Friday, June 02, 2006

Calvinism and John 12:32

As I've stated previously, the text of John 6 comes up frequently whenever Calvinism is discussed. Upon being quoted John 6:44, the non-Calvinist's retort is almost always John 12:32 with an accompanying cry of, "All means all!". At this point, it becomes necessary for the Calvinist to address John 12:32 for the sake of progress in the discussion. Since I have had this same defense used against me by two different people in the last two weeks, I would like to discuss a few issues that bear against the non-Calvinist's use of John 12:32.

The first of the above mentioned issues is Universalism. It is the Calvinist's contention that if John 12:32 is read back into 6:44, then the result is an affirmation of Universalism. The reason for this contention is in how both verses read. For instance, 6:44 reads thus:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. NASB

And John 12:32:

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. NASB

The plain reading of John 6:44 is that no one can come to Christ unless first drawn to Him by the Father. Non-Calvinists will often concede this if pressed. It's the rest of the verse that causes problems for them as the verse goes on to state that those who are drawn (represented by "him") are also raised to life by the Son. What non-Calvinists are essentially doing then, is accepting the first half of the verse but denying the second half. This is done by going to John 12:32 and insisting that all men are drawn to Christ. Now, the problem should be obvious. If 6:44 states that all those that are drawn are then raised, and if all men without exception are drawn to Christ per 12:32, then you have an affirmation of Universalism. Since both sides reject Universalism, another explanation must be sought. For the non-Calvinist, this usually means an immediate switch to "all these other verses over here". For the Calvinist, it means dealing with these verses on their own and in their immediate contexts.

Now, when John 12:32 is brought forward by non-Calvinists, there is never any mention about the context in which Jesus makes His statements. The only thing that seems to interest those using this verse against Calvinists is the appearance of the term "all". The assumption is that "all" always means all men everywhere. This assumption remains even when the Calvinist points out that the term "all" is often times limited by contextual considerations. So obviously, the question is what did Jesus mean when He said that He will "draw all men" to Himself? Did He mean all men everywhere, or all *kinds* of men?

The important thing to note about the non-Calvinist's use of this verse is that "all men everywhere" are not in fact drawn to Christ. We know this to be true by both Biblical and experiential considerations. The Pharisees for instance, were not drawn to Christ unless one wishes to count their attempts at killing Him. Further, each of us knows or have known people who have never had an interest in Christianity outside of trying to disprove it. There is also the issue of those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. So, either Jesus was mistaken in what He said, or He did not mean "all men everywhere" but rather, all kinds of men. In support of this, we find in John 12:20 that there were Gentiles who were wishing to see Jesus. When Jesus got word of this, He began to address a crowd that now comprised both Jew and Gentile. It is to this mixed crowd that Jesus made His comments about "drawing all men". And it is this consideration that makes the Calvinist's interpretation of this verse not only plausible, but probable. That is, the Calvinist believes this verse is limited by this contextual consideration coupled with the above mentioned issues. If the non-Calvinist's interpretation clashes with other texts, and makes no sense of the verse when considered on it's own, then the Calvinist's interpretation becomes the most probable. Indeed, it would seem that these considerations would make the Calvinist's interpretation the only one *possible*.

Undoubtebly, the non-Calvinist will object with something like, "but you're changing *all* men into *some* men just to make it fit your doctrine!". But I would point out that this isn't a response to the argument offered. In fact, I haven't heard a non-Calvinist address the Calvinist's interpretation of 12:32 with anything other than comments like this. Indeed, in order to refute the Calvinist interpretation of John 12:32, the non-Calvinist will first need to:

  • Harmonize this verse with John 6:44
  • Show that all men since the time of Christ have in fact been drawn to Him
  • Refute the contextual argument derived from John 12:20 with the appearance of Gentiles seeking Jesus

Without addressing these issues, the non-Calvinist will be obliged to hand over one of their primary prooftexts to Calvinism.


Dennis Clough said...

Jesus said, I am come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Apllying your simple one verse fits-all hermeneutics, I must conclude that since all men are lost, Jesus is seeking all lost men and therefore, all lost men are saved.

Such is the folly of building a major doctrine on one verse.

Dennis Clough

J. Matthew Cleary said...


Mind explaining just how this post addresses *anything* in my article?

Dennis Clough said...

It should be plain that if your interpretation of your favorite text is correct (All that are drawn are saved) then that same method of interpretation applied to what Jesus said, "I am come to seek and to save that which was lost" would result in every lost person being saved. No doubt, you would want to bring in some other scriptures to bolster your position.

So don't deny others the right to do the same. Harmonizing all Scripture is not only possible, it is essential in determining the truth.

Dennis Clough

J. Matthew Cleary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J. Matthew Cleary said...


Again, you are not dealing with the content of my article. If you are not interacting with what's written, then you aren't addressing the argument offered leaving it to stand unrefuted.

Anonymous said...

I'm showing that your "content" is not arrived at from contextual reasoning.

You are not seeking truth, but the validation of a system.

Dennis Clough

J. Matthew Cleary said...


"I'm showing that your "content" is not arrived at from contextual reasoning."

And just how did you show that? I see nothing in your post to show that I did not handle John 12:32 contextually. In fact, you failed to mention my drawing attention to the happenings in John chapter 12 which negates your comment about "contextual reasoning".

"You are not seeking truth, but the validation of a system."

Odd that you would say this in light of your attempts at validating Dispensationalism.

mlculwell said...

Sorry I made so many comments of the same type but I could not figure out if my posts went through so I recovered my blog account on this site.

This is what Calvinists are so good at; "vacuum Isolation" which they
call "exegesis" but is really "exegesis" these good folks(those
attempting your argument using your own submitted isolated passages
and scenarios) just fell into your isolation vacuum trap. LOL!

(John 7:38-39 KJV) This passage says If A-N-Y man thirst let him come
unto me and drink. He is allowed by his thirst. Oh, but the Calvinist
will say what about the next verse? Because the believer according to
Calvin is a mindless robot made to believe, made to thirst. He that
believeth as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow
rivers of living water. But this spake he of the spirit, which they
that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet
given for Jesus was not yet glorified. One will notice that the above
passage does not use the term A-L-L but rather A-N-Y

(Matth. 5:6) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness for they shall be filled.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it
not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown
in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

There is that little nasty indefinite pronoun* any *again and it's
relation to anyone hearing the word and either accepting or rejecting
the word in their hearts because of different situations or cares of
this life and the flesh of mankind because men love their flesh rather
than the spirit of God. Notice above how that the word is not fully
understood but starts as a seed to try and take root and then comes
the wicked one in conjunction with various contentious and situations
that uproot the word and make it easier to rely on flesh which is all
that is known at this point rather than the spirit of God and his
word which is life.

20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he
that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

Above is a person/persons that have a stony heart because of the
cares of this life (Not because of sins of their forefathers as both
Catholics and Calvinists falsely claim (all five points of Calvinism
are false doctrine and rely upon each other to work.) man is a free
moral agent able to hear, choose and be saved by his God. Not all men
the gospel message is for all of mankind not all will be saved but
any man can be saved .

Romans 10 :8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy
mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach;
(who Calvinists ? NO the 12 apostles of the lamb who were sent… John
17:17-18) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the
dead , thou shalt be saved. With the heart man believeth unto
righteousness ; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith Whosoever believeth on him shall not be
ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek :
for the same Lord over all is rich unto all call upon him. (Side note:
he cannot be the Lord "over all" but only "all kinds of men" and thus
Calvinists remain consistent in their interpretation. Go figure….

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The next verse is key to understanding all of John 10:7-15 and calling
on him nothing is said in any passage except for those they
eisegeticlly twist for their interpretation.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (Did
you get that?) Calvinists say God makes you a believer without you
being involved in the process, What? Ridiculous! And how shall they
believe in him of whom they have not heard?(oh but God automatically
makes you believe without hearing more ridiculousness) And how shall
they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be
sent? All passage relating to salvation tell us the gospel must be
preached by men sent of God (the Apostles and brethren preaching are
the only ones we know of consistent and have the seal of approval of
the Lord Jesus) all other preachers must line up with them and I can
tell the modern Reformed preacher, preaches nothing like the Apostles
and their first message to the question; men and brethren what must
we do? (To be saved!) and Peter preached that message on the first
Pentecost after the resurrection and that was: repent and be baptized
and everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost nothing was said
about them being baptized because their sins were already remitted or
forgiven these false prophets refuse to preach that same message and
we hear all kinds of ridiculous reasons why.

21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when
tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he
is offended.

Why does he have no root in himself? Is it because he has no God
given ability or inability? No, it is because of tribulation or
persecution arises and he is offended at the word, not because God
allows root to take or not to take effect. The seed, the word is
preached and thrown to all of these various men's hearts, yes, the
Calvinist is correct when they teach the term "all" is limited in
certain contexts concerning believers and unbelievers because it is
tricky terminology that they use and we have to be careful when we

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the
word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,
choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

This is so contradictory to what we hear Calvinists teach, this heart
condition continues to become unfruitful and eventually stops in
going on in faith, which is unbelief ,this person no longer desires
the things of the spirit of God. Submit yourselves therefore to god
esist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and he
will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands ye sinners, purify your
hearts ye double minded.(James 4:8)
(Hebrews 5:9) and being made perfect, he became the author of
eternal salvation unto all men (All kinds of men and here is the
answer to the all kinds of men) THAT OBEY HIM . but to thwart this
clear teaching they change the word of God to teach again that it is
God that makes you obey him. And makes you a believer LOL….. Paul in
Acts 19 asks a very peculiar question in light of the Calvinist
doctrine. Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed ? Paul
was revealing much to us about receiving the Holy Ghost and it had
nothing to do with them being followers of John the Baptist as the
reason for their not receiving Paul was revealing you do not
automatically receive the Holy Ghost upon belief but that it
definitely comes after belief and not automatically upon there is no
scripture that says so and this passage DEFINITELY HELPS as it would
have been a ridiculous question to ask and for that matter they would
have been taught as all mental ascenters, that you automatically
receive upon belief, the followers of John then revealed that had not
so much as even heard that the Holy Ghost was given they really did
not know of the New Covenant at all but were followers of John under
the Old.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth
the word, and understandeth
it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold,
some sixty, some thirty.

I don't know if Calvinists know it or not but these passages bring
much difficulty to their position and it is noted in a book which I
have in my possession called: The Potters Freedom in which, in this
book's author; James White has no reference to the Matth.13:18-27
passage but begins in verse 28 it is noted each believer of the coming
New Covenant which was actually not in effect at the time of Jesus
preaching would be able to hear and understand and any man could
be drawn of the word preached, not all men are drawn until they
hear the word preached not all have heard or will hear the true
Gospel, but many have heard this mess the Reformed have been touting
from Calvin and others who have had hundreds of years to practice
their arguments and twist the true Gospel (John 6:44 ) has been lied
on and twisted so much by the reformed that it no longer resembles
the scriptures of the Apostles.

J. Matthew Cleary said...

Hi mlculwell,

I'll try to get around to responding to your comments sometime this week.

mlculwell said...

Thank You Mr. Cleary! I might add also John 6:45 As proof of what I am trying to say and I purposely saved it for last.
(John 6:44-45)
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.

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

We are all taught of God (which is the drawing) through the word preached.
(Romans 10:14-15)

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they
believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall
they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?cilat

J. Matthew Cleary said...

Mr. mlculwell,

I have posted a response to most of your comments on the main page. And in light of your last response above, I would like to add that you are badly mistaken to think that merely quoting a scripture is enough to make a point. That is, merely quoting John 6:44 & 45 isn't enough to refute the Reformed interpretation of these verses nor does it lend to anything you have previously written here.

Adam said...

1) Your interpretation of John 6:44 is not correct. You say that everyone that is drawn is raised up. That doe snot follow. The verse plainly says that all that come to Christ are raised up at the last day, and those that come to Him are drawn to Him. Like this: All men who come to Christ are raised up, and only those who are drawn by the Father come to Christ. Simple. Non-Calvinists believe people who come to Christ are drawn to Him. I hesitate to mention v.45, lest it draw attention from the point above. Nevertheless, v.45 does present problems for the Calvinist and one of his favorite passage—John 6:44.

Adam said...

2) In the article you are forcing your definition of "draw" (based on your faulty interpretation of John 6:44) into John 12:32. So, you are asking the non-Calvinist to reconcile the two verses based on the incorrect assumption that everyone that is drawn comes to Christ. The rest of the article, and explanation about Gentiles in the passage only makes your interpretation *plausible*. That is all. You said it yourself, your addition to the text of John 12:32 (all *kinds*) is a direct result of your faulty view of John 6:44. The latter part of the article is just a Calvinistic attempt at getting around a plain verse. You exhort, "Show that all men since the time of Christ have in fact been drawn to Him." No one has to. The Lord Jesus Christ, and Author of the Bible, said it was so. You don't apply this logic to Genesis 1:1, or Rev. 20:11-15. Your base fallacy is the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44. Once that is fixed, then we clearly see that men can be drawn to Christ, yet REJECT that drawing (Acts 7:51). This does not, however, negate the fact that men that come to Christ are indeed drawn by the Father, in perfect concordance with John 6:44. So, your three points have been answered scripturally.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it means nothing that verse 45 refers to Isaiah 54 in which God is referring to a covenant with His chosen people only?

BobbyWatkins said...

I was looking for comments on the verse John 12:32, when I stumbled onto you disscusion. If the word "men" was left out,as it is in the greek, what do you think would be the meaning? I heard Andrew Wommac teaching on this last night, and his take on this is quite different from the conventional thinking? Thanks Bobby Watkins

Doc Anderson said...

It is so sad that we as christians keep slamming each other in the dispensationalist camp or the calvinistic camp. What's wrong with us? So much time and energy is being lost on arguing over the interpretation of the words, when the truth is very plain to both the calvinist, and the dispensationalist... God send His only Son to die for us ( cut it out! stop thinking about the interpretation of "us"), and therefore we who understand the SIMPLE truth of scripture are compelled to share this truth with all whom we come into contact in our respective lives. Quit arguing and start sharing. Leave the salvation up to God. It is He who has decided what His plan is, and we are not always to understand His ways (because they are not our ways... right?). The Bible says that the thoughts of a man's heart are only evil continuously - so how are we supposed to make sense of the thoughts of a Holy God. I read His Word, and there are times when two verses seem to say different things, such as is being discussed above. This does not mean that God is mistaken, it just means that I might not completely understand His purposes in these verses. However, I know enough to understand my part... Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, seeking to OBSERVE all the things which I have commended... Our call is to obey. NOT to argue over things we cannot understand or conclusively argue. As for this classic argument... read George Whitfield's letter to Wesley. It's the best treatment of this entire topic out there. Give God the glory, and please don't continue to tear each other down with 'my verses against yours' and 'my doctrine against yours'. Don't follow Paul, or Apollos. Follow Christ and the COMMANDS He has laid out in Scripture - which line up perfectly with His Father in the old testament - because they are ONE.

Anonymous said...

Believe on the lord Jesus Christ.Simple as that. If anyone adds or takes away from That,He is in serious trouble.If you believe that you were elected and have not believed in Christ you are not saved. Christ and the Father HAVE drawn ALL men to Christ,because in the end you will,I will,Everyone will deal with Christ.We all will answer to him,we all will stand before him,NO ONE will get away with not dealing with Christ.And God on that day will ask each and everyone of us "what did you do with My Son?" EVERY man will have an answer! Belief or unbelief? God has done His Part Perfectly,Because he Is a Perfect gentleman,He left the choice up to you and me. It will not be his Soverienty that sends us to hell.It will be our choice,our fault NOT His that we go to Hell. Our choice will put us there. Believe or walk away from the free gift. It is that simple folks.

William Dixson said...

I do not believe in Dispensationism. God is the same yesterday,today, and forever. God has always chosen on the basis of His own intention. He didn't ask prophets of old did they want to. He said you will....period. Read Romans 3 and 9. He destroyed adults, children, animals etc. He is a hard God and His truths are hard. Armenians are stealing the glory of God because they think He has to give every single human a chance. As R C Sproul says "God either gives mercy or justice." It is Gods choice.

Anonymous said...

I am leaning tword Universalism. I am thinking we realy don't have Free will. Jesus said "I came to set you free". Why would he say that if we were not "slaves to sin". No one chooses God because we are not able... we are not Free to choose God. Just like the parable with the potter and the clay...God makes us fit into His plan to save the whole world. We will not understand it in this lifetime, but believe that the Father would send the Son to go through all that just to save some.

Anonymous said...

Those who reject the drawing of John 6:44 never read v.45. For the ones tha are drawn are taught of the Father then they come to Christ. John.6:65 lets us know that not all men are drawn. So we can't say all men in the world will be saved.

Anonymous said...

Miculwell. those who thirst can only thirst if their hearts have been changed form stone to flesh. (Ez.11:19). Paul tells us know one seeks after God.(Ro.3:10-11).
This is why God must draw those to Christ or they will never come. If you are saved my friend its because God the Father has chosen you for salvation and nothing else.(Ro.8:28-39).

Anonymous said...

Adam summed it all up. The argument presented in this article is made based on a Calvinistic skewing of John 6:44. Without the false assumption that all who are drawn come, one can clearly see that 1) a person cannot come unless drawn 2) Jesus draws *all* to himself now that His work is completed, hence all can come, aka there is no elect. (it's so nice to be able to read that verse without having to sub in words that aren't there!) 3) we can be stubborn and turn away, or we can open the door when we hear him knocking [Revelation 3:20]. We can "choose life in order that [we] may live" [Deuteronomy 30:19]. There is no irresistible grace.

God can let you choose Life or death and give up none of His power. You have nothing to do with God's power in the first place. Your choice of Life (by accepting His free gift) or death, and the matter of God's sovereignty are two disjointed things. It is ok to simply rest on the Bible when it says

"He is the propitation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."
-I John 2:2

We have to throw away all these doctrines that run counter to the Bible. Even if God did have a chosen few whose sins He atoned for (He doesn't. He paid it all.), what good does it do to argue about it? We argue these doctrines purely for the sake of arguing, at the expense of unity, and we want to be right so badly that EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO NEEDING TO INSERT WORDS INTO SCRIPTURE we do it so the scripture says what we want it to say.

The Bible is very clear in its message. Set the doctrine on the shelf for a minute and just read & pray. You will see.

Chris said...

You all are right on some things and wrong on some things.

I came here puzzled about this verse and Adam added helpful input. J. Matthew went wrong when he stated, "If 6:44 states that all those that are drawn are then raised..."

What 6:44 actually states is that those who come to Jesus are then raised. Don't believe me? Read it again.

One cannot deduce from Jesus's words that he excludes the possibility that there are others who are drawn but who do not come (and therefore, are not raised). So the Arminian has wiggle room.

However, J. Matthew is likely correct about Jesus meaning "all kinds of people." (And no, my Arminian brothers, J. Matthew did not insert any new words into the text; He was only speaking of the meaning. You are not being careful listeners.)

It is very important to note that the Greek does not say, "all men." Just "all." So you have to ask, all what? There is a continuous, unbroken line of thought from when the Greeks came (12:20) to verse 32 and the word "all." So I am very convinced Jesus had in mind, "all kinds of people." Don't believe me? Read it again. Note the words "glorified/glorify" as you read.

Interestingly, John also used a universal-sounding word in a non-universal way elsewhere in this chapter. He used the word "world" (kosmos) one verse prior which certainly did not mean "every single man born." Don't believe me? Read verses 18-32 as a whole. We modern people with our individualism tend to forget that Scripture tends to speak of groups, not individuals.

So the Calvinistic interpretation of John 12:32 wins solidly. Even so, this still leaves the Arminian wiggle room. It doesn't mean that that every single man cannot in fact be drawn, as they try to demonstrate from other verses. It simply means they cannot use this verse to prove that doctrine. It should be a glorious thought to Gentile Arminian Christians that they, too, were drawn!!

Finally, it is important to note that Jesus here did not give the reason why one person comes to Him and another does not. Why does one person reject the drawing and one accept it? To answer that, one must look at other verses.

Lessons learned? 1. Not every verse has to be "won" for you to still be correct. (Listen up, Arminians.) 2. Always, always, always read in context. Never read just one verse. (Listen up, Arminians.) 3. Treat your opponents fairly, representing their points-of-view accurately, and then tear their views down. You'll be in a much stronger position when you do so. (Listen up, Calvinists.)

DISCLAIMER: I am a born-again Christian, not a Calvinist nor Arminian nor Universalist, but I do believe Calvinism is exegetically accurate. And I have chronic fatigue so I won't be debating. If I do not respond it is not necessarily because I have conceded you are correct.

contemplate said... many comments and I think you all missed something that should be so obvious. If we take these two verses at face value....

Jhn 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.

Jhn 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. would seem that universalism is the only conclusion. That is not the case so something else is definitely going on here.

If we look at Jn 17 we see in vs 9 that Jesus prays for the ones the Father "gave" him...and He prays only for them and not the world. This is a bit of a clue. Now consider vs 20 where Jesus then prays for "all who will believe through their word".

Who are the ones the Father gave to Jesus? Might they be the ones the Father DREW? Who are the ones that will believe through the word of preaching? Of course they consist of anyone who will believe after Jesus was "lifted up".

We are dealing with two time frames. One before Jesus was lifted up and one after Jesus was lifted up. Why could no man come to Jesus before He was lifted up unless they were drawn? Because the nation was "blinded" or "hardened" according to Isaiah 6 which Jesus quotes in Jn 12.

Calvinists always quote Jn 6:44 as if it applies to today when it only applied to the time before Jesus was lifted up. The apostles were predestined just like many of the prophets were. That is how God set the stage for Jesus to complete His mission. After Paul was chosen, the gospel established, and the history of the Bible set to be recorded, There is no longer the need for predestination and "whosoever" is thirsty may come and drink. Whosoever believes will have everlasting life for God so loved not just Israel but...the world.

AntiSatan said...

It's very important to understanding the underlying mentality/psychology of Calvinists and other similar Protestant ideologies. They are sociopathic ideologies. They further use ego defense mechanisms (ex. projection, denial, etc.) to create doctrines which justify their ongoing evil behavior and suppressing the need to turn away from their sin. Such ideologies create dead consciences in people and make them into sociopaths. Satan (the father of narcissism and sociopathy) has infiltrated and created his own spiritual clones through humans- to destroy and discredit Christianity. Sociopaths rarely change and you have to be very careful interacting with them. If interested, refer to my posts:

Chris said...

I said above, "You all are right on some things and wrong on some things."

LOL reading that again, it sounds so arrogant. Wasn't the best way to respond, and I apologize. It would have been better to say, "You're right about many things in this article, but I believe you are mistaken on these things."