The Hunt/White Debate
Affirmed Chapter 6: PARTICULAR REDEMPTION: TRUE ATONEMENT, TRUE SUBSTITUTION
by Dave Hunt
I don’t know how much more I can stand of White’s "mantra" of "tradition".
Again White asserts that his interpretation is the clear, obvious meaning of scripture. Again he attributes any disagreement with his view to emotion and sentimentality. He blames these straw men for heresies against the atonement, ignoring his own "tradition’s" contribution to that which he calls "strange and grossly unscriptural theories". He appeals to the entirety of scripture even after having repeatedly denied this approach to his opponent in this debate. That is how White introduces his defense of "particular redemption", better known as "limited atonement" (LA). The "reformed" answer may indeed be "plain and clear" but this hardly makes it right.
He begins by defining substitutionary atonement as necessarily saving all who were died for, such that any other view which uses a different definition will be summarily dismissed as universalism. But as with sovereignty, everything hinges upon having the right definition in the first place. This correct one, White and all Calvinists would assert, is their definition. So White has already set up Hunt to fail by insisting upon his definition of substitutionary atonement.
First White claims that if Jesus died for all, then He died for many who were already dead. But this presumes spiritual death in the first place, which is a circular argument. So his charge of inconsistency is groundless, and presents a false dichotomy between Jesus dying for the dead or only dying for the elect. He then tries to turn the guilt of LA upon non-Calvinists by claiming that atonement only for the elect is somehow less limiting than atonement for all but only some accept the gospel. But the foundational presumption is that Jesus’ death is what determines who goes to heaven; that is, that the atonement is the only component of salvation.
So White’s proclamation that anyone who isn’t a universalist "limits the atonement" is only true if we presume his view of that atonement. But surely even White would not think that the OT sacrifices were what actually took away anyone’s sins, rather that it was always the person’s faith and obedience to God in the sacrifice which took away their sins. He appeals not to scripture but to Spurgeon for his authority, who dared to call Jesus’ blood wasted if not all He died for came to saving faith. White’s rhetorical questions are answered by scripture, which I trust Hunt will provide later.
White finally does come to scripture, but his first choice does not help his argument. Heb. 7:24-25 says that Jesus saves "those who draw near to God through Him", which no one denies. It does not say "those who He died for" but those who came to Him in faith. And White contradicts himself in saying "if Jesus intercedes for you, you will be saved", since he just argued that Jesus only died for the already saved. Does he no longer believe that Jesus saved all the elect on the cross? Or is it now by Jesus’ continual intercession? Does He have to keep interceding in order to keep the elect saved? If even the elect were not saved at the cross, then why does White care who Jesus died for?
The next reference, Heb. 9:11-12, does even more damage to White’s argument since it clearly states that Jesus had already obtained eternal redemption when he first entered the holy place "once for all". So who is Jesus continuing to save through intercession? The next one, Heb. 10:10, 14 puts the final death blow on White’s argument: "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified". Is "perfected" saved? Or is it possible, however un-Calvinistic, that Jesus’ sanctification and perfection concern not initial salvation but cleansing of that which is already His Bride?
In citing Luke 19:10 White has surely forgotten the basic teachings of Calvinism, for he must believe that "the lost" are "the elect"— which in turn means the non-elect aren’t lost! And if, per his appeal to a Dr. Pipa, "many" never means "all", then what do Calvinists do with Rom. 5:15a? "For if the many died by the trespass of the one man..." means, according to White, that Adam’s sin did not infect "all". Or consider Rom. 5:18b: "... justification that brings life for all men..."; does this not mean that "all" are justified and thus saved? Clearly, Calvinist pronouncements on the meaning of "all" and "many" aren’t doing anything to bolster White’s claim of consistency. Even 1 Tim. 1:15 turns against White, for it repeats the fact that Jesus came to save sinners, not the elect.
White argues against the teaching that Christ died for all sins "except the sin of unbelief" and states that such an exception is not consistent with universal atonement. But aside from the fact that Hunt has not yet stated any such belief, White is confusing the type of sin with the extent of sin. This teaching has nothing to do with whether or not Jesus was "the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). To be Calvinistically technical, it says "the sins of all people", not "all types of sin". And has Hunt argued that unbelief is the only sin Jesus died for?
Incredibly, White decides to label "the vast majority" of those who call themselves Calvinists but reject his view of LA as "not Reformed at all", because he equates that with "objecting to God’s freedom". He has once again stepped outside the bounds of the debate. And who are Calvinists to criticize anyone else’s alleged redefinition of terms? So far the reader has not even been told how and when to take "all" as "all". But again, unless White will say that 1 John 2:2 contradicts Mt. 1:21 etc., he has no choice but to concede that his interpretations are not scripturally accurate.
Response, by Dave Hunt
Hunt calls out White on his overuse of pejorative terms, and turns the charge of "tradition" back on him, because he has kept appealing to Calvinist interpretations for everything as being authoritative and "Biblical". Again Hunt asks White for explicit scriptures instead of nothing but inferences and interpretations. And he points out that the phrase "His people" is not synonymous with "the elect"; if it were, then what is the meaning of "If my people... will seek my face..."? Do the elect need to seek God?
After dealing briefly with White’s claim about "many" never meaning "all", Hunt does deny his accusation about unbelief being the unforgivable sin. So White has only burned a straw man here. But Hunt explains as I did that dying for the sins of all people is not identical to dying for every type of sin. Then he makes a similar argument to mine concerning exactly when Jesus saved people. If it was at Calvary then no one after that would need to be saved, since all salvation was accomplished at that point in time. And if it was not accomplished at that time, then why all the fuss about how many people Jesus died for?
Hunt points White to John 3:18 which clearly and explicitly states the reason that the lost are "condemned already": they have not believed; it does not say it is because they have not been died for. And the charge of non-Calvinism only believing in a "potential" salvation is not avoided by Calvinism, since it does not teach that the elect were saved at Calvary, but only when God changes their will to make them believe. And what does Calvinism do with verses like John 1:29 which clearly says Jesus took away "the sin of the world"— not the elect? Other verses are mentioned as well, each one clear in its context that "world" means all people without exception.
The issue White had raised concerning the brass serpent lifted up on a pole in the OT actually is a very good argument against his view. There was only one serpent, one pole, and it would have been lifted up even if none ever looked to it in faith. Those that did so were healed, and obviously the serpent on the pole was not "wasted" because some did not have faith. There had to be both an object of faith and the voluntary placing of faith, without regard to quantity. Salvation could never have come to anyone without the atonement, yet it comes to no one without faith.
Defense, by James White
White begins with questions which have already been answered, and still ignores those Hunt has raised. He focuses on the purpose of the atonement but seems to want to examine it in isolation. But above all, he wants to focus on his opponent and accuse him of many things. Though he claims to be tiring of Hunt’s alleged flaws, I suspect the reader is also tiring of White’s constant ad hominem barrage and nauseating repetition of "tradition".
Final Remarks, by Dave Hunt
Hunt makes a good point against the charge of Jesus’ sacrifice being wasted on the lost: "No, God does not exact it; the Christ-rejecters themselves insist upon eternally paying for their own sins." He repeats his request for explicit scriptures restricting Jesus’ sacrifice for the elect but none have been forthcoming. He is still waiting for White to show scriptural backing for his theory about God’s intention in the atonement.
Final Remarks, by James White
White cannot grasp the idea of sinners choosing the punishment of hell voluntarily, yet if he is a Calvinist he holds them accountable for exactly that. All Calvinists insist forcefully that no one has their will violated, so they can’t claim this idea is nonsense. Not if they wish to be consistent.