The Christian Sentinel August 2003
Why do so many Christian bookstores refuse to carry popular author Dave Hunts book, "What Love is This?" Well, the subtitle gives a clue: "Calvinisms Misrepresentation of God." One doesnt come against a major portion of Protestant Christianity without running into trouble.
Hunt has dared to scrutinize Reformed theology without couching it in terminology one would need a divinity degree to understand. Prior to the release of this 2002 book published by Loyal Publishing, other books have been published critical of Calvinism, but most were geared toward other theologians, not meant for a general Christian readership.
Although the book is user-friendly it is still filled with deep thoughts. It really cant be sped-read. Its too profound. It will have the reader thinking and digging deeper into the Word. Hunt debunks long-held ideas that many Christians have just assumed to be true but have never bothered to question the origins of those traditions.
The cover of the book quotes best-selling author Tim LaHaye as saying that "This may well be the most important book written in the twenty-first century." We have another 97 years to see whether thats true or not, but if the bookstores continue to suppress it, its impact will be somewhat limited.
Hunt characterizes Calvinism as a system that sees God as the master puppeteer pulling the strings of humanity. People are merely robots programmed by their Creator to be either sinners or saints with no free-will to choose good or evil. "Calvinists have made God the effective cause of every event that occurs," Hunt writes (pg. 126). All that happens throughout history, even the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, happened because God has so willed it. Hunt says that makes God the source of sin.
"This continual emphasis upon Gods sovereignty to the exclusion of His love, mercy and grace dominates the thinking of Calvinists," Hunt asserts (pg. 213). And the author assures the reader that "care is being taken to be certain that Calvinism is fairly presented and clearly understood in order not to charge Calvinists falsely" (pg. 317).
The book takes apart the systematized theology of T-U-L-I-P, an acronym used to represent the five points of Calvinism. Hunt writes, "We consider TULIP to be a libel against our loving and merciful God as He reveals himself both in His Word and in human conscience" (pg. 304). Most Calvinists would see these as fighting words.
Hunt describes what Calvinists mean by each of the letters in TULIP and spends about two chapters per letter examining the beliefs against the Word of God. He quotes many Calvinist writers -- both modern and historical -- and tests their claims against Scripture. The Whos Who of Calvinists he cites are such highly respected names that some readers may be reluctant to go along with him. They include Arthur Pink, D. James Kennedy, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Robert Morey, B. B. Warfield, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Jay Adams, J. I. Packer and of course John Calvin.
Since Hunt believes in the doctrine of eternal security, he does not take issue with the idea of "once saved, always saved." It might have made the book more interesting if he had shown the Arminian arguments for the teaching that true believers can apostatize from the faith. Instead, he turns the argument into an issue over the assurance of the believer in the last point of TULIP.
Before the book was published Hunt sent copies of his manuscript to several Calvinists for their input. Many told him he was not qualified to evaluate Calvinism. "Calvinists insist that it requires special . . . preparation for anyone to become qualified to examine that peculiar doctrine in light of the Bible, " Hunt noted and asks "Why?" "If special expertise were required to test Calvinism against Scripture, surely that would be proof in itself that this peculiar doctrine did not come from valid biblical exegesis. Anything that enigmatic, by very definition, could not have been derived from the Bible, which itself claims to be written for the simple" (pg. 26).
If Hunt, a Christian author of over 20 books, is not qualified to test the claims of Calvinism by Scripture, then the average Christian sure cant either and I guess were supposed to believe it on the word of the academically qualified seminary graduates.
"What Love is This?" could easily be labeled as divisive. But that doesnt mean it shouldnt be read and the arguments weighed and examined by thinking Christians. Hunt asks an important question, "if Calvinism is true Christianity, would that mean that non-Calvinists are not Christians?" (pg. 19). If Calvinists make that claim, then theyre the ones causing the division.
No staunch Calvinist can read this book without being offended. You dont label a persons belief system as false and unloving without getting a negative reaction. And Hunts treatment of the Reformer John Calvin, a man revered by all Calvinists, is perhaps the most controversial element of this book.
Hunt refers to Calvin as the "Protestant Pope" and documents that Calvin wrote his major theological treatise "Institutes of the Christian Religion" while a new convert from Catholicism and only one-year-old in the Lord. He shows Calvins source of doctrine as coming from St. Augustine, the so-called doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. Hunt calls Calvinism an "unbiblical system of religion devised by an immature believer and then dogmatically upheld not only by him but by his followers today" (pg. 305).
In chapter five, Hunt gives a history lesson of John Calvins state-church system in Geneva, Switzerland where non-Calvinists were tortured and burned at the stake if they disagreed with Calvins theology. Hunt notes that "Calvin is defended with the plea that such dealings were common practice and that he should be judged by the standard of his time. Do Calvins defenders really mean that new creatures in Christ Jesus are to rise no higher than the conventions of their culture and moment in history?" (pg. 71)
If this book whets the appetite of Christians who are studying the Bible to decide for themselves what side to align with, the book Hunt is now working on should help quite a bit. Hunt and Reformed theologian James White are putting their arguments in writing so that both sides of the debate can be fairly presented. The Calvinism debate book is expected to be released sometime in the fall of 2003 by Multnomah Press.
In the next Update we hope to report on the response "What Love is This?" is receiving in Calvinist circles and examine the claims of the critics.