Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why is it that some believe and some don't? Part 1

If any of you read my post explaining my conversion to Calvinism, you may recall that James White had a lot to do with it. The turning point for me was chapter 7 (Jesus Teaches "Extreme Calvinism") of his book, The Potter's Freedom. In that chapters, White argued from John 6 that whether we come to Jesus for salvation or not is entirely up to God. In other words, God is absolutely sovereign in our salvation.

I want to explain, now, why I think the case for Calvinism from John 6 and John 10 is solid.

Since I said in my previous post that I'm a one-point Calvinist, I want you to have a look at these chapters in John with one question in mind: Why is it that some people believe in Jesus and others don't?. I think Jesus answers that question with clarity. The reason some believe and some don't is because some were given to Jesus by the Father and others weren't. That means our salvation is entirely up to God. He is absolutely sovereign in our salvation. I'm convinced that if you read these chapters in John carefully with that question in mind, you'll see what I mean.

But I'm going to go through them and point things out anyway.

In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5000 and then goes across the Sea of Galilee. The next day, the crowd follows him over there wanting some more food (v.26). That's when Jesus launches into the "bread of life" discourse. The "bread of life" turns out to be Jesus himself (v.35). Eating the bread of life in order to live forever becomes a metaphore for for believing in Jesus for salvation.

(For my Catholic friends out there, I realize you disagree with how I understand eating the bread of life, but that's another subject I don't want to go into right now. Our disagreement on that issue shouldn't distract from the rest of what I'm going to say.)

Starting in verse 35, Jesus says:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
Coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus both mean the same thing as you can tell by reading the whole section and noticing how they are used interchangeably.

In the next verse, Jesus says:

But I said to you, that you have seen me, and yet do not believe.
Now he's about to explain why they don't believe. He says:

All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out.
Jesus is making an argument here, which you can show with a syllogism. It goes like this:

1. If the Father gives you to me, then you will come to me (i.e. believe in me; v. 37).
2. You do not believe in me (v. 36).
3. Therefore, the Father did not give you to me.

The conclusion follows by logical necessity from Jesus' exact words. It's very clear from this much alone. Jesus is explaining why some people believe and some don't. It's because some are given to him by the Father and some aren't. Those who are given to him come to him. Those who are not given to him do not come to him. It's all up to the Father.

Starting in verse 41, the Jews begin grumbling about Jesus' claim to come from heaven even though they actually know his parents. They were having trouble believing he could come from heaven when they knew exactly where he came from--Mary and Joseph. Jesus reacted by saying:

Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day (vs. 43-44).
This statement follows from what Jesus said before. According to vs. 36-37, whether somebody believes in Jesus or not depends on what the Father does. Since it's entirely up to the Father there was no point in them grumbling. They would be unable to come to Jesus unless the Father drew them.

Jesus went on about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. The Jews were perplexed by that, but instead of explaining it to them in a way that might make it more palatable to them, Jesus reiterated it even more forcefully than before. In the end, he said:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.
And then he explicitly said why they don't believe. He said:

For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me, unless it has been granted him from the Father (v. 65).
So the whole reason Jesus told them that nobody could come to him unless it had been granted to him by the Father is because some of his listeners didn't believe. He was explaining their unbelief. They didn't believe because it had not been granted to them to believe by the Father.

For my Calvinist friends out there, I realize several more points could be made from this passage in John 6. I decided, though, to keep the topic focused on the one question of why some believe and some don't.

Next, I'm going to talk about John 10.
Why is it that some believe and some don't?, part 2


At 6/02/2007 10:35 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I think 4 of the 5 points of Calvinism can be deduced from this discourse in John 6. I think the 5th point can be infered from there. I find nothing else in Scripture supporting the Arminian view that is as explicit as these words from Jesus' mouth.


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