John 6:44, 45 and Free Will
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." John 6:44, 45 (NASB)
Back in January, I posted a link to an article here by a friend of mine, Brian Bosse, on the logical conclusions of John 6:44. The article proved, I believe, that John 6:44 teaches either Calvinism or universalism (which is of course a concept the Bible negates very clearly elsewhere), but it does not allow for Arminianism.
So, how do those who boast that man's will is the determining factor in salvation get around the obvious implications of John 6:44. Well, they go to the next verse, v. 45, and read into the text a view of free will which is then used to dispel the logic of the previous verses. It is an illigitimate way to handle the text, as Dr. James White points out in a response to someone who had challenged him on his Reformed understanding of John 6:36-45. From the mail bag at www.aomin.org then, here's the interchange, starting with the person challenging Dr. White's reformed understanding of the passage:
FOLLOW-UP on Revisiting the Norman Geisler/Chosen But Free/Potter's Freedom Issue: Even you said James, "Unregenerate man is FULLY CAPABLE of UNDERSTANDING the facts of the Gospel". If a man is FULLY CAPABLE of UNDERSTANDING then unregenerate man (all men) are FULLY CAPABLE of "listening and learning" from the Father as Jn. 6:45b says. Revisiting the Norman Geisler/Chosen But Free/Potter's Freedom Issue: You say in your initial responce to Hunt "Giving is a divine act and since it PRECEDES the very existence of those so given..." No way does the context of Jn. 6:35-45 allow the eisegetical insert of the theme of eternity past when the whole context is Jesus explaining why some come to him and why some don't in the present situation confront Jesus and his audience. Why? Those who "listen and learn" (jn 6:45b; what you and other Calvinists ignore) based on God's "sole" initiative in "teaching" (teaching demands that the student make a value judgment) come to Jesus and thus through deduction, those who don't "listen and learn" don't come to Jesus. I agree with all of your exegesis up to v.45a but then you stop. I think my explanation makes the most sense based on the natural reading of the text.
Dr. James White responds: Let's take this apart point by point.
First, there is no question that an unregenerate man can read the words of the Bible and even come to a correct understanding of its contextual reading. But there is an 18 inch separation between the heart and the head, and mere knowledge has never saved anyone. But our writer once again joins the long line of "I want to try to deal with John 6 but I simply refuse to start at the beginning and follow Jesus through His teaching" would-be exegetes. John 6:45 is a follow-up to John 6:44, which, likewise, must be defined in light of what prompted the Lord to speak these words, etc. The "hop-skip-jump" method of interpretation may work for those who are not overly serious about the issue, but for those who realize you cannot hack the text up in that fashion, following a thought through from its introduction to its application is sort of important. Let's look at 6:45 again:
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--
First, who is "they"? The "all" is all of "them," whoever they are. Context tells us: the preceding verse speaks of the one who is drawn by the Father and who, as a result of being drawn, comes to the Son (and is raised up by Him). The being "taught by God" is not some general revelation, some peanut-butter activity that is devoid of connection with the preceding context. No, this is a restatement, an expansion, explanation, of what it means for the Father to "draw." The drawing of the Father leads those drawn to the Son. Why? Well, part of it has to do with imparting knowledge, teaching. God does the teaching. And just as the drawing of the Father brings all who are drawn to the Son (and hence to eternal life), so too He never fails in imparting the knowledge that leads to life. All who are taught "hear" (aorist) and "learn" (aorist), and as a result of this action, come to Christ (just as v. 37 and 44). Here all truly does mean all, because it has a specific delimiter in the context: all drawn, all given, all taught, all hearing, etc. In v. 45 the emphasis remains upon the Father, not upon those taught, those who, as a result, hear and learn. I may comment just in passing that in reality, man looks rather desperate when he tries to find in passages such as this the much vaunted free will of man.
Now, this is more than sufficient to answer our correspondent, however, there is more. He writes,
No way does the context of Jn. 6:35-45 allow the eisegetical insert of the theme of eternity past when the whole context is Jesus explaining why some come to him and why some don't in the present situation confront Jesus and his audience. Why? Those who "listen and learn" (jn 6:45b; what you and other Calvinists ignore) based on God's "sole" initiative in "teaching" (teaching demands that the student make a value judgment) come to Jesus and thus through deduction, those who don't "listen and learn" don't come to Jesus.
We have seen that 1) Calvinists do not "ignore" 45b; it is our writer who is eisegetically disconnecting it from 44 and 45a. 2) Just like Ergun Caner forgot Romans 9:11-12, evidently our writer forgot that all who hear and learn come to Christ. This activity of God in teaching is not a general action that some accept and some reject: nowhere does the consistent focus of Jesus' teaching break down. The same group is in view all the way through. Only by breaking the text up into portions and ignoring its consistent themes, terms, and actions, can such eisegesis be maintained. But beyond this, our writer seems to have missed the use of the perfect in the giving of the Father to the Son in vs. 39, "of all that He has given Me (perfect tense) I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." While this would only allow us to specifically assert the past tense and completed action of the giving, it is obvious, to anyone reading the entirety of the New Testament, that this is the same eternal, timeless action seen in Ephesians 1 and 2 Timothy 1.
And so once again we find the Gospel in Capernaum gloriously consistent, gloriously God-honoring, and gloriously impervious to the attempts of man at undercutting its perfect testimony to God's freedom in the salvation of men.