Saturday, May 14, 2011

John 6 Revisited

A question has been asked concerning my post on John 6 and the saved. The question relates to the words “given” in verse 37 and “drawn” in verse 44: are they synonymous? Perhaps, even though they are differing words, they nonetheless point to the same concept. Is this true?

First, I would wonder what the positive case for equating those two words would be. I readily concede two different words, even in the same passage, don't necessarily constitute separate concepts. But I hesitate to group them together just to avoid the implications of my view; that in fact would be ad hoc.

Second, I think there are decent reasons to suppose they are different subsets of the same major point. First, the word for "gives" is διδωσιν; it is in the active voice while the coming is in the middle. This means, strictly speaking, the coming flows from the giving. Because they are given it is a matter of course that they come. But it doesn't then follow they could not have refused to come, nor does it provide any direct comment on the reason for being given. It certainly doesn't follow that God gave everyone, nor does it follow that God could have given everyone. Next, the word for "draw" is ελκυση; it is in the subjunctive mood. This is like a counterfactual: If one is drawn, then he can come.

You might be wondering what the major point is. In John 12:32, Jesus says if he is lifted up (speaking of his death), he will draw all men unto himself. Guess which word he is using? ελκυσω. This shows that the concepts cannot be identical to the giving of verse 37; else if they are, all men are saved. Now it occurs to me one may wish to argue that in John 6 it is the Father drawing and in John 12 it is the Son. But this is a distinction without a difference, and let me tell you why. Typically, Calvinists have no problems asserting that the way the Father draws is through the Spirit. Hence, they have no complaint here. Second, the Son mentions he will raise himself up from the dead, yet Paul says the Father did (by contrasting God with the Son he is not saying Jesus is not God; he is saying the Father raised the Son). Even though the Father and Son are not identical, they nonetheless all participate in acts of salvation and creation.
It also occurs to me the Calvinist may wish to assert that "all men" only refers to all men of the elect in John 12. Aside from being ad hoc, verse 32 is a contrast to verse 31 (cf. v. 30). The "prince of the world" influences the entire world; Jesus didn't mean here the prince of the world of the elect is cast out of the world of the elect from the grip of sin. Just as Satan is cast out from his death-grip on the world, so Christ provides the replacement of grace and salvation. In any case, I hope that I at least provided a surface answer. I don't think John 6 directly supports Molinism. But neither do I think it supports Calvinism; in fact, based on other passages and other philosophical and theological considerations, I believe John 6 is compatible with Molinism, whereas it is not with Calvinism without serious contortion to the text.

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  1. This isn't on the subject of John, but I find it very odd when I hear some Calvinists using the free will defense regarding the problem of evil. W/o naming names, these are usually the less hardcore variety, but it is at the very least inconsistent.

  2. Hi Erik. Yes, I agree with you. It's certainly interesting. But as Calvinists are quick to point out, they say they affirm compatibilism. But even still, compatibilist free will doesn't overcome the problem of evil in the context of the free will defense.

  3. Great post, Randy! It seems pretty familiar, too. ;o

  4. Thanks Kief! I tried to keep things fairly anonymous. ;)

  5. hmm.

    without people jumping all over me, can we look back at the verses. John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." could you give commentary on the translation of "ελκυση" in John 6:44 and the use of the word "can" as well. also let us look at 37 as well, John 6:37 "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." All the father gives....will come. not perhaps may come...but will come. but the prerequisite for coming to Jesus, they must be given. that's what it seems like the text is saying.

  6. James White did an exegesis on John 6 as well.

  7. Well Nick, I had an entire response, clicked "post," and it is gone. But in any case, thanks for commenting! I just want to clarify I agree that all those given come, and one cannot come unless he is given. One is also not given without being drawn. However, the number of drawn is not identical to the number given. I had some translation notes, but they are too long in retyping. Suffice it to say the ability to resist or not is incidental to the meaning of the word itself (cf. Acts 16 and 21 and its use in describing the crowd and Paul).

  8. ok.

    so basically, what you're saying (please correct me if i'm wrong, i'm not the brightest bulb in the box lol), that there can be a specific number of people drawn...but it does not mean that this same amount of people are given? Which my following question would then be...then why would people be drawn if they are not given?

    ...unless that's now what you're saying, then forget what I'm saying haha.

  9. Hi Nick. I do agree with your assessment of my view, in that there are more people drawn who are not given. All those given are drawn, but not all who are drawn are given. So why draw these? Because God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son. God is love (1 John 4:8). God's love is not mere pragmatism, but rather the natural outpouring of the essence of who God is! It's the same answer that the Calvinist gives in response to the objector who says "why would a loving God create people he knew would go to Hell?" The answer is that by creating he is acting in love (at least, this is the answer of non-hyper-Calvinists, as far as I've heard). In the same way, God's act of drawing, despite knowing they would not respond to him even with his drawing, is motivated of love. It just goes to show no sinner is without excuse; God has drawn and yet some still have the audacity to refuse! There is truly no lower bound to human depravity than to resist God himself.

  10. Randy, I understand your point. It seems great, though, it does not deal with the word, "helkuso" which is translated elsewhere as "drags" and in other non-Biblical sources it is translated as "compels." So it is not a drawing that is like a "wooing" that is, something that is only of outward and external effect, but something like a drawing as in that it is drawing water, the water has no choice but to be lifted up in the bucket.

    as for God doing this as an act of love, I completely agree.

  11. One must remember, however, that is is relatively rare in the Greek to have one word carry only one viable meaning, and it would be question-begging to assume this "drawing" or "dragging" would be "against one's will," again see the uses of the word in Acts with respect to Paul; he did not resist. All we know inherently is that the word involved the "drawer" doing the work for the "drawee;" no Molinist would disagree the work of salvation is God's. But he will not force it on someone; nor can the text be ostensibly represented to mean he himself chooses their will; else all men are saved (John 12:32). But all men are not saved. Therefore, there are some who are drawn who are not given (since everyone who is given will be saved, without exception). :)


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