Saturday, August 1, 2009

Examining John 6:44

John 6:44-47, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. . . Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me . . . I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."

  • "draws" is the same word used in John 12:32, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
  • "draw" (" 'elko" or actually "helko") is the key word here for Calvinist. Please listen to R.C. Sproul discus this word in his book "Chosen by God" and then read the text directly from Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. 2 of 10).
Sproul writes concerning the word "draw", or Greek "helko", in John 6:44:
"The key word here is draw. What does it mean for the Father to draw people to Christ? I have often heard this text explained to mean that the Father must woo or entice men to Christ. Unless this wooing takes place, no man will come to Christ. However, man has the ability to resist this wooing and to refuse the enticement. The wooing, though it is necessary, is not compelling. In philosophical language that would mean that the drawing of God is necessary condition but no a sufficient condition to bring men to Christ. In simpler language it means that we cannot come to Christ without the wooing, but the wooing does not guarantee that we will, in fact, come to Christ."
Sproul now continues:
"I am persuaded that the above explanation which is so widespread, is incorrect. It does violence to the text of Scripture, particularly to the biblical meaning of the word draw. The Greek word used here is "elko". Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines it to mean to compel by irresistible superiority. Linguistically and lexicographically, the word means "to compel." To compel is a much more forceful concept that to woo. To see this more clearly, let us look for a moment at two other passages in the New Testament where the same Greek word is used. In James 2:6 we read: "But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?" Guess which word in this passage is the same Greek word that elsewhere is translated by the English word draw. It is the word drag. Let us now substitute the word woo in the text. It would then read: "Do not the rich oppress you and woo you into the courts?" The same word occurs in Acts 16:19. "But when her masters was that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities." Again, try substituting the word woo for the word drag. Paul and Silas were not seized and then wooed into the marketplace."
Sproul has told you what he wants you to know about the word "draw" or "elko" (actually " 'elko" or "helko"). Now, I would like to tell you the rest of the story concerning the Calvinist "key word" from their pivotal verse found in John 6:44.

First, Sproul doesn't tell you all that Kittles TDNT says about the word "helko." Quoting now from volume 2, page 503:
"The basic meaning is to "tug" or "draw." In the case of persons (Acts 16:19; 21:30; James 2:6, [notice all three of these verse were used by Sproul to get the meaning "drag"] ) it may mean to "compel" . . . It may also mean to "draw" to a place by magic . . . It is used of a magnet . . . (drawing the hungry as by a magnet to the Cyprian loaves) . . . of the inner influence of the will . . . More comparable with the Johannine usage is that of Porphyrius Ad Marcellam. . . the beauty of the good . . . . In the OT helkein is used of powerful impulse. The obscure heilkuksan se of Song of Solomon 1:4 is somehow meant to express love. The word is used of mother love in 4 Maccabees 14:13; 15:11 . . . The original refers more to patience. The Septuagint is thinking, not so much of drawing out in deliverance but of drawing to oneself in love. This usage is distinctively developed by John . . . Force or magic may be discounted, but not the supernatural element."
Second, Sproul is correct in his use of the samples from the New Testament but he is once again selective and avoids using these:
  • Song of Solomon 1:4, "Take me away with you - let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers." Which in the Greek Septuagint says, "Draw me after you - we will run. The king has brought me into his chambers."
  • Jeremiah 31:3, "The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."
  • John 12:32, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
A couple of things need to be pointed out as we go past these verses above.
  1. How do you think the bride was being taken into the king's chamber? Drug by her husband? Sproul would seem to think so if he would have continued.
  2. In Jeremiah the Lord is telling the nation that had rejected him and who were on their way to a national over throw that "I have drawn you." Yet, they did not respond. Also, notice the "drawing" came from an "everlasting love" from eternity past. Yet they rejected it.
  3. Jesus said he would "draw all men to" himself." If that was irresistible why do they not all come? The determining factor is each man's response.

Another factor to consider is that there is another word in the Greek NT used for "drag" which is the Greek word "suro." It is used for "dragging in a more violent and aggressive sense. It never means "draw." The difference can be seen in John 21:6, 11 (helko) and John 21:8 (suro). In John 21:6 and 11 the fishing net is first attempted to be "drawn" to the disciples on the boat, but the attempt fails. Then in 21:11 Peter "draws" the net to himself up on shore. The difference is seen between verse 8 when the net could not be drawn to the boat and later when it was drawn by Peter on the shore. Since the disciples could not "helko" (draw) the net to the boat they instead "suro" (dragged) the net behind the boat as they made their way to shore. If John had wanted to record Jesus saying in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him," he could have used the word "suro." He did in John 21. Instead the word "helko" is used which has a rich history of not meaning to "drag".
Once, again, Mr. Sproul doesn't go here.

One more thing concerning "helko" in John 6:44. The verb "draw" is in the subjunctive mood, the aorist tense and the active voice.
  • The active voice means God, the subject, will do the action of the verb.
  • The aorist tense conveys a point of action in the past.
  • But, most interesting, is the subjunctive mood which is not the mood of reality (indicative mood) nor the mood of command (imperative mood), nor the mood of desire or wish (optative mood), but instead it is the mood of potential which indicates the verb could potentially happen.

says concerning this word in this passage of scripture: "The drawing is not like that of the executioner, who draws the thief up the ladder of the gallows; but it is a gracious allurement, such as that of the man whom everybody loves, and to whom everybody willingly goes."

Augustine says, "If a man is drawn, says an objector, he comes against his will. But we answer if he comes unwillingly, he does not believe; if he does not believe, he does not come. For we do not run to Christ on our feet, but by faith; not with the movement of the body, but with the free will of the heart . . . Thank not that you are drawn against your will; the mind can be drawn by love."

Chrysostom says, "This expression does not remove our part in the coming, but rather shows that we want help to come."

John Phillips
says concerning John 6:37: "God does not act in an arbitrary way nor in defiance of the human will when he draws people to Christ. Someone once tried to persuade me that God has chosen some people for salvation and chosen other people for damnation. Such an idea is monstrous. God does not arbitrarily and sovereignly damn the greater part of the human race into an existence they did not seek, on terms they did not select (so-called "total depravity"), under impossible handicaps they did not choose (depraved in will and 'dead in trespasses and sins'), dominated by forces they cannot control (the world, the flesh, and the devil), into a ruined family (Adam's) they did not themselves plunge into original sin, just in order arbitrarily to send people to hell for not choosing a salvation offered only to the 'elect.' That may be some people's idea of God and some people's view of salvation, but such concepts make God out to be a tyrant worse than any in the history of the human race. However, such is not the God of the Bible and such is not the kind of 'salvation' offered us." (The John Phillips Commentary Series, "Exploring the Gospel of John")

Galyn Wiemers


Anonymous said...

The argument here is essentially what is referred to as a straw man argument. It presents a distorted view of the Calvinist position, and knocks it down easily. The Calvinist position is not that God drags us into the kingdom kicking and screaming, but that God's call results in the regeneration of our hearts, bringing us from death to life, turning our hearts from stone to flesh, so that we may then come willingly to God.

EJ Hill said...

I responded at