Dave Hunt is a nationally known speaker and teacher on biblical issues. He admits that he had hardly given Calvinism a thought for years prior to publishing this book. It wasn’t until he became repeatedly confronted with the topic in conversations with other people that he began to look at it more closely. He says this book was one he did not want to write because of its controversial nature. Nevertheless, with Calvinism being so widely and aggressively promoted he felt it was time that its teachings “be faced and dealt with thoroughly” (p. 15).
Hunt is very thorough in his research on Calvinism. He provides plenty of quotes from John Calvin and his Institutes, from leading Calvinists of our day—R. C. Sproul, John Piper, James White, and includes the more classical Calvinist’s such as Arthur Pink, Edwin Palmer, and Loraine Boettner. These quotations provide the reader with an accurate description of Calvinism’s biblical and philosophical system. This is probably his most valuable contribution.
Remaining true to his book title and general thesis, Hunt says, “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” (p. 304). Hunt believes,
the Bible’s clear language would compel any reader to conclude that God loves all, that God is genuinely striving to convince wicked men to repent and to accept His offer of salvation, that men have the capability of responding when drawn by the Holy Spirit and convicted of their guilt and need, and that though all are drawn, some are convinced and willingly respond while others refuse. (p. 115)
Hunt also believes that “Calvinism drives us into an irrational dead end” (p. 105), because it asks us to hold to a number of intellectual “paradoxes” which are nothing but outright contradictions. For example,
Palmer calls it a paradox that “although man is totally depraved and unable to believe, and that although faith is a gift of God produced by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, nevertheless, it is up to man to believe. He has the duty to obey God’s command to believe.” This is no paradox; it is a contradiction. No one can justly be held accountable for failing to do what it is impossible for him to do. (p. 131)
Throughout the book, Hunt raises all the biblical and philosophical problems that have continually plagued the theology of Calvinism. While this is a strength of the book, it nevertheless has a number of shortcomings of which I will mention just a few.
Hunt is an inconsistent Calvinist in that he holds to the fifth point of Calvinism—perseverance of the saints (otherwise known as unconditional security or once saved, always saved), while denying the other four points. He does voice disagreements with how this point is articulated by Classical Calvinists, but in the end he adheres to its foundational teaching—it is impossible for genuine believers to develop a sinful and unbelieving heart that turns away from God (Heb 3:12).
Hunt disappointedly makes Jacob Arminius appear to be someone who believed in unconditional security in writing, “with these words, [Arminius] defended himself against the false charge that he taught the doctrine of falling away: “At no period have I asserted ‘that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation’” (pp. 76-77).
While this quote may be located in The Works of James Arminius [1:741], Hunt does not give the full argument of Arminius. On the next page Arminius explained that it was impossible for believers, “as long as they remain believers, to decline [or fall away] from salvation. . . . On the other hand, if believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation.” Thus, Arminius concluded, “It is possible for believers finally to fall away or decline from the faith.” In other words, Arminius never taught that one moment of faith secures one’s eternal destiny, which is so popularly taught today by modified Calvinists — and apparently by Dave Hunt as well.
Carl Bangs, the authority on Arminius, wrote in the annotated edition of The Works of James Arminius, that the section just quoted, as well as another section on the perseverance of the saints, reveal the leaning of Arminius against the doctrine of the final perseverance of all true believers.
The restrictions in these two passages are perfectly in unison with the rest of our author’s system, which recognizes, as believers, those christian characters alone who continue to believe and do not fall from their own steadfastness. (2 Pet. 3:17.) But it also accounts it possible for those very characters to imitate the change in conduct of that faithful and wise steward, described by our Lord (Luke 12:42) as saying in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming!; and who [in consequence] began to beat the men-servants. . . . The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers!” [Works, 1:665].
Hunt’s book has garnered a lot of attention by Calvinists and Non-Calvinists. Go to Amazon.com and see over 80 online reviews of his book. Most of the reviewers either give the book 5 stars or 1 star. It is neither that stellar nor that awful. In my opinion, Hunt is too emotional, unnecessarily repetitive, and occasionally awkward in his flow of thought. For the most part his exegesis is adequate, at other times weak to sometimes poor. A much better book that avoids these weaknesses and defends the conditional security of the believer has previous been reviewed in the Arminian—Grace, Faith, Free Will. Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, by Robert Picirilli.
Readers should note that Multnomah will be publishing a book called Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. It is to be released in February of 2004, with James White and Dave Hunt debating the two views.
Respectfully submitted, Mr.Steve Witzki