“Examining Calvinism” – Part 2 – Bypassing John 6

Every so often we hear someone respond to Calvinism by saying that it’s not the plain reading of scripture. I’ve even heard it said, “put somebody on a desert island with a bible and see if they come up with Calvinism“. This is clearly ‘tradition’ speaking, in that the people who say these things are so used to a set of assumption about the bible, that they struggle to see beyond them. Arminians for example, are quick to point out how “all” and “world” are simple words that Calvinists make lengthy explanations for. Yet when the Calvinist brings up a simple passage like Acts 13:48 “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed“, the Arminian response usually involves a fair amount of dancing.

In reality, both Calvinism and Arminianism have an arsenal of passages that can be brought out to demonstrate how the opposing view does not accept the simple “plain reading” of scripture. The fact is, some things can not be answered plainly and simply. Both sides for example, would appeal to systematic theology for a scriptural description of the Trinity for example.

So, although I’m cautious of the simple “plain reading” theory of determining which side is correct in these matters, I am in fact going to make an exception and appeal to it in the case of Richard Coord’s explanation of John 6. The reason being, Richard’s view of this passage goes so far beyond the plain reading, that I am confident that not even the entire desert island trapped crew of the SS Minnow would come up with Richard’s explanation for this passage, even if we equipped them with the best bible tools available.

When Richard and I began to discuss this passage of scripture, I had no intention of leaving John chapter 6 in order to explain the drawing in verse 44. My position simply does not require it. On the John 6:44 page of Richard’s “Examining Calvinism” site however, we encounter an explanation that takes us on a rather extensive tour of the bible. Just on that page alone, I’ve noted the following passages being used to directly, or indirectly support his explanation for this one bible verse:

Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 65:2; John 12:37-41; John 3:30; John 1:35-37; John 1:49; John 8:41-42; John 9:28; John 10:26; John 1:47; John 20:28; Luke 16:22,25; Luke 16:31;Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 15:24; Acts 2:39; Acts 2:37; Acts 9:15

I contend that these other passages do not actually help to explain what’s going on in John 6:44, but rather, are being used to change it’s very meaning. In future posts we’ll look at some of the ways Richard uses some of these passages to examine John 6:44, but for now I want to touch on Richard’s view of WHO this passage relates to. Richard does not believe that this passage relates to you and me, or anyone else alive today. Instead, he sees the drawing in John 6:44 as relating to the Jews prior to the resurrection of Christ.

I had to ask a couple of key questions of him, in order to understand the reason why he felt that John 6 no longer relates to people today. Wondering if Richard was disqualifying all of Jesus teachings prior to the time or the resurrection, I asked him if he believed that the teaching of the Sermon on The Mount was inclusive of us today. If so, why not John 6 also? Richard’s response was:

“As we would both agree, The Sermon on The Mount is for all men, for all time, and as such, there is no basis for restricting it. However, I argue that there is indeed a basis at John 6:44 if Jesus is taking over the drawing duties when He is lifted up (Jn 12:32). The “none” in that draw would reasonably lose relevance if a change in operation takes place, and the Son takes over the drawing, and that being of the “other sheep.” My interpretation is that Jesus was explaining to the Jews why they were not believing in Him, because the Father did not draw them to Him, and He did not draw them, because they were not His, despite their claims to the contrary. I feel that Jesus was telling them that they were not right with God, though they thought they were. I feel that this also explains John 10:26.” (bold emphasis mine)

So we see above that Richard feels that the drawing of all in John 12:32 makes the drawing in John 6:44 obsolete. More about that later. I also asked Richard how he would train a new believer how to know what is “for them” and what is not for them, when reading their bibles. His answer was:

The instructions are for them, unless there is reason to believe something has changed. A new believer may say, “The Father draws?” And then a helper clarifies, “Keep reading. Since Calvary, Jesus now does the drawing. That had to do with the Jews, and was especially meaningful for why they were not believing in Jesus, that is, because they didn’t believe in the Father either, though they thought they did.”

So we see how readers of Richard Coords’ Examining Calvinism website are lead to believe that the passage in John 6 is for Jews only, prior to Christ’s resurrection. In future posts we’ll also look at how, according to Examining Calvinism, even for those included in that restricted pool of Jews, the drawing of John 6:44 was not effectual, but was a drawing based on their own free will.

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8 Comments on ““Examining Calvinism” – Part 2 – Bypassing John 6”

  1. Gayla Says:

    Hi Jim~ Welcome to Strange BaptistFire. I list both this and Old Truth in my blogroll and read you most every day. I, too, look forward to following your series here.

    It truly is a matter of God opening our eyes to the truth of His sovereignty. I think it’s got to be much, much more than being ‘learned.’ As recently as a little over 2 years ago, I was arguing ‘Arminian’ thought and Scripture verses with the best of ‘em! Fully convinced of my stance, too, I might add. Possibly worse than reading my own presuppositions into biblical text was the fact that I simply swallowed what was coming from the pulpit. Thankfully God led my husband and me to a different church, and in going thru the material in our new members class, He mercifully opened my eyes. My life hasn’t been the same. It’s a process and I’m still learning, still wrestling – but now studying the Word thru the filter of our Sovereign God. It has been and continues to be an amazing transformation!

    (copied from your first post on this; I was late getting in there!)

  2. Gordan Says:

    I haven’t read the man’s argument in question, but only this post; it seems to me very similar to saying that, since Scripture alternately reveals both the Father and the Son as Creator, then they must have worked on separate creations.

    The present argument seems to place a tension in the Godhead: the Father would not draw all men, but the Son would, and does in distinction.

    It seems a basic sort of trinitarian understanding of theology proper (the nature of God) would prevent the notion that the drawing of the Father must be something different in kind or scope than the drawing of the Son.

    I guess I may be missing something…?

  3. Gene Says:

    Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 65:2; John 12:37-41; John 3:30; John 1:35-37; John 1:49; John 8:41-42; John 9:28; John 10:26; John 1:47; John 20:28; Luke 16:22,25; Luke 16:31;Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 15:24; Acts 2:39; Acts 2:37; Acts 9:15
    ^Taking a person on this tour is problematic for several reasons.

    a. It amounts to the word-concept fallacy. Just because these passages may use the word “draw” it does not stand to reason that the word is used in in the same manner.

    b. Notice the different authors. How is Luke or Matthew or Malachi an arbiter for John?

    c. Of these Isaiah is the most likely, because John and Isaiah are quite well bound together. The problem is, of course, that where John and Isaiah intersect most often is in the passages relating to hardening and the divine name. If God draws all equally, then how is Isaiah at all supportive, given John’s repetition of Isa 6 in John 12?

    d. Note the lack of demonstration of what these passages say and the lack of demonstration of how they relate to John 6.

    e. If is dispensationally irrelevant, then why are these other texts relevant? Likewise, if any appeal is made from one dispensation to the next, then why is that a licit move for the classic dispensationalist but not for us?

    f. This is also a striking example of semantic anachronism:The disputant maps dogmatic usage back onto Biblical usage, then appeals to Biblical usage, thus redefined, to disprove dogmatic usage. For example, some Arminians appeal to Mt 23:37, Lk 7:30, Acts 7:51, Gal 2:21; 5:4, 2 Cor 6:1; & Heb 12:15 to disprove “irresistible grace.”

    Mt 23:37 alludes to a conditional covenant with the house of Israel (v38; cf. Jer 12:7; 22:5). This is preceptive, not decretive. If we want to find an example of God’s decretive will in Matthew, turn to 11:21-23.

    Lk 7:30 has reference to the preaching of John the Baptist. In this verse, “God’s will“ stands for the baptism of repentance. This is preceptive, not decretive. Furthermore, the verb (“rejected”) could just as well take the prepositional phrase (“for themselves”) rather than the noun (“God’s will”) for its object. See the commentaries by Bock, Evans, and Meyer.

    Acts 7:51 has reference, not to the internal work of the Spirit, but to the agency of the Spirit in the inspiration of the prophetic word—both in OT preaching (e.g. Num 27:14; Isa 63:10), and the charismatic kerygma of the NT Apostles and evangelists (e.g. Philip; Stephen). So this is preceptive.

    In 2 Cor 6:1, I take the phrase about the “grace of God” to be a shorthand expression for “the gospel of the grace of God“ (cf. Acts 20;24), in contrast to a false gospel (2 Cor 11:4; cf. Gal 1:6ff.). This is preceptive.

    Gal 2:21 & 5:4 have reference to the doctrine of grace rather than the grace of the doctrine. What people can resist is the doctrine of justification and not the experience of justification, which is a divine act. Once again, the emphasis is preceptive. Moreover, 5:4 is hortatory and hyperbolic. If Paul had believed that the Galatians were guilty of apostasy, he would hardly express confidence in their gracious perseverance (v10).

    In Heb 12:15, we should resist the temptation to subjectivize the concept of grace. Throughout this letter, the author’s emphasis is on the phenomenology rather than psychology of faith. His few references to the work of the Spirit are confined to the Spirit’s agency in inspiration and the charismata or sign-gifts. The existential dimension is absent.

    Another example is where Arminians treat the mere occurrence of words like “repentance” (Heb 6:2,6), “bought” (2 Pet 2:1), and “sanctify” (Heb 10:29), as if these were technical terms which carried the same specialized meaning as dogmatic usage, and then appeal to these verses to disprove perseverance or special redemption.

    But Peter is not using the verb “to buy” as a synonym for penal substitution, which is a theological construct (cf. Isa 53; Rom 5; 2 Cor 5:18,21; Gal 3:13; Col 2:14; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18). Rather, his usage is allusive of false OT prophets like Balaam (2:15; cf. Jude 11), as well as the Exodus generation (cf. Deut 32:6; 2 Sam 7:23)

    The author of Hebrews is not using “repentance” in the rotund sense of the Westminster Confession: “repentance unto life is an evangelical grace…” (WCF 15).

    Likewise, he is not using “sanctify” in the later dogmatic sense, but in the cultic sense of ritual purity (9:13,20; cf. Exod 29:21; Lev 16:19, LXX)). Notice that the apostate is “sanctified” by the blood of Christ, not the Spirit of God. This is a status, not a process. More generally, the author’s usage in Heb 6 and 12 goes back to the archetypal rebellion at Kadesh, recorded in Num 14 and expounded in Ps 95.

    g. Also, they can serve as examples of semantic incest:This is where a disputant uses one Bible writer’s usage to interpret another Bible writer’s usage. For example, James’ use of “justification” is employed to reinterpret Paul’s usage—and thereby disprove sola fide.

    Or Paul’s use of “sanctification” is employed to interpret the sense of the word in Heb. 10:29—and thereby disprove perseverance or special redemption. But this is a fallacious procedure unless the disputant can show, independent of the comparison, that both writers are using the same word the same way.

    h. And semantic inflation:The disputant will equate the mere occurrence of a word with a whole doctrine associated with the word.

    FFor example, a Catholic will compare and contrast Paul’s doctrine of justification with James’ doctrine of justification. But the mere fact that James uses the word “justification” doesn’t mean that he even has a doctrine of justification. That would depend, not on the occurrence of the word, in isolation, but on a larger argument. Words and concepts are two different things. Another example is when Francis Frangipane and Word of Faith teachers read “standing in the gap” in Ezekiel 22:30 to mean “prayer” based on the term “intercession” with reference to prayer in the New Testament when there are several kinds of intercession, of which prayer is only one, and “standing in the gap” has a particular referent. The end result is that all references to “intercession” are taught to refer to prayer and all references to “standing in the gap” refer to prayer by virtue of association with intercession. Word of Faith teachers hold to an eccentric doctrine of intercession by invocation of a principle of faith which is then read back into each of these passages, further inflating the occurrence of certain terms through semantic anachronism.

    i. Finally, by hanging a whole interpretation on dispensationalism itself, we have a huge problem, for at hermeneutical option did not arise until the 19th century. Covenant theology in one form or another has had a longer pedigree, going back at least as far as Iranaeus. If dispensationalism of this nature is false, then the entire grid crumbles. Covenant theology here can sustain a greater “attack” for progressive dispy’s, NCTer’s, and CT’ers’ all agree on the meaning of this passage within the Reformed community, even real Arminians stipulate to it in some manner, the argument is over the effectiveness of the drawing and the basis of the giving, not the fact that these are in the text and soteriologically relevant to us today. What’s being said here is that everybody before the 19th century got it wrong. Now, there are many things wrong in Christian theology prior to that time, broadly speaking, but who is more likely to be wrong? The 19th century dispensationalist or the broadly Augustinian exegetical tradition?


  4. Jim, if I had known that you were posting our discussion, then I would have linked it a long time ago. Now I will certainly link it.

    When we read that “all that the Father gives Me” (John 6:37), we naturally ask, Who did the Father give Him? Calvinism answers that it is those of the alleged, eternal flock of the Father, that is, those who have been, allegedly, eternally mediated to the Father independent of Christ. In contrast, Arminianism points to John 17:6-8, and notice the past-tense references: “‘I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.’”

    It was past-tense. They were given. They were drawn. They came to Jesus. The Jews that rejected John the Baptist, rejected Christ too, while the Jews that submitted to John’s ministry of a baptism to repentance, submitted to Christ’s ministry, and hence followed Him. (John 1:35-37) I am encouraged that other prominent Arminians share my interpretation, such as Lawrence Vance who wrote “The Other Side of Calvinism,” as well as professors of Asbury Theological Seminary, Walls and Dongell, co-authors of “Why I am not a Calvinist,” both of whom I quoted in my write-up on John 6:44.

    I would like to invite you to a dialogue on Preemptive Regeneration. My primary text is Ephesians 1:13, while yours may perhaps be John 6:37 or 6:44.

    Here is one quote this is in focus:

    Calvinist, James White, writes: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that ***new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ*** (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’).” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)

    Note that preemptive regeneration is more specifically, preemptive placement in Christ, despite the fact that Ephesians 1:13 teaches that a man is not sealed in Christ until after he hears and believes in the Gospel. Knowing that regeneration is in Christ, how can a man be regenerated in Christ, before he is sealed in Christ? (Queue Gene Bridges to post an encyclopedia)

    Here is the Blog: http://examiningcalvinism.blogspot.com/

    Feel free to comment, Jim.

  5. Gene Says:

    Actually, this is quite simple, sir. You’ve provided me with an outstanding example of semantic anachronism. The disputant maps dogmatic usage back onto Biblical usage, then appeals to Biblical usage, thus redefined, to disprove dogmatic usage. For example, to treat the mere occurrence of words like “repentance” (Heb 6:2,6), “bought” (2 Pet 2:1), and “sanctify” (Heb 10:29), as if these were technical terms which carried the same specialized meaning as dogmatic usage, and then appeal to these verses to disprove perseverance or special redemption.

    “Sealing” and “regeneration” are not convertible concepts. “Regeneration” has an additional strong tendency to be a Johanine, not a Pauline concept. We do not deny a person is “sealed” after faith. “Sealing” is the rough equivalent of the dogmatic term “indwelling.” “Regeneration” and “indwelling” are not convertible concepts. We’re also discussing a logical order here, not a temporal order. I assume you know this.

    Perhaps you need to get a handle on the Reformed ordu salutis to help you understand our POV:

    Beginning:

    Two divine acts:

    1. Effectual Call via (2) regeneration. Instrumentality: the gospel

    In older Reformed theology, these are collapsed into one thing. The language of regeneration has also changed over time. You may find this helpful:

    http://strangebaptistfire.com/2006/08/07/regeneration-and-the-flyswatter-part-two-the-language-of-regeneration/

    Result: 2 Divine-Human acts

    3. Faith in Christ
    4. Repentance

    (Some Calvinists might quibble over that order, but most don’t)

    Middle

    Three Divine Acts:
    5. Justification
    6. Definitive Sanctification
    7 Adoption and the Spirit’s Sealing

    Result

    2 Divine-Human Acts:

    8. Progressive Sanctification
    9. Perseverance in holiness

    End

    1 Divine Act

    10. Glorification

    I have a question for you. Just out of curiosity. What is Walls and Dongell’s biblical/exegetical argument for libertarian free will? Do you concur? Why or why not?


  6. Do you believe that you somehow became “in Christ” before you were “sealed” in Christ, and if so, please explain “how.” Eph 1:13 provides a clear explanation to the Arminian exactly “how” a person becomes in Christ, as it occurs through a sealing, performed by the Holy Spirit.

    Calvinist, James White, who states: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’).” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)

    This quote shows that Calvinism teaches that a person is preemptively placed in Christ prior to the sealing. Unfortunately, I could not locate in the “Debating Calvinism” book, example how James White proposes that a person is preemptively placd in Christ.

  7. Gene Says:

    Ahem,

    All you’ve done is restate your objection. In the real world, that’s called nonresponsiveness. I take it by your non-response that you have no argument that sealing and regeneration are equivalent acts and that regeneration and adoption are convertible principles. Where is your supporting argument?

  8. Jim Says:

    Examining Calvinism said: “Feel free to comment, Jim

    Richard, I’ve spent time, too much time, going through all of this with you on your selective blog, and I posted many comments back and forth with you. I feel a little like Samuel now, as Saul conjures him up from his rest, for further discussion:-) Why not just sit back and relax, and read the summaries that I’m going to be posting. The great thing about this format is, people who disagree with the content here, and who are willing to abide by some simple site rules, can always post comments explaining what their objections are. If only we were given that chance on your Examining Calvinism website, which does not accept comments at all.

    I’m interested in hearing your response to Gene’s question above, when you get around to answering it. Perhaps some other readers here will have additional questions for you. Don’t expect a lot of additional interaction with me however. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.


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