John 6:44 – Calvinists love to use this one to “prove” unconditional election.
You would think there might have to be something in the frenetic (phrenetic) way the calvinists push this verse as one most definite proof of a limited unconditional election of believers. They claim that this verse cannot be refuted; that only those whom the Father draws may come to Christ, no-one else! Yet, even taken in isolation and out of context, its grammar denies such poor logic. And, when looked at in context, and the consistency of Scripture is applied, it is astounding that any intelligent reasoning person could get it so wrong!
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.
When unsuspecting Christians are told that this means only those who have been chosen by God to be saved, it can sound very convincing. Calvinists will tell you that the word “draw” means “to drag”.
The primary meaning of the Greek word helkuo is “to draw” or “to drag”; note the following.
Acts 21:30 – And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
However, the word also has a metaphorical meaning: to draw by inward power, lead, impel. It may also mean to persuade according to Strongs (No. 1670 – I drag, draw, pull, persuade).
So what does scriptural consistency say? Look at John 12:32 – And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. Same writer (John), same word (draw).
This says that Jesus will draw all to Himself. “all” is an accusative masculine plural adjective, and thus to translate this “all” as “all men”, meaning all those belonging to mankind, would be quite correct. The word “draw” here is that same word helkuo used in John 6:44. It would also be reasonable and correct to translate both usages of “draw” (helkuo) the same in each case. The context of each (John 6:44 and John 12:32) are similar enough to warrant similar meanings, and the consistency of people being drawn to Christ in each case also supports the same meaning for both. Thus, if helkuo means “drag” in John 6:44, then it has to mean “drag” in John 12:32. However, it makes little sense to physically “drag” all (men) to Christ on the cross, so to metaphorically draw or drag is a much better interpretation for both usages.
Whether you were to be physically dragged or not would still depend upon your ability to physically resist such dragging; clearly Paul in Acts 21:30 was being dragged by many people. However, to be metaphorically dragged (that is, by something that demands your attention and action) would depend upon your ability to resist, or if you actually desired to resist. Even physical dragging doesn’t exclude the one being dragged from resisting; neither does metaphorical dragging exclude your will to resist. In any case, it is clear that free will to resist cannot be excluded from such usages of this word.
Therefore, because “draw” in John 6:44 is the same word “draw” as used in John 12:32 and used in the same grammatical sense, then if Jesus will draw all to Himself on the cross, then all men may come to Him in John 6:44! (That is, all have been made able to come to Him.) And remembering that if man has free will (which calvinists deny but cannot prove non-existent because the Bible does teach free will choice in so many places) then men may also choose to not come. The Holy Spirit’s grace is desirable yet not necessarily irresistible; this is according to God’s sovereign will. All are drawn, but only some will accept the gift. All are drawn to the cross, but the cross is not irresistible and neither is the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Man’s free will cannot be dismissed. Note particularly that man cannot come unless he is drawn, yet if all are drawn, then all have the opportunity to come, but most will choose to not come!
But, says the calvinist, “No man” here means the individual who has been chosen (elected) by God. Well, yes, all the elect must have been drawn in order to come. Not one of those who come to Christ is able to come unless God draws him. However, it does not exclude God drawing all (men) to Christ as per John 12:32 and some resisting that drawing. What this verse is saying is that not one single person can come to Christ unless the Father draws him, yet it doesn’t mean that those who do come are the only ones drawn, especially noting that all are drawn according to John 12:32. It does not say that all who are drawn must come, but that all who come must have been drawn! There is a difference!
The only way to interpret any Scripture is in accordance with the consistency of all Scripture. It may appear to teach something clearly in one verse, but unless it also teaches it consistently across all the Bible, then there is a lie somewhere. Why do calvinists take one verse and build a doctrine on it because, they say, it is so clear we do not need to worry about the other verses? But if, say, ten verses discuss a certain doctrine, then all ten verses must be consistent with each other before the truth may be reasonably established. And just because Jesus died for the elect doesn’t exclude the verses that teach that he also died for all the sins of all mankind without exception (1 John 2:2). Just because a dog has four legs doesn’t make everything that has four legs a dog!
Calvinists will then make the claim that this depends upon a doctrine of free will, and such free will for man devalues God’s sovereignty. Only God may have a free will of His own, they say. Absolutely wrong! If God is sovereign, He may choose whatever He desires, whether it be free will or not. If God should grant man free will, then that is God’s sovereign right to do so. The free will of man cannot diminish God’s sovereignty if God also demands a full and total accounting for every work done by every man in the judgment, and this will have to include every free will decision.
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.
A W Tozer is sometimes claimed by calvinists to at least support their doctrines in principle. However, he was very much in support of free will for mankind, as per the following quote:
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”
(Knowledge of the Holy A W Tozer Page 76)
No-one has the right to dictate to God how he determines to rule His creation. If God gives free will to man (as demonstrated in the plethora of situations where God asks man to choose between options) then calvinists should not themselves devalue God’s sovereignty by refusing God the option of allowing man free will.
No one can come to Christ unless he be drawn in some way toward Christ. It is true that man (because of his corrupt nature) will not come to God without the intervention of God into his life somewhere. But nowhere does it say that man can not come! Such intervention by God is through the gospel; more can be said here but I’ll leave that there and return to our discussion on “draw”.
It says in John 6:44 that the Father draws people to Christ, and the assumption may truly be made that they will not ever be drawn without God’s gracious intervention through His gospel. But it cannot be assumed that all who are drawn will actually come and believe. This is the quandary in which the calvinist finds himself. They maintain that the call to come is totally irresistible (although John Piper makes some confused statement to the effect that irresistible doesn’t mean it cannot be resisted!).
“It should be obvious from this that irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms.”
(Piper, What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, 1998 revision)
But if man has free will, then man can resist the call to come and thus not all who are called (or drawn) will necessarily accept the free gift of salvation offered by Christ through His sacrifice and resurrection. In order for the calvinists to deny this as a truth, they would have to prove from the Bible that man could not have a free will at all. Now there’s a challenge, one I know they cannot achieve! I would like to see if they can prove the non-existence of both foreknowledge and the free will of man! For if they cannot prove such, then they haven’t a leg to stand on, so to speak!
The free will of man is a consistent Scriptural truth that has to be proven wrong Biblically before it can be denied. And how many times does God give His people a choice between good and evil? If He were to deny them a free will on these matters, then why would He give them a choice, and then ordain that they choose to disobey Him? Now that’s just far too illogical to accept unless man does indeed have a free will. And calvinists can believe whatever heresy they like; they have a free will too!
What about the following?
Jeremiah 32:33-35 – 33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching [them], yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction. 34 But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 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.
How is it possible that they disobey God yet it wasn’t ever in His mind (that is, His intention) that they should do such sin! That is, it cannot have been ordained or decreed by God from the beginning! Try to explain this without free will!
And if the above verse isn’t enough for those who demand consistency, then look at the following where God says He didn’t command it (that is, He didn’t ordain it), He didn’t tell them to do it, nor was it in His mind (that is, He didn’t even intend that they should do it).
Jeremiah 19:3-5 – 3 And say, Hear ye the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. 4 Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; 5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire [for] burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake [it], neither came [it] into my mind:
Also see Isaiah 5:4 – What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
God has done everything possible to produce a fruitful crop from His vineyard (Israel). What more could He have done? So, did God plan from the beginning that His elect nation Israel (without free will) would fail, or was it Israel who chose (by free will) to fail, for which God would punish her? And if God planned from the beginning that Israel should fail, then is He lying when He says there was nothing more that He could have done to produce a fruitful crop? To suggest such is blasphemy, yet by denying the free will of mankind here, the calvinists have to declare their God to be a liar!
These are two issues calvinists must come to grips with: foreknowledge and free will. Before you can dismiss foreknowledge, that is, God using His perfect knowledge of future events to determine outcomes, you must prove or demonstrate that God was not able to do such or has forbidden Himself to do such. Likewise with the free will of mankind!
So, unless it can be proven that both foreknowledge as defined above and free will of man are opposed to Scriptural truth, then not one doctrine may be established without these two. Doctrines may only be established on fully truthful foundations. Any belief that can be queried cannot be a doctrine but merely a belief. And a belief without Biblical truth is merely an uneducated opinion!
It is also a problem to claim that if God calls someone then that person has to go to heaven. Jesus called His twelve disciples from out of their other activities.
Matthew 10:1 – And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
Luke 6:13 – And when it was day, he called [unto him] his disciples: and of them he chose (eklegomai) twelve, whom also he named apostles;
But then in the following passage (flowing on from the John 6 verses above) Jesus says that He chose (eklegomai) – the verb form of the adjective “elect” (eklektos) as in 1 Peter 1:2.
John 6:70-71 – 70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen (eklegomai) you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71He spake of Judas Iscariot [the son] of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. Clearly being called or chosen doesn’t guarantee your automatic entry into heaven!
And Judas didn’t choose Jesus; Jesus purposely chose Judas as one of the twelve to bear much fruit.
John 15:16 –Ye have not chosen (eklegomai) me, but I have chosen (eklegomai) you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
And the noun form of eklegomai is ekloge (the “election” ) as in Romans 9:11b – that the purpose of God according to election (ekloge) might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;
Another serious problem is that even those who are given by the Father to the Son may not be guaranteed eternal life.
John 6:39 – 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.
Jesus says here that He will lose none given to Him, yet He manages to lose one of them (Judas) later on. So this verse must be talking about two separate contexts.
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.
It is always a foolishness to read too much into a single verse without applying context and proper consistency of Scriptural meaning. Clearly the truth will be that which causes no conflict with Scriptural consistency. If we look at John 3:35, we can see that all things have been given into the hand of the Son. That means all creation without exception. John 5:28-29 says that all will be raised to resurrection, some to life and the others to damnation. He will lose nothing; not one person (whether good or evil) will miss out on this event! If you want to know what happens to believers in particular, look at John 6:40 – And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. and compare this with John 6:39 above.
All of these passages are part of the context that must be considered before interpreting correctly.
Also, many are called but few are chosen. [Matthew 22:14 – For many are called (kletos – invited), but few [are] chosen (eklektos).] It is clear from this statement alone that in this context there are a lot more called than actually chosen (or elected).
Also see Matthew 20:16 – So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called (kletos – invited), but few chosen (eklektos).
Are we to invent two types of call now? – a general call and a specific call, to be determined according to the meaning we are trying to match them up with? What happened to pure and plain Scriptural interpretation, where the Bible was actually read to see what it really and truly said? Without free will, so many doctrines of the Bible become distorted, and without a correct application of the meaning of God’s foreknowledge, God’s sovereignty is reduced to having to dictate what happens in case things get out of control! Both of these calvinist errors can be seen in the character of the dictator: for fear of being defeated he must deny free will and he has to surround himself with fawning supporters (the unconditionally chosen) in order to keep the wicked opposition (those who have not been chosen for special privileges) at bay!
It would be a pleasant surprise to find calvinists who could demonstrate their teachings using proper Biblical exegesis, taking account of context, consistency and proper usage of the original language. It would also be enjoyable to hear calvinists explain their teachings without having to refer to their over-dependence upon the writings of Calvin and others to tell them what they want the Bible to mean!
For further on John 6, go to John 6:37-40.
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