Fred Sanders, Wesleyan theologian, is interviewed by John Starke and it is interesting reading, I particularly enjoyed this bit, which I think is a fair and, frankly, knockout critique of Calvinism. (HT Marc)
What kept you from making the leap to Calvinism?
Well, I do consider it a kind of leap, and the place to leap off of
would be Romans 9. I have felt the attraction of that reading. You would
have to run all the way to the end of Paul's line of argument there
about the election of Israel and their role in salvation history, which
in context are all historical arguments, and then decide that it applies
to individual people, to all individual people, from before creation.
That is, the exegetical key to the Calvinist view is that the overall
drift of Paul's argument demands that the theological points involved
should be transposed into a higher order. I don't mean that's how all
Calvinists get to their conclusions, I mean that's where I would make
the case if I were persuaded of the Calvinist view of election.
Romans 9 as a key jumping-off point, it seems to me that the rest of
Scripture furnishes the vocabulary used in Calvinistic predestination
(Exodus! Ephesians!), but not the necessary argument and demonstration.
I'm perfectly comfortable with using a key text or two as guidance in
interpreting the rest of Scripture: that's the kind of hermeneutical
procedure that makes me a Trinitarian (with the highest possible level
of certainty and commitment) and a premillenialist (with a considerably
lower level of certainty and commitment). But I'm just not persuaded
that Romans 9 is the place to make one of those transcendental leaps; or
that it means what Calvinists take it to mean.
Without some kind of platform like that, I can't launch the Calvinist
rocket. Election and predestination are awesome, revealed realities of
salvation, but the Calvinist construals and constructions of them
generate a web of doctrinal inferences that clash with other biblical
truths. I can't do limited atonement or irresistible grace, to pluck at
two of the most vulnerable petals of the tulip. I can't affirm the
perseverance of the saints as part of the predestinarian package, though
I could re-state the core concern as something like the irreversibility
of salvation, and (perhaps being a bad Wesleyan) affirm that.
That isn't a full critique of Calvinism, but I'm responding to the
question autobiographically rather than systematically. This is why I
didn't make the leap.
Let me know what you think, :-)