As a longtime semi-Pelagian (Arminian), I struggled for years—even far into my seminary days—with the complexities of God’s sovereignty, particularly with what we know as the Calvinist (earlier called Augustinian) view of salvation.
The questions perpetually spun in my mind:
- How could God choose some and not others?
- And, if he chose some, then how can I know he chose me?
- Don’t I have any say in the matter of my own destiny?
- Whatever happened to free will?
- Is God really fair?
There was nothing in this view of predestination that gave any hope or assurance. It only increased one’s despair. If you weren’t one of the chosen, then there was nothing you could do about it. For me, I was pretty sure I wasn’t part of the in-crowd, for I was too aware of my own weakness and sinfulness—all well reinforced by the preachers I heard every Sunday.
This meant going down to the altar—frequently! What if I backslid during the week? What if the level of my faith wasn’t up to the standard of “saving faith?”
My college friend got “saved” every summer break. Each fall he would return with the same story: he had thought he was a true Christian but discovered he really wasn’t. And then he heard this on-fire-for-the-Lord preacher, and he gave his life to Jesus—this time for real.
That never made any sense to me either. I wondered whether salvation was really that flimsy or slippery. So I was constantly having discussions and debates with other young theology students, but with little resolution.
It became clear over time that it didn’t really matter what deep convictions I (or anyone else) might have about God or the nature of salvation; what counted was what the Bible actually said. But that was part of the problem—what did the Bible actually say about it? There seemed to be both Arminian and Calvinist sounding Scriptures. Some could go in either direction.
In time, lots of time, it began to appear that whereas the Arminian passages could be logically subsumed under the Calvinist, the reverse didn’t work. In other words, the Arminian sounding verses could be adequately explained within an overall Calvinist framework, whereas the Calvinist verses could not comfortably fit into an Arminian view.
It had to be one or the other; both couldn’t be true. One of the most inflexible is this classic from John 6:44:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”
For years, I thought and was taught that “draw” meant to attract, to woo, to subtly bring us to Jesus through God’s love, rescues, kindness, and the like. Yet we still possessed the free will either to accept or reject God’s advances toward us. It was all neat and tidy.
Perfect sense, unless, of course, you were born in a place where the Gospel had not been preached, or you were out of town that day when it had. If born in the wrong place, or if someone failed to evangelize adequately, then obviously you went to hell.
As they say in Italian, Che sarà, sarà.
The real inconvenience of John 6:44 in this respect is that the translation, “draw” can mean nothing of the kind—ever. The Greek word is helkó. Unlike many other Greek words, it appears to have a fixed meaning with no variations: to drag, haul, pull, or something similar—to compel by a superior, irresistible force. And nowhere else in the New Testament does it take on a different meaning (John 12:32; 18:10; 21:6,11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; James 2:6). The translation “draw” could work only if you’re talking about hauling in a dragnet full of fish or forcing a sword out of its scabbard.
If taken at face value, we could say that the Gospel writer’s view of God’s drawing power is more like a tornado that pulls or sucks everything into it, utilizing an overpowering centripetal force. That image would accurately describe God’s drawing of me.
If we pursue the word helkó further, ransacking all other Greek sources in the ancient world: the secular Greek Classics, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), and the Apocryphal literature between the Testaments, we will find no exceptions.
Still, virtually all our English translations and versions use the word “draw,” which easily permits the meaning to woo or attract, like the man or woman doing everything to win the other’s attention or love. And that’s exactly how it is interpreted in most preaching of this passage.
The German, French, and Spanish translations of John 6:44 appear to have it right (compel, bring, carry, pull, drag, haul, tow, and so forth), but the English translators introduced an ambiguity where none existed in the original. Why? This departs from the usual practice. Is it the job of the translator to make fuzzy what is clear?
When dealing with this passage, one person in my Bible class suggested this reading: “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me makes him want to come.” That is pretty good as an overall view of how God works and what happens inside us, yet it loses much of the blunt force of the original.
The word helkó is repeated in John 12:32, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” As a young person, I was taught that if we “lifted up” Jesus adequately in our preaching, he would take care of the “attracting” part, but ultimately it was up to each one of us to accept or reject Jesus as personal Savior. He does his part, and we do ours.
It seems clear enough that the lifting up is done on the cross. Jesus meant that when lifted up in crucifixion, he would draw (drag, pull) people from everywhere to himself. That was all part of the work he accomplished by his death.
Also, when Jesus said to Peter that he would make him a fisher of men, he had in mind not the fishing pole, the lure, the hook, and the single fish who might or might not choose to bite (the way most Christians think), but the big haul that took no account whatsoever of the fishes’ individual action. That is, in fact, the final use of helkó in John’s Gospel (John 21:11).
So it appears that the meaning of John 6:44 is something like this: No one is able to come to Jesus unless God the Father actively drags/hauls/pulls them in with a superior, irresistible force. Call it what you will—Calvinistic, Augustinian, Monergistic—it’s hard to get away from it. God chooses us in a way we don’t really understand and brings us in with a power that trumps our resistant will, our theological categories, and even our recommendations.
There’s just one big problem with this: What if we want to be chosen but aren’t? What chance do you and I have if it’s all done, so to speak, behind our backs? However, if we take very seriously the nature and overwhelming power of sin’s curse, and its ability to bind and paralyze our wills (the way the New Testament portrays it), then we realize that if we truly want to be among the chosen, that’s the sign we are. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t even want to be. It’s not a natural desire. In our fallen state, there’s not enough residual righteousness left in us even to choose God.
Like most humanity, we’d be very content (insistent!) to live our own lives outside the Father’s house. If God didn’t exercise choice and bring it all to pass, no one would ever be saved. And, since he doesn’t bother to tell anyone what the criterion or process for choosing is, we aren’t in a position to speculate about his justice or fairness. He leaves us out of this conversation and tells us he is just at all times and in all his ways. The worst anyone will ever get is perfect justice, and how can that be unfair?
So no one misses the kingdom of God who wanted to be there, since even the desire for God and all he has to offer is born wholly of his gracious choice.
He can do this. He’s God.
Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash
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Merry Christmas to you and your family. I am dissappointed by your unwillingness to seriously engage Arminian’s substanative rebuttals to your contentions. You assert but do not demonstrate any reason why Arminian’s counter arguments do not undermine your own position. Your post and follow up arguments are largely self-defeating since you want to argue on the one hand that when you “ransaked all sources in Greek” you found no evidence draw can mean attract. Then when confronted with Greek lexicons that show draw can mean attract, you suddenly assert Greek lexicons cant always be trusted and that it is better to “think for ouselves.” You exhibit far too much confirmation bias and it clearly shows in your shallow dismissal of Arminian’s deep challenges upon your view. Perhaps less bravado and more open mindedness would serve you well in your next post. Blessings brother.
In reading over the arguments set forth by my Arminian friends, I find that there isn’t anything that I haven’t heard before. As tempting as it is to respond to each and every objection, we’re in the busy Christmas season and it’s time to move forward.
So in bullet form I’ll respond to the relevant questions and objections raised:
– No, I don’t need to read more books on Arminianism. If I had found any compelling arguments I would still be one.
– Whatever someone might have decreed regarding semi-Pelagianism, it is still a useful tool to categorize Arminianism, since it shares more with Pelagius than with Paul.
– Speaking of Paul, how in his conversion was he wooed or attracted to Jesus? It appears otherwise.
– Let’s dispel the myth about the lexicon’s inerrancy. Scholars have warned us about this for a generation. It’s not the Bible, so don’t believe everything you read unless the passages in question are adequately documented. Let’s think for ourselves.
– No one was able to present a coherent, exegetical argument demonstrating that John 6:44 and 12:32 should be understood as “attract” (in the sense of woo) instead of compel.
– The word “all” in John 12:32 can’t be taken in its literal sense, regardless of one’s theology. Do a study of “all” and “every” (even “forever”) in both Testaments and you’ll see the problem.
– The Arminian reference to Nehemiah 9:30 entirely misses the point of God’s power to save.
– Luther wrote at least as much as Calvin on the subject of God’s total sovereignty and sin’s paralyzing effects on the will. Also Jonathan Edwards. Luther didn’t “run” to his new position, he was driven by the evidence.
– It’s naive to assume that every “Calvinist” believes everything that Calvin wrote.
Finally, there is a distinct similarity between debating with died-in-the-wool, hyper-Arminians and debating atheists. Here are four stand-outs:
– Arminians protest too much. Like atheists regarding the mere mention of God, they seem to come unglued when they hear the word Calvinism.
– Arminians, like atheists, quickly run out of ideas and resort to mockery. Most seem to be irresistibly drawn/attracted to the ad hominem argument, thinking ridicule is refutation.
– Atheism denies the existence of God, while Arminianism denies the “God-ness” of God. By refusing to acknowledge that God is in complete control of his universe, they make him an almost-but-not-quite-God, who in the end must bow to our sovereignty.
– Like atheism, Arminianism is a decision, not a conclusion.
Don’t get me wrong, Arminians are Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, saved utterly by grace just like Augustinians. So it’s a family squabble, whereas with Pelagians and atheists it isn’t.
A very blessed and joy-filled Christmas to all.
Simply saying the lexicographers (and Bible translators) are wrong doesn’t make it so. Reasonably, if you’re going to dispute the dictionary definition of words, you have the burden of proving your case. You haven’t done that. Nor have you given any reason why readers should trust your scholarship over that of those who are known to be classically trained experts in biblical and ancient Greek linguistics. May I ask, what are your qualifications? What training have you received, degrees earned, works published, etc.? Not that one must have such credentials to discuss these matters, but when individuals speak authoritatively I like to know their background.
Here is a teaching partner of Forlines who sets the two systems side by side and shows the Scriptures come down solidly on Arminian soil.
I think you reached a wrong conclusion and must have been reading too many Calvinist books and too few Arminian books.
“In time, lots of time, it began to appear to me that whereas the Arminian passages could be logically subsumed under the Calvinist, the reverse didn’t work. In other words, the Arminian sounding verses could be adequately explained within an overall Calvinist framework, whereas the Calvinist verses could not comfortably fit into an Arminian view.
It had to be one or the other; both couldn’t be true”
I would like to point you to an Arminian Scholar who will answer those “Calvinist verses ” you think “could not comfortably fit into an Arminian view.”
I think you will find he accounts for them very well within the Arminian understanding of Scripture.
I forgot to mention, Arminians can fully embrace the view of grace presented in the Council of Orange. So Arminian doctrine is definitely not semi-Pelagian.
Also, people who keep ‘getting REALLY saved’, like the author’s friend, are not representatives of Arminian doctrine anymore than people who can’t sleep at night because they worry they may not be one of the Elect, are representatives of Calvinist doctrine.
A few points:
“Mac”, you mentioned John Owen’s integrity in fighting against Arminian views. I find this ironic, because John Owen was either lying or completely unscholarly in his quotations of the early church. Calvinist Michael Horton quotes from Owen in his book “Putting the Amazing Back in Grace”, which I show are fradulent or out of context quotes. You can read my open letter to him here:
In the original article the author identifies himself as having been semi-Pelagian/Arminian. This reveals he did not know what classical Arminians believe. Drifting along with his own ideas and pop-culture believism, he eventually found a system that worked – Calvinism. Perhaps had he a better idea of the Arminian system, he would have been more objective. Notably, the Council of Orange in 529 condemned semi-Pelagianism but also anathemized the idea that “God has ordained any to evil,” a clear rebuke of exhaustive determinism and double-predestiniation. The native Greek speaking commentators of the early church did not find Calvinism to be grammatically demanded by Scripture. Oh, by the way, if you are a Calvinist, and if you haven’t read the early writers like Chrysostom, Cyril, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr, then you might just buy into the ridiculous idea that the early church lost it’s way and became Roman Catholic in like, ten seconds after the apostles died, and based their views on tradition instead of Scripture. That isn’t so. We wouldn’t even know what books should be in our Bible if these early Christians weren’t faithful witnesses to the Apostolic deposit.
And no, I’m not Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.
Some of the comments above have drifted into asserting that if you don’t think God sovereignly chose some, that this makes man out to be God. So… I think it’s pretty clear God had the freedom to make the world in any way He saw fit, and to sovereignly choose, if He wanted to, to let people make choices. Whether he DID, is another question. But to say God isn’t God unless He *exercises* His power in the way YOU think He should, is going overboard. That’s like saying I am not really the owner of my house because I let my children run around without leashes on.
I am Arminian and have never experienced the kind of struggle you describe with your Arminian understanding of salvation. I was saved at twelve years of age and have never had any doubt about God having forgiven my sins and placed me in union with Christ when I repented and believe in Christ to do so. It sounds to me like you were caught on the horns of Pelagianism or semi Pelagianism. True Arminian understand in of Scripture grants one great assurance of salvation.
Now as to your post: you have conveniently chosen a definition to fit your Calvinist doctrine while summarily dismissing other valid uses of the word. Many words have literal and figurative meanings. John is using this word in relation to persons not fish to be caught in a net. No such irresistible means of bring persons to faith is described in Scripture. God works with person as persons convicting and convincing are the biblical means. God works influencing our mind heart and will.
For anyone interested in a full Arminian description of such workings of God I recommend the work quoted below. Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. By Forlines!
“I think the evidence Yarbrough presents does suggest that the drawing of John 6:44 is strong. I have no problem with the idea that the drawing spoken of in John 6:44 is a “strong drawing.” But I do have a problem with speaking of it as a “forceful attraction.” A word used literally may have a causal force when dealing with physical relationships. However, we cannot require that that word have the same causal force when it is used metaphorically with reference to an influence and response relationship. John 6:44 speaks of a personal influence and response relationship.
For John 6:44 to aid the cause of unconditional election, it must be understood in terms of cause and effect. The verse plainly says that no one can come to Christ without being drawn by the Father. But there is nothing in the word helkuō that would require that it be interpreted with a causal force. In fact, if we keep in mind that the relationship between God and man is a personal relationship, the use of helkuō in this verse is best understood in terms of influence and response rather than cause and effect.
When we go to John 12:32, the natural meaning of the verse is to understand helkuō in terms of influence and response rather than cause and effect. When Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw [helkuō] all men to Myself” (12:32, NASB), He definitely did not mean that He would drag every human being to Himself. He meant that there would go out from Him a drawing power that would make it possible for any person who hears the gospel to come to Him. It is strained exegesis to suggest as Yarbrough does that the likely meaning of “ ‘all men’ in John 12:32 refers to all—both Jew and Gentile—that the Father has given to the Son.”
If a person is going to interpret helkuō in John 6:44 and 12:32 to be an irresistible drawing, he must first find a passage elsewhere that irrefutably teaches that there is such an irresistible drawing. Then, he might suggest that as the meaning in John. These verses cannot be used as a part of a person’s arsenal of irrefutable proof of an irresistible calling.”
Forlines, F. L. (2011). Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. (J. M. Pinson, Ed.) (pp. 159–160). Nashville, TN: Randall House.
Arminian is doing a good job of representing an alternate perspective regarding “draw.” However, I do think it is too bad that Arminianism is being equated with semi-pelagianism and Catholicism. Those are mischaracterizations…
I let that implied mischaraterization pass and I addressed the heart of the guest’s support for Calvinism, which was simply factually inaccurate. But the implied mischaracterization is easily disproved. Here’s a post that lists various articles that definitively show that Arminianism is not Semi-Pelagian: http://evangelicalarminians.org/illegitimate-insistence-on-arminius-thought-being-semi-pelagian-in-w-robert-godfreys-review-of-jacob-arminius-theologian-of-grace/.
By the way, the council that dealt most fully and directly with Semi-Pelagianism denounced the Calvinistic doctrine of exhaustive unconditional predestination (more precisely, the aspect of it that holds that people are predestioned to do evil) as damnable heresy while championing a basically Arminian view of grace. SEA does not consider Calvinist doctrine as damnable heresy, but it is a good reminder that it is error.
John 12:32English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
If you insist that “helko” or “draw” in this verse means ” to drag, haul, pull, or something similar—to compel by a superior, irresistible force.” then why don’t we see all people being saved?
Perhaps closer attention to the word of God will bring you to forsake Calvinism and return to Arminian theology. That’s what did it for a Calvinist pastor we recently saw realize that Calvinism just doesn’t line up with Scripture, but that Arminianism is the biblical view. You should check out his story in this post: “Calvinist Pastor Turns from Calvinism to Arminianism after 20 Years as a Calvinist and Intensive Study” http://evangelicalarminians.org/calvinist-pastor-turns-from-calvinism-to-arminianism-after-20-years-as-a-calvinist-and-intensive-study/. One of the things he indicates as convincing him was that he preached the word expositionally, preaching throuhg books verse by verse. Studying the word so consistrently and closely opened his eyes.
Arminians believe in the biblical doctrine of the soveriengty of God. But by “the absolute sovereignty of God” do you mean exhaustivre divine determinism as Calvinists normally mean by it? If so, then that is a false gospel. Not believing in exhaustive divine determinism, but that one needs to believe in Calvinistic divine determinism to be saved. That’s hyper-Calvinism. Hopefully you don’t mean that. You calling me brother would suggest you donlt mean that. But your comment about 2 different gods raises that question.
May the Lord bless you and lead you in his truth.
Hi Bro Arminian,
Thanks for your time. I understand your arguments perfectly having used each of them for many years against Calvinists. But ultimately every one of them fails in light of God’s absolute sovereignty over all of life. If you reject that doctrine, then we’re talking about two different gods and nothing else will matter.
God bless you and yours this Christmas season.
You are correct that there are passages that can be interpreted to align with one’s theological views. My guess is that as you accepted more Calvinistic presuppositions (like sovereignty having to mean absolute control over everything) then “Arminian passages” became “subsumed under the Calvinist” view. I find the opposite to be the case.
If scholarly lexicons show that a word has a range of meaning (and passages like Neh 9:30 show that drawing can be resisted as one commenter noted) then John 6:44 seems to be one of those verses that can be interpreted to align with an Arminian or Calvinist view.
This article cites several lexicons — http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/the-arminian-magazine/issue-1-spring-2001-volume-19/
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, says helkuo is used figuratively “of the pull on man’s inner life. . . . draw, attract J 6:44” [Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, p. 251].
The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, states that helkuo is used metaphorically “to draw mentally and morally, John 6:44; 12:32” [William Mounce, p. 180].
The Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament has, “met., to draw, i.e. to attract, Joh. xii. 32. Cf. Joh. vi. 44” [W.J. Hickie, p. 13].
The Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller says, “figuratively, of a strong pull in the mental or moral life draw, attract (JN 6.44)” [p. 144].
Calvinist Spiros Zodhiates, in his Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, says, “Helkuo is used of Jesus on the cross drawing by His love, not force (Jn. 6:44; 12:32)” [New Testament Lexical Aids, p. 1831].
One more quick note:
We should take great comfort in knowing God’s picking teams, not us.
How comforting for the elect. For the reprobate sounds more like gym class for the less athletic. Sorry you weren’t picked for God’s team. Che sarà, sarà indeed.
Perfect sense, unless of course you were born in a place where the Gospel had not been preached, or you were out of town that day when it had. If born in the wrong place, or if someone failed to evangelize adequately, then obviously you went to hell.
Being not 100 percent sure what I am, I would say that the guest’s arguments made me take a stronger look at Calvinism. Bro, you had the Arminians trying to come up for air. As long as you believe in the inerrancy of the Lexicon, you can refute anything.
Reading the exchange made me think about a question I had asked a Calvinist friend, Do views of Calvinism keep us from working together with Arminians for the Great Commission?
1. Calvinists and Arminians do not believe in the same gospel, why should they work together for the great commission? It’s just as ludicrous as suggesting that Calvinists and Roman Catholics should work together for the great commission.
( Incidentally, if I was an Arminian, I would join the Roman Catholic church, because they believe that same gospel. I would not try and work together with Calvinists or Lutherans for the Great Commission.)
2. For the sake of fulfilling the great commission, Calvinists cannot work with Arminians, they must, in actual fact, work against them. Just as Paul had to work against the Judaizers and Luther against Erasmus.
3. John Owen is a wonderful example of someone who, by the grace of God, accomplished much for the Great Commission by exposing the errors of Arminianism. His integrity and authority would have been greatly compromised if he fell prey to some sentimental notion of working together with Arminians. Appalling!
4. It’s not “views on Calvinism” that keeps us from working together. It’s God himself who keeps us from working together! He wants to protect his glory; for this reason he will not allow Calvinists to work with those who teach a gospel that gives man the glory. 😉
If you’ll accept it, greetings the name of the Lord Jesus.
You said: “Bro, you had the Arminians trying to come up for air.”
You found us out! We were back at our secret base, on the other side of the Internet giving each other CPR.
You said: “As long as you believe in the inerrancy of the Lexicon, you can refute anything.”
If we throw out the dictionaries, we still have to have this conversation about what words mean. In fact, dictionaries and lexicons only tell us how words are commonly used. They do not create definitions for language. They are a reference tool, and a good one, no more.
You said: “Being not 100 percent sure what I am…”
“1. Calvinists and Arminians do not believe in the same gospel, why should they work together for the great commission? It’s just as ludicrous as suggesting that Calvinists and Roman Catholics should work together for the great commission.
( Incidentally, if I was an Arminian, I would join the Roman Catholic church, because they believe that same gospel. I would not try and work together with Calvinists or Lutherans for the Great Commission.)”
Sounds as if you don’t know what Arminians truly believe, just as the guest when he claims that Arminianism is semi-Pelagianism, a myth that has long been dispelled. Even Calvinist Matthew Barrett in his 2013 treatise on effectual calling “Salvation by Grace” gets closer to Arminianism than most Calvinists historically do by differentiating between Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism. For the record Arminianism is NOT Catholicism either.
Such comments do not do the body of Christ good service. Rather they perpetuate long-held misunderstandings. If you’re not 100% sure what you are, it’s interesting that you can be so sure about the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, not to mention Roman Catholicism or Semi-Pelagianism.
Prior to leaving Calvinism, I found that most of the Calvinist materials I had did not rightly understand Arminianism. In fact they were way off! If you’ll receive this, I would highly recommend a link that has already been posted in the discussion above. You may be surprised at what you read.
You said: “4. It’s not “views on Calvinism” that keeps us from working together. It’s God himself who keeps us from working together! He wants to protect his glory; for this reason he will not allow Calvinists to work with those who teach a gospel that gives man the glory.”
That’s an odd statement, I know enough Calvinists and Arminians who work together for the gospel. Does that mean that God is keeping only some Calvinists from working with Arminians? More importantly, the last statement about man getting the glory reinforces my point that you do not understand Arminianism.
Well well well… I see we have a classic Crips & Bloods aka Arminian vs Calvin debate here.
I’ll jus add my two cents to the matter. I won’t get involved in the “my strong concordance is better than yours” part but the haul vs attract part
I think the Rock man nails it like the 95 these with this part of a sentence
“God chooses us in a way we don’t really understand”
Its God that gives new heart, God that waters it, & God that does it. No man seeks Him, & since a youth all our thoughts are evil (don’t have bible verse on hand, don’t judge me look it up Romans & Genesis). A dead man is not reacting to anything.
To wrap up my late night rambling. Mt 25:31-46; Christ says
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you”
Notice, He didn’t “come those who choose to be here.”
To be fair…He also doesn’t say to the goats “look at those He cursed or damned”
Oh, I forgot to give the source and link to a quotation from my last comment, the one starting like this, “that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) . . . .” It is from “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace” found here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/, which is an article I recommended in my first comment.
Also, I should clarify that when I said that the word for draw in Neh 9:30 can mean “to extend,” I meant the Hebrew word (which can mean “draw, drag, extend, etc.”) translated by the Greek word helko.
Guest said: “Happy Thanksgiving to all! Sorry not to respond sooner, but church during the holidays…”
*****No problem and happy Thanksgiving to you too brother!
Guest said: “Appreciate all the feedback regarding helko. By the way, citing the scholarly lexica to prove that helko can mean attract or draw (in the sense of woo) in these two passages is to engage in the logical fallacy of begging-the-question—smuggling our conclusion into our premise.”
***** It is an outlandish and baffling claim that appealing to scholarly lexicons for backing up one’s claim about the meaning of a word is begging the question. How can it be smuggling one’s conclusion into a premise when one appeals to the standard scholarly resources? Appealing to a dictionary for a meaning of a word is begging the question? That just doesn’t make any sense. One can argue that the scholarly Greek lexicons are wrong. But it is not begging the question to cite them as support for one’s claim about the meaning of a word. It is not like I cited them to disprove a claim that they are wrong.
Guest said: “Scholars who contribute to the lexicon are much like everyone else, some Arminians and some Calvinists. And occasionally they try to press a word into a mold that doesn’t fit, simply because their personal theologies require it. Here is the classic case in point. Yes, they typically list attract or draw as a meaning of helko, but they can’t seem to find in ancient Greek an example of this usage except the two passages in question, Jn 6:44 and 12:32. It appears that someone just assumed without warrant that it must mean a type of wooing or attraction. It happens. You’ll notice that they don’t cite from the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, or from a classical writer, as the lexicon routinely does with other Greek words. If I missed something here, just point me to where I can find it.”
***** This is also baffling. You are totally wrong here about basic facts, and it is hard to understand how you can claim any of this. The scholarly lexicons actually cite various texts for the meaning of “attract” for helko, both from the Septuagint and classical writers. This is easily proven by simply looking at the most advanced and distinguished Greek lexicons. As I said in my first comment, “The basis of this article is contradicted with respect to the Greek word helko (“to draw)” and “A little closer looking could have saved the author from turning to Calvinism!” This nullifies much of the rest of your reply. So I’ll just answer the rest selectively.
Guest said: “Also, I didn’t say that a Greek word always means the same thing wherever it is found. Just reread the article.”
***** I didn’t say you said that. Just reread what I have said. What I claimed is that you asserted that helko never means anything other than drag/haul/pull. That is indeed what you claimed in your article and have repeated in this response to my comments. But that claim is easily refuted by just looking up the word in a scholarly Greek lexicon.
Guest said: “Curious, why did you introduce Neh 9:30 in this regard? It doesn’t qualify as an exception, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with God’s drawing power to himself that stiff-necked people chronically resisted.”
***** First, the whole “exception” angle you are using is invalid, since “attract” is recognized as one of the basic meanings in the word’s rage of meaning (at least the burden of proof is on you t oshow that the scholarly reference works are wrong). And second, it does qualify for such a meaning. It is precisely about, as you put it, “God’s drawing power to himself that stiff-necked people chronically resisted”. The context certainly is. Just read it. Let me cite some context here using the ESV except for giving a literal translation when it comes to the word in question:
“26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.”
Guest said: “The Septuagint translators used it as an elliptical expression from Hebrew meaning God’s sovereign and unmerited act of prolonging his patience—to draw over or protract over them his loving kindness. English translations retain this meaning of God’s protracted patience toward the Hebrew people even though they resisted. The English translators have already sorted this out for us.”
***** Like the English translators have already sorted out that the word means draw/attract in John 6:44, but you object to as being inaccurate? Yes, scholars typically take Neh 9:30 as using an elliptical expression for God’s patience. However, unlike your claims about helko (remember, those are just factually false), Neh 9:30 is the only example that the lexicons cite for that construction. The word can mean “extend” and all the other examples indicate what is being extended, indicating it as the direct object, but not Neh 9:30. In Neh 9:30, the people are are the direct object, making it more likely and more appropriate that the text speaks of drawing *them*, which fits the context very well, telling us “that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not,” not the only passage to do so. This contradicts your claims that God’s drawing is irresistible. And it’s just one of many passages that indicate this. You are right that we should not let our own personal convictions determine our doctrine, but that, “The biblical evidence in the original languages, welcome or not (convenient or not), is what should form our theologies, not vice versa.” But that means that we should attend to what the biblical evidence actually is instead of what we want it to be, such as when scholarly lexicons list a meaning of a word and cite multiple texts but someone claims they only cite the one or two texts under dispute.
By the way, even if your claim were granted about Neh 9:30, it would refute your claim about helko, that it never means anything other than “drag/haul/pull.”
Guest said: “We can’t refute the details of the New Covenant simply by citing endless passages from the Old.”
**** No one is trying to refute the details of the New Covenant. It is unhelpful to simply identify one’s own position with the details of the New Covenant and then regard disagreeing with oneself to be disagreeing with the New Covenant. Indeed, this is starting to become the question begging that you mistakenly charged me with, and it comes out fully in your next statement:
Guest said: “We are told in unmistakable terms that in this new arrangement of things only the Father can bring/pull/tow/drag/haul us to the Son (Jn 6:44),”
***** There’s that question begging (assuming what you are trying to prove) in bold relief.
Guest said: “and only the Son can grant us his personal choice or permission to know the Father (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22).”
**** Yes, and who does the Son choose to know the Father? Any who would come to him (conditional election): Just read the next verse after your first citation, which gives clarification: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (NASB). Jesus basically says, “No one can know the Father unless I let him; so come on anyone who needs him! Cone to me any and all!” He reveals his sovereign will for all to come and know the Father through himself. Attending to the details of the text and the New Covenant end up revealing Arminian theology and overturning Calvinist theology, whether it is faulty claims about lexicon citations or verses that appeal to God’s discretion in salvation that context shows is in line with his desire for all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; John 3:16).
May the Lord bless you and you keep you.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! Sorry not to respond sooner, but church during the holidays…
Appreciate all the feedback regarding helko. By the way, citing the scholarly lexica to prove that helko can mean attract or draw (in the sense of woo) in these two passages is to engage in the logical fallacy of begging-the-question—smuggling our conclusion into our premise.
Scholars who contribute to the lexicon are much like everyone else, some Arminians and some Calvinists. And occasionally they try to press a word into a mold that doesn’t fit, simply because their personal theologies require it. Here is the classic case in point. Yes, they typically list attract or draw as a meaning of helko, but they can’t seem to find in ancient Greek an example of this usage except the two passages in question, Jn 6:44 and 12:32. It appears that someone just assumed without warrant that it must mean a type of wooing or attraction. It happens. You’ll notice that they don’t cite from the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, or from a classical writer, as the lexicon routinely does with other Greek words. If I missed something here, just point me to where I can find it.
It’s really a question of logic: we can’t cite a verse in question as an example of what we are trying to prove. Where outside these two places would we find such an innovative meaning of helko? Again, nothing can be found in the New Testament, nothing in the Apocrypha, nothing in the Septuagint, and nothing in the Greek Classics. I am truly open to being shown here, but so far it appears that helko is rather like the word “camel”, it just means what it means regardless of the context—in this case: to compel or bring to pass by a superior, irresistible force.
It is an established rule of New Testament exegesis that the burden of proof must always lie with the one who asserts that a word consistently meaning one thing suddenly takes on a wholly different sense.
Also, I didn’t say that a Greek word always means the same thing wherever it is found. Just reread the article. Unlike other Greek words (such as kosmos, agape, and so forth) that have multiple meanings in a variety of contexts, the word helko seems to retain the same sense wherever it is found. Of course, attract or draw may be used to translate it, as long as the force of it is preserved, namely, the overpowering attraction or drawing that ends up inexorably bringing to pass God’s decree to save us.
The casual brush-off about context carries little weight here. Yes, of course, context is often the key to interpreting a word or passage (that’s simply standard linguistics), but there is nothing in the contexts of Jn 6:44 or 12:32 that signals a required change of meaning. We naturally conclude that helko means here what John means everywhere else he uses it, particularly when no alternative meanings are available anywhere on the word market. Even Luke confirms the same meaning as in John, and James follows suit. Where are there any exceptions?
Curious, why did you introduce Neh 9:30 in this regard? It doesn’t qualify as an exception, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with God’s drawing power to himself that stiff-necked people chronically resisted.
The Septuagint translators used it as an elliptical expression from Hebrew meaning God’s sovereign and unmerited act of prolonging his patience—to draw over or protract over them his loving kindness. English translations retain this meaning of God’s protracted patience toward the Hebrew people even though they resisted. The English translators have already sorted this out for us.
No one doubts that people everywhere are capable of resisting his Law—even (far too often!) Christians. Any one of us in our fallen state has the capacity (the propensity) to resist God’s will and Law through disobedience. It’s inbuilt. We can choose to resist his revealed will, his Word, his loving kindness, his guidance, and his commands. What we don’t have is the power to resist his decree of salvation in Jesus, something based entirely on his free choice, not ours.
The New Testament takes great pains to show us that in Jesus Christ something new has taken place that didn’t take place before. We can’t refute the details of the New Covenant simply by citing endless passages from the Old. We are told in unmistakable terms that in this new arrangement of things only the Father can bring/pull/tow/drag/haul us to the Son (Jn 6:44), and only the Son can grant us his personal choice or permission to know the Father (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22).
In these basic matters of God’s sovereignty and our salvation, we can’t rely on our prior convictions or personal theologies to fill in the blanks. The biblical evidence in the original languages, welcome or not (convenient or not), is what should form our theologies, not vice versa.
Welcome your thoughts.
Actually, there is a notable exception that I found while doing lexical research: Song of Solomon 1:4a, “Draw me after you; let us run.”, which in the Septuagint employs εἵλκυσάν for “draw.” Contextually, one would be hard-pressed to conclude that the love poem is talking about dragging the other person along or producing a necessary reaction.
Oh yes, and Trench also notes another exception from the Septuagint:
“The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“Drawn” is εἵλκυσά, again a form of ἑλκύω. And again, the term doesn’t seem to imply compulsion of some kind, but wooing one by way of kindness and goodness.
Yes JC, those are just a couple of the references given by some Greek lexicons. But there are a bunch more. That’s why it has been baffling to hear the guest claim that the lexicons don’t give any passages but the 2 in John. But such references should not be thought of as exceptions. They are instances of one of the meanings of the word within its range of meaning. It is considered a metaphorical meaning that tends to be used when a non-physical attraction is in view. It’s easy to see how that would be. If a word is used of pulling/drawing physical objects, it is easy to begin using it of a relational pull/draw/attraction or a pull on the emotions or on the heart. I was drawn to do other things rather than this post, but decided this post was worth doing. Or I oculd say that I had other things to do, but I was drawn to write this post because I think it could be helpful.
One other thought occurred to me on this matter.
Some time ago I read Martin Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will,” a collection of his responses to Desiderius Erasmus debating the nature and extent of a presumptive human “free will.” Of course, Luther is all over the sovereignty of God and stresses election, which I guess you could say made him proto-Calvinist and Erasmus is all about it residing in our power to choose, or not choose God’s offer of salvation. One of the many things I gained from that reading was the extent to which and thousands of ways our own hearts desperately want us to believe we have the ultimate say in the matter, and thus why this whole predestination thing is such a “hard saying” in Scripture. But, nevertheless, the hardest things to hear always seem to work out to be the truest things to hear… and if you look at it for what it really is ultimately this presumption of our ultimate say traces directly back to the core of rebellion contained in Satan’s original deception at the start of Gen. 3. And this is all validated as per Jer. 17:9, to the extent that if our hearts weren’t so “…deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” then it seems to me those of us on Calvin’s and Luther’s side of the debate wouldn’t always be in what seems a distinct minority and the other side wouldn’t be the ones getting their hackles up over the issue… i.e., “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (“Hamlet,” Act 3, Scene 2).
At the end of the day, it comes down to the ever increasing realization in my life that I cannot not believe, and the very fact that I no matter how tossed and upset I am at any moment over any thing I can’t keep myself from coming back to that central truth. The fact that I am saved by God’s sovereign choice and not by virtue of any quality or act on my part is the ultimate rock of comfort that endures no matter what the immediate circumstances. I can testify to the fact that being an Arminian takes an awful lot of work and yields very little in return… been there, done that.
Totally agree with the author… even to the extent of having gone through the same sort of theological existential crises trying to reconcile a God with no variableness or shadow of turning with a presumed conditionality of salvation.
At the end of the day, Arminians/Semi-Pelagians can battle this out with Calvinists until both sides shout themselves blue in the face and not get anywhere. But, the decisive fact is that if for all God has done on our behalf to secure our salvation, it still comes down to a decision (one time or repetitive) on our part, then there’s no way to avoid the inescapable conclusion that our sovereign will trumps God’s sovereignty… so, who’s really “God” in that equation.
Moreover, and this is where I believe the deceitfulness of our own heart (Jer. 17:9) plays neatly into Satan’s ends is that if we believe it really is/was up to us, then our salvation is always in doubt and that leads us into all sorts of works-centered behaviors. It gets even worse, because Hebrews said Abraham was considered righteous by God solely because he believed God (i.e., took Him explicitly at His word), so then if God says I’m saved because He saved me from before time and that reality comes to me as an undeniable fact by the faith that only God can bestow (e.g., Eph. 2:8-9), then how righteous can I be in God’s eyes if I go around thinking that the decisive act or detail without which this couldn’t be a reality was solely up to me in the end.
I really don’t want to sound condescending here, but I’ve gotten to the point were I sincerely feel sorry for the Arminians… and I’m as serious as a heart attack when I say I’m sorry because for more than two decades I kept trying to “square the circle” to make Arminianism work and all I got for the effort was a lot of nagging worry in those times when I couldn’t avoid being alone with my thoughts.
You just hammered the nail on the head.
I don’t think in our humanness we can completely understand this delicate, highly debated topic. I, like you, have a hard time saying I have the ability to go to Heaven or Hell when scripture tells us God chooses in so many different areas. And when He chooses, it’s no longer an option for us to serve with all our hearts because we want to be with Him. We begin to live that life we are called to. There is no turning away and coming back… If that’s going on, then that person isn’t there yet, because our love for Him will always supersede our human desires.
It is true, we go through ups and downs, struggles and victories in our lives, but God uses those times to strengthen us beyond belief, Paul tells us that.
So rather than get caught up in the debate that can cause heart ache, spread the love through sharing the Gospel words which will make the heart grow. We should take great comfort in knowing God’s picking teams, not us.
The basis of this article is contradicted with respect to the Greek word helko (“to draw). The scholarly *Greek* lexicons typically list “attract” as a meaning. Moreover, one can simply look in the Bible and see the word used of resistible drawing/attraction in biblical Greek, such as in Neh 9:30, which speaks of God drawing Israel but Israel successfully resisting God’s drawing. A little closer looking could have saved the author from turning to Calvinism! And we can embrace the Bible’s good news that God really does love all and desires all to be saved and would rather every sinner repent and be saved rather than continue in their sin and perish, and that he has made provision in Christ’s death so that every person can be forgiven and saved through faith and repentance even though not all will actually do so. You might want to check out the section on “Freed to Believe” in this article at our website (it mentions Neh 9:30’s use of helko for resistible divine drawing): http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/.
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