Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Piper on the "drawing" of the Gospel of John

In John Piper's sermon on John 6:44, he also deals with the context at large, namely, as it spans from John chapter 5 to John chapter 12 (listen carefully to 26:40 through 29:52, especially the conclusion). Certainly, John Piper, as a Calvinist, espouses the traditional Calvinist interpretation of the drawing of John 6:44, but notice what he says about the "drawing," concluding at the 29:52 mark, because, surprisingly, that's actually the traditional Arminian interpretation. Piper mistakenly attributes the traditional Arminian interpretation of John 6:44 as God drawing everyone to His Son, which is simply not the case. Instead, and I recognize that there are exceptions, Arminians have predominantly interpreted the Father's drawing of John 6:44, as being the Father's drawing of those that were in covenant with Him, as the faithful remnant of Israel, whom the Father was, upon that transitional period, drawing to His Son, viz. if you love the Father, you will love the Son, who bears His message. Conversely, if you hate the Son, then that serves as evidence that you hate the Father as well. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews that if God was their father, as the Jews had claimed, then they would have loved the Son, but as it was, they did not. What's interesting to note, is one Calvinist's agreement with the Arminians, whether conscious of it or not, that the drawing, or lack thereof, was in direct correlation to one's standing with the Father.
Piper explains: "I'm leaving you. You have resisted Me. I'm backing away from you. I'm not going to draw most of you."
In contextualizing John 12 in relation to the drawing, John Piper has brilliantly, albeit unwittingly, articulated the Arminian perspective, which gives hope that Calvinists and Arminians can have some sort of common ground. In other words, the Father's drawing of the Jewish people to His Son is a function of their belief or disbelief in Him. As such, the reason why the Father had not drawn many in Israel to His Son, and consequently, not counted them among His Son's flock, was because they had persistently rejected the Father, who had so often, spread out His arms to them. (Isaiah 65:2) That's typically how Arminians have interpreted the general setting of John chapter's 5 through 12, and John 6:45 has particular relevance to this concept, insomuch that those who have "heard and learned from the Father," that is, having been in covenant with Him, come to the Son. It's fairly natural, that if one had loved the Father, that for these, the Father was recognizably noticeable in the Son and His message. Again, it must be emphasized that a remnant of faithful Israel, who are in covenant with Him, were being drawn by the hand of the Father to His Son, in a transitional period, by the Spirit-filled Preparer, John the Baptist, who baptized in the name of the One who was to come after him.
The line of distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism over this passage is that with Calvinism, God is not drawing the faithful remnant of His covenant people, Israel, to His Son, but rather is drawing an unfaithful, unbelieving remnant of eternally pre-selected Covenant people to His Son, who through the Father's eternal giving and drawing, become faithful and believing, and hence come to Christ. Arminians contend that this is a dramatic case of eisegesis, that is, importing a concept that is totally foreign into the text at hand. But what about the Arminian interpretation? Does that amount to reading something foreign into the text? On the basis of John 6:45, I don't see how such a claim could stand. It's fairly clear that those who have heard and learned from the Father, i.e. those in covenant relationship with Him, come to the Son. Thinking out loud, if what Arminians are saying is true, would Calvinists still have a work-around? Conceivably, I suppose that a Calvinist could theoretically argue that a person would become part of the Old Testament faithful by ordinary Calvinistic means, i.e. through "sovereign grace" (effectual grace, irresistible grace, regeneration, which Calvinists infer from Romans 11:2-5), and as result, in this setting, God draws His own to follow His Son. Nevertheless, my argument was silent on the particulars of just how people became part of the Old Testament faithful, and simply took them as they were, which as such, were drawn by the Father to His Son. But again, according to the traditional Calvinist model of the drawing, God draws unbelievers, not believers (which according to Calvinism, could not otherwise be believers, since they are totally unable to believe apart from an effectual drawing), and hence by said drawing, become believers. But again, Piper's exegesis of John 12 betrays such a view by contextualizing the nature and purpose of the drawing, in making it a correlation of belief or unbelief, which is the exact opposite of what traditional Calvinism teaches about the drawing.


Richard Coords said...

From the recent debate...

Michael Brown explains who it is that is given and drawn, as per John 6:37-44: “I see it as the fulfillment of the promise. In other words, up until now, the distinction was that there were people that were right with the God of Israel, and those who were not, and now Jesus becomes the full reflection of the God of Israel among the people, so those who were truly His, will be identified as the ones that will follow Jesus. It’s not that He now creates a whole new people, because there were those longing for His coming, like Simeon and Anna that were ready to receive Him when He came.” (James White vs. Michael Brown)

In terms of the un-believing, Michael Brown explains: “They looked to be just like everybody else, ‘We’re devoted followers of God.’ ‘No,’ He says, ‘You’re really not, because if you believe Moses, you’d believe Me. If you were listening to the Father, then by all means you would come to Me. The proof that you’re not listening to the Father is that you won’t come to Me.’ He is now…the diving line.” (James White vs. Michael Brown)

mcfirefly said...

Jesus said, If He be lifted up, He would draw _all men_ unto Him. He does, but not all receive Him. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart. ...I would...but ye would not.

But when I was being chewed to pieces by the trolls of the CARM forum on Calvinism, the most lulz-loving troll of them all went to great pains (the reader's) to set out how there was, of course, absolutely no choice involved in "drawing;" drawing (he loved to pound his great knowledge of Greek into you) was a forceful dragging, as in the kicking and screaming we're always hearing about. I was trying to find a way to express what I wanted to say, which had me looking for the name of one of those conveyor belts with the ratcheting teeth that pull things forward against "their will" (of course, when we think about if we were on one of those things, being pulled/pushed towards some thing, we'd be putting up a fight), but the only words I could think of were "tractor beam."

Yesterday, reading about the Emergent Church, I encountered this:

LeRon Shults: "God is the future drawing everything into Himself."
"...We're caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there's no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate."   Tony Jones, in  An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones editors (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), p 130.

I'm not sure what the relationship is, but I'm sure there is one. if nothing else, would satan perhaps not want to brainwash people that they were on some tractor beam in relation to God, hence, whatever seemed like an irresistable tractor beam IS God and must not be resisted? And, the resurgence of Calvinism seems (like the CARM troll) so intent on convincing people that God does not love that, deliberate provocateurs or not, it is likely that it is one more effort to move people in the direction of the man of satan's own choosing? A couple of days ago, McLaren came out in The Vision Project along with NAers like Barbara Marx Hubbard, with whom he apparently shares a vision, and the dominionists are tied to EC in the "left" and the Religious Right and Calvinism on the "right." Regardless of whether these people are deliberately doing this for this reason or not, I think that the Calvinist resurgence is a satanic attack on the character of God, hence His salvation, as we go into what is more and more like the Bible's description of the last days every day. We need to contend for the goodness of God, in Jesus Christ, and tell people what He is truly like while we still have time. This is the word of _our_ testimony, and we shouldn't just play games with this, because it is really all we have to give the world and make our life worth living.