Five years ago this week, Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, which I co-edited along with Dr. Steve Lemke, was published by B&H Academic.
The book is a collection of papers delivered at the 2008 John 3:16 Conference held at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA. Each paper dealt with one of the letters of the acrostic TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. In addition, several other chapters were added to address specific topics related to Calvinism.
The authors and editors of the book are not Calvinists. They are not Arminians. They are Baptists who are non-Calvinists, sometimes called “Traditionalists.”
The book immediately caused something of a stir. It was reviewed on several blog sites as well as in several journals.
I invited my co-editor, Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, to share his thoughts on this five-year anniversary:
It was a great joy to work with David Allen in writing Whosoever Will, the first of two books we have co-edited. As I reflect back over these last five years since its publication, several thoughts arise about the process of writing this book.
First, I’m so glad that we wrote it, because almost weekly we get a note from someone or meet someone who expresses what a help it has been to them. Often people who read it go out and buy a few more copies to share with friends. It seems to have met a real need in our churches to have a scholarly presentation from the perspective that most Baptists believe.
Second, from the beginning of writing the book, David and I were committed to the notion that the book would be irenic in tone, and that we would address what well-known Calvinists actually said, not caricatures of their positions. Although not all of the Calvinist responses have been equally irenic in spirit, I’m glad that we did.
Even though the book preceded David and I being on the SBC Advisory Committee on Calvinism, I believe it has served as a model for presenting our own beliefs in a frank discussion but also in a kind Christian spirit that was called for by that committee.
Third, I’m thankful that Whosoever Will has had staying power. It’s hard in today’s market for an academic book to survive that is not designed to be the textbook for a required class. And yet Whosoever Will has sold almost 10,000 copies and just keeps on selling. Again, that suggests that it really is meeting a need among ministers and laypersons.
We owe a big thank you to Dr. Jerry Vines, whose John 3:16 Conference provided the basis for the book; to our contributors, who did just a remarkable job in each of the articles; and to our readers, who have made our many hours of effort to write and publish the book worthwhile.
Like Dr. Lemke, I receive weekly without fail, either by phone, email, or some other means, an expression of appreciation for this book from pastors, professors, laypeople, and students. Here is one example:
Dr. Allen, You may or may not get many to say “thank you!” after you’ve written/edited a book, but I must say how grateful I am for your recent book, “Whosoever Will.” It came at just the right time in my life and helped solidify why I believe what I believe. I had been struggling for some time with Reformed theology and doctrine. Each time I would hear someone preach or teach in a Reformed way, purposefully pointing out things about God’s sovereignty, election, limited atonement, or being “chosen,” I would cringe as if I had been punched in the gut. I knew that in my study of Scripture for almost 40 years, that the God I worship and serve wasn’t like what was being preached, yet I couldn’t really get a good grip on why I believed what I do. Your book treated the subject in a scholarly way, not a confrontational way. It seems that too often Christians treat their brothers/sisters in a confrontational way when we don’t agree with a particular position that the other holds. Often, love doesn’t prevail and we just want to cling to our “position” instead of clinging to Christ. I now understand more completely what I believe, as well as understanding why those that hold to Calvinism (or should I say “Dortianism”) believe what they believe. So, all that just to say that God has used you and the other writers of that book in a powerful way in my life. I pray it will do so in the lives of many.
Along with all the authors in Whosoever Will, Dr. Lemke and I are grateful for the good response to this book.
Regardless of which side of the theological aisle you are on, it would be a helpful read to aid you in understanding what and why those of us who are not Calvinists believe as we do and why we have concerns about some aspects of Reformed soteriology.