Regarding His Newly Published Attack Upon the Reformation, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God
Updated 5/16/02, see bottom of file
In the period of time since I finally received my own copy of your book (you may recall I scanned through it while standing at your table in St. Louis at the PFO Conference) I have gone through a number of different emotions. At first I was just going to do one Dividing Line program about it, and then simply work toward setting up a web page with various contributors correcting your errors and refuting your argumentation while pressing you to follow through on the public debate that you have, as you recall, agreed to twice now (once in writing last year, and while we spoke a few weeks ago in St. Louis). But as I started going through and marking all the personal references, I came across so many errors, and so many tremendously false assertions, circular arguments, etc., that I truly began to understand why those who had already seen the book, or portions thereof, were so upset by it. But then today I ran into a section where you quoted me and then made a truly amazing statement. I refer to page 306, where we read the following:
The gospel of God’s grace, which seemingly is offered to whosoever will believe, must be imposed—and that, only upon those who God has elected. As White explains, this is why Irresistible Grace is an absolute necessity:
Unregenerate man is fully capable of understanding the facts of the gospel: he is simply incapable, due to his corruption and enmity, to submit himself to that gospel….
This is a terrible attack upon the gospel, rendering powerless what Paul declares is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16)! And this is what White calls “the Reformed position.”
I sat back, recalling the conversation we had standing at your table. Dean McCoy was standing there. You raised the issue of whether Calvinism is “the gospel,” and objected to the Reformed insistence upon that idea. You specifically made the point that you believe Calvinists are saved. I wonder, however, in light of your assertion that I am guilty of launching a “terrible attack” upon the gospel, even to the point of rendering the gospel powerless, as well as your oft repeated statement in your book that you find Calvinism an affront to your God (in opposition, it seems, to mine), how consistent you are at this point? I wonder how different that conversation would have been had I happened to have stumbled upon the above quoted statement immediately?
Of course, I find it highly ironic that you would say that the Reformed belief is denying the power of the gospel. You are the one who says that the gospel must be joined to the autonomous act of human faith for it to come to fruition. You are the one who insists that grace must be capable of failure to be true grace. You are the one who denies to God the freedom to love as we love, and insist that He must fail in His efforts to save every single person to be truly worthy of your worship. How your synergistic system somehow makes the gospel more powerful than the Reformed proclamation of a perfect Savior who saves without fail I cannot begin to imagine.
I am writing this as an open letter, Dave, because you have placed the disagreements between us into the public realm with the publication of your book, What Love is This? Given the prominence assigned to the citation of my work, The Potter’s Freedom, and, most importantly, the associated allegations of Scripture twisting, eisegesis, and other serious charges, I believe it best to respond to you openly so that the fair minded reader can judge for himself who has fairly dealt with the issue and who has not. You know that I wrote to you privately when I learned you were writing this book and exhorted you to reconsider your course of action. I tried to be to you a true and biblical friend in warning you that the comments I had heard you make on our radio discussion on KPXQ radio in Phoenix indicated to me a deep and abiding misunderstanding of the most basic issues in this area (including such topics as systematic and historical theology, hermeneutics and exegesis, and historical studies). Hence, I believe that since I truly attempted to give you sound advice before the publication of your book, the time has come to make our conversation one that is fully public in nature, hoping that even if you do not choose to hear words of correction, others will be edified and blessed by them anyway.
I will not attempt to deal with all of the areas in which I find problems of fact and argumentation in your book. Such would require a work of equal length to The Potter’s Freedom. Instead, I will focus upon some of the key issues in your work, for I believe once your basic thesis has been refuted, the rest of the book follows, since you repeat your thesis over and over again in different contexts. Also, I am organizing a project in which many Reformed men and women, laypeople, in general, with some ministers as well, will write shorter sections on various aspects of your book. Truly, Dave, I believe you have left yourself open to refutation and criticism in every aspect of your work. I believe we are bound to provide an answer, not only out of love and dedication to the truth, but due to the fact that, as some of the essays being written will document, you were informed of most of these problems before you went to press.
I would like to start with your assertion, even made in personal letters to me, that to criticize your lack of understanding of the Reformed position, and your lack of scholarly training in history, the biblical languages, exegesis, etc., is to somehow engage in “elitism.” You have directly called me an elitist, as you will recall. It seems you believe that seminary education, training in Greek and Hebrew, study of theology, etc., is not necessary for the task of engaging such topics as soteriology, etc. And yet, I found it fascinating how often you yourself make mention of the original languages, for example. You refer to Greek terms, even though, as you have often admitted, you cannot read Greek. You eschew professional training in history, yet, you include chapters of historical argumentation. This raises a problem, of course. You have compiled page after page of simply false argumentation as a result. Your handling of Greek is filled with errors of basic grammar and meaning. You have mishandled even the few lexical sources you have referenced. You ignore the impact of grammar and syntax upon translation. Your historical sections, especially when dealing with Augustine and Calvin, are marked by such a level of unfair use of sources (including your failure to cite relevant historical facts that would either contradict, or substantially ameliorate, the polemic argument you are attempting to press forward) that they parallel, sadly, the rhetoric of a Jimmy Swaggart, who likewise railed against Calvin in the most unfair and biased manner. Yet, when I have pointed out similar errors in the past, you have resorted to the same assertion of “elitism.” One wonders how to respond to you. Would you listen to a person who is not trained in Greek before one who is? I am almost convinced that you would.
Some of the other things I have encountered in your book truly make me wonder, Dave. I simply could not believe that the source you used to come up with the identification of Augustine as “the first real Roman Catholic” was none other than Peter Ruckman himself. Peter Ruckman, Dave? Gail Riplinger’s sole challenger for the title of “Worst of the KJV Onlyites”? What do you think Peter Ruckman would think of your assertion that the KJV’s rendering of Acts 13:48 was determined by the “corrupt” Latin Vulgate? Indeed, how did the staunch defender of Gail Riplinger, Joe Chambers, endorse a book that would dismiss a KJV rendering? An amazing thing to see! I would love to ask Chambers about this.
Another item that leaves one’s jaw on the table is the fact that The Berean Call makes the tape of our radio discussion available, and yet, when you make reference to it in your book, you misrepresent it! When you reference our discussion of Matthew 23:37 in your book (p. 363), you somehow forget to mention that you had mis-cited the text in your newsletter, which was what led to the question in the first place! Don’t you think people may just listen to the tape and realize this, resulting in questions about the accuracy of your representations, Dave? You likewise said “White countered that Christ was not weeping over Jerusalem….” No, I pointed out that you were conflating Luke and Matthew, and that in the passage at hand, Matthew 23:37, Jesus did not weep. These are little issues, but they are issues that speak to the accuracy of the presentation being made.
As you admitted in your book, you have received numerous words of counsel against the publication of this book. Tom DelNoce has informed you that your work, in its final form, continues to contain clear misrepresentations of the topic at hand. He is still convinced you have not taken the first steps to truly seek to understand fairly the position you are critiquing. And you will recall that I likewise warned you. It seems Rob Zins likewise tried to help you, and I can think of a number of others. You pressed on despite the best efforts of many who have spent years studying the issue that you seemingly mastered in less than a year. Now the work is out, and the issue is beyond your personal welfare. The issue is now a matter of speaking the truth, and refuting error.
The Tone of the Work
I was disappointed in the tone of the work, of course. It is never enjoyable to be accused of twisting God’s Word. It is sad to see the level of rhetoric you chose to use. Indeed, when the original source being reviewed contains constant ad-hominem argumentation against the proponents of the system it is critiquing, any response is made very difficult. I have had to go back over this letter more than once, toning down my words. I am just a man, and I become agitated when falsely accused of things (and sadly, Dave, you have put in print many false accusations against me, which I shall document in the body of this letter). But I have sought to go back over those sections where I am dealing with your citation of my own work and have sought to make sure that my reply is properly focused upon the issue at hand. But even when dealing with general issues, when you are reviewing a book that is highly rhetorical in nature, as yours is, and one that contains basic errors of fact (that are then turned into weapons with which the truth is beaten), it is hard to respond without a certain element of “strength.” Indeed, it is hard to see how your statements are any more charitable toward Calvinists than are your works on Catholicism or Mormonism.
Organizing this response has been difficult as well. There are so many things to address. So I will begin with a fundamental problem with your writing: you do not fairly and properly use sources, whether historical, lexical, or theological. It is hard to determine if you just use secondary sources without checking the originals, or if, due to the fact that you have chosen to eschew professional training in the relevant fields, you simply do not know how to use these sources properly. I cannot determine which it is. I can only document the reality of the problem.
A Glowing Example: Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the Atonement
On page 19 of your book, Dave, you make the assertion that Charles Spurgeon “unequivocally” denied particular redemption (limited atonement). Every single Calvinist who has done any meaningful reading in Spurgeon will be forced to immediately dismiss you as a very poor researcher on the basis of this statement. Here I provide the quote as you gave it, placing the materials you did not include in bold (I thank Tom Ascol for first noting this and rushing me the context). Folks who wonder if you are being fair to Augustine or Calvin should note your willingness to be completely and utterly inaccurate in your representation of someone as recent as Spurgeon:
I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.
Anyone familiar with Spurgeon knows what he means by “the intent of the Divine purpose” here (he means what all us Calvinists mean: it was God’s intention to save the elect in the atonement). But the rest of the section you quoted from makes it crystal clear:
Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him. Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.
That is on the very next page after the one you quoted! Spurgeon refers to your position, Dave, as “a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption”! Yes, Spurgeon was unequivocal alright: only he said the exact opposite of what you indicated! A quick scan of the relevant materials at www.spurgeon.org reveals just how completely in error your assertion is, and how many sermons affirm Spurgeon’s belief in particular redemption. Here is one of them: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0181.htm. I quote him directly:
We hold–we are not afraid to say that we believe–that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.
You really should hasten to retract this grossly errant assertion concerning Spurgeon. For those of us who have even a passing familiarity with the great English preacher, your comments about him were outrageous. The misuse of the quote from Spurgeon’s biography is simply indefensible, Dave. Do you not think that we have these sources at hand? Will you instruct your publisher to retract this statement in the next printing of the book, along with a note apologizing for such an error? Or will you ignore this word of corrective advice as you have ignored so many others that have been provided to you?
Following Norman’s Error
Another problem I encountered took me back, simply because I had taken so much time to correct Dr. Geisler when he made the exact same error! I refer to your denial of the biblical truth that saving faith is a gift from God. Specifically, you attempted to muster a whole range of Greek scholars to your side, however, you did not bother to respond to the refutations already in print (including my own). The vast majority of those you cite on pages 361-362 do not deal with the position that I presented in The Potter’s Freedom. Yet, despite the fact that you did not offer a refutation of my exegesis, you did not avoid taking a gratuitous swipe at me anyway. You wrote in reference to Ephesians 2:8-9,
Calvin himself acknowledged, “But they commonly misinterpret this text, and restrict the word ‘gift’ to faith alone. But Paul….does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God….” Thus White and other zealous Calvinists who today insist that faith is the gift are contradicting John Calvin himself. (p. 362).
Why did you not inform your readers, Dave, that 1) my presentation says that the entirety of the preceding clause is the antecedent of touto (which you errantly have as tauto on the same page) not faith only, and that 2) Calvin was disagreeing with those who said faith alone is the gift? I gave the entirety of Calvin’s quotation on pp. 317-318, and then explained the error Norman Geisler made by citing Calvin exactly as you did on pp. 318-319. You ignore the rebuttal and the offered citations regarding Calvin’s view, repeat Norman’s error, and then accuse me of disagreeing with Calvin, when it is self-evident to any honest reader that I am not.
One might dismiss this kind of error if it was alone, but it is the norm in your work, not the exception. I have already shown your complete misrepresentation of Spurgeon above. Then we have you repeating Dr. Geisler’s error on Calvin, and accusing me of contradicting Calvin when that is not the case at all. Then we have your comments, immediately after your complete mistranslation of Acts 13:48 (refuted below) regarding the chapter in my book titled “Unconditional Election a Necessity.” Why did you not tell your readers why the chapter is included in The Potter’s Freedom Dave? As you would have to know, having read it, I included that short chapter for definitional purposes. Dr. Geisler offered a completely a-historical definition of unconditional election. The entire purpose of the chapter was to demonstrate that the definition was well known and well established and that Dr. Geisler was in error in redefining it. Yet, ignoring the plain purpose of the chapter, you take another unwarranted shot:
There are assertions—fallible human opinions—which both Boyce and White admit express merely a “theory.” This theory must be tested by Scripture. Further quotations of men’s opinions follow in the remainder of White’s chapter.
Of course that’s what the chapter is about! I was not defending the doctrine from the Scriptures in that chapter. As you well know, I defended that doctrine from the pages of Scripture elsewhere. So why the gratuitous reference to fallible human opinions? How else are you going to define the historical meaning of the doctrine? Did I not write on page 124, “Given the confusion introduced by Dr. Geisler…it is necessary to establish the historic meaning of the phrase before we can respond to CBF’s unique viewpoint”? I concluded the chapter with these words:
The Reformed position on election is, first and foremost, a biblical one. Yes, it flows from the sovereignty of God and the deadness of man in sin; however, it is just as clearly and inarguably stated in Scripture. So we turn to the biblical text and CBF’s attempts to respond to those passages that teach this divine truth.
Also, I never used the word “theory” of the doctrine in that chapter. Boyce did so, using that word in its 19th century meaning.
John 6 and Your Accusation of Eisegesis
Most amazing is your cavalier and inaccurate handling of John 6. You obviously recognize how important it is, given the space you dedicate to it, but we are again left wondering, “Where’s the exegesis”? Rather than dealing with the presentation offered, you ignore the exegetical content and instead provide us with a classic example of how blindness to tradition leads to errors in teaching. Rather than dealing with the grammatical and contextual issues I presented (the text stands as a whole, and flows perfectly from beginning to end), you ignore them as if they are not even there. Allow me to document the many, many basic errors in your writing on this subject, and clear this glorious passage of the calumnies you have heaped upon it in chapter 20 of your own book.
On page 329, Dave, you speak of my “enthusiasm” regarding John 6:35-45. That is quite true. And while you quote a number of my conclusions, you assiduously avoid quoting the exegesis that leads to the conclusions (and, of course, you ignore the vast majority thereof in your attempted rebuttal, something anyone who reads both works seriously will note). You engage in a glaring act of equivocation when you write,
“Unconditional election and irresistible grace” are found in this passage? Yarborough, Piper, D.A. Carson, and J.I. Packer (among others) also think so. Yet the words “unconditional” and “irresistible” aren’t even there, nor can they be found elsewhere in the Bible. (p. 330).
And Jehovah’s Witnesses dismiss the Trinity because the term does not appear in the Bible. So what, Dave? The concept does, and this is the case with John 6 as well. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” Those are Jesus’ words. It is the Father’s giving that results in the coming of those so given. The giving precedes and therefore determines the coming. Giving is a divine act, and since it precedes the very existence of those so given, it must be unconditional (hence, as I noted, unconditional election). But, beyond this, Jesus says that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him. Not some. Not most. All. Such can not be said in your synergistic system where grace tries, but fails, to save at least some. What do you call the belief that God never fails to bring His elect people unto salvation, but that they infallibly come in faith to Christ? It’s called “irresistible grace,” Dave: when God raises the dead sinner to life, that newly regenerated believer clings in faith to Christ. So, as you can see, you do not need to use the terms “unconditional” or “irresistible” to have those divine truths right there in the text. And no matter how much you dislike them, Dave, they are still there. As long as John 6:37 remains in the Bible, people will embrace the doctrines of grace.
You then wrote, “And God ‘limits this drawing to the same individuals given by the Father to the Son’?” Yes, Dave, He does. As I pointed out, the passage is explaining the unbelief of the Jews. Remember that the end of John 6 all these would-be disciples, other than the twelve, walk away. They were surface followers who were scandalized by the gospel message. That is why Jesus refers to their unbelief, and explains their unbelief in the words of John 6:37ff. The key issue that your entire presentation fails on is this: all that are drawn by the Father to the Son are raised by the Son on the last day. To be raised by the Son is to be given eternal life. Jesus gives eternal life to all those given to Him by the Father (6:39). See the connection? The effectual drawing of the Father to the Son is what guarantees the truth of 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” Why? Because God draws them. Beautiful consistency is the hallmark of sound exegesis of the inspired Word.
I truly believe you recognize that you cannot deal with this passage, Dave. Your attempts to poison the well, engender an emotional response, and in general avoid any and all meaningful interaction with the text, indicate this. You seem to be almost pleading with your audience, knowing they are entering dangerous ground to even read John 6:37-45 and consider what it means. And truly, any synergist is in grave danger reading these words of the Lord! They are so plain, so clear, so consistent. I have seen so many come to embrace the doctrines of grace as a result of a study of this passage. You are so fearful of the passage that between the introduction of the text and your first attempt to deal with it, you insert all sorts of examples of special pleading. You write,
Read the entire passage carefully; that is not what Christ says, as we shall see. Whatever Christ means, it must be in agreement with the message of God’s entire Word – and neither Unconditional Election nor Irresistible Grace qualifies.
See, the difference between us, Dave, is that I can simply let the passage speak for itself. I can go directly to the text and walk through it and let it address each issue in turn. You have to attempt to persuade people that they can’t possibly find the doctrines of grace here. Look at the effort you put into trying to poison the well before you finally offer your “explanation” of the passage. On page 330 you talk about “Careless Extrapolation” as if the entire section is even slightly relevant. You conclude the section with a paragraph that basically says, “Hey, I’ve already refuted this stuff. Don’t sweat this. I know this passage sounds like Calvinism, but trust me, it isn’t.” Then you have a section, “A Troubling Tendency,” which is nothing more than ad-hominem argumentation against Calvinists, all based upon your “God can’t love freely and grace must be given to all to be grace” fallacy that I and half a dozen others have attempted to disabuse you of. And then you seem so concerned that you add another repetitious section, based upon your fallacious understanding of “whosoever” (refuted below in reference to John 3:16) titled “The Overwhelming Testimony of Scripture.” Now, if I argued against your point by simply repeating that what I believe is the “overwhelming testimony of Scripture,” you would eventually have to say, “Lets get specific here and not just cling to generalities.” That is why I don’t argue that way, of course. You know John 6 at the very least seems to teach the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, so you have to say, “Well, it can’t mean that, since I’ve already proven otherwise” (the fact that your previous argumentation is filled with the same kind of circular argumentation notwithstanding). Why do you have to insist the passage cannot possibly mean what the Reformed exegetes say it does? Why not just prove the impossibility of our exegesis?
On page 332 you boldly accuse the Reformed of “annulling” the teaching of Scripture and “boldly changing” the Scriptures. In each instance you are referring to the fact that Calvinists engage in meaningful interpretation of the text, recognizing that it is simply without merit to use the kind of “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” interpretation you provide in your book, Dave. For example, at one point you note how many times “whosoever” appears in the King James Version of the Bible. You drew conclusions based upon the appearance of the English word, not seeming to understand that the term would come from a number of different Hebrew and Greek words or phrases. Even suggesting that an English listing of the term “whosoever” is slightly relevant to the usage at any particular passage while ignoring the particular grammar and syntax of the text in question is without merit. It is a false and slanderous accusation to say that I, or any other Reformed writer, seeks to “change” the text of the Scriptures. Just because you do not choose to prepare yourself to understand the original language texts of the Bible does not give you the right or basis to accuse those who do of “changing” the text of Holy Writ. In a later portion of this letter I provide a full discussion of “whoever” and refute your insinuation that I personally am “twisting” (your specific assertion is that this is a “slight twist,” p. 270) John 3:16 to recognize that it means “every one believing.”
Further, you are incorrect to say that Calvinists interpret John 12:32 and “all men” as “all the elect.” Recognizing again the context of the passage (the coming of Greeks in search of Jesus), we allow the phrase to have its natural meaning: all kinds of men, Jew and Gentile. And you are likewise incorrect in your constant assertion (repeated for the umpteenth time on page 332) that Calvinists believe God will save “only a select few.” The irony is that the very passage you completely misrepresented regarding Spurgeon earlier in your work contained these very words on the very same page you cited:
Think of the numbers upon whom God has bestowed His grace already. Think of the countless hosts in Heaven: if thou wert introduced there to-day, thou wouldst find it as easy to tell the stars, or the sands of the sea, as to count the multitudes that are before the throne even now. They have come from the East, and from the West, from the North, and from the South, and they are sitting down with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob in the Kingdom of God; and beside those in Heaven, think of the saved ones on earth. Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him. The Father’s love is not for a few only, but for an exceeding great company. “A great multitude, which no man could number,” will be found in Heaven. A man can reckon up to very high figures; set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers, but God and God alone can tell the multitude of His redeemed. I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence,” and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise.
But I truly doubt you looked this passage up anyway (indeed, I hope you didn’t, for I would much rather believe you took someone else’s word for it and did bad research than to think you actually did look it up and simply ignored the glaring contradiction of your position that you would have to see if you actually did read it).
Likewise, you referred to John Piper and said, “In his zeal to defend Calvinism he must not only change the meaning of words, but maintain that the contradiction thereby created isn’t really a contradiction at all.” Dave, given your comments on Acts 13:48, and the fact that you change the meaning not of a word, but a phrase (one of the problems in your mishandling of that text, documented below), I would be very, very slow to accuse others of “changing” the meaning of words. You stand convicted on that point in a number of instances. The difference is that you are saying “I don’t agree with the Calvinist’s interpretation of what this word means” while we are saying “Dave Hunt assigns a meaning completely contrary to the proper lexical meanings in the particular passage under discussion, based upon grammatical and syntactical considerations that Mr. Hunt does not even attempt to address.”
When we finally get to the text, do we find you offering exegesis? No. No positive presentation based upon the text is given, as you will find in Reformed works of scholarship. Instead, we are only told what the passage isn’t saying, not what it is. You write,
Christ’s words are so simple and straightforward. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” does not say that “all that the Father draws shall come to me.” Nor does “No man can come to me, except the Father … draw him” say that all that the Father draws come to Christ. And surely “I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40, 44, 54) refers to those who actually come to Christ, not all who are drawn. It certainly would not include those who are drawn and then “draw back unto perdition” (Hebrews 10:39). The Calvinist is reading into Christ’s words more than He actually says. (pp. 332-333).
This is not exegesis, Dave. This is desperation. No positive interpretation is offered here. We are not told how this fits with the immediate context, how the grammar and syntax inform us of the topics, actions, and results recounted in the text, etc. We are just given your assertions, nothing more. Upon what basis are we to determine the truthfulness of your statements, since you do not deign to offer us exegesis? But even here, you have completely missed the point.
First no one says “giving” and “drawing” are synonymous. One is between the Father and the Son, accomplished in eternity past (6:37, 39). The other is an act of the Father that efficiently brings about the union of those so given to their Savior. They are connected in that they have the same object (the elect), but they are not synonymous in time (one took place in eternity, the other takes place in time) or in nature. Hence, the first two sentences you offer are simply not relevant. But the next sentence shows that you know there is an issue here that is very troubling to your position, but you really do not know what to say about it. You say that “surely” there is a disjunction between those who are drawn and those who are raised up. To which I say, “Prove it.” It should be easily done, correct? You said that “surely” the one who is raised is not coterminous with the one drawn, so you should have no problem proving, from the text, that we should introduce the disjunction you insist is there.
There is, of course, just one problem. The text defies your disjunction. First, we note that Jesus is charged to raise up to eternal life all of those who are given to Him (6:37-39). Being raised up on the last day is the same as receiving eternal life. They are used in parallel in this passage. But, those who are given to the Son are raised up, and those who are drawn are raised up. If the results are the same, obviously, the group is the same. But there is more. In John 6:44, the key passage regarding “drawing,” we read: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” This is a single sentence. In Greek we have, helkuse auton, kagw anastesw auton en te eschate hemera. The direct object of the action of the Father’s drawing is the first auton, “him.” A grand total of two words separate the first “him” from the second appearance of the same term, “and I will raise him up on the last day.” Now, you are telling us that this is a different “him,” a different group of people. That in fact there are many, many who are drawn who will not be raised up. You are telling us that the Father draws millions to Christ, but they do not experience the last phrase of this single sentence. And upon what basis? You don’t tell us. “Surely” you can do so! What is the basis, Mr. Hunt?
You later accuse me of “avoiding” Hebrews 10:38-39, which you briefly cite here, as if it is somehow relevant. It is not. No one would be “avoiding” the passage when exegeting John 6:44, since it is not relevant. You assume that someone who would “shrink back to destruction” (NASB, the Greek term referring originally to the lowering of sails, hence, a person who does not continue on to a goal) was originally drawn, but the text nowhere makes this assertion. Indeed, since John 6:44 makes the very connection you deny in saying that those who are drawn are raised up, none of those who would “shrink back” were drawn by the Father to the Son in the first place. There is no exegetical connection outside of your own theology that says that you can be drawn but not saved. Hebrews indicates people can be part of the external congregation but not be saved. To take your theological conclusions and read them back into the text and then accuse the rest of us of “avoiding” a connection you create thereby is, again, without scholarly merit.
Next you directly accuse me of eisegesis (p. 333). Well, if I have improperly exegeted a passage, I am glad to receive correction. However, since you offer no exegesis yourself, upon what basis can you hope to establish such a charge? You write, “In examining White’s and other Calvinists’ methods of interpretation, one often finds eisegesis forcing the text to say what it doesn’t say in order to fit their theories.” Strong words, Dave, for someone who has chosen to remain unaware of the nuts and bolts of hermeneutics in the first place. When you cite from The Potter’s Freedom, you cite only conclusions, never any of the exegetical argument that went into those conclusions. You offer not a word of comment on any of the exegesis, including discussion of lexical meanings, grammar, syntax, context, flow, etc. And yet you begin by accusing me of eisegesis? Very strange indeed, Dave. Instead, you offer rhetoric. Note your own words:
Where in this passage does Jesus mention “total depravity” or “dead in sin” or “incapacity” or “unable to please God” or anything about an “elect.”? None of these Calvinist theories is there — nor is any part of TULIP even implied.
Jesus did not mention total depravity in those specific words in this passage: He preached that man is unable to come to him. He said man lacks the capacity, the ability, to come to Him. That’s the result of sin, the result of total depravity. “Dead in sin” is related to the very same thing: Jesus said men are incapable of coming to Christ, and this is due to their deadness in sin (Eph. 2:1-3). “Incapacity” is directly stated in John 6:44, “no man is able” (Greek: ou dunatai). My reference to “unable to please God” was, in the text you were citing, taken directly from Romans 8:7-8, not John 6, and yes, that phrase appears there:
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
“Cannot please God” translates aresai ou dunantai, a direct parallel to John 6:44. Next, God the Father gave a distinct group to the Son (6:39): Paul calls them the elect, hence the term. Now, it strikes me as a desperate statement to say that none of these “Calvinist theories” are here nor that any part of TULIP is implied in John 6:37-44. Any person simply reading the passage can see the sovereignty of God, the depravity of man (the whole section explaining the unbelief of men), the fact that the giving of the Father to the Son precedes and determines the coming of those given to Christ (turning your eisegetical insertion of your false definition of foreknowledge upside down, I note in passing) hence something called unconditional election, etc. and etc. It sounds to me, Dave, like this is wishful thinking. You went on to say,
Jesus does not say that the drawing must be limited to the elect or universalism would be the result, or that the drawing is either irresistible or unconditional.
Jesus did not utter those words, but He taught those concepts when we actually attempt to engage the text on an exegetical level, Dave. Why would I say that the drawing must be limited to the same ones who are given by the Father to the Son? That’s simple: all who are given by the Father come to the Son: only those who are drawn can come to the Son. Secondly, those who are given are eventually raised to eternal life, and, despite your denial of it, all who are drawn are likewise raised to eternal life. The simple flow of the text proves the correctness of the conclusion offered. Only by atomizing the text can you avoid the clearly intended connection on the part of the Lord Jesus. As to the drawing being irresistible, since it results in the raising to life of all those who are drawn, it would certainly not be resistible. And, since only those who are given by the Father to the Son are drawn, and that giving was, again, plainly unconditional (since it took place prior to the existence of those given, and determined their coming to Christ), we see the concept of unconditional election as well.
Your argument comes apart at the seams when you try to engage the text’s assertion that the one who is drawn is raised up. You write,
It is quite clear that Christ does not say that everyone who is drawn will actually come to Him and be saved. That simply is not in the text. Nevertheless, White is joined by a host of others who consider this to be one of the premier “predestination passages” and a prooftext for Irresistible Grace…Schreiner and Ware assert with White that “the one who is drawn is also raised up on the last day.” Yet Christ clearly says it is those who come to Him whom He will raise up at the last day. (p. 334)
Dave, the only possible reason why you could not see why I join such scholars as Tom Schreiner and Bruce Ware and R.C. Sproul and Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield and so many others is that you do not want to see it. You have been blinded by your traditions. It is not that the text is unclear. Your thinking is what is unclear here, not the text, and I do not say that with any malice toward you at all. Let’s look at the text again and see how your argumentation is flawed.
First, you are making a positive assertion, but you refuse to state it that way, hoping that by stating it negatively, you will not be forced to substantiate your claim. You are saying that Jesus is teaching that there are those who are drawn who are not raised up. You are saying the second “him” in verse 44 refers to a different person than the first. Now, you offer us no substantiation of your claim, anywhere, but you expect us to accept your claim, seemingly without any basis other than your own authority. I do not argue as you do, Dave. When I say those who are drawn are the same ones who are raised up, I provide exegetical basis. Here’s a summary:
1) There is no reason to insert a disjunction between the direct object of helkuse and the direct object of anastesw. In fact, when we consider the syntax of the passage, we note that while helkuse is found in a subjunctive clause, the main tense comes from oudeis dunatai elthein, “no one is able to come.” Note that the verb in the last clause is a future, “and I will raise him up.” The progression naturally flows into the last clause without interruption. That is, there is nothing indicated in the verbal structure to make kai disjunctive in any way (something you would need to find to be able to substantiate your assertion). The natural reading is to see auton in both clauses as synonymous in extent and meaning.
2) Those who come to Christ are those who were given to the Son by the Father (John 6:37). Again, verbally, the giving precedes the coming. This is why your entire explanation of the text is impossible: you turn it on its head, insert the foreign concept of foreknowledge (and using it in an unbiblical fashion), and make the result of being given the grounds of being given! We come to Christ as a result of the Father having given us to the Son. You say we come to Christ, the Father foresees this (how the free actions of autonomous creatures can be foreseen in this fashion you do not explain, nor, do I believe, can anyone really explain it outside of positing God’s sovereign decree in light of Ephesians 1:11), and on the basis of our foreseen faith, gives us to the Son. This completely reverses the order of Jesus’ own words. Those who come are those who are given; those who are given are raised up by Christ (6:38-39). Those who are drawn are raised up by Christ.
3) John 6:44 explains how it is that all those who are given by the Father to the Son will, without fail, come to him. It does not make the giving and the drawing the same action, as you errantly assume, but it does make it certain that all those who are given are, at the time decreed by God, drawn by the Father to the Son.
4) Besides all these issues, there is another reason I have not yet presented for rejecting your disjunction. John 6:45 states,
“It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”
This verse is not discussing something different, but expressing the same truths in different words. The Lord did not all of a sudden insert some foreign idea here, but is now using hearing and teaching as another way of speaking of the divine work of God whereby He draws His elect unto the Son. Who is Jesus referring to? All who are given by the Father to the Son, of course, and all who are drawn by the Father to the Son. The ability to hear (or the lack of ability to do so) is a common theme in John’s gospel. Note the same theme in John 8:43, 47:
Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.
If we take your view, Dave, we would have to read those words differently, would we not? “Why do you choose to not understand what I am saying? It is because you choose not to hear My word. He who has chosen to be of God hears the words of God, just as the one who has not; for this reason you do not hear them, because you have not chosen to be of God.” That’s how you would have to rephrase such passages, is it not? Jesus spoke of an inability to hear (“cannot hear”) in John 8:43 just as He spoke of an inability to come in John 6:44. See the connection, Dave? John 6:45 says that those who hear and learn from the Father do what? Come. What do those who are given by the Father to the Son do? Come. John 6:45 parallels hearing and learning with drawing. If being given, hearing, and learning, all result in one coming to Christ, and yet hearing and learning is parallel to being drawn, then the only possible logical result is what? That all those who are drawn come to Christ and are raised up on the last day. So, graphically:
6:37 Action: Given by Father Result: All come to Christ
6:39 Action: Given by Father Result: None lost, all raised up
6:44 Action: Drawn by the Father Result: Come to Christ, raised up
6:45 Action: Hear from and Taught by Father: Result: Come to Christ
There is a strong, clear, irrefutable line that flows from 6:37 through 6:45, Dave. You may try to deny its existence. You may tell your readers it is not there. You may vociferously claim it contradicts other Scriptures (it only contradicts your misunderstandings of other Scriptures). Indeed, you wrote on page 336, “Moreover, to ‘draw’ someone in the ordinary sense of that word doesn’t mean they will necessarily come all the way, nor is there anything in either the Greek or the context to suggest, much less demand, that conclusion.” We have now seen that this statement is completely untrue. But the fact is, the teaching is there. It is consistent throughout the passage. It is consistent with every grammatical, lexical, and syntactical analysis available. And it tells us that God the Father gives the elect to the Son, who infallibly and perfectly saves each and every one; it says that the Father draws those same undeserving sinners in His grace to the Son, and the Son infallibly raises them up on the last day. These exegetical considerations are the death knell of your entire 20th chapter, Dave, a chapter in which you accuse myself and others of eisegesis and misinterpretation.
I should note, Dave, that the rest of your attempted response to John 6 is dependent upon this very point, and since your explanation here has failed, the rest of it, of course, is left without a foundation. I believe you have a responsibility to your readers, since you have published on this topic, to speak the truth to them. If you cannot provide a solid, reasoned, truthful response to the information I have presented to you here, you should withdraw your assertions. Indeed, you wrote on page 335,
The burden of proof is upon the Calvinist to show where the Bible clearly states his doctrine; yet even in this passage which White calls “the clearest exposition of Calvinism,” the theory is not plainly stated but must be read into it or it could not be found there at all.
Yet, as I have now shown, the Bible does clearly state the doctrine, and your every attempt to cast doubt upon the clarity of the revelation has failed upon the first examination of the text in a properly exegetical fashion. You allege we are reading into the text, yet, when we let the text speak for itself, it teaches these truths with great clarity. You are reading these truths out of the text so as to substantiate your tradition. Yes, I know you allege I am doing the same thing, but, as any formal debate between us would show, one of us can provide an exegetically consistent foundation for his position, one cannot.
Despite this, on page 335 you provide another paragraph that parallels the rhetorical paragraphs you inserted prior to your brief attempt to deal with John 6, that is, another rhetorical attempt to muddy the waters by repeating your basic assertions along the lines of “Calvinists are so wrong there isn’t even the slightest bit of basis for anything they believe.” This kind of argumentation is simply too easy to refute. I would never use such argumentation against Roman Catholics, for example. I would never say, “There is absolutely nothing the Roman Catholic could ever point to so as to substantiate their position.” That is begging simplistic refutation. Of course the Roman Catholic can point to things in defense of their position: the issue is, are their arguments consistent with biblical revelation, history, and are they consistent with themselves? Here is your paragraph with responses inserted:
Indisputably, the phrases themselves which are represented by the first four letters in the acronym TULIP never appear in the entire Bible. [Neither does the word Trinity, nor “pre-tribulation rapture” to use a term you frequently utilize, but as anyone can see, the use of specific terms is not the issue: the phrase “free will” does not appear in the context of man’s alleged ability to freely choose or reject Christ, either. The issue is, does the Bible teach the concept that is described by phrases like Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, etc.] That fact should speak volumes. [It doesn’t] Where is it stated in plain words that men are by nature incapable of believing the gospel or of seeking God? [That would be John 6:44, Romans 8:7-8, and Romans 3:10-11, just to name a few representative samples] Where does it say in clear language that men are chosen unconditionally to salvation [Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 8:28-31, etc.], or that grace is irresistible [every passage that describes the work of salvation as a divinely powerful and radical change, such as the removal of the heart of stone and the giving of a heart of flesh (Eze. 36:26) or the giving of life to the dry bones (Eze. 37) and every passage that says that we are saved by grace alone (Eph. 1:6) teach the divine power of saving grace, which is all irresistible grace is about] or that Christ died only for a select few? [We do not believe it is a few, we believe it was for all the elect, which no man can number, and the plain words would be such passages as Matthew 1:21, Romans 8:31-34, Eph. 5:25, etc.] Where does it say explicitly that one must be sovereignly regenerated without any understanding or faith before one can understand and believe the gospel? [This is the constant misrepresentation of the Reformed position that is found throughout your work. God uses the proclamation of the gospel as the means of bringing the knowledge of Christ to His elect. The fact that regeneration precedes saving faith is found in numerous passages, such as John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:1, etc., and is likewise substantiated by the description of faith as a gift given by God, Phil. 1:29] The Calvinist cannot produce for any part of TULIP a clear, unambiguous statement from any part of Scripture! [That is wishful thinking, Dave, and has been refuted above] Calvinism must therefore be imposed upon certain texts because it cannot be derived from any. [An assertion that any person who has taken the time to read both sides knows is far beyond any kind of rational basis]
You then echoed the constant theme of our radio exchange from August of 2000 when you write, “Where does the Scripture clearly say that God desires billions to perish and that it is His good pleasure and even to His glory to withhold from them the requisite irresistible grace?” Though I know you have not listened to any of the men of God who have spoken to you over the course of the writing of your book, it is still necessary to speak words of truth again. Your objection is in error. God desires the salvation of His elect. Desire is a positive term. God’s judgment against sin is not a matter of desire, it is a matter of law. God’s law demands punishment of sin. Any person outside of Christ is under God’s wrath. Wrath is negative, desire is positive. God does not “desire” that billions perish. You assume that if something is a part of God’s sovereign decree that it means it is a positive desire on God’s part. Such is not the case. In both of our beliefs God punishes sin. In both of our beliefs God knew this would be the outcome of His act of creating. In mine, God determines to make His wrath and power and holiness known as a means of contrast to His grace and mercy. In your belief, for some reason, you do not want there to be an eternal purpose in God’s creation, but instead, God creates and yet man then determines the ultimate outcome, at least in reference to the salvation of individuals. Then you use a phrase that speaks loudly to the error of your view of grace, that being, “to withhold from them the requisite irresistible grace.” Dave, the terms “requisite” and “grace” are not to appear in the same phrase. Grace can never be “requisite.” As I told you in August of 2000, if the governor of a state, who is given the authority to pardon criminals who sit upon death row, pardons one of a hundred such justly condemned criminals, you have no basis upon which to demand that the governor is required to extend the same pardoning grace to the other ninety-nine justly condemned criminals. Grace and mercy cannot be demanded. No person could come to the governor after the execution of one of those justly condemned criminals and say, “You are to blame! You withheld the requisite pardon of that man!” No, the governor was under no compulsion to pardon anyone. The criminal was justly punished.
On page 338 you write,
And even some who are chosen are not willing to fulfill their calling but betray the One whom they claimed was their Lord. Jesus said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot…” (John 6:70-71).
If it is your purpose here to attempt to parallel the Lord’s choosing of Judas with election unto salvation, you have again made a basic error. Judas was chosen to be one of the twelve. He was not chosen to salvation. In fact, he is called the Son of Perdition, and was marked out for his role by the decree of God (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21; John 17:12)! That there are those who pretend to faith in Christ and then deny that pretension there is no doubt. That these are the ones drawn by the Father to the Son is contradicted by all that has already been noted above.
Interestingly, under the subtitle “Except the Father Draw Him: What Does That Mean?” you note that “No one naturally seeks the Lord; we all seek our own selfish desires, and no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him. But the Holy Spirit is in the world to convict all of their sin and need (John 16:8-11), the gospel is being preached, the Father is drawing everyone (even through the witness of creation and conscience).” Now let me ask, if you are correct, then why do you embrace Christ, and your moral Buddhist neighbor across the street does not? Are you smarter than he is? More spiritually sensitive? Better, in any way? What makes you to differ? Is the Holy Spirit working just as hard on him as He did on you? If so, why do you believe, and he does not? No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid coming to the conclusion that, in a “free will” system of salvation, those who believe do so because there is something different about them. If the Spirit is bringing equal conviction to bear upon each individual, the only deciding factor, given equality in everything else, is something in the person himself. I believe the only possible difference between the redeemed in heaven and the guilty, condemned, punished sinner in hell is a five-letter word, Dave. It’s called “grace.” You continued,
White claims that “draw” indicates a total incapacity on man’s part. He insists that Christ is not saying that His Father draws men so they may come to Him while still require their willing participation. Instead, he asserts that “draw” means man can’t cooperate in any way, but is irresistibly drawn beyond his power either to agree or disagree. That’s not being drawn, but propelled against one’s will. (p. 339)
Unfortunately, you do not inform us where you are quoting from. Assuming you are dealing with chapter seven, pages 159 and following, you will note that in that section I insisted, strongly, that the Greek phrase ou dunatai, translated “is not able,” is the source of “total inability” in John 6:44. It is a misreading of my text to say that I connected drawing with inability as to its source. The drawing is necessary because of the inability expressed in ou dunatai. You have simply misread the text, and, I note, I covered this material in our radio discussion as well.
At this point, Dave, we encounter one of the worst examples of horrific argumentation, including ad-hominem, misrepresentation, and simply gut-wrenching illogic, in all of your book. You wrote, under the ironic subtitle of “Eisegetical Illusion,”
To support his assertions, White quotes Calvin, to whom he refers with great admiration. Apparently, as far as White is concerned, Calvin’s tyrannical rule of Geneva where he exhibited much pride, impatience and lack of love and sympathy toward those who dared to disagree with him, even resorting to torture in order to persuade, gives no cause for suspecting Calvin’s understanding of and fidelity to Scripture.
This kind of rhetoric is simply reprehensible. You should apologize to every person who has plunked down the money to buy this book for this kind of statement. First, if you were the careful reader you claim to be, you would know that my presentation of John 6:44 is based upon the exegesis of the Greek text, not quotes from John Calvin. You would have read, or at least looked at, my book, Drawn by the Father, which is on nothing other than this passage. Since you have shown yourself unwilling, and I truly believe, unable, to respond to the exegetical presentation, you choose to appeal to those in your audience who are susceptible to emotionalism. This is an obvious attempt to poison the well through the use of wild rhetoric combined with simple misrepresentation.
Secondly, this kind of anti-Calvin rhetoric is nigh unto “screeching.” To anyone even slightly familiar with sound historical studies on the life of John Calvin, the context in which he lived, and his work, the words you have put into print put you on the same level as Jimmy Swaggart, and grossly belie the ascription to you of the term “scholar” on the back of your book. Your entire presentation on Calvin is so lacking in the first element of fairness (let alone charity) that it truly leaves one breathless. However, it is so overboard, so without the first bit of honesty in its use of sources, that it is truly self-destructive. Those who are not interested in the truth will not take a second look and check your arguments and sources. But those who are will find your presentation so strident that they will likely turn to other sources for further information. And if they pick up a fair, accurate, scholarly work on Calvin’s life, such as John T. McNeill’s The History and Character of Calvinism (Oxford, 1967), they will find a contrast that will, I trust, lead them to a proper and fair evaluation of John Calvin, the man. They will learn about all the things you unfairly and maliciously left out. And while Calvin really doesn’t care what you say about him today, the one who will suffer loss, in terms of simple credibility, will be you.
You continue your tirade against Calvin, seemingly thinking, for some reason, that this is relevant to the issue at hand, the exegesis of John 6. The fact that you would insert this material here speaks volumes to your methodology, Dave. It is obvious you are not pursuing the truth here, but are seeking to create in the mind of your reader such a level of prejudice as to guarantee their acceptance of your conclusions without any fair consideration of the facts at hand. Such is, as I noted above, reprehensible on any level. Christian authors are to be men of truth, and are to eschew such dishonest methodologies.
Between this attack upon Calvin and the continuation of it on page 341 and following, you insert a single paragraph, just one, that deals with something relevant to the passage. But this paragraph, sandwiched in between blasts aimed toward Geneva, hardly begins to make sense. You recognize that coming to Christ is synonymous with believing in him. Quite true. But then you show the continued confusion that I identified on KPXQ two years ago. You insist that somehow this contradicts the biblical fact that faith is the gift of God and is only possible in the spiritually living person. But to be honest, your argument makes no sense to me at all, and hence defies a rational refutation. It is possible that since it dwells between paragraphs of unrestrained slander of John Calvin it was not really meant to make sense anyway. It is hard to say.
The organization of chapter 20 defies summary. After blasting away at Calvin for a while, you go back to the topic of John 6, but you start from the beginning yet again. Most of the errors you made before are repeated here, but there are some new twists. You focused upon my assertion that there is no non-Reformed exegesis of the text of John 6 “available” that is consistent. Your writing only serves to substantiate my assertion, that is for certain! But in the process you once again demonstrate that it is not wise to on the one hand say, “I choose not to prepare myself to do scholarly exegesis through the study of the languages and means by which to fairly engage the task” and “I choose to engage a topic that requires intensive work in the field of scholarly exegesis.” Instead, you turn to John 6:65, give completely irrelevant information about didwmi, and insist that what is being said is that the Father gives men a chance to believe. You write,
There is no question that the Calvinist interpretation of John 6:37-45 is contrary to the entire tenor of Scripture. Let us examine it, too, in this specific context. In John 6:65, Jesus uses slightly different language in saying the same thing: “no man can come unto me, except it were given [Greek, didomi] unto him of my Father.” Note that it is not a giving of the sinner to the Son, but a giving to the sinner (given him), making it possible for him to come to Christ. (pp. 343-344).
You have leapt from exegesis to eisegesis in your last comment. See, Dave, it is just here that again you demonstrate the essential correctness of the words I wrote to you before this book ever came out. While you provided an entire page of uses of didwmi you failed to actually deal with the word as it appears in John 6:65. The term is used often in the Greek New Testament, and noting uses in other contexts that are grammatically, contextually, and syntactically unrelated is simply bluster. It has no meaning in exegesis unless you can explain its direct relevance to the text at hand, and this you do not even attempt. Yet, without even touching upon the actual grammar of John 6:65, you quote irrelevant uses of the term and conclude,
Surely all of the usages (and others like them) give us ample reason for the very non-Reformed exegesis which White says is not “available.” The Father draws the lost to Christ by giving (didomi) to them the opportunity to believe. The giving of those who believe to the Son is of another nature. And those who are drawn by the Father must, in response to the Father’s drawing, “see” Him with the eyes of faith and believe on Him to be saved. The giving of the Father to the Son is something else – a special blessing for those who believe. (pp. 344-345).
That is all very nice, but, of course, it has nothing to do with the text of John 6:65. That is surely what you believe, but you have failed, completely, to connect this to the text in a meaningful fashion. Allow me to point out the problems with your assertions.
1) The “uses” you offered are irrelevant to John 6:65. didwmi is used in a wide variety of ways, but you forgot a basic, simple duty of the exegete: you did not demonstrate that any of your examples were grammatically parallel to or relevant to John 6:65.
2) You say the Father draws the lost to Christ by giving them the opportunity to believe. Nowhere in John 6 do we find the phrase “opportunity to believe.” There is no “opportunity to believe” in John 6:65.
3) The giving of a specific people to the Son by the Father, documented in John 6:37-39, is in fact the same concept enunciated in John 6:65. And you have failed to deal with the fact that it is the giving of the Father to the Son that results in the coming of any person to Christ (which contradicts your “foreknowledge” argument presented elsewhere).
4) Just as you err in your comments on Acts 13:48 by ignoring the periphrastic construction found there, you misinterpret a similar phrase here. It is very common for those who do not read the original tongues to focus upon single words, as you did. But words are often used in phrases that change their meaning and usage. That is the case here. The Greek term didwmi is used along with a form of the verb eimi. In this case, we have a perfect participial form of didwmi joined with a present (subjunctive) form of eimi. In Greek grammar, when you have a present form of eimi with a perfect participle, the resulting tense for the periphrastic construction is a perfect (see William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 277 for a summary that will be helpful in analyzing your statements on Acts 13:48 as well). This is why the NASB renders the phrase “it has been granted.” The NIV goes a bit farther, “unless the Father has enabled him.” In both cases, the idiomatic flavor of the term (the current koine standard Greek lexicon, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition, edited by Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich —mercifully abbreviated as BDAG — gives no less than seventeen categories of uses of the term, many of them in conjunction with other terms in idiomatic phrases) is brought out. You seek to say that the text actually says that no one can come to Christ unless God the Father gives them an opportunity to believe. You make the “giving” something that is on-going, a present-tense concept, and you make the object of what is given a “chance” to believe. But the text contradicts you in two major ways: a) the periphrastic tense meaning is perfect, not present, matching the perfect tense of “given” at John 6:39, and b) the object of what is “given” is provided by the text. The periphrastic is in the subjunctive because if follows ean me, “unless.” The “unless” points us back to the preceding context, specifically, “no one is able to come to me.” It is the coming to Christ that is given by the Father, not a “chance to believe.” This is, in fact, the very same truth enunciated in 6:37-39: all that the Father gives the Son will come to the Son; the Son will save all who are so given to Him (6:39), and no man is able to come to Him unless it has been given/granted Him by the Father (making the same connection I have defended above: that those who are given are then drawn).
The truth is, Dave, John 6:65 is simply a summary statement of what we saw in John 6:37-45. Your comments on it miss the mark because you do not engage in an exegetical study of the text. And as long as men and women take the text seriously and engage in the deep and fair study of its structure and meaning, they will come to see the great truth of God’s sovereign grace.
This letter is getting rather long, and I still have some other important points to address, so I will conclude the examination of the errors in chapter 20 with this fascinating assertion on your part:
Christ’s words, “No man can come to me except the Father draw him,” are not the same as White’s interpretive “No man is able to come to me.” Christ is not denying either the necessity or capability on man’s part of active acquiescence and faith. He is actually saying, “Men can come to me if the Father draws them — i.e., if given them of the Father. (p. 346).
First, you call it “interpretive” to render ou dunatai as “not able”? I would very much like to see you defend that assertion upon some kind of actual lexical basis, Dave. We both know you could not even begin to defend such a statement. But what is even more troubling is the fact that you then turn John 6:44 on its head, insisting that Jesus is not saying “No man is able” but “every man is able.” See, since you believe God draws all, then you are, in fact, teaching and preaching the exact opposite of the Lord in John 6:44. Your every attempt to refute this passage has failed, completely. I do hope you will listen to this refutation and retract your errant teaching on this subject.
John 3:16 Freed From Tradition
Dave, I think we can agree on the fact that you believe your interpretation of John 3:16 is the key to the entire controversy. Note I said your interpretation. I do not get the idea that you realize that your view is not the only possible way of reading the words of the Lord Jesus, nor, to be honest, do I get the feeling that you have engaged in the task of exegeting even John 3:16. It is your tradition to interpret it in a particular fashion. That tradition includes two very important elements: 1) the idea that “world” means every single individual person, so that God loves each person equally (resulting in a denial of any particularity in God’s love, even in His redemptive love), and 2) that the term “whosoever” includes within its meaning a denial of particularity or election. Your assumption of these ideas underlies pretty much the entirety of your book.
Before I chose to write you this open letter, I began an article on John 3:16 and Acts 13:48. I only completed the first section of the exegesis of John 3:16, and was about to address your statements about my allegedly “twisting” the passage, so I will insert what I wrote here, and pick up with the letter itself on the other side…
Sometimes the passages we know best we know least. That is, when we hear a passage repeated in a particular context over and over and over again, we tend to lose sight of its real meaning in its original setting. This is surely the case with John 3:16, for it is one of the most commonly cited passages in evangelical preaching. And yet, how often is it actually subjected to exegesis? Hardly ever. Its meaning is assumed rather than confirmed. I would like to offer a brief exegesis of the passage and a confirming cross-reference to a parallel passage in John’s first epistle.
We are uncertain just where in this passage the words of the Lord Jesus end, and John’s begin. Opinions differ. But as John did not believe it necessary to indicate any break, we do not need to be concerned about it. In either case the words flow naturally from the discussion Jesus begins with Nicodemus concerning what it means to be born again, or from above. But as every text without a context is merely a pretext, note the preceding verses:
14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
Jesus harkens back to the incident in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5ff) where the Lord provided a means of healing to the people of Israel. It goes without saying that the serpent was 1) not something the people would have chosen (given that their affliction was being brought on through serpents); 2) only a means of deliverance for a limited population (i.e., the Jews, not for any outside that community); and 3) was limited in its efficaciousness to those who a) were bitten, b) knew it and recognized it, and c) in faith looked upon the means God had provided for healing. This historical event in the history of Israel (one that would be well known to Nicodemus) is made the type that points, if only as a shadow, to the greater fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Son of Man was lifted up (on the cross) as God’s means of redemption. Faith is expressed by looking in obedience on the God-given means of salvation.
The phrase “whoever believes” in verse 15 is hina pas ho pisteuwn, which is directly parallel to the same phrase in verse 16 [in fact, the parallel of the first part of the phrase led, in later manuscripts, and in fact in the Majority Text type, to the harmonization of verse 15 with 16, resulting in the expansion of the original. The NASB, however, reflects the more accurate textual reading, “so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” or “so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”]. The English term “whoever” is meant to communicate “all without distinction in a particular group,” specifically, “those who believe.” Pas means “all” and ho pisteuwn is “the one(s) believing,” hence, “every one believing,” leading to “whoever believes.” It should be remembered that there is no specific word for “whoever” in the Greek text: this comes from the joining of “all” with “the one believing,” i.e., “every one believing.” The point is that all the ones believing have eternal life. There is no such thing as a believing person who will not receive the promised benefit, hence, “whosoever.” This is a common form in John’s writings. For example, in his first epistle he uses it often. Just a few examples:
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices (Greek: pas ho poiwn) righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
One could translate the above phrase as “whoever” or “whosoever practices righteousness.” Likewise,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves (Greek: pas ho agapwn) is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Likewise one could use “whoever” here as in “”whoever loves is born of God,” etc. And a final relevant example,
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. (1 John 5:1)
Here, because the phrase begins the sentence, it is normally rendered by “whoever,” since “everyone” does not “flow” as well. So this passage could be rendered “Everyone who is believing.” In each case we see the point being made: the construction pas + articular present nominative singular participle means “all the ones, in particular, doing the action of the participle, i.e., whoever is doing the action of the participle.” What we can determine without question is that the phrase does not in any way introduce some kind of denial of particularlity to the action. That is, the action of the participle defines the group that is acting. The “whoever” does not expand the horizon of the action beyond the limitation of the classification introduced by the participle. This will become important in examining the next section of verses.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Verse 16 begins with the assertion that God’s love is the basis of His redemptive work in Jesus Christ. God’s love for the world comes to expression in the sending of His unique Son into the world, and in the provision of eternal life for a specific and limited group. The same delineation and particularity that is found in the last phrase of v. 15 is repeated here.
For a discussion of the meaning of only-begotten Son, or much better, unique Son, see The Forgotten Trinity, pp. 201-203.
The text’s meaning is transparent, though again, the challenge is hearing the text outside of pre-existing traditions. “So” is best understood as “in this manner” or “to this extent” rather than the common “sooooo much.” His love is shown, illustrated, or revealed in His giving of His Son. The Incarnation is an act of grace, but that Incarnation is never seen separately from the purpose of Christ in coming into the world, specifically, providing redemption through faith in Him. Hence, the love of God is demonstrated in the giving of Christ so as to bring about the eternal life of believers.
The Meaning and Extent of kosmos
The great controversy that rages around the term “world” is wholly unnecessary. The wide range of uses of kosmos (world) in the Johannine corpus is well known. John 3:16 does not define the extent of kosmos. However, a few things are certain: it is not the “world” that Jesus says He does not pray for in John 17:9, a “world” that is differentiated from those the Father has given Him: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” It is not the “world” that is arrayed as an enemy against God’s will and truth, either, as seen in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Obviously, the “world” we are not to love in 1 John 2:15 is not the world God showed His love toward by sending His unique Son. The most that can be said by means of exegesis (rather than by insertion via tradition) is that the world is shown love through the giving of the Son so that a specific, particular people receive eternal life through faith in Him. Since we know that not all are saved by faith in Christ, it is utterly unwarranted to read into kosmos some universal view of humanity: how is God’s love shown for one who experiences eternal punishment by the provision of salvation for someone else? Surely, then, this is a general use of kosmos, with more specific uses of the term coming in the following verses. That is, the common meaning of world that would have suggested itself to the original readers (Jew and Gentile), and this is born out by the parallel passage in 1 John 4, as we will see below.
See comments above regarding the meaning of pas ho pisteuwn. There is no phrase or term here that indicates a universal ability to believe as is so often assumed by those reading this passage. The present tense of the participle should be emphasized, however. John’s use of the present tense “believe” is very significant, especially in light of his use of the aorist to refer to false believers. The ones who receive eternal life are not those who believe once, but those who have an on-going faith. This is his common usage in the key soteriological passages (John 3, 6, 10). When one examines Christ’s teaching concerning who it is that truly believes in this fashion we discover that it is those who are given to Him by the Father (John 6:37-39) who come to Him and who believe in Him in saving fashion.
Verse 18 continues the point by insisting that the one believing in Christ is not condemned/judged (Greek: krinetai). However, the one not believing has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of Christ (both “has been judged” and “has not believed” are perfect tense, indicating a completed action that is not awaiting a future fulfillment). Just as Paul teaches that the wrath of God is continually being revealed against children of wrath, John tells us that the wrath of God abides upon those who do not obey the Son (John 3:36).
Salvation, Not Judgment
Verse 17 expands upon the reason why God sent the Son into the world. The primary purpose was not for condemnation. Given the fact that Jesus speaks often of His role as judge and His coming as something that brings judgment (John 3:19, 5:22, and 9:39), it would be best to render the term “condemnation” in this context. English usage and tradition again conspire to rob the due force of the adversative hina clause: that is, many see “but that the world might be saved” as some kind of weak affirmation, when in fact the idea is, “God did not send the Son for purpose X, but instead, to fulfill purpose Y.” The hina clause expresses God’s purpose in the sending of the Son. It does not contain some kind of sense that “God did this which might result in that, if this happens….” While the subjunctive can be used in conditional sentences, it is also used in purpose/result clauses without the insertion of the idea of doubt or hesitant affirmation. The word “might” then is not to be read “might as in maybe, hopefully, only if other things happen” but “might” as in “I turned on the printer so that I might use it to print out this letter.” Purpose, not lack of certainty.
Of course, this immediately raises another theological question, however. Will God save the world through Christ? If one has inserted the concept of “universal individualism” into “world” in verse 16, and then insists (against John’s regular usage) that the same meaning be carried throughout a passage, such would raise real problems. However, there is no need to do this. When we see the world as the entirety of the kinds of men (Jew and Gentile, or as John expresses it in Revelation 5:9, every “tribe, tongue, people and nation” = world) the passage makes perfect sense. God’s love is demonstrated toward Jew and Gentile in providing a single means of salvation for both (Paul’s main point in Romans 3-4), so too it is that He will accomplish that purpose in the sending of the Son. He will save “the world,” that is, Jews and Gentiles.
A Parallel Passage
1 John 4:7-10 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
This passage provides us with a tremendous commentary, from John himself, on the passage we have just examined from his Gospel. The repetition of key phrases in the same contexts show us how closely related the two passages are. Both passages speak of God’s love; both speak of God’s sending of His Son and how this is a manifestation of God’s love; both speak of life and the forgiveness of sin, often using the very same words John used to record John 3:16ff. So how did the Apostle John understand those words? Here we are given that insight.
The context of this passage is love among believers. Love comes from God, and it is natural for the one who has been born of God to love. The redeemed person loves because God is love, and those who know God seek to be like Him. Those who do not walk in love are betraying any claim they may make to know Him. This brings us to the key verses, 9-10.
The fact that verse nine is meant to be a restatement of John 3:16 can be seen by placing them in parallel to one another:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world
1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us
John 3:16 that He gave His only begotten Son
1 John 4:9 that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world
John 3:16 that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life
1 John 4:9 so that we might live through Him
Once we see the clear connection, and recognize the background of John’s words, we can use 1 John 4:9 to shed light upon some of the key issues regarding the proper interpretation of John 3:16ff. For example, we concluded above that “world” meant the world of humanity, i.e., Jew and Gentile taken in kind and not in universal particularity (each and every person). This is confirmed by John’s rephrasing here, “By this the love of God was manifested to us.” The “us” in this immediate context is identified in verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another,” i.e., the Christian fellowship, which is made up of Jews and Gentiles. Further, the issue of the intention of God in sending the Son is further illuminated by noting the teaching of 1 John as well. That is, John 3:17 says it was the Father’s intention to save the world through Christ. This we know Christ accomplished (Revelation 5:9-10) by saving men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (this comprising the same group seen in John 6:37 who are given by the Father to the Son). 1 John 4:10 summarizes the entire work of God by saying that God’s love is shown in His sending Christ as the propitiation for our sins. This is paralleled here with verse 9, “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” This helps to explain the oft-cited words of 1 John 2:2. The “whole world” of 1 John 2:2 would carry the same meaning we have already seen: the whole world of Jew and Gentile. The thrust of 1 John 2:2 is that there are more who will experience the benefit of Christ’s propitiatory death than just the current Christian communion. The message continues to move out into the world, and as it does so, God draws His elect unto Himself, those that He joined to Jesus Christ so that His death is their death, His resurrection their resurrection. But in none of these passages do we find any reference to a work of Christ that is non-specific and universal with reference to individuals, let alone one that is not perfectly accomplished. God’s manifestation of His love does not fail.
Back to You, Dave….
Now as you can see, Dave, I addressed many of your assertions in passing in exegeting this passage. Indeed, you often used the argument in your book, in different forms but always with the same conclusion, “White (or other Calvinist author) ignored/avoided passage X, which shows that they know it contradicts their position, but are afraid to admit it.” You said that I did not “even attempt to deal with the unequivocal statement in John 3:17” (p. 271). Well, as you can see above, I have no problems with John 3:17, and actually find it quite confirmatory of the Reformed exegesis of the passage. But just because I do not deal with a passage of Scripture that you see as relevant does not mean I am “avoiding” it. Logically, there are two possibilities: 1) I am ignorant of its relevance (no one knows all there is to know), which would not be “avoidance,” or 2) you are in error in thinking that your interpretation of said passage is relevant. In this case, I reject your interpretation of John 3:17, hence, I was not “avoiding” anything at all.
You wrote on page 270,
But White, realizing that such an admission does away with Limited Atonement, manages a desperate end run around John 3:16. He suggests that sound exegesis requires “that whosoever believeth on him should not perish” actually means “in order that everyone believing in him should not perish….” That slight twist allows White to suggest that Calvinism’s elect alone believe and thus Christ died only for them.
First, it is again improper of you to call an exegetically sound, reasoned explanation of the Greek text (something you did not offer in your own book) a “desperate end run” nor to call it a “slight twist.” I am not desperate, Dave. I can quote my opponents correctly, for example, and I don’t have to turn Arminius into a monster just to disagree with his theological conclusions. When I offer a comment on the meaning of a passage, I provide exegetical backing for my statement, as I did above. I would challenge you to provide a scholarly response to the above exegesis, one that does not depend upon misreading non-koine lexicons (as you did in regards to tassw at Acts 13:48, see below) or sandwiching your brief interpretational claims between entire sections of anti-Calvinist rhetoric (as you did in chapter 20, documented above).
Next, you seemed highly confused regarding the meaning of the term kosmos on page 271. Are you asserting it always has the same meaning, especially in John? Surely you know differently. I would suggest that the only reason you choose to mock the identification of world in a way that is outside of your tradition is that your understanding of John 3:16 is so dependent upon that particular understanding that you cannot possibly allow for it to be otherwise. You have not derived the meaning of “world” or “whosoever” you insist upon from the text, but from your tradition, which has become for you equal in authority to the actual text of Scripture.
Well, this letter is more of a small book now, so I must hurry to the last topic I wished to address at this point. I will leave it to others to expand upon the many, many problems/errors/self-contradictions in your work, Dave. For now, I wish to close with the first passage I looked up in the solo copy of your work that lay upon your table at the PFO Conference in April: Acts 13:48, which is found on pp. 210-211. The text, as it is found in the NASB, reads,
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Rather than quoting the entirety of the section, let me summarize your argument in the following points:
1) “ordained” is questionable reading
2) Many Greek scholars call it a wrong translation.
3) In none of the other uses in the NT does it refer to a decree from God
4) The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon does not give “ordain” or “foreordain” as a meaning of the term.
5) I Corinthians 16:15 in the KJV renders tassw as “addicted.”
6) “Many Greek experts” suggest the translation “disposed themselves to believe.”
7) Several authorities identify the KJV’s “wrong” rendering to the “corrupt” Latin Vulgate.
8) Dean Alford rendered it “disposed to eternal life believed.”
9) The Expositor’s Greek Testament says this is not about a divine decree.
10) A.T. Robertson said this passage does not decide the debate.
11) “Context” supports the rendering “disposed” rather than “ordained.”
The person wishing to see if this is a fair summary may consult the referenced pages. First, I note that you did not deal with the exegesis I offered in The Potter’s Freedom outside of simply mentioning the fact that I gave a list of the modern translations that render the passage “ordain” rather than any other translation. But you did not touch on the periphrastic construction that I explained on pages 188-189, nor did you mention the resultant tense meaning. But I shall bring this out as I respond to each point:
1) You say “ordained” is a questionable reading. In fact, you eventually say it is “wrong,” not just questionable. I think this should be well understood: the same man who said in a public address in my own hearing “I do not read Greek. It might as well be Chinese” has been able to determine that the vast majority of English translations have been duped, seemingly by the Latin Vulgate (point #7). When I say vast majority, I truly mean it. Let’s look at a list:
KJV: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
NASB: and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed
NIV: and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
ASV: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
ESV: and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
ISV: Meanwhile, all who had been destined to eternal life believed.
NET: and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.
NAB: All who were destined for eternal life came to believe.
NKJV: And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
NLT: and all who were appointed to eternal life became believers.
NRSV: and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.
GNB: and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers
Jerus.: all who were destined for eternal life became believers.
Now, that’s a pretty impressive list. From the KJV to the ESV, the published translations of the English Bible done by teams of translators render the phrase with remarkable consistency. Are we to believe that they are all just slavishly following the “corrupt” Latin Vulgate? Or did Jerome know something, too?
I looked high and low for a published translation done by a team of scholars that renders the passage “disposed to eternal life.” I found “disposed” in a footnote in the Living Bible. You cited Alford’s commentary. But that was it. Then, one day, I found a published English Bible that reads exactly as you suggest, Dave. It was translated by a team alright, but they were not a team of scholars. You see, the only published English translation I have found that agrees with the “many” Greek scholars you claim are on your side is the following:
NWT: and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers
Yes, Dave, you have adopted the reading of the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The NWT! You reject the entirety of the published translations noted above, including the King James Version, and adopt the NWT’s reading! Amazing, utterly amazing, don’t you think? It would be humorous if it were not so serious: Dave Hunt identifying the work of all of Evangelicalism’s leading Bible translators as an error, and adopting instead the reading of the NWT.
2) You do not list these “scholars.” You did list some commentators who do not believe the verse speaks to eternal predestination (that is hardly surprising), but you do not provide us with the names of these scholars. Nor can you
do so. Greek scholars happen to know that this periphrastic construction has a pluperfect tense meaning. And that means the action of the construction preceded the act of believing. When you combine this with the actual meaning of the word (which you misrepresent, see below), there is a broad consensus as to the meaning: God appointed men to eternal life, and as a result, they believed. The action of appointing preceded the action of believing. That’s why your list of scholars is conspicuous by its absence, and why, I note, even those you do quote do not address the actual text or its meaning.
3) This is a classic error of hermeneutics and logic. The issue is not, “in the less than ten other uses of this verb in the New Testament does it refer to God’s eternal decree?” but “in this passage is it properly translated “ordained” or “appointed” so that the meaning of the passage makes reference to such a decree? The answer is clear.
4) There are two elements to your error at this point. First, Liddell and Scott is not a koine Greek lexicon. It is not a New Testament lexicon. I note you do not cite from the actual lexicons that deal with the New Testament, and that for good reason: they all contradict you! But choosing a lexicon that is not even specifically about koine Greek speaks volumes. But even louder than this error is the simple fact that you happen to have blown the assertion. Liddell and Scott do give “ordain” as the meaning of tassw in section III, number 2, “appoint, ordain, order, prescribe.” Even more devastating is the fact that the verbal form cited as being translated this way is almost identical to that in Acts 13:48 (tetagmena). Hence, you have not only chosen the wrong lexicon, you didn’t even get what it says correctly. It is yet another testimony against you.
5) Yes, the KJV does, but modern translations are much more accurate at this point, “and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.” In any case, the passage is only relevant for establishing a general semantic range for the term tassw. The passage, however, does not contain a periphrastic construction that parallels its use at Acts 13:48. There tassw is a simple aorist active. To make the passage relevant to the argument you are attempting to put forward, you would have to explain how an aorist verbal form in another author in a completely different context is relevant to the use in Acts 13:48. But there is more. In 1 Corinthians 16:15 the verb is active and has a direct object. Hence it was something the household of Stephanos did: they dedicated themselves to a particular task. But the perfect participle in Acts 13:48 is passive. This is something that was done to those who believed. You have to attempt to argue a middle voice for the participle, which is not only rare, but in this context, next to impossible to defend. In any case, you have not begun to provide a meaningful ground for your reference of this passage, and hence it must be rejected.
6) One Anglican divine does not equal “many Greek experts,” Dave, and given that Alford did not even attempt to deal with 1) Lukan usage (which, obviously, is the first sphere of interest to us: Acts 22:10 and 28:13 should be the first passages we examine, and both support the understanding of “appointed/ordained” not “disposed”; 2) the periphrastic construction and its resultant tense meaning, we have little basis for putting much stock in his comment. Yet, you said “many” and we only have one. You did cite a few others later on, but only their commentary and interpretation, not their discussion of the actual translation of the text. I can find “Greek scholars” who believe Jesus is Michael the Archangel or who deny the resurrection of Christ. That is not the issue. The relevant question, obviously, is, “Do these ‘many’ Greek scholars deal with the actual textual issues at hand, such as Lukan usage, the periphrastic, the prevalence of the passive participle over a middle form, etc.? You do not cite any for us.
7) There is no question that both Erasmus, in his work on what would eventually become the Textus Receptus, and the King James translators themselves, were deeply influenced by the Latin Vulgate. I do have to wonder, Dave, if you would repeat this defense verbatim when speaking, for example, at Joseph Chambers’ church, a church that defends and supports Gail Riplinger and King James Onlyism? I know you are not fully KJV Only (though that comment you made at dinner about Sinaiticus seems to indicate you have strong leanings that direction: I hope you will refrain, in the future, from repeating the false idea that Sinaiticus was found in a trash can, which is manifestly untrue), but you seem to have inclinations toward the KJV, which makes this whole argument on Acts 13:48 rather problematic for you. Be that as it may, the meaning of the Greek periphrastic construction has not been determined by reference to the Latin Vulgate: instead, Jerome knew what you seemingly do not: that the underlying Greek plainly speaks of a divine action resulting in the belief of those so ordained.
8) See #6.
9) It surely does (I wonder if you likewise accept the viewpoints expressed in this source on such things as the “rapture” or millennial views?). However, it does so primarily as commentary, not as, noted above, exegesis. Indeed, this seems to be your primary source, hence, you seem to be following Rendall at this point. However, the criticism noted above is relevant here as well, for the only passage cited is non-Lukan and in a very dissimilar context.
10) Yes, Robertson did not interpret the passage as deciding the issue, but, you will note, he did not mistranslate it nor would he support your assertion that ordained is a “wrong” rendering: he says it is not best, but adopts “appointed” instead (not “disposed”). Again, however, you have muddied the waters by confusing a Greek grammarian’s theological interpretations with a Greek grammarians comments on the grammar and syntax of a passage. Robertson says Luke does not tell us why these Gentiles “ranged” themselves on God’s side. I think it is clear that it does, and when we realize that no one, outside of God’s grace, chooses God over evil, the answer is ever clearer. But again, you misuse Robertson’s commentary as if it is a matter of Greek translation: it is not. The only relevance would be toward your use of the context argument, not in support of your assertion that there is some great conflict over the actual translation of tassw here. There isn’t.
11) The only point in which your argument has any kind of even minority support is in your assertion that the context in some way ameliorates the strong statement of divine sovereignty by reference to the disposition of the Jews. Specifically, that since the Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (13:46), this provides the “mirror” so to speak in which to view the meaning of tassw. But there are at least two compelling reasons why the attempted explanation fails: 1) no reason exists to see such a parallel in the language. Luke does not use tassw in 13:46, which would have provided a perfect parallel, the Jews not being “disposed” and the Gentiles being “disposed,” but instead Luke uses completely different words, indicating no parallel in his thinking, and 2) there is no such thing as a person who is “disposed” to eternal life in the first place. As I have already noted, Dave, the very idea that you believe that there are people who are “disposed” to eternal life, aside from being utterly unbiblical, likewise lands you in the middle of having to answer the question, “So why was Dave Hunt disposed to eternal life and someone else was not?” You are still left teaching that some people are better than others, and the reason why one believes and another does not is found in the person and not in God.
Acts 13:48 teaches the divine sovereignty of God over men in the matter of faith and salvation, Dave. Your attempts to get around this have failed. But, hopefully, many will be blessed by the demonstration of your error, at the very least. I do hope you will cease to fight against this truth, and will come to accept it.
When I first read Chosen But Free by Dr. Norman Geisler, Dave, I was greatly concerned about the level of confusion it would engender in the minds of many. Norman is a well known scholar with a great reputation, and I knew that many would accept his redefinition of long-established terms without giving it a second thought, resulting in all sorts of confusion. That is why I wrote The Potter’s Freedom. And I have seen that work help so many. In reality, the debate prompted by the publication of those two books has actually facilitated the spread of Reformed theology. The reason is simple: when the truth of God is openly discussed, the message of Scripture can, in fact, be plainly taught, and defended.
I believe the same is true regarding What Love Is This? God will bring much good from this situation as well. Here are the things I see coming out of this situation:
1) Those who are already Reformed in their theology will be encouraged. Why? Because your book fails to even begin to make a coherent or compelling case. Your use of simply wild-eyed, shrill ad-hominem in the form of grossly inaccurate and unfair attacks upon Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, combined with the utter lack of accurate exegesis, and the constant presence of emotionally charged, but logically invalid argumentation, certainly says to me, and to many others with whom I have had contact, that here is another example of the inability of the non-Reformed side to make a decent case.
2) Your followers will be all charged up to attack Reformed theology. While this is unfortunate, you have handed them rifles filled with blanks, quite honestly, and any semi-prepared Reformed believer will be able to point out the many, many holes in the argumentation they put forward. And when folks who are holding What Love is This? in one hand read what Spurgeon really said, or read about all the things Calvin did that you absolutely would have to mention to be even semi fair in your treatment of him, they will have to wonder about the entirety of your presentation. And when they then see the errors in argumentation, citation, and exegesis that fill the pages of your work…well, I know a number of people who once decried Reformed theology who today embrace it because of the debate that was opened up between myself and Dr. Geisler.
3) Many will learn the importance of the phrases sola scriptura, tota scriptura, and semper reformanda. Sola scriptura because of the fact that you hold to your traditions so tenaciously while at the same time denying vociferously their very existence. This is probably the single biggest lesson I hope people will take from this open letter. What could cause Dave Hunt to engage in so much misrepresentation, eisegesis…even to the point of siding with the NWT at Acts 13:48? What force could bring about this result? I say it is the force of tradition. Your traditions run deep, but it is a part of your tradition to eschew traditions! So, you say you have none, and hence, do not allow those you have to be examined in the light of Scripture. Therefore the necessity of the other two statements, tota scriptura (all of Scripture) and semper reformanda, always reforming. We all have our traditions, and it is necessary that we take those traditions to the Word constantly. We cannot do that unless we acknowledge their presence. When we refuse to do that, we must, of necessity, subject the Word to our traditions. And that is what you have done, Dave. You have turned your traditional interpretation, for example, of John 3:16 into the very Word of God itself. To question you on that is to question the very Bible itself! This is why you engage in the kind of argumentation that marks What Love is This? And hopefully people who read this letter and listen to the programs we have done and, Lord willing, watch the debate you have agreed to do with me, will find that out.
Finally, Dave, I must admit that I doubt very much that this letter will change your mind. People like Tom DelNoce have already said most of these things to you. You ignored them, and I imagine you will ignore this letter as well (though, on matters of fact, such as the Spurgeon misrepresentation, you cannot possibly leave that assertion in print without being dishonest in the matter). But the difference is, you have said, in writing and in person, that you will debate me. I will be asking you all these questions, Dave, in front of microphones and video cameras. You and I speak to many of the same people as we travel and lecture. You can’t avoid these things. I will be pressing them upon you. I would love to see you retract your assertions and correct your errors. I really would. But until that day, I will trust God to reveal to His sheep His truth, knowing that yet once again, your book has proven the old adage true: truth shines most brightly against the back-drop of error.
On May 16th The Berean Call posted Mr. Hunt’s response to this Open Letter. You can read it by clicking here. As you will note when reading this response, Loyal Publishing has invited Mr. Hunt and myself to write a debate, point/counterpoint book on the subject of Calvinism. I have agreed to do so. I will respond, briefly, to this recent reply by Dave Hunt on The Dividing Line on May 18th, 2002 (for those accessing the archives of the Dividing Line at www.straitgate.com/aom).