Calvinism · Doctrinal · Interpretation

Calvin’s Concerns – Comment Response 8 – John 6:44

As mentioned in the introduction, I have been been discussing the differences between Calvinism and Provisionalism with a fellow blogger. One particular response grabbed my attention and I am trying to understand his position, by referring to his proof texts and logic.

This is the second portion of his response (in red), along with the corresponding verses he referred to. I shall seek to comment on the verses and find his argument within the verses he has provided.

Original Comment

Scripture says God is sovereign in his decision to whom he will have mercy which is in accordance with Romans 9:16 and other scripture Romans 9:15,18 The natural man doesn’t come and can’t come 1 Corinthians 2:14 John 6:44 John 6:65 He doesn’t have the ability because he lacks spiritual discernment because he doesn’t have the spirit.

This post will consider what many Calvinist’s may consider their most powerful proof text. I know when I was deep into this philosophy, this was my go-to text to prove that natural, fallen man would not come to the Father, unless the Father quickened him first.

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.

One of the stronger arguments for this passage, from a Calvinist standpoint is the use of the term draw in the passage. Many would suggest that the term actually is synonymous with dragging, or compelling. If this is accurate, then this needs to be admitted to and we may need to reconsider our outlook on this topic.

There are a few verses that include this word that may support the drag/compel idea

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.
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.
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?

Each of the above verses translates our term as “drag”. Let’s continue with Strong’s definition.

ἑλκύωhelkýō, hel-koo’-o; probably akin to G138; to drag (literally or figuratively):—draw. Compare G1667.

Strongs provides some support for the term to by synonymous with “drag”.

One more resource – let’s consider Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words for a bit of enlightenment on this term “Draw”

“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. 8 helko 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.”

Notice that Vines describes this drawing as “drawing by inward power, by divine impulse”, and links two verses using this word in the gospel of John. This is important since it is the same author, the same book and the same speaker. But let’s move on with our consideration of John 6:44 before we consider the implications John 12:32.

Consider that the verse doesn’t state “No man comes” but that “no man CAN come”. The drawing of God the Father gives ability to the one coming. It does not state “No man will come…” In short, it is similar to a my sending out invitations to 100 folks in my neighborhood to a party on Saturday. All 100 people have been invited and they can come. Will all 100 people come? Maybe. Maybe not. The invite simply gives them the ability, it does not produce the outcome, it does not necessarily impact the will of the invited. When we place the emphasis on the term “draws”, without considering the intent of the drawing, we can come up with a deterministic slant to the verse.

Is this the message Jesus is giving to the crowds?

Lets check out the context of this passage to get a bit bigger view of the teaching the Lord gave to the crowd on that day.

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.
John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–

Jesus repeats the condition of the one who comes to the Father, speaking of all being taught of God, and that those who have heard and learned, are the ones who actually come to the Father. Those that actually have come to the Father have exercised their will by listening and learning (note past tense!) from the Father.

So, the Father draws those to give them ability to come, and yet there is the decision to hear and learn that is required in the ones who come. (They actually read the invite and decide to come to the party!)

But wait – there is more!

Remember when Vines connected the term draw from John 6:44 with John 12:32? This becomes a bit of a problem for those who would demand that it should be understood as a dragging that is irresistible, that cannot be refused.

Remember that those who teach of a deterministic salvation would demand that God determines who is saved and who is eternally lost. That God chooses who is “dragged” into the Kingdom, using John 6:44 as a proof text.

Fair enough, for if that is true, that is that the term is to be understood as a literal “dragging”, we have great news, for the Lord used the same term in John 12:32.

Let’s read it the way our Calvinist friends understand the term “draw”.

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will “irresistibly drag” all people to myself.”

Does this not tells us that all people will be irresistibly dragged into the Kingdom, that all people have been chosen to be included in the salvation provided by Jesus death on the cross.

Simple deductive reasoning of these two verses, using the Calvinistic supplied definition of “draw” as “drag”, produces the result that God chooses everyone that has ever had a heartbeat.

My point is – using one or two verses to support a teaching may be a very unwise approach for the believer. There are many teachings in the church nowadays due to the emphasis on a few well chosen verses.

Regarding John 6:44, my personal thoughts are that we have a living God that is active in our lives before we decide to follow Him. He sends “the invite” allowing us to decide for Him. He has provided the Savior for our forgiveness and justification, the Spirit of God to comfort and direct us, and the love of the Father to woo us to His side. His patience and mercy are everlasting, and His grace is abounding towards us.

To consider the drawing as dragging cheapens the invite.

I have never “dragged” folks to my party and found that they ever had a good time. I imagine they would just look at me and wander off, shaking their head.

No, the very act of love that the Lord displayed for all is the greatest of reasons to accept the invite. Forcing an acceptance implies that the singular greatest act of love was not quite enough.

Thanks for taking the time to read and consider. I would appreciate a chance to honestly discuss this verse and topic, and look forward to an edifying discussion.

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