Monday, April 03, 2006

Clearing Up Or Creating Confusion On John 6?

Last night, while following links thru the blogosphere, I happened upon a blog called "Philosophy of Religion" authored by a fellow who calls himself the "philosapologist". I scrolled down a bit and an article titled, "Clearing Up Contemporary Calvinistic Confusion" caught my eye. The article addresses John 6 so, needless to say, I was very curious to see how philosapologist clears up the Calvinists' supposed confusion regarding this text. Five full paragraphs later I'm sitting there feeling somewhat cheated and, well, confused. Why? Anyone familiar with the Calvinism/Arminianism debate knows John 6 is a key text that always (along with Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) ends up on the center stage of exegetical scrutiny. The amount of time and ink spent on John 6 by Calvinists is almost staggering and I have to ask, does philosapologist really believe that he can refute centuries of Calvinistic exegesis in just 5 paragraphs? Just to give you an example of what I'm talking about, here are two links to modern Calvinists' websites who have discussed John 6. I ask the reader to look at these and to note the depth to which they treat the text in question and to compare them to the five paragraphs that philosapologist has provided to "clear up calvinistic confusion". Also, I would like to briefly discuss a couple of other problematic aspects of philosapologist's article.

The first thing to note is that philosapologist starts his discussion of John 6 with a contextual argument. He states that Jesus is in debate with the religious leaders of his day and quotes John 5:37-38 and 5:45 (this takes up two of his five paragraphs by the way). He then states:

The point of the passage is this: Jesus' opponents could not come to him because of their track record of rejecting his previous offerings of light.

Philosapologist is leading into John 6:35-45 by starting with a contextual argument derived from John 5:37. The problem here is that the context philosapologist starts at is not the context of John 6:35-45. Jesus' debates with the religious leaders that philosapologist mentions ends at John 6:1 which reads:

SOME TIME after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), NIV

From here, John records the feeding of the 5,000 and the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. The text then has Jesus discussing the unbelief of the same crowd that had witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 and had followed Him to Capernaum looking for more miracles. This sets the stage for John 6:35-45. So if philosapologist begins his contextual argument by saying that Jesus is debating the religious leaders of His day and quotes John 5:37, 38, 45, to support this, his entire article is in error from the very beginning and thus is lead to an erroneous conclusion. Arguing against calvinistic exegesis based on the wrong context simply isn't going to get it done.

Another thing to note is that the key verses from John 6 are never quoted in full. In other words, philosapologist's readers do not get to see if what he says lines up with what is actually stated by the text. Case in point:

The answer to the question to whom does "no one" refer is quite simple: it means no one who has a relationship with the one true God and creator of the universe refrains from coming to Christ.

The verse being referred to here is John 6:44 which reads:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day. NIV

For the Calvinist, it's easy to see why philosapologist would not want to present the verse as it reads. It explicitly states that no one can come to the Son unless first drawn to Him by the Father. But that's not all. It goes on to state that the one drawn is raised up. Does philosapologist's contexually based assertions do justice to how the verse actually reads? Of course not since he starts with the wrong context in the first place. Philosapologist is still reading into the text the notion that Jesus is still debating the religious leaders from John 5 when in fact Jesus is explaining to a crowd of people who have followed him to Capernaum just why it is they do not believe in Him.

The last thing I would like to address is the use of the word "contemporary" in the title of philosapologist's article. Is he suggesting that Calvinists no longer interpret this text the way, say, Warfield, Turretin, or even Calvin himself did? If this is the case then I would simply state that I have read Calvin's remarks on this section of John and what he states is no different than what modern expositors such as White or Sproul would say. In fact, Calvinists are very uniform in their handling of this text because they simply let it speak for itself.

So, in light of these issues I've brought forward, I can only say that what philosapologist ends up doing is *creating* confusion for the Calvinist instead of clearing it up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You provide the John 6 commentary of A&O Ministries. The way the author derives the doctrines of grace out of 6:37-45 however, is sheer eisegesis in my opinion. While it is true that Dave Hunt did not provide a thorough exegesis in his written works on calvinism, James White fails to do so as well.....