Tim Stratton’s two recent articles entitled, Confusing Bible Verses, Free Will, & Determinism (Part 1, and Part 2) have sparked much discussion among the theologically inclined on social media over the past couple of weeks. Here is a conversation I had providing further illumination:
Calvinist: What about John 6:44 that specifically says that no one can come unless God the father draws him.
That word in draw in Greek being helkysō meaning to drag, the original text isn’t implying to woo or persuade you to salvation but to literally drag you.
Your interpretation doesn’t reconcile the original text though.
Johnny: Are you affirming that ‘draw’ here means irresistible dragging and there is no other meaning?
Calvinist: Not how you probably define it for me to imply, but yes.
Johnny: I guess, according to your definition of ‘drawing’ we must always fall into temptation.
James 1:14 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed
Which would be a complete violation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 as God says we can always overcome temptation, but if temptation means the drawing (forcefully dragging) of lusts – we will always fall into temptation.
1 Cor. 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it
Further, James 1:12 declares that the man is blessed if he resists temptation. But if temptation means we are forcibly dragged [drawn] by our lusts, how can we resist?
James 1:12 – Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him
Calvinist: Johnny that’s a nice straw man you’re building sir…it’d be a shame if someone…burned it 👀 😂
Sorry I couldn’t resist, I’ll be serious now. I’m using the original text in Greek and its definition, I’m not assuming based on however you come to your assumptions of what I believe. I promise I’m not just making stuff up as I go along 😂
Johnny: The [Greek] word [for] ‘draw’ in James 1:14 is the same [Greek] word in John 6:44.
I’m demonstrating to you the issue if the word draw ‘only’ has this connotation [of irresistible dragging]
Calvinist: That’s a different Greek word though, exelkō – [in James 1:14]. Same but different meaning, that word is better translated as lead or lured away by the context it’s used in.
Not to mention if it’s God that saves us (and it is) He can certainly keep us from falling (Jude 24), and sin has no power over the believing so scripture explicitly states we can resist sin.
Johnny: James 1:14 – ἐξελκόμενος – Being Drawn Away [Present Participle Middle]
from ἐξέλκω [to entice (Strong’s); to drag out (Mounce)] – from ἐξ – [out of] and ἑλκύω – to drag
Therefore; to ‘drag out of’.
John 6:44 – ἑλκύσῃ – Draws [Aorist Subjunctive Active]
From ἑλκύω – to drag
The word “draw” in James 1:14 and John 6:44 comes from the same Greek word – ἑλκύω. The Preposition ἐξ doesn’t alter its mean rather, provides clarity of being dragged ‘out of’.
Calvinist: I said that they have same root (I’m not disputing that) however, the context in light of the work of Christ (delivered from the power of sin) clearly shows us we can resist temptation in Christ.
Johnny: So, those who are not in Christ cannot resist temptation?
Calvinist: Well they can’t not sin (as in righteousness is impossible), if that’s what you’re asking.
Everyone who wants to literally kill doesn’t do it, but according to Christ’s standard they’ve done so in their heart. So no unbelievers can’t resist temptation because they’re enslaved to sin.
Johnny: So, if an unbeliever is tempted to steal something but does not – doesn’t this mean they resisted?
Calvinist: Ok so they can resist, but only for a time. Ultimately being enslaved to sin they will give in to temptation.
Which is different from the resistance we have in Christ.
Johnny: James 1:14 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed
I’d also like to point out that the word ‘man’ – ἕκαστος – refers to every person.
Further, if you are saying that “only those in Christ can resist temptation” then 1 Corinthians 10:13 makes no sense:
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
The word “man” is the Greek word, ἄνθρωπος – i.e mankind. There is no temptation that one person has suffered another has not – we are all tempted equally.
Further, this verse goes onto say that God is faithful. Why? Because He will not allow person x to be tempted by something they are not able to resist. However, if you are correct and the unsaved individual cannot resist; this means that there is temptation that they are unable to resist. If that is true – this illustrates that God is unfaithful because He allowed you to suffer from temptation that was irresistible.
Calvinist: 1 Corinthians 10:13 is referring to the common temptation of mankind yes, but I would argue that Paul is making a distinction between believers and nonbelievers in his response to showing that we as in believers have a permanent way out.
Johnny: So if they can resist the ‘dragging (drawing) of lusts’ (temptation) Then that means the word ‘draw’ does not only mean to be ‘irresistible’.
If you are correct, then you must conclude God unfaithful to unbelievers. This would mean at one point in your life, God was unfaithful to you since before you were ‘in Him’ you were unable to resist temptation and God never gave you a way out (at that time as an unbeliever) and because He Did not – He is unfaithful as His faithfulness is demonstrated by God providing a way to resist temptation.
Calvinist: So the Greek words in john 6:44 and James 1:14 have different meanings according to the Greek. Which means in fact that they both don’t have to be irresistible, not to mention that scripture tells us we can resist temptation in Christ.
So to continue to assume the two as the same is in error for several reasons including context, definition and the work of Christ regarding the latter.
Scriptures say we were at one point enemies of God, God has no obligation to unbelievers.
Johnny: Firstly, no – it’s not from the Greek that the word “draw” has different meanings in both usages they share the same etymological root word ‘ἑλκύω’ – your best efforts would be to say the ‘immediate context’ demands two different meanings.
Secondly, so you affirm God was unfaithful to His own at one point in their life despite choosing them ‘before the foundation of the world’.
In conclusion, it seems that too many Christians cleave to a steadfast definition of a Greek word rather than looking at how the word is used within a specific context and its other potential usages within its semantic range. It is worth noting that if this approach is taken and one is confronted with an ideology that is ridiculous, absurd or a theological system that, if one was to be logically consistent, causes grave error; then their hermeneutic needs to be rectified. From a Molinist’s perspective, if the word ‘draw’ [in the context of John 6:44] means to be a type of ‘wooing’ or ‘persuasion’, then one could say that God knew [through the use of Middle Knowledge] what Person (P) would do if they were in Circumstances (C). Therefore, God knew that P would not resist the drawing of the Father in C thereby affirmatively responding to receive Christ (John 1:9 – 11). God thus, placed P in C knowing that P would freely receive Christ if they were drawn by the Father in C.
About the Author
Johnny Sakr was admitted as lawyer at the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia in 2014. He has completed his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), Masters of Laws (LL.M) and is currently undertaking is M.Phil/Ph.D in Law (Philosophy) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney Australia.
His thesis looks to prove that through universal reason, a characteristic which all mentally complete human beings are assumed to have in them; view an objective standard as necessary to qualitatively assess the rightness of wrongness of the accused conduct called into question. Therefore; society should adhere to human reason and implement an objective standard in all areas of reform and judgement.
Johnny is a former Roman Catholic, now Baptist – who adheres to the philosophy of Molinism.