Question: The following is a post that Phil Johnson of MacArthur’s radio program Grace to You put on a web page called “ezboard” on 8/22/03: “Dave Hunt distributes a videotape of a lecture on Calvinism he gave at Greg Laurie's church, in which Hunt says this:‘Don't get angry with me if I quote someone. I didn't say it; they said it....For example, a good friend, John MacArthur, Jr....Ten years ago you wouldn't have known he was a Calvinist, but it comes out more and more....He wrote a book in 1996 called The Love of God. Basically, it tells you God doesn't love everybody. And his study Bible came out in 1997—it's a Calvinist treatise.’Of course, Hunt is lying. MacArthur's book expressly argues against the hyper-Calvinist notion that God is utterly devoid of any love for the reprobate. But Hunt deliberately gives the impression that he is quoting MacArthur verbatim.”
Do you have any comments?
Answer: First of all, no rational person would imagine that I am “quoting MacArthur verbatim” in saying that “basically it [MacArthur’s book] tells you God doesn’t love everybody.” Much less would anyone imagine I am “deliberately giv[ing] the impression that [I am] quoting MacArthur verbatim.” Yet Johnson has made the same accusation repeatedly, including in a letter to T. A. McMahon, adding, “It is precisely that sort of deliberate misrepresentation...that has caused so many people to question Mr. Hunt’s integrity.”
In specific response, I wrote the following to Johnson in a letter dated June 29, 2003—seven weeks before he repeated the same false accusation on his website: “...of course he [MacArthur], like other Calvin-ists, repeatedly states that God loves everyone. In spite of that, his book, The Love of God, basically says that God doesn’t love all. Yes, he says, ‘God’s love is for the world in general, the human race, all humanity’ (p. 86). As evidence, MacArthur says, ‘...the fact that God promises to forgive...and even pleads with sinners to repent—proves His love toward them’ (p. 15). He can’t be serious! It proves God’s love for Him to plead with spiritual corpses who can neither hear nor respond and whom He has not sovereignly chosen to believe in Him (Saved Without A Doubt, pp. 58-59) and from whom He withholds the grace to believe and for whom Christ didn’t even die?! Please tell me in what way and how God loves those who ‘by his eternal and immutable counsel...it was his pleasure to doom to destruction’ (Calvin, Institutes, III: xxi, 7)! You dare to call that love?!
“Of course, John MacArthur is basically saying that God doesn’t love everyone. If ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom:5:8), then how does He show love to those for whom Christ didn’t die and whom He has predestined to eternal torment? That this is the teaching of Calvinism, I document by quoting many Calvinists. Here are just a few: ‘[B]y his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to eternal destruction’ (Institutes III: xxiii, 3); ‘...is he not able to do the same for others [i.e., save the non-elect]? Assuredly He is’ (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, p. 50); ‘If some people are not elected unto salvation then it would seem that God is not at all that loving toward them’ (R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God, p. 32); ‘Calvin taught that God...hated the reprobate and planned their sin and damnation’ (Robert A. Morey, Studies in the Atonement, p. 296); ‘some are foreordained to death as truly as others are foreordained to life’ (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 104); ‘this view intensifies God’s love, by limiting it only to those who believe [what a contradiction!]. That sure beats the indiscriminate, general benevolence we seem to be hearing much about today’ (Michael Scott Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, p. 96), etc., etc.
“If a man claims to be loving and kind, seem-ingly demonstrates it by providing shelter and food, and then tortures and murders the person he housed and fed, would you credit him with loving that person? How can MacArthur say that God loves those whom He could save but instead has predestined to damnation? Rationally, no matter what else MacArthur says, he is teaching that basically God doesn’t love everyone. Refute my reasoning, if you can, but don’t call me a liar!
“You claim that I say that God is obligated to save everyone. Apparently you haven’t given my book a fair reading either. God is not obligated to do anything for anyone. I say that repeatedly. It is not a matter or obligation but of love—and love does not depend upon obligation.
“In What Love Is This? I quote a number of Calvinists (Piper, Packer, et al.) who attempt to show that God loves those whom He has predestined to eternal damnation. I spend several pages showing that it isn’t rational to insist that God lovesanyone whom He has predestined to eternal torment before they were even born. If you think it is, please explain to me how and in what way God “loves” such persons.
“MacArthur says God loves everyone. But his basic teaching is that God only loves the elect. Yes, he says that God loves different people in different ways—but it isn’t love at all to withhold salvation from any whom He could save, much less to predestine them to eternal torment before they were even born. If you disagree with me, at least be fair enough to present my biblical argument and then to disprove it—but don’t accuse me of dishonesty and misrepresentation and distortion! You are the one who is distorting my position.
“You argue, ‘Either Spurgeon spoke “unequivocally” or he “contradicted himself.” Both cannot be true.’ Of course both can be true! That’s why it’s a contradiction. He unequivocally says one thing and then says the opposite. You’re the expert on Spurgeon. You know his contradictions. I present a number of them in my book and have given you examples in this correspondence. But you accuse me of misrepresenting Spurgeon and being unwilling to admit it. That isn’t true.
“You accuse me of ‘imputing to [Calvinists] things they have never said, and refusing to let their own words speak for themselves....’ Again, a harsh accusation and a very serious one. But you offer no evidence, no proof, no documentation, no quotes. Yet I offer hundreds of quotes of dozens of Calvinists with references so readers can check the context for themselves. I let their own words speak for them, then contrast that with God’s Word, which says the contrary.”
Phil Johnson has never responded to my sincere request for him to explain how God could truly love those whom He has chosen not to save, even though He could save all. The very title of my book, What Love Is This?, asks a sincere question to which no Calvinist has yet given a rational or biblical response.