Thursday, December 23, 2010

the Church of Christ objects to John 6:44

In the last post we looked at the verse that only allows for the Calvinistic interpretation.  The only real way out of this is to ignore the verse.  To prove my point I hold up James Burton Coffman's Commentary  on this verse (famous Church of Christ theologian) who says the following (which I have reorganized for ease of use)
  1. Those who find in this an irresistible and sovereign act of God in calling individual sinners find much more than is in it, for the very next verse tells exactly how the drawing is accomplished: "They shall all be taught of God." 
  2. To suppose that God draws some and not others would be to suppose that God is partial and unjust Acts 10:34
  3. The murmurers [the unbelieving crowd] in this passage had rejected the teaching of God relative to [because of] the lowliness of the Messiah, thus thwarting God's drawing of them unto himself. The fact of [the] rejection [of God's drawing] by some does not nullify the promise; the ones who respond will still be raised up at the last day.   
Let's answer him in reverse order. 
3. Notice first that this has nothing whatsoever to do with John 6:44.  He claims that God is indeed continually thwarted in drawing [by this he means wooing which we showed to be wrong] all men, the consequence of which is that God is not greater than man.  Seeing the bind he places himself in Burton adds that if you change your mind and cooperate God's offer is still good, and God is capable of becoming stronger again with your help.  Which doesn't really get him out of the bind of making God less powerful then man at all.
2. To suppose that God effectually draws some men and not others would be to make God unjust.  Ignore Ezekiel 33:20, Romans 9:14-16 for a moment.  When Moses request for more life was turned down but Hezekiahs was not was that unjust?  When God gave great riches to Solomon but not to Saul was that unjust?  When God made Babylon rule the world at the expense of Syria, Assyria, Judah, Sidon, and Egypt, was that unjust?  To believe this to deny the right God has to do whatsoever pleases Him, to say nothing of the fact that the verse itself tells us that everyone so called will receive eternal life (and we know that not everyone receives eternal life, ergo not everyone was called)
1. Those who teach what the verse says will be thwarted when they realize that God Himself regenerates the hearts and minds of the people, thus allowing them to accept Him; that God Himself teaches the inner man to love Him anew.  I fail to see how this contradicts John 6:44.


David Brainerd said...

Coffman's personal opinion aside (there are no popes in the church of Christ) I would explain it like this:

When we say that a musician has drawn a big crowd, we don't mean they went out and literally pulled people in. We don't mean even that they did their own PR and promoting personally. They drew a crowd in the sense that many people are attracted to their music or their act.

In the same way, the Father's drawing does not have to be interpreted as active, like the Calvinist irresistible grace and God forcing people to believe. The drawing can be passive, as if to say, "No man can come to me unless he is interested in pleasing the Father." Just as nobody is drawn to a Miley Cyrus concert unless they've lost their minds; Miley doesn't literally draw them in, but they're drawn by their insanity and thus we saw "she drew a crowd."

Phil said...

That makes even less sense than Coffmans terrible go at it. You still haven't contended with the second half of the sentence, "and I will raise them up on the last day."

David Brainerd said...

Let me ask you another question about this same chapter. Jesus says "I am the bread of life." (v48) Again, he calls himself "the bread which comes down from heaven" (v50) and finally "the bread that I will give is my flesh" (v51)

Now if you were to take this as literally as you're taking the thing about the Father drawing them, then you would obviously conclude that Jesus brought his body down from heaven. He is "the bread that comes down from heaven" he says, and then "the bread that I will give is my flesh" so, then, literally interpreted, he brought his flesh down from heaven. That's the Docetic doctrine--literally--of Apelles the successor to Marcion, who taught that Jesus was not born at all but rather constructed for himself a body made of stardust as he descended to the earth, so that he brought his body with him from heaven.

In other words, there is a certain amount of poetic license inherent in the poetic quality of John's gospel which cannot be taken so literally as you are taking it. I'm not saying the Bible in general is not to be taken literally or never should be, but John obviously lacks the literal specificity of the Synoptics. John is more poetry; its a different literary genre, especially in this chapter, and must be interpreted accordingly.

Phil said...

So your rebuttal to the fact that God must draw all men and all so drawn are raised on the last day is now to say that the whole thing is symbolic and doesn't actually mean what it says?
Honestly, your previous post arguing "it's not God doing the drawing, but men" was better.

By this reasoning, "he that believes will have everlasting life" (47) is symbolic too? Just as Jesus Himself is symbolic of the spark of the divine within all of us?

What part of "No man can come to me and I will raise him up on the last day" is poetic license exactly?

David Brainerd said...

I didn't say anything was symbolic. But just like you can't press the words about Jesus bringing his flesh down from heaven literally, you can't press the idea that the Father does the drawing actively too literally nor that everyone who is drawn will ultimately attain unto the resurrection too literally. The resurrection is literal, but will all those who were drawn attain it? Paul himself was worried he wouldn't!

Phillipians 3:11-14 "11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Remember also the passage "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Paul didn't take the attitude "Well, the Father drew me, so its a done deal, I WILL receive the resurrection of the just no questions asked." He wasn't absurd like that. He obviously knew about the poetic license in John 6.

Phil said...

So now I can't press the idea that everyone drawn will receive eternal life literally (what the text says) because Jesus isn't literally talking bread?
This is a really flimsy excuse for refusing to believe the Bible, I can hardly believe this is your argument.

Look David, in v63 Jesus said all of these words were spiritual and they were true. That means that He is food for our souls. He says no man can come unless drawn, that means our souls despise the person of God unless He changes them, and all so changed will then love Him.
Your doing the standard Church of Christ trick of ignoring the passages you don't like. I'd urge you to stop.
As for the other point, I've blogged extensivly about what the Bible has to say about once saved always saved, and you can read that here:

David Brainerd said...

My commitment to the church of Christ denomination is very minimal. But my commitment to common sense is air tight. Your interpretation leads to absurdity. And as for people ignoring any verse that doesn't fit their doctrinal system, you do the same with Acts 2:38 and 1st Peter 3:21. But with John 6 here, there is no ignoring. These soliloquies that John has Jesus give throughout the book are very much non-literal. "I am the vine." He's not a literal vine. "If I testify of myself, my testimony is false." Yet later when the Pharisees see him testifying of himself, he says "Although I testify of myself, yet is my testimony true." So obviously we weren't supposed to take it literal after all that if he testifies of himself his testimony isn't true. Just admit it, you have no clue how to read John's gospel.

Phil said...

I'll give it to you, that's your most coherent argument yet. "You believe John 6 says what it means and is talking about spiritual things because it says that, while I believe all such uncomfortable passages are to be interpreted flexibly according to the established doctrines of the CoC. One if us is wrong and it's not me given that I believe baptism is how we are saved, as opposed to you who thinks it's by grace through faith. Therefore you have no understanding of how to read the Bible."

Better. But not good enough. Tell me why "No man can come to me unless drawn by the father, and I will raise him up on the last day" doesn't mean what it looks like it means. You dispute my understanding, very well, then tell me what does it actually say?

David Brainerd said...

Before we follow your wild goose chase, let's look at this from John:

John 5:31 "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true."


John 8:14 "Although I testify of myself yet my testimony is true."


None of Jesus' statements in John can be taken as being final. They are subject to later clarification. And the rest of the Bible clarifies, just because you were drawn don't mean you're going to make it, or else Paul would not be concerned that he might not "attain to the resurrection." You're done son.

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