Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dave Hunt Celebrates The Reformation in February

Most folks stopping by probably know the Reformation is usually remembered as an October event. Popular author Dave Hunt though has dedicated his entire Berean Call February Newsletter to the Reformation.

The Issue is entitled, Reformation Rejection: shamefully, double-crossing evangelicals have reversed the Reformation, railroading believers back toward the reign of Rome.

Hunt is surprisingly sympathetic to Luther in this article. He gives a quick overview of the causes of Reformation- basically getting his facts right- although at one point he refers to the “fifteenth-century Reformation” (it’s the sixteenth century Reformation Dave).

Dave rallies against Protestants who take part in “ecumenical compromise- like the 1999 joint declaration between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Hunt asks: “How can those who profess to admire Luther and the Reformation defend Catholicism?

Dave Hunt passionately says:

Although the Roman Catholic Church no longer burns opponents at the stake (a practice now repugnant even to the secular world), it still maintains every false teaching and practice opposed by Luther and his fellow Reformers, thereby deceiving countless millions. It still teaches salvation through baptism, good works, and the other sacraments mediated by Mary as the “doorway to Christ”; it still offers indulgences at a price for release from purgatory to heaven; and it still rejects the final authority of Scripture! All of the anathemas pronounced by Trent against Protestant beliefs remain in full force and effect. Yet many of Luther’s modern followers now embrace Roman Catholicism as the true gospel!”

Martin Luther and the other Reformers would have died at the stake rather than sign such documents as JDDJ and ECT! How do we explain today’s denial of all that the Reformation stood for by those who claim to honor it and to follow in the faith of the Reformers?”

Hunt asks five good questions:

Though lip service is still given to the Reformation, the deep convictions that birthed it have been compromised. The hour grows late and the evangelical church desperately needs to face some honest questions:

1) What was the purpose of the Reformation?

2) Was its uncompromising affirmation of biblical truth appropriate in Luther’s day but not now?

3) What did it stand for at that time, at the cost of so many martyrs and so much suffering, that should now be denied?

4) Have Jesus Christ and His gospel changed?

5) Has any belief or practice changed in the Catholic Church that would justify evangelicals embracing Catholicism as the biblical gospel?”

Here’s the irony: I would love to ask Dave Hunt these same five questions. I think Hunt would do well to look at his own understanding of the Reformation- and ask himself if his theology isn’t itself a denial of the Reformation. This is what I mean: by Hunt’s denial of a key Reformation concept, he in effect denies the entirety of the Reformation.

In Luther’s closing remarks to Erasmus in his monumental work, The Bondage of the Will, Luther states:

I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit.”

Source: LW 33:294.

What was the question on which the entire Reformation hinges? Was it indulgences, Purgatory, or good works? Was it Mary as “the doorway to Christ?” Luther say things like this are alienis, that is, extraneous- or trifles. The real issue was the freedom or bondage of the human will. Thomas Nettles sums it up this way:

If all hinges on something outside of man, immediately a controversy arises with reference to “the freedom and powers of the will.” If one has any ability to serve God acceptably, then he is not saved only by the merit of Christ but will attribute part to himself. Their “opponents”[of the Reformers] maintained, in spite of holding the doctrine of original sin, that “the powers of man are only weakened, not wholly depraved.” The grace of Christ, therefore, aiding him, the sinner has something “from himself which he is able to contribute.” The reformers maintained that the sinner “possesses no ability whatever to act aright.” These teachings called for an alteration of the Roman system from its roots; they made Luther at odds with the entire theological world.”
Source: Thomas J. Nettles, “Reformation and Revival” [Reformation and Revival Vol 1.2 28-29].

What is the hinge upon which the whole Reformation turned? It is the realization of the enslaved will- the total depravity of mankind. Luther came to realize the depravity of mankind and the beautiful grace of Christ that sets the enslaved sinner free from bondage. The will itself is in bondage to sin. It can do nothing God pleasing to merit salvation- not a work or positive inclination. It is dedicated to God-hatred until God sets it free. What does Dave Hunt think of the bondage of the human will?

Dave Hunt makes no hesitation in denying the bondage to sin of the human will- thus, at the most important point in Reformation doctrine, Hunt denies the Reformation. In his book, What Love Is This? Hunt launches into a lengthy section attacking Luther’s book, the Bondage of the Will. He states:

Luther boasts of his conclusion without giving any valid supporting arguments. He secures his thesis by his own mere definition, not by logic or Scripture. His assertions above do not follow. Nor does he provide sufficient biblical support in this entire work to make his case for the will being in bondage.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [Second edition] page 219.

Throughout Bondage, Luther is like a bully who will not listen to reason. Yet Packer and other Calvinists praise the “dialectical strength of Luther ’s powerful Latin.” B.B. Warfield calls Bondage “a dialectic and polemic masterpiece. In fact, Bondage contains so many contradictions and so much fallacious reasoning that one wonders how it obtained its reputation as such a logically drawn treatise.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [Second edition] page 227.

That the will —contrary to what Luther argues in his greatest treatise —is not bound is clear. We have already refuted the argument that, because the will is always beset with influences, that proves it is not free. Man, as Paul admits in his case (Romans 7:7-25), often fails to do what he would like to do —but not always. Paul doesn’t say that he never can do what he wills —much less that his will is in bondage.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [second edition] page 228.

Even though there would be major differences in the religious expression of Dave Hunt and Desiderius Erasmus, at the most fundamental point they are united against Luther. Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dispensationalist stand together in unity. While Hunt can rally against the Papacy, Purgatory or Mary, these are really nothing in comparison to the devastating effect of inserting free will into one’s theology. By doing so, Hunt has in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.

In his book Willing to Believe, R.C. Sproul points out that the Arminian position (someone like Dave Hunt holds) is really a return to the works righteousness of Rome:

Packer and Johnston note that later Reformed theology, however, condemned Arminianism as a betrayal of the Reformation and in principle as a return to Rome. They point out that Arminianism ‘in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.’ We notice that this charge is qualified by the words in effect. Usually Arminians deny that their faith is a meritorious work. If they were to insist that faith is a meritorious work, they would be explicitly denying justification by faith alone. The Arminian acknowledges that faith is something a person does. It is a work, though not a meritorious one. Is it a good work? Certainly it is not a bad work. It is good for a person to trust in Christ and in Christ alone for his or her salvation. Since God commands us to trust in Christ, when we do so we are obeying this command. But all Christians agree that faith is something we do. God does not do the believing for us. We also agree that our justification is by faith insofar as faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. All the Arminian wants and intends to assert is that man has the ability to exercise the instrumental cause of faith without first being regenerated. This position clearly negates sola gratia, but not necessarily sola fide.

Then why say that Arminianism “in effect” makes faith a meritorious work? Because the good response people make to the gospel becomes the ultimate determining factor in salvation. I often ask my Arminian friends why they are Christians and other people are not. They say it is because they believe in Christ while others do not. Then I inquire why they believe and others do not? “Is it because you are more righteous than the person who abides in unbelief?” They are quick to say no. “Is it because you are more intelligent?” Again the reply is negative. They say that God is gracious enough to offer salvation to all who believe and that one cannot be saved without that grace. But this grace is cooperative grace. Man in his fallen state must reach out and grasp this grace by an act of the will, which is free to accept or reject this grace. Some exercise the will rightly (or righteously), while others do not. When pressed on this point, the Arminian finds it difficult to escape the conclusion that ultimately his salvation rests on some righteous act of the will he has performed. He has “in effect” merited the merit of Christ, which differs only slightly from the view of Rome.”

If the Scriptures are correct on total depravity, then no such “work” of faith is possible- in other words- Hunt's concept of non-meritorious faith really is an empty, meaningless theological concept .OK, I know Arminians like Dave Hunt do not believe that placing faith in Christ is a work. But, if the Arminian theological paradigm allows man to do at least one good thing pleasing to God: believing on Christ- then a fallen man can do at least one good thing on his own- he has the ability to do something that merits grace. Goodbye Reformation- hello chaos.

In effect, Hunt denies the Reformation by his doctrine of free will- and makes possible things like ECT and JDDJ. Because of the virus of free will inserted into a theological system, all sorts of deviant theology can abound. In other words- theology like that put forth by Dave Hunt makes possible the gross heresies we find today rampant in evangelicalism. It's the common ground of free will Dave that theology like yours share with Roman Catholics and double crosses those of us dedicated to the Reformation.


Robbie said...

Simply excellent James! My thoughts exactly. Very good blog post, brother!

James Swan said...

Thanks Robbie- You wouldn't by any chance be the "robbie" I ment on the Reformed Concepts list, would you?

FM483 said...

The Scriptures definately say that all men are born DEAD in their transgressions(Ephesians 2::5). Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ were born NOT of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God(John 1:13). This is such an elusive fact to many people - that God is the one Who not only creates, but re-creates through His activity independent of human cooperation - in fact in spite of human resistance! Even John the Baptist initially resisted the baptism of Jesus, as he embraced the man-made religion of the world that man comes to God but not the reverse. However, God is always the one Who seeks the lost and is the active one to pacify a Just and Loving God through His perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus is the Perfect Penitent Man, the only sinless man, Who repents for the entire human race and unites Himself with all men in His baptism. This is required for the fulfillment of all Righteousness(Matthew 3:15). In baptism Jesus unites His perfection with the sins of believers in what Luther refers to as The Blessed Exchange. Jesus gives believers His Righteousness while sinners in turn only have their sins to give, so that on the cross Jesus became SIN for mankind(2Cor 5:21). This Blesssed Exchange begins as man becomes united with Christ in baptism(Romans 6:4). This is how baptism saves(1Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16). Everything is the work of God. Man is purely passive. This is so difficult for men to comprehend, since even our thought processes were affected by the Fall of Adam and the entrance of sin into creation. That is why non-Lutheran Protestants have a difficult time with the Means of Grace, refusing to believe the plain words of Scripture as to the choices God has made to generate saving faith within man so that the benefits of the cross become personal, creating assurance of salvation through the works of Christ ALONE, not oneself.

-Frank Marron

centuri0n said...

Oh, that's exactly right: I'd love to ask Hunt those 5 questions just to see what he would say.

johnMark said...

I can tell you what he'd say, but if I repeated it to you exactly as he said it you wouldn't understand a word.


Robbie said...

James Swan said...
Thanks Robbie- You wouldn't by any chance be the "robbie" I ment on the Reformed Concepts list, would you?

3:22 PM, February 27, 2006

That would be me! :-)

PeaceByJesus said...

Perhaps here is where i should ask some questions that beset me in this issue.

I see man as dead in trespasses and sins, (Eph. 2:1) and that God elects not on the basis of works, (Rm. 11:6) though response is needed, (Rm. 10:9,10) but that He surely draws souls, (Jn. 6:44; 12:32) opens hearts, (Acts 16:14) and grants repentance, (Acts 11:18) and gives faith, (Eph. 2:9) in moving man to do what he normally could not and would not do, that of turning from darkness to light, (Jn. 3:19-21) to believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation, faith instrumentally procuring justification, (Rm. 4) and thus is born again. (Acts 2:38; Eph. 1:13)

I know the problem here is that of a dead man responding before regeneration, but that seems to be the order in the last two verses, although Jn. 11 (as a type) is invoked for regeneration prior to conversion, as might Acts 15:8,9, if chronological, although 1Cor. 6:11 could be for the other chronology.

Of course, this is all one event, and the objection is that God had to move and enable them to respond, which i affirm, but is it a limitation God's saving grace as to enable one to call upon Christ, and then be sealed? How did souls in the O.T. do so? Also Acts 8:15,16 even seems to teach regeneration did not occur until after souls believed.

I also understand why there seems to be an disallowance against any free will response of man being necessary in order to be born again, but if God moves and enables man to do what he would and could not, calling upon Christ and becoming born again, then some exercise of will is involved, but salvation is “not of works,” as it given due to moral worthiness, but is pure grace. Election itself excludes works, (Rm. 11:6) but enables one to respond.

The next issue is whether God's drawing can be resisted, which we have texts which seem to say both, and has required much ink to deal with.

But if not, then the unanswered moral question is, how can one be damned for what he did not do? That is, man is born unable to repent, and must sin, and will be damned for doing the latter and not doing the former.

I do not see Rm. 5:12 as teaching that we are guilty of Adam's sin, but though in this life we suffer effects of the actions of others, eternal damnation is based upon what we are culpable for. (Dt. 24:16) Sinners can be damned for how much the sinned when they could have resisted it, (Gn. 4:7) but their basic damnation for doing what they cannot help to some degree, and not repenting in faith, which they cannot.

Perhaps even if they did not receive irresistible grace, but are given grace to respond at some level, in which they were as perfectly able as Adam not to sin, but do, can make sinners culpable, as well as the degree they sin as a consequence.

If man can resist God's grace, then the argument is that this means God is not almighty, and or that man is meriting salvation, but the almighty need not exercise all His might, while the response itself is not the basis for salvation, as if morally meriting it, but God justifies the unGodly. (Rm. 4:5) (Yet it is by a faith that effects obedience, thus justifying one as having such faith.)

PeaceByJesus said...

While Hunt can rally against the Papacy, Purgatory or Mary, these are really nothing in comparison to the devastating effect of inserting free will into one’s theology.

There is some difference, due to what it translates into. Rome's soteriology is salvation by grace thru merit, that by God's grace man does works by which he may be said to have truly merited eternal life, and an entire bureaucratic system is involved in ritually dispensing this grace from her treasury and making man worthy to gain eternal life based upon his merits and that of the church.

And while her theologians try to define merit in the contexts of God's faithfulness, and the church as an instrument of grace, whatever degree of correction this may offer, what Rome effectually fosters is confidence in her power and personal merit as the hope of eternal life, by the mercy of God. Catholics are (typically) treated as Christians due to being baptized as infants (some Protestant churches sadly do the same) and perhaps a perfunctory profession afterward. Moreover, much assurance is given them of the power of the one true church, and are not preached to in such a way as to effect conviction “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” (Jn. 16:9) and of their damned and destitute state, and thus their need for a day of salvation, and trusting Christ to save them by His blood, out a poor and contrite heart.

Whereas in evangelical Arminian churches, despite what their soteriology is supposed to do, the lost can be often preached to as being utterly destitute of any merit whereby they may escape their just and eternal damnation or to gain Heaven, and of their needs for salvation, but can only look to the mercy of God in Christ, trusting the risen Lord Jesus to save them on His expense and righteous. While the response is called for in order to receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, which Peter did himself, that is not held as making one one morally worthy for eternal life.

No doubt the apostles would find many correctors today for calling souls to make a response in order to be forgiven, and warning believers of apostasy, (Gal. 5:1-4) and some today go as far as disallowing Arminian believers from being part if the elect, but little theology is needed to be saved, and faith in the mercy of God in Christ out of a broken heart and contrite spirit is what God looks for, and which is what i hear from both camps, rather than confidence in one's merit or church for salvation.

Ken said...

Peace by Jesus -
James may or may not add something -

I can appreciate what appears to be a sincere wrestling with these issues.

For now, I can only recommend that you read the 3 books I referenced in "the root of Man-made religion" (August 18, 2011 - which I think you came to James' original article which I linked to because of Luther's quote.

3 good books that will help:
Chosen for Life - Sam Storms
The Potter's Freedom - James White
Willing to Believe - R. C. Sproul

Also John Piper's
The Justification of God
The Pleasures of God

and his sermons on Romans 5:12-21 at

Here is one of those sermons: