Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (eds. David Allen and Steve Lemke)
After centuries of debate, the words “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” remain as buzz words that continue to spark discussion among evangelicals today. As denominations have begun returning to their doctrinal roots, such discussions have become more rampant in order to combat issues brought forth by Protestant liberalism and the postmodern culture. This returning to the sources (ad fontes) has had significant impact upon younger Christians. Time Magazine has listed Calvinism as one of the top ten ideas that is changing the world right now . As a result, the works of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritans have seen a huge revitalization in interests.
As Calvinism has gained prominence, so has its criticism of Arminian theology. As a result, a revivalism (of sorts) has arisen among Arminians in order to offer a corrective concerning the false caricatures placed on their theology and to present an alternative for those who find Calvinism problematic. Thus books and papers have been published calling readers to thoroughly examine the “Doctrines of Grace” and give a response to the rising critiques of Calvinism .
The book, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke, seeks to do just that. More particularly, the contributors seek to deal with the rise of Calvinism among Southern Baptists while also seeking to benefit the broader evangelical community. The contributors in this book claim to be neither fully Calvinist nor fully Arminian, but keep “the two more in balance, learning from both, counting themselves as being in the mainstream of the Baptist theological tradition” . This, they claim, represents more accurately the Southern Baptist Convention both historically and presently.
Consequently, this book should not be read as if the writers were advancing a specific theological system. They are not. Thus it should not be assumed that each contributor fully agrees with the others in their approach to the specific doctrine or issue they are discussing at hand. Rather the purpose is to that show that various views have traditionally been present within the Southern Baptist Convention.
The introduction begins by telling how Jacob Arminius and the early Remonstrants held to a very high view of total depravity, a view that many may very well consider to be a Calvinistic statement. They argue that Arminius and his followers were not Pelagian or semi-Pelagian in their anthropology. Instead, Arminius and the Remonstrants thought that humans could not save themselves based on their own efforts or free will, but relied solely upon the Holy Spirit to bring them to God the Father through Jesus Christ. For Arminians, these statements are refreshing because this has been a common misconception taught by many Calvinists. However, for most of the book, the writers reference Arminian works very little, giving the impression that they are not fully committed to the thought of Arminius himself .
Following the introduction, the book divides into two parts. The first half of the book addresses the five points of Calvinism exegetically, theologically, and historically . In particular, the doctrines of limited atonement and irresistible grace are heavily combated by many of the contributors throughout the book.
For instance, David Allen’s essay on the atonement gives ample support for universal atonement. He argues that some form of universal atonement was a doctrine commonly discussed during the Protestant Reformation. He gives extensive quotes from Martin Luther, and even Calvin, that show them advocating a form of universal atonement. He also quotes several confessional statements such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Thirty-Nine Articles, which seem to adopt universal atonement. Even more so he displays interpretive fallacies from scholars such as D. A. Carson concerning the exegesis of John 3:16, and other passages known to traditionally promote universal atonement.
Steve Lemke argues that grace is resistible in his essay. As Lemke presents several texts that advocate resistible grace, he claims that the “plain sense reading of these texts tends to support the belief that God’s grace, by His own intent design, is resistible” . He pointedly argues that Calvinists read their theological system into texts, which otherwise clearly shows from a simple reading people resisting the Holy Spirit.
When giving his theological assessment of irresistible grace, he argues that it may appear as if God is having an internal conflict resulting from Calvinist distinction between God’s general call and effectual call. He states that many Calvinists consider it a mystery, but quotes some as acknowledging that it is a contradiction that cannot be explained.
Furthermore, part two of the book discusses various issues that arise out of Calvinist theology. Among the various topics, Kevin Kennedy’s discussion on the issue of Calvin and his views on the extent of atonement is very insightful. He explains how likely it is for one to think that Calvin held to universal atonement when various universal statements in his writings are analyzed. When reading some of the statements quoted by Kennedy, a very compelling case can be made supporting Calvin’s belief in universal atonement.
Calvinism’s effect on Baptist life is the discussion of Malcolm Yarnell’s essay. He argues that many aspects of Baptist theology do not line up with Calvinist dogma and can unknowingly affect a local congregation over time.
Jeremy Evans offers some insight on a much heated topic within theology—determinism and human freedom. He states the two predominant views within this discussion are compatibilism (the Calvinist view that seeks to make human freedom and determinism compatible with each other) and libertarian freedom (the Arminian and non-Calvinist view, which denies any form of determinism to be compatible with human freedom). He does not establish a positive argument concerning libertarian freedom. However, he advocates that a high view of God’s sovereignty is compatible with libertarian freedom. He also seeks to critique compatibilistic freedom and show that human responsibility in no way coincides with any form of determinism. His main objection to this approach is that humans cannot be considered logically responsible for sin under deterministic freedom because it is a logical conclusion of God’s ordaining will.
Overall, the authors do an adequate job addressing some key issues that call into check five-point Calvinism, especially the doctrines of irresistible grace and limited atonement. Though Calvinism may be on the rise, it is a reminder that not all Christians adhere to it and notice serious problems with its theology, despite its dominance in the theological realm. However, readers may find that there are some sections of the book where the contributors interact with Scripture very little while others use it very thoroughly in their arguments. At the same time, as with any book with multiple contributors, some essays are stronger than others, which can diminish the overall strength of the book.
Whosoever Will offers a fresh perspective on key issues that have been debated among Calvinists and Arminians for centuries. Despite its primary focus being directed toward Southern Baptist, people on both sides of the spectrum can draw from this book. Neither Calvinists nor Arminians will be in full agreement concerning the issues in this book. However, it offers a needed corrective to Calvinism and adds a sense of refreshment for those troubled with key doctrinal issues the movement promotes.
 David Van Biema, “The New Calvinism.” Time Magazine:http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html; accessed September 4, 2010; Internet.
 The following works come from within this movement: F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth: Answering Life’s Inescapable Questions (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2001); Robert Picirilli, Grace, Faith, and Free Will: Contrasting Views of Calvinism and Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002); Stephen Ashby, “Reformed Arminianism,” in Four Views on Eternal Security. ed. J. Matthew Pinson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002); J. Matthew Pinson, “Will the Real Arminius Please Stand Up? A Study of the Theology of Jacob Arminius in Light of His Interpreters,”Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought 2, (Summer 2003): 121-139.
 p. 5.
 For a brief overview of the controversy behind Calvinism and Arminianism, see “Chapter 1: Arminius and the Revolt Against Calvinism,” in Robert Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Calvinism and Arminianism, mentioned above. This discussion will also acquaint the reader with unfamiliar theological terms referred to in this review.
 Because the brevity of this review, it is not possible to comment on every contributor’s essay. Rather, this review will focus on what appears to be major arguments made within each section of the book. Thus, not all of the contributors will be given attention.
 p. 129.