A very “Calvinistic” sermon from SBC President Johnny Hunt


In yesterday’s chapel service at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached a sermon on Psalm 119:33-40. Many readers will recognize that Johnny Hunt is the pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA, which is hosting the anti-Calvinist “John 3:16 Conference,” and so you may be surprised that I would describe Hunt’s sermon from yesterday as “Calvinistic.” But what do we mean when we use the term “Calvinism”? Most people identify the term with the traditional “five points” of Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints. But we miss the point if we fail to understand that these “five points” are pillars which uphold the doxological truth that salvation is by God’s sovereign grace: that if we are to be saved from the judgment our sins deserve, it must be due to God’s choice, not ours, granting us undeserved favor through the work of Christ. This doxological truth was clearly proclaimed as Hunt made application of Psalm 119:33-40, bringing this text into focus by comparing it with other texts throughout Scripture. If the reader pays special attention to what Hunt declares in the section just after the middle-point of the sermon, as he preaches Psalm 119:35- “Make me walk in path of Your commandments, for I delight in it,” I believe that you will find Hunt preaches the powerlessness of Man and the absolute necessity of God’s work if we are to please Him.

I commend this sermon [which can be heard HERE] to SBF readers, and ask anyone reading this to consider:
1. Does what Hunt proclaims in this sermon make any sense at all apart from a Calvinistic perspective?
2. Does anything Hunt proclaims in this sermon contradict the Calvinistic perspective?

So that comments may be focused on the questions above, I ask readers to refrain from commenting until you have taken the time to listen to the sermon.

Explore posts in the same categories: Doctrinal Issues

13 Comments on “A very “Calvinistic” sermon from SBC President Johnny Hunt”

  1. Gordan Says:

    In answer to your two questions, NO and NO.

    However, I’d quibble with your post title. It wasn’t a Calvinistic sermon: the text was, but the sermon really wasn’t.

    Since Pastor Hunt preached the text as eight petitions of an already-redeemed heart, the issue of how that heart got redeemed in the first place was absent.

    I wish I could rejoice and say this sermon means that he truly gets it. But he has made it too clear in the past that he thinks every fallen man has the native ability to choose to be righteous…I don’t know what to think. I hope for the best.

  2. I think you have your facts wrong. I always preach calvinistic sermons but I have never preached at SBTS.

  3. Thanks for clearing that up, Jonathan!

  4. Darrin Says:

    Jonathan, we elected the wrong guy!

    Andrew, I agree that the scriptural text for the sermon reinforces the doctrines of grace, but I agree with Gordan that the sermon itself may not have been. I think that Pastor Hunt was somewhat ambiguous in his message. I give some feedback below:

    One on hand, in reference to his own salvation, the pastor emphatically says to “God be the glory”, and that God “captured my heart”. He notes that the psalmist asks “incline my heart”, and “revive me”, and etc. He mentions, in reference to the psalmist’s request, being “quickened through … life that only God can give”. He says that, without the Holy Spirit teaching internally, people “don’t get it”, meaning the gospel message. (This may have been his strongest Calvinistic statement, but I don’t think he may appreciate the full import of it.) Also, he says “Only God can change the life”. “Make me” do right, and “Anything new created is made by God” were other statements. He speaks of humility, and indicates (specifically in regard to his ministry)
    that anything he has is more than he deserves. He makes a moving statement, in regard to our own depravity (he didn’t use that word, but I believe this is how he meant it), implying that how powerful it is “if you ever begin to understand who you really are”. I appreciate all these statements.

    On the other hand, pastor Hunt says the psalmist asks to be made to do what he already delights in. For a man of faith, this may be a valid interpretation, but where did that delight originate? Hunt claims the prayer to be “I am willing to be made willing”. Is this scripturally or logically accurate? If we are already willing, why apply to God for willingness? Certainly as believers, we have God’s life in us, and thus desire His continual moving of our will toward His. But I think the pastor may give man too much credit in this ambiguity, not clearly recognizing God as the prime mover in all these things. Hunt indicates, as in Romans 7, that man wills, but can’t do. He says that we “need to be helped”. He says the word “revived” shows we are helpless, but concludes that we can’t come to God, but we can cry out to Him. (Is the latter not coming to Him?) These various statements sadly indicate to me that the pastor holds only to a partial fall, where man’s will is still capable of desiring aright, but he needs God’s assistance to carry it out. Pastor Hunt mentions that it “starts with seeing your own sinfulness”. True enough, but how is one enlightened to see this?

    The main point of the preacher’s message is well taken: Leading and praying with the end in mind. He even criticizes the modern church for making the message more palatable, dumbing it down. Amen to that.

    The pastor says that he wants to remain teachable, and that he dreads the potential of bringing reproach to Jesus. I pray that, as he encounters those in the SBC who may bring reproach to God by altering His revealed method of salvation and by honoring man rather than God in any point, the Lord sees fit to use Hunt to give God the glory due Him.

  5. Gordon Says:

    This is indeed a sermon with calvinistic tone. For the simple reason that David is praying to God for him to do the work, knowing that he cannot do it himself. The bottom line is this. many people are calvinists but refuse to acknowledge it. Anyone who believes that god is in control has to place all other issues within that frame of reference. God cannot be shortchanged. He is either in control of everything or he is not.

  6. Tom K. Says:

    For me, Free will and Free choice is not to be taken lightly and at some point in your walk with Christ, You must choose. To take away Free Will/Choice, to me is a lie straight from Hell.

  7. re: “[A]t some point in your walk with Christ, you must choose.”

    -At the very outset of the Christian life, the sinner- under conviction from the Holy Spirit through proclamation of the Law and the Gospel- must repent, choosing to forsake sin and cling to the living Christ as his only hope of salvation.

    re: “To take away Free Will/Choice, to me is a lie straight from Hell.”

    -It is really important to define what one means by “Free Will.” Many people use this term to indicate that humans are have a will that is morally neutral, and that they have the moral ability to choose to follow God at any time. A host of Scriptures proclaim the contrary: that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9), that everyone who sins is a slave of sin (John 8:34), that we are dead in our trespasses and sins: by nature children under wrath (Eph 2:1), that- before conversion- people are alienated and hostile in mind toward God (Col 1:21), etc. Therefore, for anyone to be saved, God must do a special work of grace: the Holy Spirit must convict of sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment (John 16:8), and He must give the sinner new life (John 3:7-8). On the final analysis, if any person chooses to follow Christ, it is not due to his own good decision- Man gets no glory, all glory goes to God- for salvation “does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16).

  8. I quite like reading an article that can make people think.

    Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

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