I was talking with a friend of mine recently (the unnamed one), and we discussed the rise of moderate Calvinism among modern evangelical theologians. I'm not speaking of the 4-point Calvinists (who tend to reject limited atonement outright), the dispensationalists, or nearly Arminian fundamentalists, but the Calvinist scholars who actually influence the community of TULIP Calvinists. I asked my friend if he didn't think R. T. Kendall was one of the first of his kind in the late 20th century.
My friend said that Kendall may not be the first, but was certainly early, and has been very influential. He said that there is a great irony here, because without the vociferous (and seemingly endless) criticism that Kendall has received, he would not have been influential at all.
This is probably true, but I find it most telling that Kendall seems to inspire a constant impulse to refute him.
This, to me, speaks of the power of his thesis. The power of Kendall's argument comes not from his historical analysis (which some have criticized ... though I have no strong quarrel with Kendall on this point ... though I'm no historian), but from his analysis of the issues involved in the question of Calvin's theology. The question, of course is this: did Calvin teach limited atonement? Kendall answers that question not by directing us to statements about the atonement itself, but by looking at Calvin's doctrine of faith and the subsequent development of the doctrine of faith and assurance in English Calvinism.
Kendall's thesis is, in my view and as I have said before, devastating. And that is what (in a way) engenders the constant desire to refute him. He strongly shows that Calvin could not have taught limited atonement ("limited atonement" meaning "Christ did not die for some men") while teaching the doctrine of faith that he did. But what has not been analyzed (though Nicole does mention it) in these critiques (as far as my limited historical knowledge permits me to make this statement) is the question of Calvin's doctrine of faith. The analysis of Kendall tends to be about Calvin's doctrine of the atonement, while very little is said about Calvin's doctrine of faith. Do today's evangelical churches and seminaries hold Calvin's doctrine of faith?
One corollary of Kendall's thesis is that insofar as modern Calvinism holds to certain forms of limited atonement, they cannot teach Calvin's doctrine of faith. This ought to rock us to our core. But the question seems to be ignored by diversion to the more controverted question of Calvin's doctrine of the atonement. But I believe it is Kendall's strong argument that puts the burr under the saddle of his critics -- or at least it ought to be.