December 1, 2008

Dr. David Allen's Points on God's Will and Hyper-Calvinism at the John 3:16 Conference

Here are David Allen's points on the subject of God's will and hyper-Calvinism at the John 3:16 Conference:

1) Tom Ascol affirms that God desires the salvation of all men in his revealed will.

2) James White scornfully denies that God desires the salvation of all men in his revealed will.

This is a fact and no one has proven otherwise. In fact, White has said on his blog now that he sides with Robert Reymond as over against John Murray on this very point. His denial is categorical, and does not merely involve problems with optative expressions.

3) This denial by White is based on his atonement views.

Almost everyone has missed this vital point. This is why Dr. Allen brought it up during the conference. White said, "And I just go, what does it mean to say that God desires to do something he then does not provide the means to do? What does that mean? And no one's ever been able to tell me." Dr. Allen's lecture was on the atonement, and he made some practical observations at the end. He argued that a strictly limited atonement (in the sense of Owen's limited imputation of sin to Christ view) diminishes God's universal saving will. This point is not new. Edward Polhill and John Bunyan addressed the same subject.

4) James White disagrees with Tom Ascol.

Given the factuality of #2, this obviously follows. No one has challenged this, not even Dr. Ascol himself.

5) Allen said James White is a hyper-Calvinist because of that specific denial.

Few, if any, have actually addressed this point. All talk about how White engages in “evangelism” and “preaching to all” is a red herring. It doesn't address this subject, which is: Does the denial of God's universal saving will constitute a form of hyper-Calvinism? Phil Johnson has come the closest to addressing it, but he plans on clarifying his position further. Perhaps he thinks that the denial would have to be coupled or mixed with other hyper-Calvinistic ingredients in order to properly call someone a hyper-Calvinist by this criteria. He has created the subjective label "├╝ber-high Calvinist" for some instead of labeling them "hyper." I have now quoted Iain Murray and Curt Daniel to support my claim that such a denial constitutes a form of hyper-Calvinism, even if it's not "full-blown" hyper-Calvinism. They both refer to the denial of God's universal saving desire as a "main argument against free offers" (Daniel) or one of "the most serious differences of all between evangelical Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism" (Murray). Murray, in his book on Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism, said that "Spurgeon regarded the denial of God's desire for the salvation of all men as no mere theoretical mistake. For it converged with one of the greatest obstacles to faith on the part of the unconverted, that is to say, a wrong view of the character of God." Anthony Hoekema also associates the denial of God's desire to save all  men, or the well-meant offer, with hyper-Calvinism.

6) Allen said James White is a hyper-Calvinist based on the criteria in Phil Johnson's Primer.

This is really what Phil Johnson has sought to specifically address in his replies, rather than the first five propositions above. It is clear that he does not think his Primer suggests that someone is a hyper-Calvinist if they merely deny God's universal saving will. Now, note this carefully: He has not explicitly said that his Primer does not make any point about God's universal saving will. Rather, he has been talking about the fact that his Primer doesn't make a point about God's "desires," since such optative expressions are, in his view, "always problematic." The bottom line is this: Phil does not think that his Primer entails what Dr. Allen thought it said about this subject. That's fine. He's knows what he meant to say by it. Nevertheless, he hasn't shown that it is unreasonable to conclude what Dr. Allen concluded, since there are obvious references in the Primer that make the point that one needs to rightly understand the orthodox Reformed teaching on God's will, in contrast to hyper-Calvinistic distortions of it. Perhaps he thinks Allen could have been warranted in saying that White has a very serious hyper-Calvinistic tendency, based on Phil Johnson's Primer. We shall see.

The above summarizes where things stand right now, as I read the posts. I find it very disappointing to see my fellow Calvinists not even admitting that Dr. Allen made any valid points whatsoever. Genetic fallacies abound. It's as if the entirety of what he said is false, and "unthinking." They should at least acknowledge that the first four propositions above are true and serious matters. Honesty demands that.

Calvinistic bloggers have not refuted Allen's first four facts above, but they're just taking exception to the characterization of those facts (#5 and #6). Fine. If you don't like to label White's scornful denial of God's universal saving desire as a form of "hyper-Calvinism," then just call it "Dead-Wrongism," based on what the Scriptures and orthodox Calvinists affirm.


peter lumpkins said...


I linked to your helpful summary offered in this brief article in the body of Dr. Allen's rejoinder, under the heading "The Charge of False Accusations about Hyper-Calvinism." I trust you do not mind; I further hope many will visit here and digest your assessment.

Know I am perfectly aware of our agreement on Limited Atonement and our disagreement on the theological construct of at least three of the other "petals" in TULIP. And, as you happily identify yourself as Calvinist, I am content to be generically classed as non-Calvinist.

Indeed, on some of the "5-Points," Dr. Allen strongly but amicably disagrees with you! Of course, I am aware you're close friends regardless of such, indicative again that Dr. Allen is not anti-Calvinist.

Nonetheless, Tony, I see Calvinists such as yourself as an asset to the SBC, not a threat. But even more, I believe there's not one J316C presenter who would take the least exception to that statement. I'd be both surprised and disappointed if they did.

Sadly, I need to add, how striking I find the clearly unwelcome aura of you and/or your "milder" views of Calvinism, especially by Founders most vocal advocates.

On Timmy Brister's comment threads, for example, there seems to be just as much disrespect for you and your position (or should I say "hobby-horse")--an unapologetically, self-identified Calvinist--as there is for the most outspoken non-Calvinist or, apparently now, in the more acceptable terminology to Founders, anti-Calvinist.

Perhaps this phenomenon may even further illustrate Dr. Yarnell's general point about Founders being ideologically-driven. At least, it's something worth pondering.

Thanks again, my Brother, for the corrections to the misinformation you have posted at numerous places, making clear what Dr .Allen actually said and what he definitively did not say nor suggest at J316C or on Limited Atonement.

Grace. With that, I am...


Anonymous said...

Your blog is an encouragement for me. Reading it has been beneficial. Today, I was called an Arminian because I hold to the two wills of God. In my discouragement and puzzlement over people, I turned to the web to clear my thoughts and take care of emails. Then thought I would check out some blogs. Front and center was this post.

You cannot know who will read your writings. Today, it was healing.

Puritan said...

Brother, we've been having some debate over this. See Calvin Disagrees With James White On John 3:16

It seems many Calvinists buy White's arguments no questions asked because they see it as rockets to fire at the Arminians.

My concern is that the result of this high-calvinist position is a loveless Gospel. I've seen countless witnessing/open-air preaching where the evangelist is more concerned about carefully constructing what he says so he doesn't give anyone the impression Jesus died for them, than he has for the soul of the lost person.

jorrj said...

Tony hi i'm from Romania and i'd like to listen ''Narow Maind'' and I hear you there and also I visit your web page. May God continue to work in you and through you in sprending the grace of God. Here is a good link for you to study: I want you to know that even in Romania the Doctrines of Grace it spreading too. So Halelu-Yah. SOLI DEO GLORIA & NIHIL SINE DEO.