Dave Hunt is up to his old tricks again. A popular Christian writer and apologist, Hunt has written numerous works on the Roman Catholic Church, cults, end-times, and other popular topics. He is editor of the Berean Call, a ministry designed to "alert believers in Christ to unbiblical teachings and practices impacting the church . . ." Chalcedon's readers will be familiar with his The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days, an attack on Christian Reconstruction, and the definitive response by Ken Gentry and Gary DeMar, The Reduction of Christianity: Dave Hunt's Theology of Cultural Surrender. In his latest book, What Love is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God, Hunt turns a jaundiced eye to the doctrines of grace.1
Hunt's work begins with a misrepresentation of history and an ad hominem attack on Calvin. He claims, for instance, that Calvinism's roots are in Roman Catholicism, and that Calvin's behavior as the "Protestant Pope" of Geneva was grossly un-Christian.
Hunt time and again utilizes emotional appeals to plead his case rather than employing an exegetical analysis or literary assessment of the disputed Scriptural passages. He employs an Appeal to Pity (Argumentum ad Misericordiam) when he tells a story of a distraught pastor's wife whose husband became a Calvinist. Her husband began worrying whether or not he was one of the elect and progressed into doubts about his salvation. The woman warned her husband "that the God he was now believing in, a God who predestined people before they were even born to spend eternity in the lake of fire, was not the God I knew and loved...." This tear-drenched approach is commonplace in the writings of Dave Hunt, yet it has nothing to do with the merits of any theological system. Truth is not based upon feeling, as Hunt's methodology implies. Nor is the truth of Christianity subjective, based upon the whims of humanity.
Hunt also criticizes Calvin's approach to Scripture, arguing that "he brought his humanistic gift for logic to bear upon that which is 'spiritually discerned' (1 Corinthians 2:14.)" Logic, for Hunt, is an unspiritual technique, and Hunt repeatedly proves himself quite spiritual in that respect. Calvinism is "reformed scholasticism," Hunt charges, which reserves Scriptural interpretation to a trained "elite." Hunt also condemns Calvinism as "new truth." The doctrine of predestination, of course, has also been taught throughout the history of the church, but facts do not seem to deter Hunt from making false conclusions.
Hunt's treatment of the "Five Points of Calvinism" shows little understanding of theology and the Bible. The Canons of the Synod of Dordt assert that all men without "the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit . . . are neither able nor willing to return to God." Hunt responds by saying that this "statement is an expression of human opinion without biblical support." Of course, Calvinists glean this doctrine from the Pauline argument for depravity in Romans 3:11: "There is none who seeks for God." Hunt also builds a straw man of Calvinism when he asserts that "Calvinism is guilty of both absurdity and injustice by declaring man to be incapable of repentance and faith, then condemning him for failing to repent and believe." Hunt further argues that individuals are consigned to Hell for rejecting the Messiah, rather than for sinning in general. But Romans 6:23 states "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Given his Arminian presuppositions, Hunt struggles with the Biblical doctrine of foreknowledge. Hunt contends that "'Foreknowledge' and 'foreknow' are never used in the way the Calvinist would like to persuade us they could be." However, the entirety of Scripture attests to the contrary, both in the use of the word "foreknow" and in the context of the Biblical story. Romans 11:2 states: "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew." Concerning foreknowledge, Deuteronomy 7:6-7 states: "[T]he LORD your God has chosen you to be a people out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were fewest of all peoples."
Hunt especially despises the Reformed doctrine of predestination. Irresistible grace, Hunt contends, is an "unbiblical premise to which Calvinists cling in spite of the fact that our Lord calls to all." Failing to grasp the distinction between the general call and the effectual call, Hunt erects yet another straw man argument. It would seem appropriate for Hunt to display a moderate understanding of Reformed theology before attempting to refute it.
As a Calvinist, I cringed at Hunt's critique of the Reformed view of evangelism. Hunt asks, "Since there is nothing one can do to change one's eternal destiny . . . shouldn't one just go on with life and let the inevitable take its course?" Hunt is convinced that evangelism takes a back seat for Calvinists. However, Reformed theologians always assert the centrality of the gospel in bringing the elect unto salvation. And those whom the Lord has redeemed, Calvinists would continue, are filled with the Holy Ghost and have a desire to share the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hunt fails to account for these basic facts of evangelical theology.
Ultimately for Hunt, Calvinism is the antithesis of the "simple gospel." Such an assertion is ridiculous, given the record of evangelical Calvinism in America. The Calvinistic Puritans enthusiastically preached the same good news of Jesus Christ. Some of the greatest American evangelists were firmly committed to the doctrines of grace. Has Hunt never heard of Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield? Though Calvinists are convinced that Jesus Christ saves only the elect, it does not follow that they refuse to proclaim the gospel to all.
Hunt's scholarship is very disappointing. He relies heavily upon Will Durant, for instance, for his historical material. While interesting reading, Durant is hardly acceptable for the definite refutation of Calvinism. Hunt's book is also marred with petty details. If Calvin were the tyrant Hunt depicts him to be, why did Genevans invite him back to lead the Reformation in their city-state? If Calvinism opposes evangelism and the "simple gospel," as Hunt insists, why then was Geneva the home of the greatest missionary effort during the Protestant Reformation?
Dave Hunt's screed against Calvinism is based upon historical misrepresentation, theological ignorance, and logical fallacies. It is a popular work designed for the naive lay reader who is unaware of Hunt's inaccuracies. Dr. Elmer Towns, Dean of the School of Religion at Liberty University, upon reading What Love Is This? expressed hope that his students at Liberty University might read it, and the result of one student's reading is this review. If evangelicals do read this pitiful book, it should only be to see the grotesque and slanderous misrepresentation of Calvin and the doctrines of grace.
1. Hunt has received wide acclaim for What Love is This? Tim LaHaye, Chuck Smith, Bob Wilkin, and Elmer L. Towns have all endorsed the book. Towns states, "Dave Hunt has given exact details to show the agonizing faults of Calvinistic abuses that most people have not considered. I would like for all of my students at Liberty University to read this in-depth analysis." As a Liberty student, I was curious about Towns' endorsement. He responded to my inquiries by suggesting that I become better acquainted with church history and in particular the works of John Calvin. He also invited me to lunch at the beginning of the fall semester in 2002.
To our lunch meeting, I came armed with a copy of Hunt's book, as well as Calvin's Institutes, the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, and the London Baptist Confession. I was dismayed to find that rather than dealing with the issues at hand, Dr. Towns refused to discuss the merits of Hunt's work and proceeded to question the love of God in predestination. It was clear that his real concern was with his understanding of the doctrine of grace, and not specifically with either Calvin or Hunt. Towns eventually admitted to reading only select portions of Hunt's work, but suggested that since Dave Hunt was not known as a scholar, a cursory remark would pass over easily without much notice.
- Christopher Petrovich
Christopher Petrovich is pursuing an MA in Christian History and Theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He has a particular interest in the role that Reformed theology should play in the development of contemporary Amish theology.