Calvinism · Doctrinal · Interpretation

Calvin’s Concerns – Drawing

A few weeks back, I published the first of a series of posts offering 60 second video discussions on alternatives to the popular Calvinistic teaching in our churches these days.

The videos were provided by Dr. Leighton Flowers, and addressed a number of topics that related to Calvinism and it’s resultant effects on the believer.

Since then, a brother has been in discussion with me and has sought to correct me of my errors. This is exactly my aim with this blog, to enter into discussions, consider other believers opinions and perspectives and by hopefully referring to the scriptures, come to a conclusion that is satisfactory.

My brother, has sought to correct me in the 4th of the 5 TULIP doctrines, which is the teaching of irresistible grace.

He has referred to John 6:44 in making his assertion and I spent the day yesterday considering the passage as I went about my chores.

Lets read the verse and dig a bit.

John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

My friend has “drawn” my attention to the word “draws” in the above verse and claims that the Greek word is better translated drag, and should be written as “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him“.

As a Calvinist in my previous thinking, I too used this argument since there is some support for it. Let’s perform a quick study to consider the strength of his arguement.

The Greek word is ἕλκω, transliterated as helkō, and is found in the New Testament 8 times. Lets take a look at them

John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

This, of course is our subject verse and we will come back to it in the near future.

John 18:10

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Ok, he may have something with his assertion. The action of drawing the sword could be considered equal to dragging the sword (out of it’s scabbard). Peter drew/dragged the inanimate piece of metal from its resting place and was a tool for Peter to use against the haplus victim Malchus.

John 21:11

So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

My oh my. This may also support his teaching the the word should be translated as dragged, since Peter hauled/dragged the fish ashore. The fish were caught in the net and Peter physically dragged the catch to the shore, all 153 of them.

I may have to reconsider my understanding of John 6:44, but lets consider the remaining verses prior to jumping to a conclusion

John 21:6

He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

Now this is interesting. Even though the fish were caught and restricted from any freedom of escape by the use of the net, the disciples were not able to drag the fish into the boat. This seems to imply that the greek word helkō, (draw/drag) does not necessarily imply success in the dragging/drawing, but that other forces may impact the result.

Acts 16:19

But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.

The apostles were dragged into the marketplace. Obviously, Paul and Silas were taken by the hand and physically guided into an area of the market where they could discuss the ramifications of their teaching and consider options for the free dissemination of alternate thoughts. What? No, they were violently taken by force before the rulers. This time, the term helkō, can and rightly should be translated as dragged, physically dragged into a location the men had no desire to go

Acts 21:30

Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.

Again, the term helkō, describes a time when the apostle is dragged somewhere. Golly, he sure was physically “helped” by a lot of folks when he got to preaching!

James 2:6

But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?

James uses helkō once in his epistle, speaking of how the rich dragged the poor in to the courts to oppress them and abuse them. Obviously, the poor came reluctantly, and had to be either physically dragged, or by legal threatening coerced into attending the court. Either way, it is a negative image.

So in conclusion, my brother may have a point in translating draw, in John 6:44 as “drag”, if Jesus is speaking a drawing

  • an inanimate object, such as a sword, as in John 18:10
  • something trapped, as in fish in a net, for the sake of consumption, per John 21:11
  • a man or men physically, as in Acts 16:19 or 21:30
  • a poor man to court physically or legally, as in James 2:6.

If we can transfer these intentions to John 6:44, we could conclude that the drawing is inescapable, but the implications trouble me. Something is nagging at my mind and I can’t seem to let it go.

To transfer the idea of physically dragging a man to judgement to be equal to dragging a soul to Jesus seems to be a stretch. But let’s assume for the sake of arguement, that we can rightly consider helkō to be always translated as drag whenever it appears in the New Testament.

Oh, by the way, I have found one additional verse, which gives me great joy due to this new truth we have recently discovered. Since helkō, must be translated as dragged throughout the New Testament, I can now rest in the glorious truth that all of creation will be saved and enter into heaven.

WHAT? What type of heresy have you fallen into now Carl?

Consider the final verse, where helkō, is also used

John 12:32

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag?) all people to myself.”

Such awesome news.

Ok, so I tried to make a point! We can’t simply apply one of many definitions of a Greek word, applying it to every occurrence.

When I read John 6:44, I also think of Jeremiah 31:3

Jeremiah 31:3

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

I like to think Jesus may have been thinking the same.

Is the drawing irresistible?

I think the New Testament speaks volumes on the way our evil hearts resist the love of God, to our shame.

Is His will irresistible?

Take a few moments to consider the many time the Lord spoke of His will being frustrated by the will of another?

Additional information for the curious

A synonym for draw was used occasionally in the New Testament, The Greek word is σύρω, with the transliteration being syrō . Vines has an interesting comment for your consideration

Drag:“to draw,” differs from suro, as “drawing” does from violent “dragging.” It is used of “drawing” a net, Jhn 21:611 (cp. No. 1, in ver. 8); Trench remarks, “At vv. 6 and 11helko (or helkuo) is used; for there a drawing of the net to a certain point is intended; by the disciples to themselves in the ship, by Peter to himself upon the shore. But at ver. 8helko gives place to suro: for nothing is there intended but the dragging of the net, which had been fastened to the ship, after it through the water” (Syn., xxi).

This less violent significance, usually present in helko, but always absent from suro, is seen in the metaphorical use of helko, to signify “drawing” by inward power, by Divine impulse, Jhn 6:4412:32. So in the Sept., e.g., Sgs 1:4Jer 31:3, “with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” It is used of a more vigorous action, in Jhn 18:10, of “drawing” a sword; in Act 16:1921:30, of forcibly “drawing” men to or from a place; so in Jam 2:6, AV, “draw,” RV, “drag.”

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

One thought on “Calvin’s Concerns – Drawing

  1. This post brings to mind how Jesus climbed a hill that overlooked Jerusalem. While looking out He asks the question, “how long must He gather them like a hen who gathers her chicks”.
    Remeber, that He is long auffering that none should be lost.
    I truly enjoy yor posts that challenge things we may believed!


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