An effective response to Reformed theology

After reading David Roach’s fine summary of “Whosoever Will,” I wanted to read the book for myself. It’s a long book but each chapter also stands alone for those of us who return to a book a little at a time. I’d like to highlight just a few of those parts.

Overall, the authors have added rich and clear components to a dialog we will never complete to anyone’s satisfaction this side of Heaven. Regardless of this lack of resolution, I believe we can learn more about our God, our Savior, and our salvation in the midst of this dialog, by the way. The conference that occasioned the papers followed a series of more Calvinistic ones and should not be seen as an aggressive move against the minority by the majority. Some who read articles by members of the Founders’ movement or hear messages from the Calvinistic conferences I mentioned have frankly wondered if there are deep and scholarly responses to the arguments of Reformed Baptists. To me, these articles are a fine answer to the question.

First, James Leo Garrett’s preface does a great job of setting the historical stage for the remainder of the work. I don’t know what the book will cost but the reader will have received substantial value by the time he’s finished Garrett’s piece. His explanation of the book, after acknowledging that Calvinism has been a major strand of Baptist life, says, “What was the precise nature of that strand [Calvinism], and is it supportable by a fair, accurate, and comprehensive reading of the New Testament?” These questions he later terms “the burden of this book.”

Second, I want to call some attention to a superlative theme sermon by Jerry Vines. Vines’ message is only occasionally polemical but is all through a fine exposition of John 3:16. His treatment of all the words of this best-known of all Bible verses touches so deftly and on so many pertinent subjects as to set a high academic and spiritual tone for the articles to follow.

Richard Land’s concise treatment on the doctrine of election is intriguing. His description of “congruent election,” a theological concept that “fits the entirety of the biblical revelation better than the Calvinist model of unconditional election” is very thought provoking and will doubtless be part of our continuing Reformation debate for years to come.

Co-editor David Allen’s article on limited atonement is scholarly, thorough, and devastating to the teaching that Christ died for only the few. His quotes from Calvinist scholars, including Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, and even John Calvin himself, while no substitute for biblical exegesis (also part of Allen’s chapter), certainly loosens the foundation of this doctrine.

Briefly, I’ve given you enough reason to read the whole 300 pages. The other articles our summary describes show the progress of the argument. You’ll want to read them all.

As I indicated, Reformed theology among Baptists has some fine spokesmen who are unapologetic in their advocacy for their view of theology. The contributors to “Whosoever Will” are equally convinced and ably hold up their side of the discussion.

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