Eric Landstrom, Proof-texting Presuppositions with John 6:44, 65

, posted by Eric Landstrom

Proof-texting Presuppositions with John 6:44, 65

John 6:44 and 6:65 are commonly used as proof-texts that more often than not reveal the exegete’s presuppositions that are imposed upon the Gospel According to John than I believe John the Evangelist hoped to present in his Gospel. John 6:65 reads, “And he said, ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father,’ ” and John 6:44 reads, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

From reading these two texts, where does one find evidence from these texts to make the following Calvinist assertions?

Is predestination found in the text? No. Only if the reader pours it in.

Is individual election found in the text? No. Only if the reader pours it in.

Is eternal security found in the text? No. Only if the reader pours it in.

Is regeneration preceding faith found in the text? No. Only if the reader pours it in.

Predestination, individual election, eternal security, and regeneration preceding faith are all presuppositions held prior to reading John 6:44, 65 which are then poured in by the exegete.

Quick Overview of Different Readings of John 6:44, 65

Under the sundry perspectives that John may be read that stem from the readers’ preunderstanding (universalism, unconditional election, and so on—anything but God reaching out by means of grace), the Arminian view of John 6 is not only readily defensible with little commentary but it is also easily grasped.

At the risk of over-simplifying, the Arminian view is that both universalists and determinists grasp an element of truth from John 6 but go on to misapply that kernel by drawing the wrong conclusions because of the particular presuppositions they bring to the text.

Universalists are correct in that God’s drawing applies to everybody but wrong to reason that because all people are drawn to God, all people will also be saved. Conversely, determinists are right that not everybody is saved but they error in the belief that God doesn’t seek to draw all people because they read into the text their presupposition that the drawing refers to God’s unconditional election rather than to God’s drawing grace. The symmetry between determinists and universalists is that they both think the drawing spoken of in John 6 may not be resisted and as a result of the inability to resist God’s drawing, the drawing spoken of must be effectual. The inability to resist God is one of the presuppositions both universalists and determinists hold that is poured into the text when they seek to draw out the meaning of the text.

In this regard, the presuppositions brought to the text serve as a mental construct that resists giving other views a fair hearing. For example: because determinists view God’s effectual will as irresistibly sovereign, and none can resist God’s willing, God’s grace is irresistible. As such, any view that differs from this preunderstanding is immediately viewed as foolishness without proper assessment or evaluation.

Ultimately the primary difference between Arminian and Calvinist readings of John 6 is that Arminians think that the drawing spoken of is God’s reaching out with grace and Calvinists believe the drawing is speaking of unconditional election.

Systematic Teaching:

If God doesn’t first reach out, then nobody can answer the call. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), Jesus stated. “That is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65). God draws and enables by giving grace before any action or thought on the part of man. We don’t work our way to the Father. Instead, the Father works his way to us. Both John 6:44 and 6:65 would be false if people possessed the ability to come to God without grace. Thus God necessarily gives grace preveniently before any action or thought on the part of man so that man is able to be drawn to God and is enabled to believe. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7; cf. Eph. 2:8) wrote the Apostle. These passages don’t presuppose predestination; they presuppose that God first gives grace.

Pastoral Teaching:

Throughout the Gospel According to John, Jesus addresses two different groups of people: The first group is seeking to establish their own righteousness without regard to faith through the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. The second group has received John’s baptism and is in a faith relationship with the Father and are awaiting the coming kingdom of God.

Jesus’ teachings are disguised. If Jesus revealed himself openly as the Messiah before the hour came this pearl would have been trampled underfoot. Therefore to keep his enemies guessing, Jesus’ teachings were intentionally couched–but for those who had a faith relationship, his meaning is plain enough–and even if those in the second group misunderstand, they were free to come forward and ask for clarification, like what happens in John 10.

The main reason for the first group’s unbelief was that they had closed their own eyes to the truth which was given to them by the law and prophets by the Father. Jesus taught in parables so that the spiritual among his audience would be stimulated to inquire further while the disinterested and enemies would remain in the dark. Finally, Jesus’ thrust was that true faith and true religion flow from a relationship with the Father.

In John 6 only those Israelites with discernment stemming from a faith relationship first with the Father would be able to understand his teachings. You see this beginning in John 3 with Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus and knows that Jesus is of God because of the signs he does. Jesus’ cryptic reply to Nic’s questions was that a person cannot even see the signs unless he is born again and to see the kingdom of God one must be born again to understand its secrets.

Then in John 4 Jesus teaches in parables of spiritual things and his audience does not understand and are puzzled when he speaks of living water, his meat, and the harvest.

Things begin coming to a head in John 6: Jesus’ audience misunderstands the feeding of the five thousand but Jesus goes on to explain that he is the bread of life. To this remark they murmured among themselves because they were looking at the subject from a natural sense and not the spiritual sense Jesus spoke in. Then Jesus in 6:43-45 states his case plainly for those with eyes to see and ears to hear: No man can come to Jesus unless they first have a faith relationship with the Father because you must have faith in order to hear.

The pattern continued in John 6:47: his audience is still trying to understand relying on their own strength and intellect and Jesus goes on to explain that it is the Spirit and not the flesh that brings life and understanding (6:63).

And while Jesus teaches this he also knows that not all will believe and will come to reject and betray him. To them he says:

    But there are some of you that believe not….Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:64-65).

The reason was that he wanted them to go to the Father and learn from him, for the law and prophets would reveal the Son.

By our forgiving Lord in heaven,

Eric Landstrom