Undoubtedly, one of the most well-known Brethren believers remains the late Dave Hunt (1926-2013) who founded The Berean Call. Hunt's specialty was in the area of sectarian Christianity (i.e. "cults"), broadly establishing himself as an expert in the field and often debating "cult" leaders of almost every theological stripe.1
Sometime in the early 2000s, Hunt entered the theological battleground outside his studied specialty of Christian "cults" and began to critique a movement making waves across the evangelical landscape, including causing quite a stir among Brethren believers.2 The theological movement was a resurgence of strict Calvinism, a theological resurgence which had already rooted itself deeply into the infrastructure of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, The Southern Baptist Convention.3
Early on in Hunt's critique of Calvinism, he tangled with perhaps strict Calvinism's fiercest apologist, James White.4 The theological fencing through which Hunt and White slung blades culminated in two rather large volumes: a best-selling book by Hunt entitled What Love is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God; and Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views, a literary debate between Hunt and White.
I recently stumbled across an editorial in UPLOOK magazine, a magazine dedicated to Brethren believers' distinctives. The article was written by J.B. Nicholson, Jr. entitled "Born by the Railroad Tracks: Confessions of a Zero-Point Calvinist."5 While Brethren Christians like Nicholson may embrace what Baptists would insist is an unbiblical ecclesiology, I'm convinced grassroots Southern Baptists would both now, and in the past, wholeheartedly accept Nicholson's simple biblicism in expressing a well-balanced soteriology based upon the New Testament.
Below is the introduction from Nicholson's editorial (use the link below to download the entire piece):
I grew up in a passionately evangelistic assembly where we were taught the railroad track view of divine sovereignty and human freedom. I deeply admired the brethren who taught me the Word and consider it one of the best Bible schools I could have attended. These men took every word of the Bible seriously. They did not harp on particular doctrines and did not press exotic views. It was not Calvinism we heard, for man could freely accept or reject the gospel. Christ died for all, and the gospel was offered to everyone. However, having accepted Christ, we were told, a new believer discovered that he was destined for heaven before time began. Was it a real choice? Yes, they insisted. He must repent and believe the gospel in order to be saved. But could this elect person actually choose to perish? Theoretically, yes, but actually, no. God had elected him. These are parallel truths, they told us. Like railway tracks, they appear to meet at the horizon but they would only actually “meet” in the mind of God. I could not help wondering what would happen to that train of thought when the lines actually met. In these discussions I felt more like an engine spinning in the round-house. I saw the words “elect” and “chosen” in the Bible, but what did they actually mean?
In those days I rarely heard the words Calvinist or Arminian. But a caricature developed of the two views: Calvinists believed God saved you and you couldn’t lose it; Arminians believed you chose to be saved, so you could also choose to “unsave” yourself. And everyone was in one camp or the other, it was said. If that definition held, I would be with the Calvinists. But it doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of my friends are unabashed Calvinists. Others reject the tag but believe the teaching, or most of it. And I’m surrounded by fine, hard-working Calvinists in Grand Rapids. (In this area of the country I regularly tiptoe through the TULIP.) As well, many of the representatives of evangelicalism— R. C. Sproul, D. J. Kennedy, John Stott, J. I. Packer, and now John MacArthur—promote Calvinistic soteriology.
John Calvin (1509-1564) systematized the teachings of the Reformation, largely based on Augustinian theology. Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a scholar in the Reformed Church (who admired Calvin), questioned certain of his teachings. His followers called on the Dutch theologians to consider whether Calvin’s teachings were biblical at five points. At the Synod of Dort (1619), Arminianism was rejected, and the answer stated five points as the Church’s position. But after careful study, I find myself a 0-point Calvinist. Here’s why:
1I personally recall Hunt's many appearances on The John Ankerberg Show in the 80s and 90s.
2See Mark Stevenson's "Early Brethren Believers and the Question of Calvinism." Indeed it was Stevenson's bibliography from which I pulled the present article by J.B. Nicholson, Jr.
3Since 2006, this site has existed to inform, critique, and resist the Calvinization of the Southern Baptist Convention. Note: I'm neither personally nor theologically hostile to either Calvinists or Calvinism. I've never once on this site referred to Calvinists or Calvinism respectively as either heretics or heresy. Moreover, I think it would be a colossal mistake to expunge either strict Calvinism or strict Calvinists from contemporary SBC life since such a notion blatantly contradicts free church ecclesiology. Rather I have consistently objected to Calvinists imposing Calvinism from the top-down upon Southern Baptist people. In short, making Reformed theology the default theology of Southern Baptists. While Calvinism has historically had a rich theological heritage among and undeniable influence upon the Southern Baptist Convention since 1845, Southern Baptists are not and cannot be identified exclusively as Calvinists. To do so is both historically reductionistic and theologically misguided. Hence, I will, until my last breath, principally object to a theological takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by overly jealous Calvinistic Baptists.
4White is founder of Alpha & Omega Ministries. I used to follow White's ministry several years ago when he, as did Hunt, focused on "cult" theologies. However, when White began defending strict Calvinism from critics like Dave Hunt, his entire demeanor and ministry morphed, at least in my observation, into a kill-or-be-killed animism. He began to ruthlessly attack people rather than analyse ideas (Dave Hunt being one of those people) and has, to my knowledge, never recovered what he once had--a viable theological contribution to the discipline of comparative religion(s). I've offered several critiques of White on this site, notably critiques concerning White's scorched earth approach in responding to his critics, especially critics among Southern Baptists.
5The article is free and may be downloaded from the UPLOOK archives. Indeed the entire magazine may be downloaded.