Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review of Whosoever Will

For today’s post I want to review Whosoever Will. I try to make it my policy to review only those books that I think people should read. This book is no exception. In fact, I would suggest that you don’t bother reading the rest of this review and go ahead and buy the book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If you are, something is wrong with you.

Whosoever Will is a written as a critique of five-point Calvinism from by a group of non-Calvinists. I think it’s important to use the term non-Calvinist rather than another term because no other term seems to fit, unless we simply say they are Baptists. Often in the discussion of Calvinism there is an assumption that a person is either a Calvinist or and Arminian. The authors of the book don’t fit well in either camp.

If you read nothing other than chapters 1, 10 and 11 then you will have gotten your money’s worth. Chapter one is a sermon on John 3:16 by Jerry Vines. In recent years it seems like we’ve seen a lot of people talking about how that everything God does he does for his glory. Why would God make the world? For his glory. Why would God make people that he intends to send to hell? For his glory. But in what Jerry Vines says about John 3:16, the emphasis isn’t on God’s glory but on God’s love. Why would God send his Son to die such a shameful death? While we might talk about how Jesus will be glorified, John 3:16 gives us the reason. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God is motivated by love. He doesn’t just love me. He doesn’t just love you. He sent his Son because he loves the whole world and wants the whole world to be saved. He knows that not all the world will be saved, but he wants them to be.

No book about Calvinism would be complete without some discussion of the issue of free will. It is a subject that the authors bring up in various places. As depraved individuals, do we have the ability to choose God. The Calvinist makes the claim that no we don’t. We are in sin and have no ability to even turn to God if he doesn’t regenerate us first. From a high level, this seems to make sense, but one of the things the authors of this book did was to examine the logic of this more closely. The logic quickly falls apart because man cannot be responsible for his actions if his creator made him in such a way that he has no choice but to sin. The ultimate responsibility then rests on God. The authors of the book look at how Calvinists try to get around this issue, but I think you’ll see in reading the book that the Calvinist explanation is flawed, at best. I suppose we can’t fault them for that because if they are correct then God ordained that they make the argument they do.

I’ve been looking at the subject of Calvinism off and on for many years, but the book draws some connections that I hadn’t noticed before. It seemed logical that Calvinists wouldn’t be big on missionary work, since they believe those who will be saved will be saved and those who will be lost will be lost. It simply doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time telling people of their need of salvation if you don’t believe it makes any difference one way or the other. So it was shocking to me when I discovered that some Calvinists are firm supporters of missionary work. I began to wonder if the Calvinist/non-Calvinist debate made much difference if we were all doing the same thing anyway, albeit for different reasons. But there’s more to it than just whether we send missionaries to preach the gospel or not. There seems to also be a tendency for Calvinists to aristocratic church government. Elder rule is the modern term for that. There is also a tendency to believe in an invisible church. And there’s a tendency to be ecumenical. I think that if we try to rationalize these tendencies it may be that because Calvinists aren’t sure that everyone who says they are saved are actually part of the elect, they don’t shun people of other doctrine for fear of shunning one of the elect, but they also fear that some of the people in their own churches are not elect, so they reserve leadership to those they are pretty sure are part of the elect, rather than take the risk of putting a non-elect person in a place of leadership. But that’s just my thinking and not what the book says.

Whosoever Will is a well written book and I don’t think you’ll find a better explanation of five-point Calvinism and the problems presented by it. I believe it is a topic that we all need to understand as Calvinism seems to be much more cool these days.