I finished reading the book What Love Is This by Dave Hunt about 2-3 months ago. I thought it might be repetitive after reading George Bryson's The Dark Side of Calvinism, but that wasn't the case. I got a lot out of the book, and at 533 pages it takes a bit of time to get through it all. I haven't been in a hurry to write this blog post, because of the time it took to decide which quotes to use; since there were so many good ones to choose from. In addition I've had to wrestle with the question of whether a 'little leaven' in my beliefs about God and what I was being taught about God was acceptable or not. I'm still working on that, but this book helped me gain clarity on some of those issues.
The book starts off with some of the history of Calvinism, as well as it's basis under the teachings of Augustine and Augustine's ties to the Roman Catholic church. Apparently Calvin (and Luther) and other 'protestants' were against some of the R.C. church doctrine, but they held to other (unbliblical) doctrines, such as infant baptism. It also highlights some of the similarities and differences between Calvin and other Reformers, such as Luther. I'd already read a good deal about how Augustine's writings had greatly shaped Calvin's theology in Bryson's book; what was new and rather disturbing to learn about in this book were some of the details about Calvin's propensity to use violence and the power of the (civil / state) government to silence dissent.
Calvin followed his mentor Augustine in enforcing church attendance and participation in the sacraments by threats (and worse) against the citizens of Geneva. ... Sadly, Calvin put into effect in Geneva the very principles of punishment, coercion, and death that Augustine advocated and that the Roman Catholic Church followed consistently for centuries. (pg. 52-53)One of the major doctrines of Calvinism is that of 'sovereign grace', which isn't actually part of the TULIP acronym per se, but it underpins much of the structure of Calvinism and ties in with the U (unconditional election) and moreso with the I (irresistable grace). I already wrote a bit about that topic in my article about whether the devil needs God's permission to attack a believer? and will probably write more about it, as I gain more clarity on the topic. Here are some quotes that I liked from the book that I want to share here:
And the solution is so simple: acknowledge that God sovereignly gave to man a genuine power of choice, and God is exonerated and honored. ... Irresistable grace is a human invention imposed upon the Bible. (pg. 396)Here is an interesting quote on the topic of infant baptism, and Calvin's belief that it was sufficient to effect forgiveness of sins and grant one entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven:
So God could cause anyone and everyone to believe the gospel and irresistibly draw them to heaven -- but He only does this for a select number? This is Calvinism -- whether one calls itmoderateorextreme! It has been imposed upon the Bible in violation of the entire tenor of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It is a libel upon the character of God, a denial of the nature of love, and an offense to the conscience which God has placed in the heart of every man. (pg. 423)
Had he not maintained this Roman Catholic false doctrine, Calvin would have had to resubmit to rebaptism, which was repugnant to him. He derided the Anabaptists for opposing infant baptism. Their valid, biblical reason -- that an infant has not believed in Christ -- was scorned by Calvin, and his wrath and that of the other Reformers came upon the Anabaptists. These true evangelicals were persecuted and martyred by both Catholics and Protestants for being baptized by immersion after they were saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (pg. 429)The section on the 'P'erseverance of the saints was rather short at only about 8 pages, I wish there had been more but perhaps there isn't as much written material about it available. However, from what I've gathered it leads to a sort of 'works' mentality. Salvation by works is of course in contradiction to the truth about grace and free gifts.
How does the Calvinist know he is one of the elect who have been predestined? His performance plays a large part in helping him to know whether or not he is among that select group. (pg 481)On page 482 there is a quote by Piper and his staff having written "[W]e must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." The theme of 'obedience' (to God) seems to be prevalent in Evangelical circles. In some respects that's not a bad thing -- it can help steer you out of danger or into wonderful blessings -- but it can and has become a tool of tyranny and manipulation in some cases. I think the difference is whether one is being led by the Holy Spirit or the doctrines of men.
I know I'll want to read this book again, and will certainly use it for reference in the future. I think it's very much worth reading.