I remember when I first heard Dave Hunt say it. I think it was while he was speaking at a Calvary Chapel somewhere in a Hawaiian shirt and a jacket (oddest combination I’ve ever seen). Hunt insisted that nowhere in the Bible do we ever see anyone elected, predestined, chosen unto salvation, but only unto service and blessing. I was lifting while listening and I thought to myself, “Wait, hasn’t he ever seen 2 Thessalonians 2:13?” So when time came for writing Debating Calvinism, I certainly raised the issue.
Dave Hunt tells us that Ephesians 1 and Romans 8-9 are not about salvation. Christian theologians down through the centuries have believed otherwise, and when you find Paul speaking of “redemption” and “forgiveness of trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7) and justification (Romans 8:30) and “mercy” and “hardening” (Romans 9:18) in those very passages, it is hard to understand how he can make such a statement. That Paul is, in fact, speaking of salvation is plain beyond refutation. Yet, while these central texts on salvation are dismissed by Mr. Hunt, for some reason he cites John 6:70 and the choosing of Judas as relevant. Again Mr. Hunt violates all standard rules of hermeneutics: the choosing of Judas was to apostleship and the role of His betrayer. It was not unto salvation. This has nothing to do, of course, with the passages that speak of election unto salvation. Only by insisting that all uses of the word “choose” have to bear the same meaning, even in different contexts, can Dave Hunt make this kind of error.
Hunt repeatedly asserts that election is never unto salvation, but only to privileges and blessings. This assertion is repeated in his book and in talks he has given over the past few years. Yet, amazingly, despite its obvious centrality to the entirety of his position, Mr. Hunt does not provide an explanation of this text:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB)
Paul speaks of God choosing the believers at Thessalonica “from the beginning for salvation.” There is a direct refutation of a claim Hunt makes repeatedly. The text shows that the work of the Spirit and our faith in God’s truth are the result of that eternal choice. God ordains both the ends and the means, just as Reformed theology has taught all along. No reference is found in the Scripture index of What Love Is This? to 2 Thessalonians 2:13. (Debating Calvinism, 109-110.
So Dave Hunt has been challenged on this issue. Unless he has a very compelling exegetical response to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, at the very least he should stop making the positive claim that in the Bible election and predestination are “never” to salvation, since this is transparently not the case. Does Hunt have such an exegetical response? He most assuredly does not. He did not bother responding at this point in the book, instead moving the discussion to a later point. After slaughtering Acts 13:48 (at least he didn’t pull the “Hebrew version of Acts” stunt in our book!) he writes,
Yes, Paul tells the Thessalonians: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thes 2:13). The meaning of “from the beginning”is the question. Paul uses this expression three other times: “Which knew me from the beginning…” (Acts 26:5); “from the beginning of the world…” (Ephesians 3:9); and “in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia… Even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Phil 4:15–16). None of these expressions is related to predestination from eternity past.
“The beginning of the gospel” is associated with Macedonia, of which Thessalonica is a city, perhaps because Paul received a unique call to that region in a vision of “a man… Saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Thus from “the beginning of the gospel” in Macedonia, the Thessalonians, as part of that region, were chosen to hear it. Yet their salvation came only by “belief of the truth,” not by Calvinism’s regeneration before believing the gospel. (370-371)
Sadly, Dave Hunt really does believe this is “providing a response.” Noting the use of other English phrases that, in their context, have a specific temporal denotation (without showing any evidence that he is even aware of the textual variant as well) is not exegesis, it is excuse making. Is he suggesting that there is a temporal “beginning” in 2 Thessalonians 2:13? Then let him prove it from the text, not simply imply it without providing textual foundation. It is emblematic of Hunt’s incapacity to deal meaningfully with the text that he can assume that if the phrase “from the beginning” appears in any one context, it will bear the same meaning in all other contexts! What is worse, he isn’t even correct with his list. Limited to the English text, he assumes that every appearance of “from the beginning” represents the same Greek phrase, and it does not. Even taking the reading underlying the translation “from the beginning,” the words of Paul in Acts 26:5 are not parallel—in fact, they are completely different. Likewise, Ephesians 3:9 is not even close, again not using the same words at all. And the reference to Philippians 4 uses a different pronoun—again, something Hunt would not know unless he actually checks the original languages. So in reality, despite the fact that the list would be irrelevant on a logical basis, it turns out the list is likewise irrelevant linguistically. Hence the entire first paragraph is a red herring, a waste of typesetting and paper, but a good example of how not to treat the text of Scripture.
Having failed to provide meaningful commentary, Hunt then makes the huge leap that Paul must be referring to the “beginning of the gospel” in Macedonia. Does he provide any exegetical basis for this? No, outside of the similarity of phrases in English translations, which is not exegetically valid. Evidently he is suggesting that God did choose the Thessalonians, only, He did so in time—but that makes no sense, since that would still mean that God chose them before they chose Him, which undercuts his position. He then adds the obligatory evidence of his own continued unwillingness to learn and speak truthfully, for he thinks that the reference to the means God uses (belief in the truth) is somehow contradictory to the Reformed position. The fallacious nature of Hunt’s failed response is easily seen by all who are not dogmatically dedicated to a hatred of Calvinism.
In any case, Hunt knows his statement is in error. An honest man would stop making the statement. Yet, today I got my electronic copy of the June, 2009 Berean Call newsleter, and it contains this:
Question: On the last night of the Tulsa Prophecy Conference, during the Q&A session, a question was directed to Dave Hunt that related to Calvinism. He stated that election and predestination were never unto salvation but unto service. Mike Gendron responded by reading 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Doesn’t that sound like God has chosen certain ones to be saved, which of course would mean that the rest are chosen to damnation by default?
Response: I had already stated that I did not want to prolong a discussion about Calvinism. Looking back, I do not want to leave the impression that I had no answer to the verse Mike read. One thing you will notice when this subject comes up: there are a few favorite verses that Calvinists quote. This is one of about four or five, and Mike didn’t mention any of the others.
Had I wanted to continue the discussion, I could have noted that whereas Calvinists have a handful of favorite verses, there are literally hundreds proving that God has not chosen certain ones for heaven and others for hell. For example, Christ introduces and explains John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”) with a reference to the incident in the wilderness involving the brazen serpent: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This reference is to Numbers 21. Let’s notice the wording there: “Every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live….If a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Nu 21:8,9). This was the way Christ explained John 3:16. The Calvinists say that Christ was not talking about the whole world but only the world of the elect. Christ’s example shows that this is not the case.
Christ does not allow this misinterpretation. Here is one of the reasons Calvinists generally avoid references to the Old Testament. Calvinism, far from being supported there, is refuted. It was not the homes of a few elect over which the destroying angel passed but every home where the blood had been applied. Who went through the Red Sea on dry land? An elect few? No, everyone who had been delivered from Egypt by the blood. Who ate of the manna in the wilderness? For whom did the water flow out of the rock? Who was led by the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night? Was it an elect few among the Israelites? No, it was all of them, even though all did not believe.
Such examples could be multiplied by the dozens. In comparison, the few verses of doubtful interpretation that Calvinists hold out to prove their case are far from conclusive on their side. Even 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which Mike read, includes the proof that there is more involved than God simply choosing some to heaven. Something more is required of man: “through…belief of the truth.”
We are truly left breathless at the inability of Hunt and company to handle the text of Scripture with accuracy, and their inability to provide coherent arguments in defense of their attacks upon Reformed theology. Once again we see no exegesis, only a running from the fact that Dave Hunt is not honest enough to stop telling falsehoods when it comes to Calvinism. He views himself as inerrant, it seems—a dangerous self-deception. It is likewise amazing to see him accusing Reformed exegetes of ignoring the Old Testament. He has done this in reference to me many times. Yet, in all of this, he completely ignores the reality of the very particular nature of the OT revelation; the fact that the sacrifices offered in the temple were not for Babylonians or Egyptians but only for those who drew near in worship. Even in this vain attempt to distract from his constant repetition of a false statement he misses that while “all Israel” went through the Red Sea, almost every single one of them died in the wilderness, too, not having entered into the promised rest! He ignores the “remnant” of Israel, clearly an example of particularity on God’s part. So for all his protestations, Dave Hunt has been shown to be willing to repeatedly speak falsehoods as long as it serves his anti-Calvinist campaign. And that is just a sad commentary on someone who has so often chided others for the exact same behavior.