Friday, June 09, 2006

Dennis Clough and Luke 19:10

Readers of my humble blog are no doubt aware that a fellow named Dennis Clough has become a regular visitor here at Conversations. But readers here may not be aware that Mr. Clough is indirectly responsible for the recent increase in visitors to my blog because it was he whom I was responding to on Alan Kurschner's site when Alan graciously recommended my blog to his readers. There is tremendous irony in this because Mr. Clough hates Calvinism and has visited several reformed blogs of late making this known (see for instance Mr. Clough's post here and the many refutations he receieved in response). Despite his visits to these other blogs, Mr. Clough has decided to pitch his tent here, which is fine (that is, as long as he behaves himself) because Mr. Clough has given me much to blog about in the past week or so. Take for example Mr. Clough's assertions in regards to Luke 19:10. Mr. Clough has contended on both Alan's site and here that Luke 19:10 somehow refutes the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44. But as we are about to see, Mr. Clough's assertions are not justified.

Here is Luke 19:10 as it reads in the NASB:

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Here, Luke records Jesus as saying that He has come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is a statement by our Lord in regards to His mission here on earth. The question that needs to be answered is just whom is Christ seeking to save? Is it all mankind or a specific group of people? Before we answer this, let's look at two other statements describing our Lord's earthly mission.

The first of these two will be Matthew 1:21 which reads:

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. NASB

This was spoken to Joseph by an angel of the Lord. The angel is telling Joseph who Jesus is and what he is coming to do. Jesus' mission is to save His people from their sins. So again, who is it that Jesus saves from their sins? The text states that it is His people who is saved from their sins. So Mr. Clough has two options here. He can insist that all people are Jesus' people or he can say that only some are His. If Mr. Clough chooses all people, then Jesus failed in His mission because not all are saved. If he chooses some people, he must give an answer as to who these people are. The Calvinist of course, says this group is none other than the elect. If not the elect, then who? Mr. Clough might claim that the Jewish nation is in view here. But if this is so, again, Jesus failed in His mission because not all Jews are saved. Clearly, the Calvinistic interpretation is preferred.

The next verse I wish to look at before returning to Luke is John 6:38 & 39 which read:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. NASB

Here in John 6, Jesus states that His earthly mission is to do the Father's will and that the Father's will is that Jesus lose none of those whom the Father has given Him and to raise them to life. Now, the first thing to notice is just who it is that Christ will not be losing. This is a specific group of people that the Father has given Him. If Mr. Clough tries to insert "all men" here, then what he ends up with is either Universalism or the notion that Christ failed to do the Father's will. Both of these are unacceptable so, what does Mr. Clough do here?

So far, Matthew states Jesus will save His people from their sin, and John says that Jesus will do the Father's will by raising to life all those given to Him. What then of Luke 19:10? We have already noted that v. 10 states that Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost. In light of the previous verses, those whom Jesus seeks are His own people. Further, these people are the same ones that the Father has given Him in order to raise them to life. But this is not all. Luke 19:10 falls within the story of Zaccheus the tax collector being converted. Jesus states in verse 19:9 that salvation came to Zaccheus because he was a son of Abraham. So in context, Jesus sought to save the Sons of Abraham. Undoubtedly, the non-Calvinist or perhaps Mr. Clough himself would object to gentiles being referred to as sons of Abraham. But this term is not limited to the jews for two reasons. First, if the term "son of Abraham" were limited to the jews, then Christ failed in his mission because all jews are not saved. This is clearly unacceptable. The second reason is that Scripture identifies Gentiles as also being the sons of Abraham thru faith (Gal. 3:7). So we see that Luke falls in line with Matthew and John on Christ's mission. Contextually, Jesus sought to save the sons of Abraham in Luke. The sons of Abraham are "His people" according to Matthew. And "His people" are the ones whom the Father has given to Christ for the purpose of raising them to life in John.

In looking at these statements of Christ's earthly mission, we have seen that all three refer to a particuliar group of people. This particuliarity in Christ's mission is in complete harmony with the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44 because there is no disjunction between those whom Jesus sought to save and those who are drawn to Him by the Father. In order for Mr. Clough's assertions in regards to Luke 19:10 to hold up, he will need to deal with the demonstrated harmony of all three accounts of Christ's earthly mission and then show an inconsistency with the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Calvinist Humor

If any of you out there have ever heard of an atheist named Reggie Finley, a.k.a. the "Infidelguy", then click here. This audio clip is brought to you courtesy of the guys at Fide-O!

Also, this one from Purgatorio, is just plain evil. Click here.

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.