Saturday, January 18, 2014

Confronting the Book, "Confronting Calvinism"

This post is part of an interaction I am having with Dr. Anthony Badger, author of "Confronting Calvinism." Hence you will see direct address here and there. Just a heads up on why it is present.

It is not that I misunderstand how Free Grace views faith rather, it is the case that I believe Scripture does not provide an adequate grounding for the Free Grace understanding of faith as passive. With all due respect, you have not made your case. I see that John 6:44, 65 is touched on in the chapter on Total Depravity. I must confess that I find your treatment of it unconvincing. You see then, Jesus talks a great deal about this matter in John 6. There, Jesus says to the Jews that are following Him for all sorts of reasons that they have seen Him and do not believe Him. He contrasts this statement with the statement that “all that the Father gives to me will come to me.” In 39 He tells us that this group that the Father gives to Him, He will certainly raise them up on the last day and not lose a single one. These are the ones that behold the Son and believe in Him. Then in 44 Jesus tells us that no one is able to come to Him unless the Father draws them. And then he says something very interesting, “and I will raise him up on the last day.” In other words, everyone that the Father draws to Him will be raised up on the last day. Logically, we can only conclude that those whom the Father draws are the ones from that group mentioned earlier, the ones that the Father gives to Jesus. I will come back to this momentarily.

Jesus reinforces this concept with a quote from Isa. 54:13/Jer. 31:34, and states quite clearly, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Once again, we can only conclude that everyone who hears and learns from the Father is part of that group that the Father draws to Christ, and these are the same ones that the Father has given to Christ, the ones from whom Christ will not lose a single one but will raise them up on the last day. Now, this describes some of those that are in the crowd no doubt. But what about the other ones who are there for all the wrong reasons? Jesus says in 6:65, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Now, we ask the question concerning why they don’t believe. Jesus gives us as clear an answer as could be given: “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him from the Father.” This Jesus’ own paraphrase of v. 44. The reason that men do not believe is because it has not been granted to them by the Father. Now, Jesus is saying that men are not able to come to Him οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με, unless it has been δεδομένον αὐτῷ granted/given to him ἐκ τοῦ πατρός from the Father. Faith and coming to Jesus are equivalents in this text. The idea that Jesus thought of believing in Him separately from coming to Him, coming after Him, following Him is, in my estimation, the product of extreme theological prejudice.

When Dr. Badger uses the word draw, he seems to use it in an anachronistic sense. We think of being drawn to a person, a spouse, something that attracts us when we use this word. However, in order to understand the meaning of “draw” and how Jesus used it, and more importantly, how John’s audience would have understood it, we have to go back to the first-century Mediterranean world. You see, Jesus’ connection between 6:44 and 6:65 should cause us to think more critically about this word. In 6:44 he uses the word ἑλκύσῃ, draw, and in 6:65 He uses the word δεδομένον, granted. In our thinking, grant carries the sense of “actuality” while draw has the sense of “potentiality.”

The Greek word ἑλκύσῃ means to attract powerfully, to haul. This word appears six time in NT usage. In every single case, the object of the attraction is passive. Moreover, in every single place it is used, the idea is to pull or move the passive object to the subject. When we hear the word attract, we think about a psychological sensation, an internal stimulation if you will. That is not at all how this word is used in the New Testament Scripture. Some would point to John 12:32 as proof that Jesus draws in the modern sense of this tugging at the heart, and that He draws all men without exception. But this text is talking about the manner in which Christ will die and the fact that His death will attract from all groups of men on the earth just as God has planned. Surely the text does not mean all men without exception for we know that men die even today without ever having heard of Jesus’ death on the cross. And if you reject this view, then surely you must acknowledge that men have died since the resurrection of Christ, having never heard of the event. In that case, Jesus could not possibly have intended for us to take this text in a naïve and literal manner.

Now I turn to the question of “believing.” Is “believing” an active or passive behavior? Free Grace contends that “believing” is passive behavior. The Greek word πιστεύω appears 241 times in the NA28 GNT. It appears in the passive voice nine out of those 241 times and in the active voice 232 times. This puts its usage as passive at about 4% of the time. The passive usages occur in Rom. 3:2 where the Jews were said to have been entrusted with the oracles of God, in 1 Cor. 9:17 where Paul was entrusted with a stewardship, and then in Ga. 2:7, 1 Thess. 2:4, 1 Ti. 1:11, and Tt. 1:3, all places where Paul is said to have been entrusted with the gospel. In 1 Tim. 3:16, use of the passive occurs in its most common usage as it describes Christ has having been believed on in the world. In 2 Th. 1:10 the reference is to Paul’s testimony that was believed. In eight of the nine passives then, we see that the subject of belief is not the occasion for saving faith. This leaves us with one example out of 241 in the GNT. This brings us to Romans 10:9-10. Paul says in v. 10, “For with the heart a person believes.” Once again, this is the standard use of a passive voice verb. It is simply describing the instrument of belief, namely, the human heart. One has to look no further than v. 9 to see that if a person will believe with their heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, they will be saved.

In Acts 16:30, the Philippian Jailer wanted to know how to be saved. Paul commanded Him to believe in the Lord Jesus and he would be saved. Now, not only is πιστεύω in the active voice here, it is in the imperative mood. This is the mood of command. How can Paul command the Jailer to actively believe in the Lord Jesus if that act is actually passive in nature?

In summary then, the hypothesis that the act of believing has nothing to do with the human will lacks exegetical warrant. The sense of πιστεύω moves from an evaluation to acceptance (knowledge) to belief to trust and understanding. It means to consider something to be true and worthy of one’s trust, to entrust oneself to and entity with complete confidence, to entrust, to be confidence about (BDAG). From this it seems easy to see that Free Grace is wrong to view belief as a passive human behavior. It seems to follow that if belief is passive, then so too is unbelief. After all if belief that Jesus is Lord is passive, then so too is belief that He is not Lord. And if that is the case, I fail to see how God can hold men culpable for their refusal to believe the gospel. You see, even Calvinism does not hold that men are culpable for actions they do not freely will or chose to do. Calvinism argues that men willingly choose not to believe the gospel. Calvinism does not hold that men want to believe the gospel but cannot. It teaches that men love their sin, and that they are not able to believe because they only love their sin and as a result they are unwilling to believe. In addition, Free Grace seems to overlay a modern, emotional sort of definition on the word “draw” in John 6. Once we travel back to the NT world to understand better how that audience viewed the word, we are in a much better place to understand how Jesus could use it interchangeably with God’s granting belief to those whom He has chosen to give to His Son.

Romans 10:9 teaches that if a person will believe the gospel, they will be saved. The ones who will believe are those whom the Father gives to the Son. These are the ones that Jesus said would have eternal life and be raised up on the last day. Only this group can come to the Father because the Father grants it to them to come. That is to say, the Father powerfully attracts these elect to the Son. The reason men do not believe Jesus is because they are not His sheep and are of their father the devil. Only those who are born from above are willing and able to believe the announcement of Jesus Christ! The rest willingly reject the good Word about Him.

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