Today I got to go listen to David Allen field some questions from students over at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the fellow who falsely labels Dr. James White a hyper-Calvinist, and that accusation, along with other statements he made at the recent John 3:16 Conference, have caused all sorts of questions to be raised. He was gracious enough to allow studens to ask him those questions and he attempted to answer them. He was very gracious, humble, and charitable. I was trying to take notes, and sometimes when a person was asking a question, I could not figure out what the question was, because they were so convoluted with the "back story" to their questions. So I give him credit for trying to answer questions in which it was hard to figure out what the question actually was. I think only one questioner was not a Calvinist, so it was mostly Reformed folk who showed up. But, despite his charity, I must say that in the end, he gave a lot of double talk. Most of the questions had to do with his rather uncharitable past comments about Calvinists, and so the students were wondering how he reconciled that with his otherwise "can't we all just get along" attitude. And I could never really figure out his answers, because they came from both sides of his mouth. A step towards 5-point Calvinism is a step away from the gospel, but there is room for them in the SBC. How does that work out? Well...I couldn't tell from his answers.
Other thoughts, collected from my notes.
He told the story of town in which there was a non-Calvinist SBC church in the same area as two Calvinist SBC churches, and that the Calvinists were telling people at the first church that they should leave that church because it wasn't preaching the full gospel. Dr. Allen says this is wrong. Or, as I interpreted it, it is wrong to warn people to flee from a burning building. A student asked if such a nasty tactic by those Calvinists was any different than Dr. Allen's saying that a step toward 5-point Calvinism is a step away from the gospel. His answer is that it's not the same. We can all claim that another view-point is wrong (as Dr. Allen is doing), but it is wrong to tell people to leave the churches where that wrong view-point is being preached. Or, again in my interpretation, it is okay to tell people that their building is on fire, but it is wrong to warn them to escape from it. All this just amounts to double-talk to me.
Dr. Allen, while deploring the fact that many of his fellow non-Calvinists falsely equate 5-point Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism (they are not the same, he rightly says), he does point out that one cannot become a hyper-Calvinist without first being a 5-pointer. The one thing that links 5-pointers with hypers is the belief in limited atonement. And history has shown that hypers started out as regular 5-pointers. So a student said that hey, this can go the other way, too. You can't be a Univeralist without first being a non-Calvinist. The one thing that links regular non-Calvinists with Universalists is the belief in unlimited atonement. History has shown that all Universalists started out as non-Calvinists, and history has shown that there have been a lot more Universalists than hyper-Calvinists. So that nullifies Dr. Allen's silly point. No, Dr. Allen says, it doesn't because that's not really the same thing or something...I don't know...blah blah blah double talk. It's okay for him to make certain types of arguments, but not for Calvinists to do the same.
One more thing. You may have noticed that I have kept saying "non-Calvinist" rather than "Arminian". That is because David Allen says that he is not an Arminian. But he's not a Calvinist either. Fine. Though I wonder how it is that a "4-point Calvinist" is a "classical/moderate Calvinist" while a 4-point Arminian is not an Arminian at all. Just wondering.
Unfortunately, there was no real biblical discussion because most of the questions were of a "don't you think your comments are mean?" nature. So not really questions of biblical interpretation, you see.
But then again, if you have listened to David Allen's presentation at the John 3:16 conference, then you know there wasn't a lot of biblical discussion there, either.