Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why is it that some believe and some don't? Part 2

Turning to the parable of the good shepherd in John 10, there are basically two kinds of people--those who are Jesus' sheep, and those who are not his sheep. Of his sheep, he says they follow him because they know his voice (v.4), and they will not follow a stranger because they do not know his voice (v.5). If a person belongs to Jesus, then they will follow him. Belonging to Jesus, then, is logically prior to following him. It is because we belong to Jesus that we follow him.

That is even more clear when Jesus said:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16).
When Jesus said, "I have sheep," it is in the present tense. Yet when he says, "they shall hear my voice" it is in the future tense. That means believing in Jesus isn't what causes us to be his sheep. Rather, being his sheep is what causes us to believe in him. Moreover, if a person is one of Jesus' sheep, then it's a certainty that they will believe in him. They will recognize his voice when he calls them.

I was discussing this passage with a friend of mine a few years ago, and he pointed out to me that since God exists outside of time, then it's irrelevent that from our point of view belief comes after ownership. From God's point of view, there's no difference.

I'm a little skeptical that God exists outside of time, as I explained here, but let's assume for the sake of argument that he does. For the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter because belonging to Jesus is not just temporally prior to belief. It's logically prior. What I mean is that belonging to Jesus doesn't just come before belief in time; rather, belonging to Jesus is the reason we come to believe in him. Jesus is explicit about that in vs. 26-27:

But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Just as we saw in John 6 in my previous post, we see also hear that the reason some believe and others don't is because some belong to Jesus and the others don't. If you belong to Jesus, then you will believe in him. If you do not belong to Jesus, then you will not believe in him. So it isn't the believing that causes you to belong; rather, it's the belonging that causes you to believe.

But what determines whether we belong to Jesus if not our choice to believe in him? Well, just as we saw in John 6:37 about how "all that the Father gives me shall come to me," so also we see in John 10:29 that a person becomes one of Jesus' sheep by the Father giving them to Jesus. He said:

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
So again we see that it's all up to the Father. The Father gives people to Jesus. Since those people now belong to Jesus, they will hear his voice, believe in him, and follow him. If somebody does not belong to Jesus then he was not given to Jesus by the Father. Consequently, he will not believe in Jesus. As we saw in the last post, nobody can believe in Jesus unless the Father enables him.

Again, I realize much more can be said. I only meant to show in these last two chapters how Jesus answers the question of why some believe and some don't. These two chapters actually support all five points of Calvinism, but I chose not to go into detail about that for the sake of simplicity.


At 5/27/2007 8:30 PM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

This is a consistent summarizing series as far as I can tell.
Of course, if Calvinism is just wrong, and I'm not toast, then it could be that the reasons some people believe X and others Y are more complicated, perhaps a property of their personality and their upbringing and culture.

At 5/27/2007 10:04 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

psiomniac, even if Calvinism is right, it doesn't mean you're necessarily toast. Lots of people convert who never dreamed they would convert until it happened.

If Calvinism is right, it could still be the case that personality and culture influence their conversion. If God is sovereign, as we Calvinist say he is, then God orchestrates everything--including the factors that contribute to conversions. In other words, God uses secondary as well as primary means.

At 5/28/2007 10:10 AM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

Well, that's some good news at least.
This brings to mind your reconciliation of God's sovereignty with moral responsibility thread.

At 6/02/2007 10:52 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Sam, as you probably know, it is common for Arminians to take this passage as meaning that believers are supposed to seek to "hear" Jesus' voice. I consider this exegetical gymnastics.

Psio, I'm praying you are one of the elect, and I flattering myself to think that apologetics can be used as a secondary cause.

At 6/03/2007 9:03 PM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

Psio, I'm praying you are one of the elect, and I flattering myself to think that apologetics can be used as a secondary cause.

Thanks. Fingers crossed!

At 6/10/2007 11:02 PM , Blogger JELyon said...

Maybe I'm confused - but if the sequence of events is:

1) The Father gives people to Jesus
2) Those people belong to Jesus
3) Those people hear Jesus' voice
4) Those people believe in Jesus
5) And finally, those people follow him.

This would seem to imply a lack of choice. Either the Father gives you to Jesus, or he doesn't. If he doesn't, you're is screwed. Unless there's a zeroth step.

At 6/10/2007 11:15 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

There's still choice, John, except that in this case the choice is not arbitrary. The reason anybody chooses to follow Jesus is because the Father draws them, as it says in John 6:44. All choices are determined by the reasons/motives/etc. we have for making them. God merely creates in us the disposition/inclination/desire/etc. to come to Jesus. We choose by acting on that inclination.

I wrote more about that here.


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