We have been asked by numerous students and pastors over the years to write such a book.

3. What is the main thesis of the book?

The main thesis of this book is to provide a scholarly critique of the five points of Calvinistic soteriology and then to address key issues in the debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

4. Who should read this book?

Anyone interested in this issue should read this book, especially pastors, church staff members, lay leaders and teachers in local churches, along with current college and seminary students. Regardless of which side of the issue one may fall, this book should be helpful.

5. What do you hope to accomplish through this book?

My goal would be four-fold: 1) to assist all with a greater understanding of the differences between Calvinism and non-Calvinism; 2) to provide non-Calvinists with an understanding of the problems with Calvinism from a non-Calvinist perspective; and 3) to promote the overall edification of the church; and 4) to bring glory to God by attempting to fulfill that part of the Great Commandment which says “to love God with all of your mind.”

For further information see this interview from Broadman & Holman which includes both Allen and Lemke.


Jeffrey Wicker said...

Does non-Calvinist mean Molinist Jesuit Philosophers who were hired by the Pope to blunt the Reformation?

Where is the B&H scholarly work on the resurfacing of Molinism?


Charles Savelle said...

Hi Jeffrey,

I am not sure whether any of the authors are Molinists. I am also not sure whether the authors would be anti-Reformation.

Eugene said...

I doubt this "scholarly critique" is going to be much different than other critiques of Calvinism that have surfaced over the past few years from non-Calvinist factions within the SBC.

Charles Savelle said...

Thanks for stopping by Eugene. You may be right, but I did not attend the conference and I haven't read the book. The fact that this debate has been going on for many years probably means that much of the material will cover familiar ground. That does not mean that it might not be worth checking out. I think that such intramural discussions can be helpful in causing us to reexamine our theological positions and at least hearing out the concerns of fellow believers in Christ.

Jeff A. Spry said...

This line from Paige Patterson's chapter on Total Depravity is telling:

"While no one comes to Christ of his own volition ('unless the Father draws him,' John 6:44), the Bible also affirms that 'I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people unto myself' (John 12:32)."

No exegesis, no explanation, no exploration of the differing contexts of Ch6 and Ch12. Just an assertion presented as theological fact.

Charles Savelle said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I have not read the chapter in question, so I don't know what precedes or follows this sentence. But obviously, whole books could be written on total depravity and so I can see why every passage might not be exegeted, explained, or explored in a chapter-size treatment. Time and/or space often limit what can and can't be done in a given context such as a conference or chapter such as this one. But again, I have not read the chapter in question. Any further thoughts? Would you care to elaborate how you see this sentence fitting into Patterson's overall argument? Is it primary or secondary, etc.

Mark said...

I actually live blogged the John 3:16 Conference. It was interesting.

One of the issues that some folks did not appreciate was a guy who stood up during the Q&A and basically testified how he was saved out of Calvinism. A strong rebuke was in order, but none came that I recall. I've actually tried to get a hold of this person to talk to him since we live in the same town. But that was then.

I have a copy of the book to review when I get time. The way things are presented there seem to be subtle shots taken at Calvinists here and there. For example, the title of the book itself.

A Calvinist should have no problem affirming "whosoever will" and one of the speakers even quoted Calvin as saying as much, as I recall.

I found Dr. Vines proof-texting use of John 3:16 in Chapter 1 to be wanting. He makes an assertion which is similar to the title of the book about Calvinism and "whosoever will".

Dr. Allen's closed his conference presentation with “Five point Calvinism is a move away from the Gospel and not towards it.” Not very irenic.

Dr. Yarnell looks at the potential impact of Calvinist tendencies baptist churches? Why isn’t the same thing done with Anabaptist beliefs? Yes, I know it's a book on Calvinism, but even some Anabaptists had bishops in their ecclesiology.

Charles Savelle said...


Thanks for stopping by and offering your firsthand reflections on the comments. I personally have friends on both sides of the issue. I do think that the discussion could be more irenic at times, but I also believe that we should be a bit slower in taking offense at some things that are said in the midst of the debate. I also think that we do better to be more hesitant in attributing motives to actions.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Thanks for this. I enjoyed reading David's answers.