"Whosoever Will" - Allen & Lemke

My ethics professor last semester, Dr. Steve Lemke, and a colleague of his, David Allen, released a text in May on a biblical critique of five-point Calvinism.  I was interested in reading more on the subject, one to get a better understanding of the many intelligent, well thought out arguments against Calvinism, but also because comments Dr. Lemke made throughout the semester peaked my interest.

At the start of the summer, it was one of the many books I wanted to read by the end of the summer and, while I did, I didn't read it as quickly as I would have liked due to several reasons, mostly a busy life.  The topic of Calvinism came up more over the summer months than I think it ever has in my entire life.  In pretty much every circle of friends that I have, the topic came up at some point in some way, at least once over the summer (but generally much more frequently), without my ever bringing it up.  It was so incredibly ridiculous - I couldn't escape it for nothing.  People over-emphasizing the sovereignty of God, completely ignoring the fact of human free will, while also entirely disregarding the logical conclusions their points would lead to.

With one person in particular, as an example, during a debate I took his point to it's logical conclusion: God ordains sin.  I carefully laid it out and made sure he followed me step by step, so at this last point, he had either to affirm that God in fact ordains sin, or affirm that, at the very least, his argument had some flaws in it which needed to be looked into further.  Needless to say, I would have been fine with the latter; however, to my dismay, as well as others in the room, he affirmed the logical conclusion: God ordains sin!  All I can say is, wow.  At the end of the discussion, he stated something to the effect of, we can disagree on a lot of things but as long as we have all the foundational elements in place, that is all that matters.  While I do agree with that sentiment, debates over the nature of God cannot be any more foundational.  I cannot and will not ever believe in a God that ordains sin and then sends His one and only Son to die on the cross for those sins that God caused.  To me, that is immensely foundational.

Anyhow, I've gone way off track with this "book review" haha.  I felt as though Allen & Lemke's book did an alright job covering the issues.  The book was more scholarly in nature, not really intended for the average layperson.  In addition, most of the authors pulled quotes originally from Calvin himself, or his followers, to show that, for example, most of them did not affirm limited atonement.  Either way, the text was difficult to get through readability-wise.  Several sections became bogged down in definitions or lengthy quotes, followed by short explanations of said quotes.  Additionally, the book was written by Southern Baptists for Southern Baptists and therefore, the authors seemed to always be carefully choosing their words, so as not to cause divisions within churches or amongst their colleagues.  Other authors might be much more poignant about the language they use, which I would like to see.  Tell me how it is and how passionately you feel about the issue, not trying to dress up your arguments against Calvinism in their Sunday best so as not to offend any Calvinists.  Additionally, the authors come into the discussion completely rejecting the notion of any possibility of openness to God (also known as open theism, Molinism, middle knowledge, etc.), which many scholars affirm, or at least see as a plausibility.  This is seen throughout the text, where they make sure their arguments aren't misconstrued as flirting the line with what they see as such heresy.  It is important to keep a holistic view of Scripture in mind, however, especially when critiquing Calvinists for ignoring certain passages of Scripture because it doesn't fit into their methodology.  That is a whole 'nother discussion for a whole 'nother day though.

Overall, if you'd like to better understand some of the arguments against Calvinism, I'd suggest you find another book.  If you are wanting to read every text you can possibly find on the issue, well, by all means, go right ahead.  Enjoy, but don't expect it to be your favorite reading so far.  The text had a great deal of potential, but missed the mark in it's application.

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