Friday, January 13, 2006

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Three): A Look At The Interpretation Of Dave Hunt

This is a continuation of my look at a few different non-reformed writers who disagree that Philippians 1:29 teaches faith is God’s gift. Specifically, I’m directing my scrutiny towards those writers who have written full works against Calvinism.

Dave Hunt has taken a lot of time to (cough, cough) “refute” the errors of Calvinism. In 2002 he published, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God (for all you avid collectors, used copies of the first edition go for around $65 and up). In 400+ pages, the 1st edition offers nothing on Philippians 1:29. In the revised self-published 2004 edition, Dave upped the page total to over 500+, but still didn’t mention Philippians 1:29.

The passage was eventually brought to Hunt’s attention by James White in the book, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. Hunt offered this synopsis of Philippians 1:29-

That ‘it has been granted…to believe in Him” (Philippians 1:29) does not say that faith to believe is a gift without responsibility on man’s part, but that the privilege to believe on Christ has been granted.”

Source: Dave Hunt & James White, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. (Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 213.

First, Hunt at least offers an interpretation. He interprets Philippians 1:29 to say that the “gift” is not belief or suffering, it is the “privilege to believe." This is indeed reading a word into the text, and ignoring the grammar that does say both believing and suffering are gifts. Hunt makes it clear that by “privilege” he means Man must be the deciding factor on whether or not he will have faith, because Man is responsible to make his own choice, one way or the other. It would be like saying, God has given you the choice to do the honorable thing of believing in him and suffering for him. You can always choose not to do this and just remain a plain old faithless Christian who doesn't suffer. A faithless Christian? Can there be such a thing?

Second, to follow Hunt’s logic, if it is a privilege to believe, then everyone has been given this privilege, because Hunt believes in free will and man’s ability to come to faith without God’s miraculous grace. “Privilege” implies that someone has been given something another has not, but if everyone has been given the “privilege” – can it really be said Hunt is using the word properly?

Thirdly, the biggest dilemma faced by Hunt is what to do with the word, “suffer”. In the citation by Hunt’s above, he leaves out the word entirely. If one attempts to apply Hunt’s interpretation, suffering must also be a “privilege” to either choose to partake in or not. But, suffering according to the Bible is not a choice. It is something that happens to a believer- Hunt thus destroys the parallel of belief and suffering. God is not giving the Philippians a choice to suffer. He’s giving them suffering. In the same way, God is not giving the Philippians a choice to believe, He’s giving them belief. He’s not giving them opportunities or “privleges” to suffer or believe if they want to or not- this simply isn’t in the text.


duff gordon said...

I find it ironic that Dave Hunt, the author who associates the Roman Church with the AntiChrist in his book, "The Woman Riding the Beast" (or something like that), partners WITH the Roman Catholic Church in this very important idea- that being the individual can find belief in Christ through his own disposition.

This idea of course, is clearly anti-reformed, and is the pinnacle of works-righteousness-where faith becomes the work (as opposed to the gift) one must perform in order to have ones sins forgiven by (ironically) grace.

This view is most prejudicial, because in this case, ones inherited intellegience, disposition and external factors such as "what mood I was in that day" can affect ones eternal station.

When it is boiled down then, both Hunt and his nemesis, the Roman Church hold to "works righteousness", each claiming against the scriptural truth, the giftedness of anyones desire or ability to believe in Jesus Christ-

James Swan said...

Hi Duff-

I have to admit something: I actually just downloaded the revised edition of Hunt's of "What Love Is This" in order to see if he discussed Phil. 1:29. Of coarse, he didn't. So, I ended up giving his ministry 20 bucks.

What you say about "works righteousness"is entirely true, which is why I feel a little guilty about giving his ministry money.

FM483 said...

James - The Old Adam in me feels guilty about many things. Whenever Satan accuses me of wrong thoughts or acts, I retort that I am a baptized believer in Jesus Christ and that the blood of Christ even cleanses a theologian! The Gospel always predominates - which is the reason for any assurance and comfort. Otherwise I will always be tossed to and fro on the sea of works righteousness we all sail upon in this vail of tears.

James Swan said...


spoken like a true Lutheran!

Great comment.