Tom and his guest, TBC board member Rob Yardley, discuss The Legacy of Dave Hunt.
In today’s program, Tom reflects on The Legacy of Dave Hunt, founder of The Berean Call, and his international ministry. Joining Tom is TBC board member and long-time friend, Rob Yardley. Here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our program for today and for next week is rather bittersweet. It has that mix because we’re going to talk about my best friend in the Lord, Dave Hunt, who went home to be with the Lord a week ago, that is, from the time we’re recording this program.
Joining me in remembering Dave is Rob Yardley, who’s been a longtime board member of Berean Call, and even before that, a good friend of Dave.
Rob also oversees Dave Hunt’s Facebook site.
Rob, thanks for joining me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rob: Thank you, Tom. It’s an honor to be here.
Tom: You know, I said that this would be a bittersweet affair, so I want to deal with the bitter part right away and then get on with the sweet part. First of all, for me personally, it’s tough to lose someone I’ve worked with for 35 years, and more than just a good friend, he was an older, wiser brother, a wonderful teacher of the Scriptures. By word and by example, he was the godliest man I’ve ever known—someone who truly lived out what he preached. The bitter part is I’m going to greatly miss the man who more than anyone helped shape my life in the Lord. No longer can I turn to him and ask, “Hey, Dave, what about this?” or “What’s your take on that?” And whether it’s related to some questionable teaching impacting the church, or a difficult passage of Scripture, those times of intimate fellowship are over. And that’s a very hard loss.
On the other hand, I have a cargo ship of memories that will continually bring a smile to my lips, my heart, and my mind, and we’ll get into those in a moment. But, Rob, what I’d like you to do is give our listeners some background on your relationship with Dave, and tell us what has been a bitter pill of Dave’s passing for you.
Rob: Well, Tom, like you, I was saved out of a non-Christian background. You were a Catholic, I was an Episcopalian—kind of Roman Catholic-Lite without Mary. And I’d never really heard the gospel, and by God’s grace I got saved in 1976. I believed the gospel, and I was born again and began attending a fellowship called Calvary Chapel. And at that time, in the mid-1970s—it was January of 1976—there was a lot of emphasis on the Charismatic Renewal, both in the Calvary Chapel movement and, as you know, in the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopalian Church throughout the body of Christ. And there was a lot of error being introduced, and as a young Christian, I would see people reaching back in to the Episcopalian Church or the Catholic Church saying there’s really no difference, and it’s all about whether we’re following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
And I knew that wasn’t right, and I had never heard anybody articulate these things as well as Dave. I first heard Dave—he came to speak at our fellowship in the early 1980s. I didn’t attend that meeting, but it was probably 1983 or 1984 that I first heard a tape, and I had bumped into many things, and sometimes you feel like you’re the Lone Ranger out there. You think, “Does anybody else think this psychology stuff is off-base? And does anybody else think it’s wrong to send people back into the Roman Catholic Church?”, as many people were doing, or “send them back into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church?” And then when I heard Dave, he was so gracious and so loving—not bashing Catholics, not bashing Seventh-Day Adventists, not bashing people who believed in the perpetuity of the sign gifts. In fact, he did believe in the perpetuity of the sign gifts, but he was correcting the errors, and he was so far beyond anyone I’d ever heard in terms of his ability to articulate the Scriptures and give all the glory to God.
As you know, Tom, he’d hate it if we were sitting here talking about what a wonderful man Dave Hunt was, and getting all (unintelligible).
Tom: Oh, brother! That’s for sure.
Rob: He’d hit the kill switch on us.
Rob: But all glory to God. God gave him tremendous insights, and he would get back to the Scriptures and the sufficiency of Christ.
Tom: Yeah. You know, Rob, kind of at the same time, the late ‘70s—I just came back from a movie production over in Iran, actually. It was a …you know, I was one of the writers of a screenplay that translated a James Michener novel, Caravans, to the screen, and you know, in that time, my wife previous to that, and for about a year before that, she came to Christ. She had an Episcopal background, by the way. And certainly, with my Catholic background, you know, I looked down my nose at this new spirituality, or whatever they called it, because, you know, I was born a Catholic, I’ll die a Catholic, and, you know, all of that pride was there. But the Lord worked on my heart. He brought many people into my relationship—certainly these young people that my wife was fellowshipping with, and I really liked them, you know? I had some issues—again, of pride with their religious ideas, but nevertheless, the Lord really spoke to my heart, brought some conviction there.
And when I returned from Iran—from the production—I gave my heart to Christ. But then I had this problem. Well, what am I going to do? You know, now that I’m a Christian…and, Rob, I knew what the gospel was. I understood the gospel, but that’s as far as it went. My background, because of all the years of…from cradle Catholic right up until—not really practicing in my college years, but nevertheless, “I was born a Catholic, I’ll die a Catholic…” I had that attitude, and so… What was I going to do with my life now? I’m a screenwriter in Hollywood. Can you be a Christian and be a screenwriter in Hollywood? I mean, I didn’t know anything.
But the Lord, again, in His graciousness, He had this Christian filmmaker bring me over to Dave Hunt’s house because Dave was interested in taking a story that he had and putting it in screenplay form. Well, I knew how to write screenplays, but as I looked at his story, I was really crestfallen, because I thought, “Wait a minute. I know how to write a screenplay, but this biblical Christianity—or the perspective that this man is taking—I am totally clueless. So, you know, I said to Dave, “Mr. Hunt, you have an interesting story here. But I don’t see how I could possibly translate this to the screen because I’m ignorant of this stuff.”
And you know Dave, Rob. In his graciousness, he said, “Well, I think, if you’d like to, maybe we could collaborate on this, and maybe I could supply that Christian perspective that you don’t know yet as a young believer.”
Wow! Those were the greatest words I’d ever heard. That began 35 years of my association—my work—with Dave Hunt, and I can’t thank the Lord enough for it.
Rob: Amen. Yes, and as you say, he had such a wonderful ability to look at situations. Another thing that was prevalent when I got saved was a lot of fascination with the occult, and Mike Warnke and others who turned out to be giving testimonies that weren’t true were telling spectacular stories. And Dave was able to boil it all down. He went from a biblical standpoint, pointed out the spiritual realm is real, demons are real. We need to be aware we’re engaged in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle, and yet, when he was asked once, “What do you do at night? Are you tormented by the demons?”
And Dave said, “I sleep like a baby. I’m in Jesus Christ.” He had such a wonderful perspective, where others were falling into error.
Tom: And I could testify to that. Certainly we’re in a spiritual battle. No one would deny that. But I never—in 35 years—can think of a situation that matches some of the stories we have out there about the so-called spiritual battles that other people are in. Now, I’m not saying they’re not true, but it just never happened to us. And we dealt with a lot of pretty hairy issues over the years, right, Rob?
Rob: Oh, absolutely, yes. And it’s just so wonderful to have a man who, as you say, Tom, you asked about the “bitter” part, and the hardest thing is—you and I both—you come up with a really knotty problem, so often, by God’s grace, we’ve both been walking with the Lord for decades now, and we can deal with so many issues because we’ve been equipped by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, and, frankly, Dave’s answers, in a lot of cases, because he rightly divided the Word of truth.
But now, occasionally, when something comes up and I’m stumped, we can’t call Dave any more. And that’s the bitter part. But we haven’t been able to for years.
Tom: Yeah, and on the one hand, personally, it grieves me. On the other hand, I’m so incredibly privileged. Let’s lay it out here: I got to hang out with this guy for 35 years, and a lot of that rubbed off—a lot of his encouragement, his teaching. And, you know, not academically. You know, Dave would say, “Well, Tom, there’s an interesting problem. Why don’t you search the Scriptures….” At the beginning he would point me to what verses. But then, in my growth process, he would say, “Hey, Tom, be a Berean. Check it out.” I couldn’t have asked for a better education in terms of the Scriptures.
Rob, have you known anybody who knew the Word of God as well as Dave?
Rob: Nobody close. As you say. And on virtually every topic. That’s what’s so remarkable, because at our ministry we have a bookstore, a book distribution arm, and people think that I’m biased because Dave Hunt was my friend, but there’s nobody who was so good on so many topics. I mean, he wrote the best book on the cults, on Mormonism, on Psychology, on the Faith movement, on the occult, on Islam, on Israel, on Roman Catholicism, on occultism, on Calvinism. You’re just thinking, “How can one guy have kicked out this many of the best books? It’s not possible for one individual, but it’s because of his insights into the Word of God.
And you and I are both reading all these remembrances, which are being posted on The Berean Call webpage, and so many people are saying, “Oh, I’ve been so blessed by his ministry. I know his voice so well. I wish I could have met him.” And you and I had the privilege of spending so much time with him that we’re really blessed.
Tom: Let me tell our listeners—give them a little background related to a book which was…I had the privilege of helping Dave with it—I’m talking about The Seduction of Christianity. I’d like to just give our listeners some insight in how that thing came about —that book came about.
As I mentioned, as a screenwriter, I was looking for work. I needed to feed my family. And I was involved—had participated in some documentaries. And as you mentioned, cults—certainly Cult Explosion, which Dave wrote the book for, I got to give some input on the documentary. And, of course, back then, it was film, not video. And then, after that, I got to participate in The God Makers documentary. And of course, Dave wrote the book with Ed Decker.
And the response to those books was really startling. People from both charismatic and non-charismatic churches who were reading these books or looking at these documentaries, would write to us and say, ”You know what? The occult teachings that you’ve been writing about (and they saw in the documentary) they’re being taught in our church!” And some of these were, as I said, charismatic, Pentecostal, and so on, but some of them were very conservative evangelical churches, and so on.
So that really—well, it didn’t force us, but we were kind of exhorted to lay this stuff out, and that’s how The Seduction of Christianity came about.
Now, sadly—I mean, it was a bestseller, but sadly, I think, for the wrong reason, Rob, because it was highly controversial. I can’t think of a book prior to that by a mainline Christian publisher in which leading Christians—those in leadership—were named in that book and documented as to the false teachings that they were presenting.
And Dave, in his graciousness, said, “Well, perhaps they’re doing this unwittingly, out of ignorance.”
And there were a lot of ideas out there that you could buy into, and if you didn’t check [them] out, you could become part of the problem.
Rob: Right, and when Seduction came out, I was so thankful for it because, again, as a young Christian I wanted to be a good husband, and I’d read Jim Dobson’s book, What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, and of course, it emphasized that the biggest problem women face is low self-esteem. And I thought, Well, gosh! I thought the Bible says that every man among is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. And I think that applies to women as well. “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” I don’t think low self-esteem is our problem.
And, as you say, it’s remarkable how great the controversy was, because the fact that you confronted the teaching of self-esteem should not have been controversial. That is not a teaching that ever should have gotten a foothold in the church. And yet it had.
Tom: Yeah, see, now that one, you would have thought that Christian leaders would have pegged right away, because it’s so obviously contrary to what the Word of God teaches. But they were also—Christian psychologists so-called—were also introducing things like occult visualization. That was a problem
Rob: Right. And I had read The Chronicles of Narnia, and I was surprised that nobody else had picked up the fact that they’re passing through a portal into an alternate reality realm, having real interaction with sentient beings that were not giving glory to God. And I thought, Does anybody else think that this is incredibly dangerous? And most people didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
Tom: But as we said, Rob, the book was incredibly controversial. Pastors, especially in the charismatic realm, they were telling their readers not to read the book, and, of course, that just helped the sales out a bit. But nevertheless, I had people confront me, and being new to the…well, not exactly new to the apologetics game, but there were areas that I just wasn’t aware of, and to be confronted by individuals telling me that I’m touching God’s anointed, and so I talked to Dave about it, and Dave said, “Look, if they—whoever it might be—can give you an example of something that’s not biblical, of something that we said that’s incorrect, we will change it in a heartbeat.”
But, Rob, time and time again, when I would say, “Well, tell me what the problem is so we can change it,” they hadn’t even read the book! And really, what I want to get to is there is a myth—this guy that we’ve known for years and years and years—there is a myth about him that, you know, well, he’s some kind of ogre, some kind of… I remember Robert Schuller saying this guy was a demon. “Look in his eyes!” That kind of thing.
But you couldn’t be further from the truth about Dave, his character, and his demeanor, his humility. You know, I could go on and on. And I think I know, probably, Dave Hunt better—other than being a family member, and I kind of felt like a family member—but outside the family, I think I knew him as well or even better than anybody.
Rob: Right. And Dave repeated what you said, and it was true of all his books, if there’s anything in there that’s not accurate, I’ll take it out. But if you point anything out, “Well, Dave, are you saying that these men aren’t Christians?” speaking of Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and Dave said, “I never said these men aren’t Christians, but when Oral Roberts has a 7-hour conversation with 900-foot-tall Jesus who tells him to build a hospital any idiot can see does not need to be built, promises to fill all 777 beds, and they never filled even 200, promises miracles documented from modern science that never happened, promises financial blessings that will bring prosperity to the ends of the earth—and it’s in bankruptcy, he said, “I’ll tell you one thing, Oral, that was not Jesus Christ that was speaking to Oral Roberts.”
And that’s what Dave was so good at: not judging hearts, just getting to the crux of the matter.
Tom: Prior to Seduction, Dave certainly had a reputation among evangelicals—you know, he wasn’t completely out of the loop, in a sense, in terms of people knowing who he was. Nevertheless, we couldn’t get interviews with a lot of the people that we wanted to—at least ask them questions about some of the things that they were teaching. However, after the book came out, then numerous people—by some of the people that you’ve mentioned that were “called on the carpet” —“Why are we in this book?” and so on.
And we did have the opportunity to meet with individuals, and incredibly, only one individual really took to heart our correction and then made a change. Everybody else either gave lip service to it, or—you know, I’m in an office with a psychiatrist…who we mention in the book, and he calls Dave a murderer for keeping people out of psychotherapeutic counseling! Incredible!
And Dave, to his credit, you know, most people would just, you know, hit the ceiling, or get really upset—Dave, just as calmly as ever, said, “Well, now we’re going to have to deal with the issues. Let’s talk about the validity of psychotherapy.” They didn’t want to go there.
Rob: Yes, and as you say, Tom, it’s not just Seduction, of course—that was by far the biggest seller and the most widely read—but for all his books, one of the disheartening things has been how few people have received correction. You obviously met with many after Seduction, but the reconstructionists, when they would evaluate things in terms of the Scriptures after Whatever Happened to Heaven?, very few changed their views. Very few Roman Catholics who were hardened in their position—obviously many were delivered by A Woman Rides the Beast, but many of the leaders hardened their hearts, or those who were being brought into the Church, men like Bill Bennett and Malachi Martin, obviously were not affected by A Woman Rides the Beast. And it’s just remarkable how rarely people—or Calvinists, if we move on to What Love Is This?—how few will evaluate the teachings of John Calvin in light of the Scriptures, as laid out by Dave Hunt.
And, as you say, so many of the people would attack the book, and it’s apparent they’d never read it.
Tom: Right. And, of course, if you have an agenda—if your ministry is wrapped around something, and it’s going to cost you dearly to repent of it or to correct it, it doesn’t usually happen.
But, Rob, as I think about Dave in terms of his humility, we were continually open to correction, we received correction, we have made some—certainly in the newsletter—never any major issues, but still, we wanted to do what was right continually, and we didn’t really see that…sometimes I felt, speaking to Dave, asking him if he was frustrated by all of this, but you know, his heart was…well, let me put it in this context: Your pastor has called Dave a prophet, okay? Now, Dave, in his humility, wouldn’t receive that. But I’ll tell you what Dave was. He was a watchman—a watchman on the wall, okay, who could recognize and discern and see these things that were developing and then entering into the church, and then speak to them.
And, you know, as the Scripture says, “If we have the responsibility…” you know, as Jude said, we contend for the faith. If we contend for the faith, and people don’t turn, they don’t repent, well, that’s their problem then. But if we know this stuff, and we want to address it—well, not just “want to,” but we need to address it, and when we do, we can’t look to how it’s going to turn out. We just have to do what God tells us to do, and speaking the truth in love. And Dave did that, in my view, continually.
That was Dave’s demeanor. Sometimes I think about 2 Timothy:2:24,25,26, which are instructions on how to bring about correction. And, Rob, I don’t know anyone—I ‘ve seen Dave in some situations where I don’t know if I could handle it, but he was, in my view, a tremendous example of how we are to go about correcting one another: meekness, humility, the servant of the Lord. That’s how he…if God peradventure will give the person the heart to repent, and so on. He did it continually.
Rob: Yes, and so often—we had an individual who confronted him here, and I believe he’s repented, so I won’t repeat his name, but Dave had come out to speak at our Bible College on Calvinism, and this gentleman came unglued, and went up during the break and was yelling at Dave. And then afterwards wrote him a letter and quoted those very verses…he wrote a letter to Dave, saying this is what you need to be like, Dave, and you’re not at all like that. And, of course, Dave is so humble, he said, “Well, I prayed about it, whether that is true, because I certainly want to consider it.” Because how do people get into this deep error? At some point, they stop examining themselves in light of the Scriptures. But of course, that was not a true charge.
And the other individual—for him to quote that was ironic, because he had been striving and had not been gentle and had not been patient. I mean, he was a textbook case of someone who had gone in great fury at Dave for what Dave had taught, but Dave was…it was always in love, and he didn’t care where he was. I heard him speak in Southern California alone well over 100 times over the decades, and it didn’t matter what the doctrinal view of the church was, in the Q&A afterward, if he was asked a question, he would gently and lovingly say what his views were, and sometimes you’d see it didn’t play in the church in which he was standing, but he wanted to rightly divide the Word of truth. He knew he’d stand before God some day, and he wasn’t interested in pleasing men. He didn’t have a fear of men. He wanted to please God.
Tom: Certainly in my 35 years with Dave, but also 20—The Berean Call has been a ministry for about 20 years, and as you know, Rob, we’ve dealt with everything—the most hostile groups, but still, like you said earlier, Dave would really be upset that we’re talking about him this way, but hey, we need to talk about him, because there are myths out there with regard to Dave that I don’t mind just blowing out of the water. Because they just weren’t true.
Here was a man, humble, meek, but I don’t know that I’ve known anybody more brilliant. In our next session, we’re going to talk about some personal anecdotes of Dave, and…he was phenomenal! Just to give you some, in terms of his memory, even before he became a believer in his teen years, he could quote you entire books of the Bible. After becoming a believer, now he had the understanding for the content that he already had in his heart and mind. And his memory! He could do hymns that had choruses and stanzas that nobody ever knew—“Oh, is that part of that hymn?” Poetry—he could go on, it seemed like 20, 30 minutes on one poem. It was just incredible.
And, of course, his heart for the Word of God, his love for the Word of God, is something that may be, perhaps, that was the greatest gift that…or at least encouragement, that he had in my life.
Rob: Mine as well. He loved the saints, and he wanted to see them built up, and he wanted to see that they weren’t following any man, especially him. He’d always say, “I’m not your guru.” He would constantly point back to the fact that we have God’s Word, we have His Holy Spirit, and that’s what we’re to rely on. And he wasn’t an elitist. That was the other thing that was so refreshing. There are so many men who, because they have a Ph.D. feel that they cannot be reasoned with because their intellect is too superior. And, obviously, Dave was such a humble man…
Tom: Now, Rob, we’re out of time for this program, but the Lord willing, next week we’re going to give some personal stories about Dave. He was the mountain man, expert fly fisherman, hiker, just an incredible guy. So we’re going to give some personal insights and perhaps—well, hopefully— blow out some of the myths about Dave Hunt.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, OR 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at thebereancall.org.
In our next program, Tom will continue his discussion on The Legacy of Dave Hunt with guest Rob Yardley.
I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could tune in, and we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.