The Hunt/White Debate
Affirmed Chapter 4: JESUS TEACHES THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
by James White
White starts off with the claim that exegesis is the strength and confidence of the "Reformed faith", implying of course that non-Calvinism has no such basis. He uses the Calvinist definition of sovereignty and adds the term "doctrines of grace" to claim Calvinism as the only teaching which properly understands that grace. Then with his own definitions White can confidently cite scriptures that speak of sovereignty, never dealing with Calvinism’s limited and distorted definition changing the meaning of those scriptures. This is an example of the eisegesis White keeps talking about, wherein one reads one’s own interpretations into the text. So to oppose their interpretations is, in their minds, to oppose God. It is interesting that White uses the term "free grace" since it is the name of a system diametrically opposed to Calvinism.
White begins his examination of Jesus by admitting that He said that people would not suffer spiritual hunger or thirst if they came to Him, and that many of them refused. Yet he proposes to nullify this glaring statement of free will by asserting that the cause of their refusal is election. Again he ignores Jesus’ statement about drawing "all" to Himself and only cites "all that the Father gives me". Jesus draws all, but the Father only gives Him those that accept. Yet one must ask why the Calvinist phrase "all without distinction, not all without exception" only applies to John 3:16 but not John 6:37. White would like to make the "all" here mean "without exception" while denying it elsewhere.
In quoting John 6:40 White explains away the "plain reading" of "whoever believes will be saved" by simply asserting that they believe because the Father made them to do so. He tries to invoke grammar in his cause, citing the present tense of the verbs as applying to the previous passage about "all". This is an elementary blunder in reading comprehension. If we take this principle to its logical conclusion, then nothing in the present tense in the Bible can apply to us today. Even in English we say for example, "I’m going to the store". Does it mean I’m actually on my way right now, or that I will begin my trip shortly? White would have us ignore all idioms and figures of speech in order to claim intellectual high ground for his interpretation.
Then White mocks the non-Calvinist view of God "wooing" people to Himself via a "freewill decision", ignoring the context of Jesus’ words, especially the people to whom those words were directed. Jesus is talking to Pharisees and hardened hearts who obviously were "taught of God", so by Calvinist reasoning all of them (without exception) should have come to Jesus. White misses the irony in quoting "everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me" as a support for making "all" the foundation of his interpretation of the previous passage. That is, if "all" that Jesus gets from the Father are saved, then we must believe that "all" who are taught of God will be saved. That would mean the evil, unsaved Pharisees, along with all the Israelites living at the time (minding the present tense argument), were coming to Jesus and being saved.
White concludes with the inference that those who oppose Calvinism are only seeking to be popular or appealing to culture. Yet it is Calvinism which most heavily leans upon an alleged majority among theologians of all time, appealing often to tradition and consensus. Facing "hard truths" is a challenged worthy of being made for the Calvinist as much as for anyone.
Response, by Dave Hunt
Since White wants so much to appeal to Calvinist theologians, Hunt reminds the reader that Spurgeon "continually urged every unsaved person to believe". Yet if, according to Sproul, a person has to be born again before they can choose Christ, that means "the gospel is only for those who have already been saved". He goes on to cite Spurgeon’s own rejection of such a notion. If this claim by Sproul were true it would render the spreading of the gospel a pointless exercise since the elect are already saved. This also, as Hunt explains, flies in the face of infant baptism. What’s the point of baptism since the elect don’t need it and the non-elect cannot benefit from it?
Next Hunt cites the account of the prodigal son as another blow against the Father forcing His will on the elect. The son in that parable left his father, but the father did not pursue him. The son returned of his own volition, and all the Father had done was to wait and then rejoice at his son’s decision to return to him. And after several more examples, Hunt points out the difference between a statement of fact and a statement of cause and effect concerning the "all" passages cited by White. Hunt explains: "It is not the Father’s giving of the elect to the Son that causes them to believe in Christ. Rather, it is upon the basis of the Cross and the faith of those who ’believe in Jesus’ that the Father gives the redeemed to the Son...".
In further refutation of the Calvinist argument that only the elect need to hear the gospel, Hunt reminds us that in John 6 Jesus, who no Calvinist would claim didn’t know who He had elected, offers Himself to an entire unbelieving multitude. He was telling them "all" that they could be saved, contrary to Calvinism’s denial. This, as Hunt explains, is truly "good news" as opposed to Calvinism’s weak assertion that God does (quite frequently in fact) mock man by giving him the mere illusion of having the freedom to choose salvation.
Finally, Hunt exposes White’s contradiction of his own teachings by asking how he could possibly pray for God to "grant grace to hear and obey" if God had already decreed from eternity past who would and would not hear and obey. What is the purpose of prayer in Calvinism? Is God free to listen to our prayers and change His mind about who shall be saved? What also is the purpose of grace in the context of eternal decree?
Defense, by James White
Again claiming that his own interpretation is actually exegesis, White brushes off the reference to Spurgeon, a leading Calvinist theologian, as "irrelevant". Can Hunt likewise brush off all of White’s references to such people? Can he accuse White of misreading? And White again displays his denial of Hunt’s right to use exegesis to show the impossibility of the Calvinist interpretation for the verses White has selected. He insists that Hunt should have included Sproul’s teaching that they preach the gospel to all only because they do not know who is elect. But not only does this ignore Spurgeon’s rejection of this idea, it also walks right into the problem of Jesus’ offer of salvation to a crowd of unbelievers. Does White actually hope to prove that every one of those people were elect? Or does he plan to explain how Jesus could not know who was elect? Either way White has chosen (or was predestined) to ignore this vital point of Hunt’s.
Then White berates Hunt for a poor analogy, following it with one of his own. Did the coach go out and force people who weren’t even trying out for the team to join it? And why does White complain about Hunt’s assertions when he makes so many of his own and attacks Hunt for exposing them? The reader will also note that White’s complaint against Hunt for "repeating his traditions" is itself a repetition of his own accusations. He ends the section with more mockery of Hunt while accusing him of the same.
Final Remarks, by Dave Hunt
Hunt picks up on White’s terminology, reminding him of the fact that Calvinism does not "own" the Reformation; White has completely ignored this point by Hunt, along with the parable of the prodigal son and more. He also reminds him of the topic of debate and that White cannot forbid the inclusion of pertinent scriptures to the ones he wishes to focus on. And he calls out White on his continual claim that only he and not Hunt is using exegesis.
Is it not Calvinism that likens TI to the inability of a dead person to do anything? This is why White’s objection to Hunt taking his analogies to their logical conclusions rings hollow. Calvinism cannot arbitrarily choose the meaning and scope of scriptural passages wherein metaphors and other figures of speech are used. And Hunt rightly asks why verses such as Joshua 24:15 don’t become a charade if there is no free will. White has not explained this.
Final Remarks, by James White
White’s appeal to "the careful reader" is, again, a very bold statement, especially when he accuses Hunt of "not listening". But this same reader knows that there is a great difference between "not listening" and "not agreeing". Should Hunt accuse White of not listening, just because he disagrees? And White shows no memory of his warning against repetition in his accusation of misrepresentation once again. But to go so far as to accuse Hunt of remaining "doggedly impervious to instruction" is both uncalled for and conceited, as if White considers himself Hunt’s instructor. Hunt would have had every right at this point to declare White in violation of the terms of the debate on several counts.
Again White appeals to what he considers "clear" as being the end of debate on the matter, and again he brushes off all of Hunt’s arguments as "failed". He goes on to imply that non-Calvinists are "offended" by the gospel message, practically calling them lost. And his relentless charge of "tradition" against his opponent is becoming tedious. Once again he quotes Spurgeon, and once again he ignores Jesus’ offer of salvation to the crowd. But at least the quote exposes the sophistry of Calvinism’s claim that moving God’s coercion from direct to indirect (dragging against one’s will, and changing the will) absolves God of such coercion. To change a will is no less a violation of that will than to exert force against it.