John 6:44 – Does it really prove calvinist teachings?
Calvinists are quite fond of taking hold of a verse (usually in isolation) and using it, often aggressively, to “prove” that they are right and therefore all others are wrong. They will teach in such a way that makes it difficult at times to oppose them without openly accusing them of heresy. If you have some respect for the person who is pushing his calvinist views largely to the exclusion of other views, it can be uncomfortable to argue without feeling as if you might be offending that person. And many good Christians are reluctant to think that they might have offended another “Christian”.
All too often, calvinists will imply, suggest or even openly state, that to not believe as they do defines the other person as a somewhat lesser Christian, or even, perhaps, lacking spirituality because they are bereft of God’s spiritual guidance. If you disagree, then they will quote their “experts” in books and articles written by calvinist “teachers”, many of whom may be well-known, if not necessarily correct. It can be quite overwhelming, even daunting, for a Christian to be inundated with such a flood of opposing teachings. All too often those Christians will tend to agree in order to avoid an argument, and, if they “agree” as such for long enough, they may even start believing what the calvinists are saying. It’s a mild (or not so mild) form of brainwashing.
(Jehovah’s Witnesses use a similar form of aggressive argument: they are taught to answer most opposition by using suitably impressive references including Bible verses that, in isolation, appear to support their views. Their Watchtower Society constantly trains them for such debate.)
John 6:44 is one of the classic calvinist verses that is used to “prove” that (a) those who come to Christ are the only ones called by the Father, and (b) therefore man has no free will to choose to be saved.
John 6:44 – No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The calvinist will interpret this verse to say that if the Father draws a person, then that person will come to Christ. They teach that if a person doesn’t come to Christ, then the Father did not draw him. Therefore, says the calvinist, this demonstrates that no-one has the free will to choose for himself, for this verse “proves” that God chooses for all people. (That is, unconditional election or choosing, rather than election conditional upon God’s foreknowledge.)
And, in fact, if this calvinist teaching is presented aggressively, it can appear to be correct, unless you test all things. It is not always easy to oppose views when they are presented so forcefully, even when you feel that such views might not be consistent with what you believed concerning the Bible. When opposing such forceful and aggressive teachings, it is essential to know exactly what you believe and why.
For instance, MacArthur’s church (Grace Community Bible Church, California) states “All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Father will receive.” (John 6:44 is one of their supporting verses.) That is, everyone who is called by the Father will come in faith and be received. If you are called, you will come; therefore, if you do not come, you were not called. To the unthinking Christian, this interpretation of John 6:44 can appear correct. But such teaching is actually false. That is not what John 6:44 is saying at all! All it is saying is that every person who comes must have been called by the Father, yet it doesn’t say that every person who is called by the Father must come.
In Jesus’ day, to refuse a gift or invitation was to offend the one who offered it. Even if you didn’t want the gift or invitation, you would usually accept unless you desired to offend the one who offered it. In the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) many are called but these refuse the invitation, some violently. So, the king punishes them and then calls others to the feast. The passage ends with “For many are called, but few [are] chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) Being invited (or called) to a wedding feast was an important event not to be treated lightly. But you could still refuse that invitation!
You couldn’t attend a wedding feast unless you had an invitation, a calling to be there. (Matthew 22:3 says “bidden” which means to be called or invited by name.) No-one might come unless they had been personally invited by the father of the groom. But getting an invitation did not mean you had to go; you were greatly obligated to go, but you could still refuse the invitation.
Now look at John 6:44 again: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: No man can come to Christ except the Father draw him. But, the calvinists say, the word “draw” means to drag or force. Yes, in many cases it actually means that. But what about John 12:32 where Jesus says “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.” That is the same word “draw” used here. In order for calvinists to explain this, they are forced to teach that “all” does not mean “all” but perhaps “all the elect” or similar. The word “draw” can mean to use debate to persuade someone, that is, to draw someone to your point of view, or to draw their attention to something.
Take another look at John 6:44 – No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. Where does it say that a person cannot refuse or resist the drawing of the Father. The calvinist then says that the grace of God is irresistible and cannot be refused. (This is one of their basic calvinist doctrines.) But that assumes man has no free will to be able to choose to resist. It assumes that God forces the person to come, and that person cannot resist. But does this verse teach such or is it an assumption based upon calvinist heresy?
Paul taught that man could indeed resist what God has ordained.
Romans 13:2 – Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
[ordinance = a law set forth by a governmental authority; Merriam Webster says that an ordinance is something ordained by fate or a deity (such as God).]
And Stephen, sitting in the council of the religious leaders, said to them:
Acts 7:51 – Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye.
Thus it is scriptural to teach that man has a free will to accept or resist God. Of course, the calvinists then have to teach that God foreordained their acceptance or resistance of Him, because it cannot be by their free will! (And they do teach such!)
So what John 6:44 is really saying is that you cannot come to Christ unless the Father has drawn you. It cannot deny that all have been drawn to Christ (see John 12:32) with many people consequently resisting that drawing.
All who come must have been drawn, but it cannot equate to all that are drawn must come. That’s backward logic, like saying that because a dog is an animal with four legs, then all animals with four legs must be dogs.
John 6:44 does not deny free will to mankind, especially noting that free will to choose between good and evil, between God and the world, is taught consistently throughout the Bible. Therefore, in order for calvinists to demonstrate that John 6:44 “proves” their definition of the election, they must also demonstrate that free will of mankind is consistently denied throughout the Bible. This they cannot do. Only without the existence of free will can calvinists teach that all whom the Father calls must come in faith! Their teachings are based upon false premises and are only as truthful as the lies upon which they are based.
For further reading on the subject of John 6:44, go to John 6:44.
As a postscript, here’s some more questions for calvinists:
1/. Why did Jesus say to His disciples further down, in John 6:72, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” where “chosen” is the verb form of the adjective form used in 1 Peter 1:2 – Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
Why did Jesus choose Judas when He knew Judas would serve satan?
2/. Why did Jesus say to all His disciples in John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” when Judas was still one of that group? Judas has been chosen, ordained, to bring forth fruit, yet he doesn’t.
3/. Why does Jesus say in John 6:39 say, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Yet, after having chosen a devil (Judas) in John 6:72, and ordained that they should bear fruit (including Judas) in John 15:16, why does Jesus say of His disciples in John 17:12, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
What? Jesus kept them all, none of them is lost, except Judas. If John 6:39 is teaching about all the elect of God being given to Jesus, that He should lose none of them, then how is Judas lost after he has been chosen as per John 6:72? Clearly, to be consistent, calvinists cannot interpret John 6:39 as they do.
4/. If “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), then why is the number chosen less than the number called. Why would God call a large number of people to the wedding feast, yet only choose some of them? How can this be explained without the free will of mankind? How does this compare with MacArthur’s church doctrinal statement “All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Father will receive.” if in fact not all who are called will be chosen! (Of course, MacArthur says that Matthew 22:14 is “the general call of the gospel, the general outward invitation of the gospel” and that only the elect or chosen of God get the efficacious or effectual call to be saved. (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-296/the-doctrine-of-gods-effectual-call)
Clearly, to the calvinist, the gospel is merely the general outward invitation which, according to MacArthur, will be ineffectual!
That brings us to question 5/. Why does God make a general call for all to be saved when calvinism teaches that Jesus only died for the sins of those who will receive the effectual call? Isn’t this deviousness at best from the calvinist God, to invite people when he has no intention of letting them in the door? Truly the calvinist God is no better than a politician who makes many promises but only delivers a few!
6/. Why does God say (in Jeremiah 32:35), “And they built the high places of Baal, which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” if He has ordained such decisions from the beginning? God says here that He did not command them to do such things, nor did it even come into His mind (mind; knowledge; thinking; reflection; memory; inclination; resolution; determination of will). How can Judah do such things unless it is by their own free-will rebellion against God?
If calvinism is true doctrine, then why are there so many anomalies in their “explanations”? And why, after having asked such questions many times, has not one calvinist been able to refute these statements from a Biblical viewpoint? In fact, my arguments have been read by many people, some of whom must surely be calvinist, yet not one has been able to refute satisfactorily from the Bible alone any of my challenges to them!