Book Review of Whomever He Wills (edited by Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles)
This is a good book for convinced Calvinists but not for convincing non-Calvinists. That’s not a criticism; there’s a need for books like this that give a full-throated polemical defense of Calvinistic soteriology and demolish Arminian errors and misrepresentations. But its tone is probably too aggressive and its theological content too dense to win over many or any Arminians.
Much of that can be explained by the book’s immediate context, a full-on, all-out attack upon Calvinism by a group of Southern Baptist Arminian theologians in a recent book with a similar title, Whosoever Will.
Whomever He Wills is the response and riposte to that onslaught which explains the punchy tone, detailed exegesis, and theological density.
However you don’t need to be involved in that Southern Baptist controversy to benefit from this book. While the book itself may not persuade many Arminians, it will certainly give a great biblical, theological, and historical grounding for anyone who is involved in similar controversies or who is trying to provide an apologetic for Reformed theology to their friends.
For myself, I found it a welcome and vigorous refresher on the doctrines of grace and some of the quality exegetical work helped me to understand key scriptures better. The book also reminded me of the need to be motivated by a desire for the glory of God in all controversy. Although the book is argumentative, it’s obvious in all the chapters that none of the authors are simply out to win an argument, but rather are motivated by a jealous desire to advance the glory of God and clear away any aspersions upon it resulting from theological error.
Authors take on the common misrepresentations of Calvinism and try to put a number of red herrings in the waste disposal. Highlights for me included:
- David Schrock’s demonstration of how limited atonement is compatible with a universal Gospel offer.
- Andrew Davis’s list of the consequences of limiting election to simply God forseeing faith (see next blog post).
- Matthew Barrett’s marshaling of the evidence for monergistic regeneration in both the Old and New Testaments.
- Tom Schreiner’s explanation of the warnings against apostasy in Hebrews as one of the means God uses to keep his own.
- Stephen Wellum’s brave biblical theodicy.
- Tom Ascol’s convincing proof of Calvinism’s missionary heart and action
- Ben Rogers’ survey of Sovereignty and Evangelism in John Bunyan’s preaching.
I hope you can see that there’s much more here than ammunition for Southern Baptist Calvinists. It’s a book I expect to be referring back to quite frequently in sermon preparation, but I’ll be hiding it from my Arminian friends!