Dave Hunt’s Appalling Misrepresentation of Calvinism

Dave Hunt’s book about Calvinism, titled “What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God” slanderously misrepresents John Calvin, Calvinism, Calvinists, and Augustine and, as the title implies, is badly biased against Calvinism.  Although he says he has spoken to many Calvinists, the information he has received from them is not representative of Calvinism; in fact, I’m astonished at some of the fanciful things Dave says he has been told by Calvinists.  Anyone who reads his book and accepts what it says will not only not have a right understanding of Calvinism, they will have a distorted view of it. 

Dave should have more accurately and more honestly entitled his book: “How Some Calvinists Misunderstand Calvinism” because he quotes heavily from other people’s words about Calvin instead of what Calvin himself wrote.  If he had done this, referred to Calvin, the size of his own book would be substantially reduced and those who sincerely want to understand Calvin and Calvinism would have a better chance of doing so.  I don’t care how many Calvinist authors and scholars Dave has referred to if he hasn’t enquired of Calvin himself.  Dave has taken anybody’s word who has anything negative to say about Calvin and shovelled them all into his own book, thus producing a compendium of confusion and lies.

Calvin Used the Latin Vulgate???

Dave writes: “Along with the writings of Augustine, the Latin Vulgate also molded Calvin’s’ thoughts as expressed in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Fluent in Latin, Calvin had long used that corrupted translation of the Bible, which, since its composition by Jerome at the beginning of the fifth century, was the official Bible of Roman Catholics” (Kindle 12%).  He gives as a reference for this bizarre claim, Samuel Fisk quoting David Schaff (1985).  Calvin’s name as a reference is notably absent.

Unfortunately for Dave Hunt, Samuel Fisk, and David Schaff, Calvin utterly rejected the Vulgate, as we see from his reply to the Council of Trent’s Fourth Session (1546) in which they made the Vulgate the official version to be used by Catholics.  Calvin replied:

“….In condemning all translations except the Vulgate, as the error is more gross, so the edict is more barbarous. The sacred oracles of God were delivered by Moses and the Prophets in Hebrew, and by the Apostles in Greek. That no corner of the world might be left destitute of so great a treasure, the gift of interpretation was added. It came to pass — I know not by what means, but certainly neither by judgment nor right selection — that of the different versions, one [Jerome’s Vulgate] became the favourite of the unlearned, or those at least who, not possessing any knowledge of languages, desired some kind of help to their ignorance. Those, on the other hand, who are acquainted with the languages perceive that this version teems with innumerable errors; and this they make manifest by the clearest evidence”.

The decrees of the Council of Trent and Calvin’s responses to them can be found on the link below.  It is clear that Calvin not only repudiated the Vulgate but the apocrypha as well.


Dave continues his attack by claiming that the Vulgate influenced the popular bible versions in the age of the Reformation, especially Luther’s German bible.  He wants us to believe that from Luther the influence of the Vulgate passed on to the Authorised King James Version and the Geneva Bible.  He says that “As the Vulgate was filled with Augustinianisms, the Geneva Bible was filled with Calvinism, in the text as well as in voluminous notes….this should be sufficient to trace the influence from that ultimate Roman Catholic, Augustine, through the Latin Vulgate and his writings, upon Calvin – and through Calvin, into the Geneva Bible and on into the King James Bible”.  So, according to Dave Hunt, the KJV is tainted by Catholic doctrines (Kindle).

Again, despite all his references to other authors, Dave’s claim is false.  Augustine had nothing to do with the production of the Vulgate – it was all Jerome’s work.  In fact, Augustine pleaded with Jerome not to proceed with translating the bible into Latin.

“…..I beseech you not to devote your labour to the work of translating into Latin the sacred canonical books, unless you follow the method in which you have translated Job, viz. with the addition of notes, to let it be seen plainly what differences there are between this version of yours and that of the Septuagint [Greek translation of the Hebrew], whose authority is worthy of highest esteem”.


Calvin and Augustine

A large part of Dave Hunt’s book is spent condemning Augustine’s theology and then imposing guilt by association onto Calvin.

In chapter 4 of his book, under the heading “Calvinism’s Surprising Catholic Connection”, he writes: “As for Calvin’s theology, there is no question that rather than deriving it from a diligent study of the Bible, he imposed upon the Bible certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation.  Many leading Calvinists agree that the writings of Augustine were the actual source of most of what is known as Calvinism today” (Hunt, D. 2006, Kindle). 

Calvin derived his theology from Augustine???

Hunt accuses Calvin of getting his theology from Augustine and lists or quotes several authors to prove it.  The claim that Calvin referenced Augustine in his Institutes is true, and neither Calvin nor anybody else tries to hide that fact.  So what’s the big deal?  He did that with multitudes of other of the Church Fathers, along with various pagan Greeks and Romans.  The reason Calvin liked Augustine so much was because Augustine explained and defended so much biblical truth so clearly – what Christian doesn’t love somebody like that?  But Calvin didn’t derive ALL his theology from Augustine; he saw Augustine’s theology in scripture, and that was his authority.  He liked Augustine because Augustine explained scripture so well.

And neither did Calvin adopt ALL of Augustine’s theology.  A Catholic enemy of Calvin and Protestantism, Canon William Barry of Leamington USA, wrote of Calvin in an article for a multi-volume “Catholic Encyclopedia” in 1908: “To the modern world, however, Calvin stands peculiarly for the Reformation; his doctrine is supposed to contain the essence of the gospel; and multitudes who reject Christianity mean merely the creed of Geneva.  Why does this happen?  Because, we answer, Calvin gave himself out as following closely in the steps of St. Paul and St Augustine….His ‘pure doctrine’ is gained by appealing, not to tradition, the ‘deposit’ of faith, but to argument in abstract terms exercised upon Scripture….Calvin annihilates the entire space, with all its developments, which lie between the death of St John and the sixteenth century.  He does indeed quote Augustine, but he leaves out all that Catholic foundation on which the Doctor of Grace built (Wileman, W, 1909, Kindle edition 2020) – emphases mine.  This Catholic enemy of Calvin complains that Calvin only quoted Augustine’s “non-Catholic” writing.

Furthermore, to demonstrate Calvin’s high view of scripture: “Only if we walk in the beauty of God’s law do we become sure of our adoption as children of the Father.

The law of God contains in itself the dynamic of the new life by which his image is fully restored in us; but by nature we are sluggish, and therefore, we need to be stimulated, aided in our efforts by a guiding principle.

A sincere repentance from the heart does not guarantee that we shall not wander from the straight path and sometimes become bewildered.

Let us then search Scripture to find the root principle for the reformation of life.

2. Scripture contains a great number of exhortations, and to discuss them all would fill a large volume.

The church fathers have written big works on the virtues without prating; even a scholarly treatise cannot exhaust the profundity of one virtue.

For true devotion, however, it is not necessary to read the excellent works of the church fathers (Augustine would be included here), but only to understand the one basic rule of the Bible (Calvin, J, 1952, p. 15-16).

Calvin’s Enemies

While on the subject of Calvin’s Catholic enemies, there was a vengeful converted monk (he later returned to the Catholic Church) who vilified Calvin in print.  “But Calvin’s theological certitude withstood many challenges and conflicts, including the trial of Jerome Bolsec, a former Catholic monk who had become a Protestant physician.  Bolsec vigorously countered Calvin’s doctrine of predestination – the very underpinning of his clerical and civil authority.  (Bolsec was banished and later wrote a slanderous and historically destructive biography of Calvin). In 1553, as public support for Calvin again ebbed lower, his supporters were once again galvanised by the arrest, trial, and execution of Miguel Servetus, the infamous author of a book that discounted the more universally accepted and fundamental doctrine of the Trinity.  Servetus had been arrested when he travelled to Geneva, and was later burned at the stake, though Calvin appealed for a more humane execution” (Preface to “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” p. xiv). 

But even the online Catholic Encyclopedia says of Bolsec’s biographies of Calvin and Beza, “These works are violent in tone, and find little favour with protestant writers. Their historical statements cannot always be relied on”CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Jerome-Hermes Bolsec (newadvent.org)

So beware when reading the various horror stories about Calvin circulating on the net today.

Whether Dave Hunt likes it or not, the modern churches have inherited the theology of the Church Fathers – especially of Augustine – and of the Reformers.  All the cardinal doctrines of Christianity were worked out, loudly and sometimes very violently, in theological debates against heretical views and confirmed in Councils in which the whole of Eastern and Western Christianity were represented; doctrines such as the Trinity, the various aspects of the Person and Work of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the two natures and the two wills of Christ, and so on.  But for them, we wouldn’t even be Christian today, but more likely Gnostic; today’s churches would regard Jesus as not having come in the flesh but only appearing as a human (Docetism); he would not be the divine Son of the Father but a manifestation of the Father (Sabellian); he would not be part of the Trinity (Arianism); he would not have died for sinners – indeed, he would not even have died (Egyptian Gnosticism).  These and most other essential doctrines of Christianity were forged in the fires of debate and persecution and handed down to the churches for all time – and Dave Hunt was a benefactor of their toil, study, teaching, and persecution.


So it is ironic, or rather, hypocritical, that Dave and his friends denounce Augustine and the Fathers who, they claim, were all Catholic; but when it comes to their precious doctrine of Dispensational Premillennialism, they loudly and proudly trumpet that it was the theology of the early Church and is therefore correct. 

If Dave insists that Premillennialism was universally held by the early Church and therefore Christians should accept the doctrine today, then he needs to be consistent and accept other doctrines which were universally held by the early Church.  This would mean accepting baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that it was a sacrifice, an intermediate place between heaven and hell, the Old Testament apocrypha, prayers to the saints and intercession by the saints, the primacy of the pope and of the Roman church, and a host of other doctrines – all these were universally held by the early Church, both East and West.  It wasn’t until the Reformation that they were rejected, and that only by Protestants.    But we know that he would never do that because it doesn’t fit his theology.  As he does with his sources for his book on Calvin (and Augustine), he only picks from the early Church that which supports his theology and what he wants his readers to believe.  He is both dishonest and consequently inconsistent.

And if he had done the smallest research he would have found that the form of Premillennialism held in the early Church was quite different to the Premillennialism of today.  In Chiliasm, there was no rapture, no Great Tribulation, and no restored national Israel in a thousand reign of Christ on earth.  The Israel of Chiliasm was a spiritual Israel i.e. all who confessed Christ as Saviour, regardless of ethnic or national origin.  The Israel of Chiliasm was the Church that Jesus was building (Matt 16:18; Eph 2:13-22 cf 3:10, 21).

 Christian Equals Catholic

It is also important to note that Christians in the first centuries of the Church were universally called Catholics; and the churches were the Catholic Church.  The Orthodox churches had also been (less well) known as Orthodox since the 2nd century.  However, there were no churches known as Protestant churches, or Baptist churches, or Presbyterian churches, or Pentecostal churches etc., even though there were early forms of some of them.  This is evidenced by the line in the Apostles Creed which says: “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”; and the Nicene Creed, which says: “In one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.  When Augustine (354-430) said “I should not believe the gospel unless I were moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church”, he was referring to the Catholic Church as it was in his time; and all the other Fathers believed the same.  But just switch “Christian” in his statement for “Catholic”, as he meant it, and there is no problem.

As part of the early Catholic Church, Augustine made a huge contribution to Western Christianity and culture.  If Augustine’s theology was biblical, then what choice did Calvin have but to accept it?  How could he develop a different theology if Augustine’s theology was right?  Where he thought Augustine expressed a doctrine in a way he thought was correctly stated, Calvin said he felt no need to state it himself – he was honest and didn’t plagiarise Augustine, or steal his ideas and claim them as his own.  And he wasn’t an heresiarch trying to formulate a new theology or found a new church; he was not trying to be original.  Calvin valued scripture above all else; he stood on his own feet – feet which stood firmly on the bible alone. 

Many of the teachings of Augustine were taught not only by Calvin, but Luther and the other Reformers.  And it has also been reiterated in the theology of nearly every non-Calvinist and fundamentalist teacher and preacher, such as Wesley, Moody, Torrey, and so on nearly endlessly.  But, more importantly, they are all found in scripture, and when preached by men such as Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, and Moody, to name a few, wrought salvation in the hearts of multitudes in the great revivals of the past; and by Calvinist missionaries such as William Carey, John Eliot, David Brainerd, Robert Moffatt, Adoniram Judson, John G. Paton, and a host of other Calvinist missionaries who took the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Calvinism is Biblical Doctrine Formulated

“As for Calvin’s theology, there is no question that rather than deriving it from a diligent study of the Bible, he imposed upon the Bible certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation”.  It’s hard to believe that anybody could write such absolute rubbish – it not only displays Dave’s ignorance of his subject, it is slanderous.

I wonder if Dave developed his own theology without reference to anybody else?  Did he not have a Christian background which would have influenced him unconsciously as he developed and grew?  And did he not imbibe the teaching of his parents as he grew from childhood to adulthood?  Or did his parents keep totally silent about Christianity, keep him from any kind of church attendance or activity, and then leave it totally up to him to find God in his own time and his own way, without any external influences?  Did he never read a book or hear a sermon which didn’t contribute to or influence his theological understanding and help him develop it?  Were his theology and church polity and eschatology not determined and shaped by the Plymouth Brethren, of whom he was a member?  Did he just start reading the bible one day and work out a full-blown theology without reference to anybody else?  Of course not!  Nobody does.  As Protestant Christians we have inherited a detailed religion which has been shaped and developed by many godly men and women throughout history, by Councils, by creeds and denominational Statements of Faith, by Christian scholars and academics, bible commentaries, preachers, theologians, and a host of other means that God gave to the churches for their instruction, development, and edification.

So why can’t Dave allow John Calvin to have come from a Catholic background to new birth in Christ through faith alone and scripture alone?  Why can’t he accept a man with such a brilliant mind and godly spirit as John Calvin, an effective opponent of the Catholic Church, and allow that the Holy Spirit worked in him through the scriptures and the theology of the church fathers, especially Augustine, and who experienced the work of regeneration and new birth through the Holy Spirit’s grace in his heart?  Does he really believe that Calvin never searched the scriptures for himself, as did the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12)?  Where then, did he get his immense knowledge and understanding of scripture? Didn’t Calvin have his own mind which enabled him to discern whether what the Fathers, including Augustine, taught was biblical or not?  His writings show that he did – has Dave read anything that Calvin wrote?  Does he really think that Calvin was incapable of changing his mind and his theology from Catholicism to the gospel when convicted by the truth of the bible and gracious power of the Holy Spirit? 

How did Calvin manage to write several editions of his Institutes if he wasn’t saved, and preach through almost every book of the bible; how did he manage to train pastors and send missionaries and establish Christian churches throughout Europe, and even as far as Brazil?  And why have so many churches and denominations been built on a Calvinist view of the bible?  Why were most of the well-known missionaries Calvinist?  Why were most of the major leaders and influencers of the great revivals upon whom fell the Spirit Calvinists, if Calvin’s theology was “imposed upon the Bible [by] certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation”?  What rubbish is this, to misquote the subtitle of Dave’s fallacious book? 

If Calvin was Catholic, why did he reject Augustine’s Catholic theology but not his biblical theology?  If he was still Catholic in his thinking, why did he reject the Mass and transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, the apocrypha, auricular confession, priestly absolution, perpetual virginity of Mary, primacy of the Pope, purgatory, and every other Catholic dogma?  Indeed, he wrote against the Catholic Church and its unbiblical teaching and practice in his Institutes and other writings, condemning the Catholic Church and everything to do with it as being of antichrist.  Why did the churches that he established and built have nothing Catholic in them?  Why did he send missionaries to Catholic-dominated Europe if he was Catholic?  Why didn’t he submit himself and his actions to the Pope?  Hunt’s accusation that Calvin was Catholic is totally ridiculous and it demeans and detracts from the good things that Dave taught, and makes him look a fool.  So I ask again – has Dave read anything that Calvin wrote?

As for Calvin’s conversion and his dealings with Michael Servetus, I’ve covered these under separate article on this website.


Hunt, D. 2006, “What Love is This?  Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God”, 3rd edition, Pub. The Berean Call USA (Kindle edition)

“John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching, And His Influence”, by William Wileman, pub E4 Group, 2020.  Original publication details: William Wileman’s (1848-1944) John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching and His Influence (London: Robert Banks & Son, ca. 1909)

John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, 1952, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI