Sunday, April 23, 2006

Berating Calvinism: One Book, One Disgruntled Charismatic

Have you ever seen the movie “Meet The Parents”? Remember how tortuous it was to watch the character played by Ben Stiller? In every scene, something goes wrong, to the point that at times you wonder if you can actually watch the movie. Well, that’s similar to the feeling I got reading Dave Hunt’s chapters in the book, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views (Oregon: Multnomah Press, 2004). With each turn of the page, Dave Hunt made one bad argument after another.

Dave Hunt’s chapters are difficult to read. He shows himself totally at a loss to understand the view he’s trying to defeat. Was it a fair debate? Not really. Hunt really is not qualified to debate on this subject. His only qualification is his popularity as an author. In regard to presenting a coherent opposing view, many others could’ve probably done much better. On the other hand, I’m thankful James White took the time to respond to Dave Hunt. This book serves as an excellent tool to point out the muddled thinking masquerading as Biblical truth put forth by many non-Reformed writers.

Recently a devoted charismatic-pro-word-of-faith gentleman named Victoryword read this book and asked for opinions about it. Mr. Victoryword is no fan of Dave Hunt (to Hunt’s credit, he’ll have nothing to do with the ‘word of faith’ movement). Victoryword offered this assessment of the book. First he quotes James White saying:

This chapter has provided us with one of the clearest examples of tradition overthrowing the text of Scripture. Mr. Hunt believes firmly in libertarian free will. He refuses to accept the fact that there is a general call of God that goes out to all men (we preach the gospel to all men, not knowing who the elect are, for we have not been given that ability) and a specific call that results, unfailingly, in justification and glorification (Romans 8:30).”

With his tradition in place, Hunt falls upon the text of John 6:44 ... (p. 89)

Then Victoryword offers his analysis:

"[James White] accuses Hunt of using "tradition" to overthrow a text (libertarian free will) but then he refutes Hunt's so-called tradition by his own brand of tradition (general call of God) On page 90 he cites Spurgeon and Hodge (the two Charles) to undergird his beliefs."

This is a classic example of selective citation. Victoryword would have you believe that White simply accuses Hunt of using tradition rather than exegesis, and then uses a tradition of the “general call” and an appeal to the non-biblical authors Spurgeon and Hodge as his defense. Such of course, is not the case. Pages 63-73 of the book are White’s scriptural presentation of Man’s inability and deadness in sin. Victoryword would have to go through these pages and pull out the “tradition” that dictates the interpretation of White in the many verses used. He did not do this, nor do I think he would be able to do so in a coherent Biblical way.

Primarily, the selected text above is White’s response to Hunt’s interpretation of John 6. Hunt had said, “The Father’s drawing cannot contradict the scores of verses that call all to repent and come to Him and testify that this is possible” (page 87-88). White had previously pointed out the Greek in John 6:44 reads, oudeis dunatai elthein: ‘There is no one able to come’ to God. What would cause Dave Hunt to reject these explicit Greek words? Tradition. These words cannot mean what they say because Hunt’s tradition says they can’t.

Victoryword left out this statement from White on page 89: "Why is the clear testimony of Scripture, as we have presented it, so offensive to man's religions? Spurgeon was correct:.....[cut]...We Conclude with the words of Charles Hodge...." Note the words, "as we have presented it". Hence, the refutation that White offers is not a tradition of "Spurgeon or Hodge," but rather the exegesis and argumentation previously offered about the deadness of man in sin. White’s use of Hodge and Spurgeon is to answer the question why some, holding to the tradition of Dave Hunt, find Reformed theology offensive.

As to these charges, which I made in a shorter form, Victoryword responded:

"First, I did not want to spend a lot of time typing. I don't have OCR software so I cannot scan the pages, and if I did then the posts become too long and most people whose internet forum attention span is like mine stops reading at a certain point. I said all of this to say that I intentionally left nothing out. My only point is that White calls Hunt's belief in "free-will" a "tradition" but then he refers to the Calvinist phrase, "general call" which is not used outside of Calvinist circles, thus his own appeal to tradition. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. And it is easy for me to show that the phrase "general call" is a tradition - you won't find the phrase used any where in Scripture."

So, the thrust of Victoryword’s comments now shifts to the term “general call.” To make this term a “tradition", Victoryword must look up the material White presents and then see if the theological term is merely being used as an unbiblical tradition or as a description of a biblical concept. Another error in his thinking is that a word must be found in the Bible to make it Biblical. But, concepts are also found in the Bible- these are noted by the use of theological terms.

His next response:

You have not proven that I caricatured White. That is your own misperception. I will not respond to this charge any more so if you want to continue to make the accusation, that's your business. I won't be reading it.

A "general call" cannot be proven by the Bible. God's will is for everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Eze. 18:32; 1 John 2:2; John 3:16; and many more), so God does not put out a general call so that only those preselected will respond. It is illogical, stupid, does not make any sense and cannot be supported by clear passages of Scripture, thus the reason that White has to misquote Scripture and cite he two Charleses to undergird his point.

You are right. Free-will is not found in the Bible, yet a lot of Calvinists ask, "show me where the phrase 'free-will' is found in the Bible." You guys want your cake and eat it too.You may have the last word. Can't promise to read it but I am sure that someone will. Take care.”

The interested reader can pick up the book and determine who is reading it accurately. Victoryword’s denial of my assertions against his mis-handling of the text is not the same thing as a refutation of my assertions of his mis-handling of the text.

His misreading of White and Debating Calvinism aside, I wonder if he even understands the term “general call”. The paradigm simply asserts that the invitation to salvation is indiscriminate. The Bible exhorts all men to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30). In 1 Corinthians 5:20, Paul tells us that Christians are Christ’s ambassadors, and that through our proclamation of the gospel, the call to repentance and belief is made. God calls men to faith by the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:13-15).

The question Victoryword should spend time considering is that asked by Paul in Romans 10: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” The call to repentance and faith must be given. Those who have not heard the gospel cannot believe, because they have not heard it: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Paul then notes the Jewish people have no excuse, because the entire testimony of the Old Testament was a proclamation of the Gospel. Thus, the term “general call” is nothing other than the proclamation of the gospel that goes out into the world.

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