What is Calvinism? everything you need to know about Calvinism...and then some, Peter Lumpkins, Carrollton, GA: Free Church Press, 2013, 1939283035, 42 pages.
This second booklet in the Free Church Press booklet series was released in March 2013. It is "part of...a series focusing on biblical, theological, and moral issues facing today's Christians." It seems quite provocative and attention-getting to subtitle a 42 page booklet "everything you need to know about Calvinism...and then some"! Yet it is a serious and honest title, reflecting what the author thinks one needs to know -- not everything one might want to know. To better understand this the reader should realize that the author believes Calvinism is a doctrinal system that has deviated from the truth. Therefore, what one needs to know is what it is and that it is wrong. Further, Lumpkins writes from his context within the Southern Baptist Convention.
What is Calvinism begins with the concerns of two modern Southern Baptist Convention presidents over the difficulties and dangers the future SBC may face over Calvinism. Quickly, Lumpkins moves to introduce Augustine and John Calvin, and then define "What is Calvinism." The author sums up Calvinism in T.U.L.I.P. soteriology, aka "the doctrines of grace" or "the five points of Calvinism". Some may take issue with the idea that T.U.L.I.P. = Calvinism. But in a Baptist belief system, surely (and hopefully) Calvinism never means much more than that. No doubt one would not argue against this being "what is the common theology among Calvinists (p. 5)." After defining each of the five petals of the T.U.L.I.P. ("the way Calvinists believe it"), the author remonstrates with five terms of doctrine to substitute for or prefer over the five points of Calvinism ("reservations Christian like myself profess").
In the end Lumpkins concludes that "Calvinism is a system of theology which contains some truth and some error (p. 34)." "And then some" finishes the book with a short essay by Z. T. Cody, "Are Baptists Calvinists?"
While some have complained that Lumpkins does not fairly represent Calvinism, I see no reason to agree with such a complaint. When one summarizes the general belief that is called Calvinism, one cannot include all that every Calvinist believes. One example of not including everything can be seen in the author's formula of "Limited Atonement = God didn't intend to save all even though He provided for all." It is a debate within Calvinism itself whether limited atonement "provides for all." In the belief of many God only intended to save AND only provided for His elect. The milder definition, though, is probably representative of most Southern Baptist Calvinists (what we might call "Fullerism" or "Amyraldism"). Of the five "formulas" (e.g. Total Depravity = Total Death) I felt that the fifth was the least helpful, on the perseverance of the saints. I prefer terminology for this doctrine other than what is commonly used with T.U.L.I.P. And, while I would agree that for the systematic Calvinist perseverance is a "logical deduction from unconditional election (p. 15)," I don't see that as the best formula for explaining it. It seemed more like finding something to disagree with in something the author agrees with.
In the midst of the Limited Atonement discussion, the author digresses into a story about Bob and Dan, "A Parable of Two Brothers and Two Endings." The story is well designed to do what it does -- to steer the reader to a sense of unfairness and moral outrage toward the doctrine. From the opposite direction this story does similarly to what Calvinists do. Calvinists move people along on the logic of their system to accept the the concept of Limited Atonement. Lumpkins moves people along on their feelings to reject the concept of Limited Atonement. What we need to know is whether, according to the revelation of Scripture, God can choose one and reject another. And if He can, did He or did He not choose one and reject another?
I didn't find Z. T. Cody's essay to be a particularly strong way to end the book. I found it interesting nonetheless, especially as he discussed the source of freedom being different from the "Baptist" and the "Calvinist" perspective. Overall I think the author accomplished what he intended to do -- to define Calvinism as he sees it and to tell you what he thinks you need to know about it. The book will be useful and helpful. If you're looking for support for the Calvinistic soteriology -- wrong book. The purchaser should be aware that this book will not tell you why to believe in the five points of Calvinism, but why not.