Craig L. Adam’s on Calvinism’s Use of John 6:44

Calvinism and John 6:44

Related posts and articles:

Various Thoughts on the Use of John 6 and Related Passages From John’s Gospel to Support Calvinism

Daniel Whedon on John 6

The Order of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

John 6:37 (Richard Coords)

Does John 6:44 Teach Irresistible Grace?

Is The Drawing of John 12:32 Universal or Particular?

 

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation vs. The T.U.L.I.P. of Calvinism

While Calvinists like to play with flowers (or MUPPETS?), Arminians prefer to deal with the FACTS.  For an excellent and detailed summary of what Arminians believe and why, be sure to check out The FACTS of Salvation: A summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace!!

I just wanted to share some brief notes about my article, “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace,” recently published here at the website of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. It comes to about 25 pages and is a summary of Arminian theology with substantial scriptural support using the acronym FACTS. It is meant to be a positive presentation of the Arminian position and so does not typically get into debate over the various Scriptures appealed to, but mostly assumes a particular interpretation of them.

We occasionally get requests for Scripture citations to support our statement of faith. We have never felt it necessary to add Scripture references to our statement of faith since the website is largely dedicated to giving scriptural support for the distinctive elements of Arminian theology. But this FACTS article now provides that in a substantial way in one article. May the Lord use it to bless his church and advance his truth. [link]

John Piper Tweets Out An Already Refuted Calvinist Argument on 1 John 5:1

Update: Unfortunately, the PDF link to Abasciano’s article no longer works.  The Journal does not want to allow public access to the article.  It won’t even allow the author of the article to post his own article, which seems absurd.  Hopefully, things will change and the article will become available again soon.  In the meantime, If anyone wants a copy of the PDF article, I can send it to them via email. Just let me know in the comments section. You don’t need to leave your email address in the actual comment, since it should already be in the system for me to view when you leave a comment. That way nobody else will see your email address.

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John Piper recently made the following Tweet:

Unfortunately for Piper, this erroneous argument has been soundly refuted.  John Piper and all Calvinists still making this false claim regarding 1 John 5:1 should save themselves some unnecessary embarrassment by reading Brian Abasciano’s article: “Does Regeneration Precede Faith? The Use of 1 John 5:1 as a Proof Text”

Here is the author’s abstract of the article:

A number of scholars have appealed to the Greek tenses of 1 John 5:1 as definitive proof that the verse teaches that regeneration precedes faith. But this argument is untenable. The purposes of the present article are (1) to draw attention to the falsity of the argument and to explain why it is invalid, and (2) to counter the contention that the underlying concern of the grammatical argument (i.e., that 1 John 5:1 implies that regeneration precedes faith) can be rescued by appeal to a pattern in 1 John of indicating the results of regeneration. It is questionable whether the tenses in 1 John 5:1 suggest any chronological or causal relationship between faith and regeneration since some grammarians deny that Greek tenses grammaticalize time, and more importantly, one of the tenses in the passage occurs in a substantival participle, which can be devoid of time significance. If the tenses are temporally related, as seems most probable, then Greek grammar suggests either that believing and being begotten of God are portrayed as contemporaneous, or perhaps more likely, that believing logically precedes being begotten of God. Invocation of statements elsewhere in 1 John indicating the results of regeneration does not rescue 1 John 5:1 as a proof text for regeneration preceding faith because of, inter alia, the distinctive and crucial role of faith in the epistle and Johannine theology.

 

Biblical Scholar Brian Abasciano Refutes the Popular Calvinist Argument That the Language of 1 John 5:1 Means That Regeneration Precedes Faith

Update: Unfortunately, the PDF link to Abasciano’s article no longer works.  The Journal does not want to allow public access to the article.  It won’t even allow the author of the article to post his own article, which seems absurd.  Hopefully, things will change and the article will become available again soon.  In the meantime, If anyone wants a copy of the PDF article, I can send it to them via email. Just let me know in the comments section. You don’t need to leave your email address in the actual comment, since it should already be in the system for me to view when you leave a comment. That way nobody else will see your email address.

This scholarly treatment of the passage and the language of 1 John 5:1 is long overdue. In light of this article, I don’t see how Calvinists can continue to reference this erroneous argument. You can down load the article from SEA:

Brian J. Abasciano, “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?  The Use of 1 John 5:1 as a Proof Text.”

Here is the author’s abstract:

A number of scholars have appealed to the Greek tenses of 1 John 5:1 as definitive proof that the verse teaches that regeneration precedes faith. But this argument is untenable. The purposes of the present article are (1) to draw attention to the falsity of the argument and to explain why it is invalid, and (2) to counter the contention that the underlying concern of the grammatical argument (i.e., that 1 John 5:1 implies that regeneration precedes faith) can be rescued by appeal to a pattern in 1 John of indicating the results of regeneration. It is questionable whether the tenses in 1 John 5:1 suggest any chronological or causal relationship between faith and regeneration since some grammarians deny that Greek tenses grammaticalize time, and more importantly, one of the tenses in the passage occurs in a substantival participle, which can be devoid of time significance.  If the tenses are temporally related, as seems most probable, then Greek grammar suggests either that believing and being begotten of God are portrayed as contemporaneous, or perhaps more likely, that believing logically precedes being begotten of God. Invocation of statements elsewhere in 1 John indicating the results of regeneration does not rescue 1 John 5:1 as a proof text for regeneration preceding faith because of, inter alia, the distinctive and crucial role of faith in the epistle and Johannine theology.

Jesus Says The Dead Will Hear Unto Spiritual Life

I want to recommend Chris Chapman’s article available at SEA called, The Extent of Spiritual Death.

Chapman’s article does an excellent job of demonstrating from Scripture that the spiritual death described in the Bible does not warrant the Calvinist spin that equates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse to act in any way.  However, his article doesn’t go far enough with regards to a key passage in John 5.

Chapman recounts how Calvinists will often use the Biblical narrative of Lazarus as an example of a corpse having no choice but to come alive when Christ calls, apart from any response of faith.  Likewise, Calvinists will often use the illustration of a preacher in a morgue preaching to a bunch of lifeless corpses.  They reason that none of the dead bodies in the morgue can hear or respond to the preacher until they are first made alive. 

In addressing the Calvinist use of the Lazarus narrative, Chapman rightly notes that Jesus is speaking of physical resurrection in John 11 just as He did in John 5:25-29.  Unfortunately, he fails make the very important point that John 5:25 has reference not only to a future resurrection, but to the present spiritual resurrection of those who are hearing Christ’s voice in faith.  This simple observation destroys the Calvinist insistence that those who are dead in sin are as unable to hear as a lifeless corpse.   The implications Calvinists draw from the Lazarus narrative and the analogy of the preacher in the morgue are plainly at odds with the words of Jesus in John 5:25,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (NASB, emphasis mine)

Jesus makes it clear that the time when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God unto life is “now.”  How does this happen?  It happens through faith in Christ,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24, NASB, emphasis mine)

Here Jesus plainly describes the initial movement from spiritual death to spiritual life.  The one who hears the words of Jesus in faith (i.e. receives them through faith) passes from spiritual death to spiritual life.  This clearly marks the transition from death to life and that is a perfect description of what constitutes regeneration.  Regeneration is the beginning of spiritual life, and is thereby marked by the initial transition from death to life.

In the oft repeated Calvinist analogy of the preacher in the Morgue, Calvinists insist that one cannot hear or respond to Christ or the gospel until that person is first given spiritual life.  This claim is in obvious and stark contrast to what Jesus says in John 5.  Jesus tells us that the spiritually “dead” will “hear” unto “life”, and this hearing unto life is the result of faith (verse 24). It is the “hearing of faith” that Paul describes in Galatians by which we receive the Spirit of life (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14, cf. Romans 8:1-12).

So Jesus tells us that the “dead” will “hear” (in faith) unto “life” and the Calvinist tells us that only those who are already regenerated can “hear” unto faith.  Jesus says that hearing and faith come before life and Calvinism says that life comes before hearing and faith. Calvinists say that the “dead” cannot possibly hear anything, just like a lifeless physical corpse.  Jesus tells us that the “dead” can hear (as God enables them), and this hearing by faith is what moves those who hear from the realm of spiritual death to the realm of spiritual life.

Chapman rightly points out that Jesus is speaking about a future physical resurrection in verses 28-29.  In these verses Jesus speaks only of “an hour that is coming”, but in verses 24 and 25, Jesus speaks of an hour that is coming and “now is.”  The Jews should not marvel at the authority and power of Jesus’ claim that His words can give spiritual life to those who hear and receive those words in faith (vv. 24, 25), since Jesus has the ultimate authority to judge all of mankind when He calls them out of the grave at the end of time (vv. 27-29).

Jesus is here building on the theme of His authority and power given to Him by the Father.  The Father gives Jesus the power and authority to give life to whom He wishes (vs. 21).  Jesus makes it clear in verses 24 and 25 that the Father and Jesus wish to give life to believers, those who hear and receive Christ’s words in faith.  Spiritually dead unbelievers become spiritually alive by becoming believers (vs. 24).  The only way for the spiritually dead to receive the life that Jesus has authority to grant them is to hear His words by faith (vv. 24, 25).

Jesus then moves from this authority and power given to Him by the Father to the authority and power given Him by the Father to resurrect and judge all of mankind, both believers and unbelievers.  This authority and power given Him by the Father reinforces Jesus’ central theme in His teaching (and John’s central theme in his gospel) that He belongs to the Father and is from the Father, and “…the Father has placed into the Son’s hands the entire question of human life and death.  It is with the Son we all must deal.” [1] The Jews who suppose themselves to have a special relationship with the Father are actually opposing the Father and proving that that they do not know the Father when they oppose Jesus, the perfect expression and revelation of the Father (verses 36-47, cf. John 6:35-58; 8:31-59; 10:24-38).

The difference is clear.  In verses 24, 25, Jesus speaks of an hour that is present as well as future.  In verses 27-29 Jesus speaks only of an hour that is future.  In verses 24 and 25, Jesus is speaking of spiritual life given to believers.  In verses 27-29, Jesus is speaking of resurrection life that will be given to both believers and unbelievers when all of mankind is called out of the grave by God’s appointed judge, the Son of Man (cf. vs. 22).  Therefore, one cannot discount the reality of the spiritually dead hearing and receiving spiritual life by faith in John 5:24 and 25 by appealing to verses 27-29.

Conclusion:  The Bible everywhere declares that spiritual life is received by faith.  The Bible nowhere states that spiritual life of any sort is granted prior to faith as Calvinists claim.  The Calvinist appeal to passages which refer to spiritual death is erroneous in that they draw conclusions from those passages that the passages simply do not teach [2].  Nowhere is spiritual death or man’s deadness in sin described in terms of the inability of a physical corpse to do anything (like hear or respond in faith) as portrayed in the Calvinist morgue analogy.  Rather, Jesus flatly contradicts such an interpretation when He declares that the spiritually “dead” will “hear” unto spiritual life.

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[1] Joseph Dongell, John: A Commentary for Bible Students, page 93

[2] These passages actually work against the Calvinist claims.  Ephesians and Colossians both represent spiritual life as being received upon our being united with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7; Col. 2:13), and we come to be joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13).  Ephesians further states that all of the spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3) that are in Christ, including redemption and regeneration, are received “by grace, through faith” (2:8).  Colossians makes the same point, describing our spiritual resurrection as resulting from “faith in the power of God” (Col. 2:11, 12).  Likewise, Paul makes it clear that the Spirit of life is received by “the hearing of faith” (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14, cf. Romans 8:11).  Paul also tells us that the righteousness of justification brings spiritual life and we know that justification is “by faith” (Romans 5:17, 18, 21; 8:10; Rom. 4; Gal. 3:21-24).  We become children of God through faith (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26).  All the promises of the new covenant, including new spiritual life, are received by faith as well (Gal. 3:14-22).  Many similar passages could be cited.  Truly, the Biblical evidence against the Calvinist claims that new spiritual life precedes faith is overwhelming.  Perhaps this is why some Calvinist are now moving away from this claim, just as four point Calvinists have rejected the doctrine of limited atonement due to the overwhelming Biblical evidence against it and in support of unlimited atonement.

Dr. Brian Abasciano on the Conditionality Implied in Romans 9:16 and its Connection to John 1:12-13

“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”  Romans 9:16 (ESV)

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (ESV).

Piper’s further, detailed argument for 9.16 as speaking of unconditional bestowal of divine mercy founders on both fundamental presupposition and its particulars. For the former, Piper assumes that the language of 9.16 is incompatible with God bestowing his mercy on a condition sovereignly determined by himself. But our exegesis has found this to be a false assumption. As for the particulars, appeals to 9.11-12 and Exod. 33.19 are contradicted by our exegesis of these texts as well as of 9.16, and the reader is directed to the relevant portions of the present volume. Curiously, Piper’s final main argument invokes Phil. 2.13 (because of the somewhat similar language of ‘willing’ (τὸ θέλειν) and ‘working’ (τὸ ἐνεργεῖν)) as somehow ruling out any condition for the bestowal of God’s mercy. But that text does not particularly talk about God’s mercy (except insofar as any blessing of God can be considered mercy) and it does not indicate anything about God’s bestowal of mercy, or any divine action, being unconditional. Piper seems to be overreaching here, and we conclude that Phil. 2.13 is largely irrelevant to Rom. 9.16 and the question of the conditionality of the mercy it mentions.

Piper, 154 n. 3, notes one further reference, cited by Sanday/Headlam as an analogy to 9.16 (though Piper mistakenly refers to 9.6): Jn 1.12-13. This reference actually works against Piper because the regenerating act of God there, performed by God alone, is presented as the divine response to human faith (cf. justification in Paul’s thought, which is performed by God alone in response to human faith). John 1.12 indicates that people become children of God by faith. That is, upon believing, God gives them the right to become something that they were not prior to believing – children of God. John 1.13 then clarifies that they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. ‘Becoming children of God’ and ‘being born of God’ are parallel expressions referring to the same phenomenon (it would be special pleading, and a desperate expedient at that, to argue that becoming God’s child and being born of him are distinct in the Johannine context or that the text would allow that a person could be born of God and yet not be his child), so that God’s act of regenerating believers, making them his own children, is a response to their faith.

The parallel with Rom. 9.16 is significant and quite supportive of our exegesis. Both contexts make the point that elect status (which equates to sonship; cf. Rom. 9.8) is not bestowed by human ancestry, but by God, whose will is to choose as his own those who believe in Christ. Even if one were to deny that reference to θελήματος σαρκός or θελήματος ἀνδρός is to human ancestry specifically and insist that it refers to human willing in general, it would not make the divine action of regeneration any less a response to human faith and hence any less conditional on it. Nor would this be inconsistent with Jn 1.13’s attribution of the act of regeneration to God. The text indicates that God is the one who grants the right to become children of God and the one who regenerates. His doing so in response to faith is a matter of his discretion and would not somehow make the human choice to believe the source of regeneration instead of God any more than it makes it the source of justification. (Excerpt from footnote #153 on page 191 of Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.10-18: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis, by Dr. Brian Abasciano, paragraph breaks added for easier reading)

Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

The following is a comment I made in response to a Calvinist appealing to 1 Cor. 4:7 to show that unless faith is an irresistible gift from God, it would give us reason to boast.  Links to the original debate are provided below.

Real quick. This post is in response to what I would call some irresponsible proof-texting of a passage, on the part of Dominic, in order to get the passage to say more than it actually does. It seems to me that you are doing the exact same thing with 1 Cor. 4:7,

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”

First, in the context of the passage, Paul is addressing those at Corinth who thought they were more spiritual than others, when, in fact, they were not (as discussed in 1 Cor. 2). They were, in fact, proving to be unspiritual and unable to move onto maturity due to their quarreling and favoritism (1:10-12, cf. 3:1-5). Some thought they were better than others due to the fact that they believed they had gained deeper revelation from a certain apostle that others had not received. In that context, Paul is probably speaking of receiving revelation from certain apostles and not “faith” from God.

Much more could be said concerning context, but it is clear from that alone that this passage does not give you what you want from it. It might be better to focus on what it does not say. Nowhere does Paul speak of the gift of faith in this passage, or the gift of salvation. Nowhere does Paul correlate the inability to boast with the reception of an irresistible gift. Rather, Paul actually points out that they are boasting, though they have no grounds for boasting. This is important because faith (though not specifically addressed in this passage) excludes boasting, not because it is impossible to boast, but because one cannot legitimately boast in faith, since faith is simple trust and the receiving of a free and unearned gift (Rom. 4). So too, these Corinthians had no legitimate grounds for boasting, though they were indeed boasting.

So it is not an issue of “can you boast” but “can you legitimately boast” or “do you have proper grounds for boasting?” Paul’s answer in both cases is “no”. And why is that? Because it is senseless to boast in something that we receive freely from another as an unearned and undeserved gift. On that basis alone, boasting is excluded. If you didn’t earn it, or deserve it, then you have no legitimate grounds for boasting (and faith doesn’t earn or merit anything). Paul never goes beyond this simple point, and neither should we. Yet, Calvinists insist on things that go far beyond what Paul says here and in Rom. 4 concerning faith, boasting and works (and in the process turn faith into a work, contrary to Paul’s simple definitions). The fact that faith is simple trust in another (Christ) to do what we cannot do for ourselves (save us), and is for that reason the receiving of a free and unearned gift, excludes boasting. Period. No more is needed to explain the nature of faith and its antithesis (works).

So Paul is simply stating in 1 Cor. 4 that the Corinthians have no grounds for boasting over each other, since whatever they have has been received and not earned. And if it has simply been received then all legitimate grounds for boasting are cut off (cf. Rom. 4). Period. But you are reading your Calvinistic presuppositions into Paul’s words, rather than allowing Paul to speak for himself on the matter. You are, in a sense, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), in order to support your doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thankfully, there is nothing in Paul’s words, or definitions of faith and works, to support such doctrines

Addressing Dominic’s Response to the Purpose of Regeneration in Calvinism

Responding to Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith 

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