Friday, May 26, 2006

Balance

On my other blog, Behind the Scenes, in the post on Calvinism and Choice, Jim argued that the Greek text of John 6:44 allows for only a strictly Calvinist interpretation. He came here as a result of a comment I posted on his site where he argues that there is no middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism.

(Of course, what he means is that everyone who departs in any degree from a strict Calvinism is to that degree guilty of heresy.)

He accuses me of dismissing his “grammatical proof” with nothing more than a childish reply of, “Not so.” For those of you who are keeping score at home (and who are in possession of an open mind) I offer the following extended quotation from The New American Commentary by Gerald L. Borchert:

Debates have raged in theology concerning the significance of the “drawing” power of God and the “learning” from God in this text. Those who are persuaded of an Augustinian/Calvinistic interpretation emphasize the force of God’s supreme power in drawing persons to Jesus. Those who are committed to an Arminian interpretation emphasize that the drawing power of God is on individual persons and that persons need to believe (cf. 6:47)…. The force of these texts, therefore, is really neither an affirmation of strict Arminianism nor Calvinism. The Calvinists attach this discussion to texts such as 10:25–29 whereas the Arminians unite this passage with other texts such as 12:32; 15:5–6. The solution to such problems normally is best found in a modified Arminian-Calvinistic position that maintains the biblical tension of the divine and human aspects of salvation found in this text. Salvation is never achieved apart from the drawing power of God, and it is never consummated apart from the willingness of humans to hear and learn from God. To choose one or the other will ultimately end in unbalanced, unbiblical theology. Such a solution will generally not please either doctrinaire Calvinists nor Arminians, both of whom will seek to emphasize certain words or texts and exclude from consideration other texts and words. But my sense of the biblical materials is that in spite of all our arguments to the contrary, the tension cannot finally be resolved by our theological gymnastics. Rather than resolving the tension, the best resolution is learning to live with the tension and accepting those whose theological commitments differ from ours.

This is a solid voice of reason that we all would be wise to hear.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

10 comments:

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Rod said: "Of course, what he means is that everyone who departs in any degree from a strict Calvinism is to that degree guilty of heresy."

Interesting; I didn't know that I meant that.

Perhaps you won't allow this comment to go through, but I think it would give your readers something to compare to, and would add a degree of historical perspective as well:

MATTHEW HENRY on John 6:
The necessity of [this drawing]:
No man, in this weak and helpless state, can come to Christ without it. As we cannot do any natural action without the concurrence of common providence, so we cannot do any action morally good without the influence of special grace, in which the new man lives, and moves, and has its being, as much as the mere man has in the divine providence. In v.65 he saith, except it be given him of my Father, which shows that God draws souls by giving them grace and strength, and a heart to come, without which, such is the moral impotency of man, in his fallen state, that he cannot come.

MARTIN LUTHER on John 6:
Now, if he is drawn by God to Christ, he will certainly experience what the Lord here says: "He will raise him up in the last day." ... Thus you learn from the first utterance in today's Gospel that this knowledge must come from God the Father; He must lay the first stone of the foundation in us, else we will never do anything. ... Here all men must confess their incapacity and inability to do the good. Should one imagine he is able to do anything good of his own strength - he does no less than make Christ the Lord a liar; he would rudely and defiantly come to the Father and in all rashness ascend
to heaven.

JOHN PIPER on John 6:
This drawing is the sovereign work of grace without which no one can be saved from their rebellion against God. Some say, "He draws all men, not just some." But this simply evades the clear implication of the context that the Father's "drawing" is why some believe and not others.

CHARLES SPURGEON on John 6:
[It is not based] on something which man does, but on something which God the Father does. The Father gives certain persons to His Son, and the Son says, "All that the Father giveth Me Shall come to Me." If any do come to Jesus Christ, it is those whom the Father gave to Christ. And the reason why they come, - if we search to the very bottom of things, - is, that the Father puts it into their hearts to come. The reason why one man is saved, and another man is lost,
is to be found in God; not in anything which the saved man did, or did not do; not in anything which he felt, or did not feel; but in something altogether irrespective of himself, it is the sovereign grace of God.

JOHN MACARTHUR on John 6:
John 6:37 emphasizes the sovereign will of God in the selection of those who come to Him for salvation (cf. vv. 44, 65; 17:6, 12, 24). The Father has predestined those who would be saved. The absolute sovereignty of God is the basis of Jesus' confidence in the success of His mission. The security of salvation rests in the sovereignty of God, for God is the guarantee that "all" He has chosen will come to Him for salvation. The idea of "gives me" is that every person chosen by God and drawn by God (v. 44) must be seen as a gift of the Father's love to the Son. The Son receives each "love gift" (v. 37), holds on to each (v. 39), and will raise each to eternal glory (vv. 39, 40). ... The combination of John 37a and v. 44 indicate that the divine drawing activity which Jesus referred to cannot be reduced to what theologians call "prevenient grace", i.e.: that somehow the power to come to Christ is allegedly dispensed to all of mankind, thus enabling everyone to accept or reject the gospel according to their own will alone. Scripture indicates that no "free will" exists in man's nature, for man is enslaved to sin (total depravity) and unable to believe apart from God's empowerment (Rom. 3:1-19; Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 1:9). While "whosoever will" may come to the Father, only those whom the Father gives the ability to will toward Him - will actually come to Him. The drawing here is selective and efficacious (producing the desired effect) upon those whom God has sovereignly chosen for salvation, i.e., those whom God has chosen will believe because God has sovereignly determined that result from eternity
past (Eph. 1:9-11).

Pastor Rod said...

Jim,

Piling on with commentary by individuals who have a strong bias on this issue proves nothing.

Rod

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Rod said: "Piling on with commentary by individuals who have a strong bias on this issue proves nothing."

It may not prove anything to you, but it shows how others have come to the same conclusion that I did on John 6:44. Martin Luther for example says "Now, if he is drawn by God to Christ, he will certainly experience what the Lord here says: "He will raise him up in the last day."". Which is the same deduction that you rejected from me.

Luther (as one example) saw what you refuse to allow yourself to see, which is that the necessary implication of John 6:44a is the raising in v.44b. So if they are drawn then they are raised. You are not going to say that Martin Luther had "Calvinist glasses" on - as you did with me, are you?

So if these commentators are right, then not everyone can receive the John 6:44a drawing, otherwise you'd have universalism (all would be raised).

The most common mistake in bible interpretation is the failure to take context into account. In your case however, you are using the context of this passage to change the full meaning of v.44.

Yes, people come, people are taught, people believe, all of that is true. But the reason they come is because of something the Father does (v. 37) and in fact they can't come unless the Father does it (v. 65).

Let your readers judge who has the "strong bias" here; I think the description of scripture that I've given is the straight forward one, and it seems that you are evading the obvious implications of this passage.

For anyone who is interested in researching this further, here is a trustworthy online commentary on the whole 6th chapter of John:
http://www.aomin.org/johnchapter6.html

Pastor Rod said...

Jim,

Luther had some pretty thick glasses of his own. Much of his theology is a reaction to the problems he saw in the church at his time.

You can cite authorities that support your reading. I can cite authorities that support mine. This proves nothing, except possibly that the meaning of this verse is not self-evident as your have asserted.

Your view of scripture is a minority view. Yes, you can claim a few well-know people who hold to your view. But the majority don't.

If you want to further this discussion, you are welcome to continue posting. But I'm not interested in hearing you say that same things over and over again. You can do that at your own site.

Rod

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

I think what Rod meant, was that my view is a minority view TODAY, which I agree with entirely. But it was a majority view in past centuries.

In the early centuries of Christianity, Athanasius had a minority view on "Christ the God/Man". He fought against the majority in his day, and now his views on Christ are cemented in creeds.

I appeal to everyone to prayerfully read John 6, strive to put aside all bias, approach the scriptures humbly, and let the scriptures speak for themselves. If after doing that, you come away with Pastor Rob's meaning, then I'm satisfied and will be glad to call you my brothers and sisters in Christ, as is how I regard Rob as well.

--Jim

Steve Sensenig said...

I appeal to everyone to prayerfully read John 6, strive to put aside all bias, approach the scriptures humbly, and let the scriptures speak for themselves. If after doing that, you come away with Pastor Rob's [sic] meaning, then I'm satisfied and will be glad to call you my brothers and sisters in Christ, as is how I regard Rob [sic] as well.

Unfortunately, it appears from your responses to Rod's (not Rob's) approach that you aren't really satisfied unless Rod reaches the same conclusion as you have.

Rod has demonstrated that the meaning is not self-evident. And while I understand the proof-texts Calvinists use to defend their viewpoint, I do not agree with the conclusions because it involves taking one possible grammatical interpretation of a verse and insisting that it is the only possible interpretation.

My experience in trying to discuss this with Calvinists matches Rod's, though. You'll just keep saying that it is clear what the meaning is. And, contrary to your paragraph I quoted above, you will not be satisfied with anything other than that.

Maybe you're right, Jim. I continue to look at the issues with humility. But so far, I have not been convinced.

Rod, thanks for posting about this. I'm not familiar with Borchert's writing, but this quote you gave echoes what I have been feeling for quite some time.

steve :)

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Steve:

If this were an earthly (non-biblical) thing, like choosing a resturant with my wife, I'd know how to compromise and would want to meet you half-way. I honestly don't like being polarized like this, but I can't imagine being satisfied with partial truth on any important biblical topic.

Even if I think my understanding is right, I still consider you all my brother's in Christ, and am sure that there are numerous biblical things that you understand far better than I do.

The thing about the "Calvinist bias" is that I've demonstrated Luther saying the same thing about John 6:44 and I'm confident I could probably dig up evidence of Augustine saying the same, 1000 years before Calvin. That doesn't make it true, it just makes it less of a Calvin invention, if you know what I mean.

Rod, sorry about calling you Rob.

--Jim

Pastor Rod said...

Steve,

Thanks for stopping by.

I think all camps get themselves into trouble when they try to over-systematized theology. Besides the philosophical problems I have with strict Calvinism, I find find its "mathematical methodology" most troubling.

I find that God (and the Bible) doesn't fit neatly into our nicely organized boxes.

Rod

Pastor Rod said...

Jim,

If you concede that we are brothers in Christ, can you also concede that we just have different and legitimate interpretations of the Bible?

Can you also agree that, while you feel strongly that your position is correct, rancor over this issue does not serve the Body of Christ and does not advance the purposes of the Kingdom?

Thanks for your participation here.

Rod

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Rod:

Yes, I'm content in allowing anyone to believe whatever their conscience is biblically comfortable with. The difficult thing, is being as confident as I am about my beliefs, and not having that confidence come off as looking like rancor.

Looking back at the whole start of this conversation (on Dan's blog), from my perspective looking in, the idea being projected was that election should not be a Christian focus, and their was also the blanket declaration of Calvinists being trouble makers (ie: all the bad blogs are run by "Calvin followers", etc.). I perceived that as the first round of rancor in this whole thing.

We live in a strange time when, complete-nobody's such as myself, can have a huge audience of hundreds of people, on these things called blogs. With that comes a lot of responsibility to steer people in the right direction, to the best of our abilities. So Dan and myself - just need to be really careful with what we tell people. At least that's the way I look at it.

Anyway, thanks for the conversation brothers.

--Jim