Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
The error of the Calvinists is in thinking that this passage is about the drawing of elect-unbelievers, all for the purpose of unbelievers to believe. Instead, this passage is about unbelievers not coming to Christ, whereas real believers were (that is, those believing Jews who were in covenant relationship with God, whom He was drawing to His Son). Jesus says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” (John 6:45) Since they were not coming to Christ, that was evidence, in and of itself, that they had not heard and learned from the Father (like these others), and thus were not counted among God’s covenant people. Jesus is not mocking them about a non-election. Far from it. Rather, Jesus was helping them to understand their true problem, that is, their true disconnect with the Father, and we know that Jesus was helping them, because He elsewhere shows them what they needed to do, in order to straighten out their thinking, as per John 10:37-38, regarding the weighty evidence of the miracles. There, Jesus was addressing people that He said were not His sheep, and yet encourages them to believe, thus indicating that they could become His sheep. Their situation was not uncorrectable.
The Father would have gladly given and drawn them to His Son, as evidenced by how long God had been reaching out to them, as per Isaiah 65:2, if only they had belonged to the Father as His people. The problem was not with God; the problem was with them, and their whole history of unrepentance. Calvinists make this passage out to be a matter of God not wanting, viz. Unconditional Reprobation and non-election, and that’s not it at all.
There is no mystery at John 6:37. Where the Calvinists have gone wrong at John 6:37 and John 6:44 is that this was not the giving and drawing of UNBELIEVERS, but the giving and drawing of BELIEVERS, that is, those who were in covenant relationship with the Father, and yes, there were plenty in Israel who longed for the reconciliation of Israel, and plenty who submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist, and these rejoiced over the coming of Jesus. The concept of the Father turning His own, over to His Son, is essentially the same thing as when Jesus turned His own over to the Holy Spirit upon His ascension. (John 16:13-15) When Jesus said that He was the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35), the Jews who claimed to be right with God (but were not) were offended by these words and left (John 6:66), but those whose hearts were right with God, stayed (John 6:67), so that the prophecy of Isaiah 6:10 may be fulfilled, in that those whose hearts were not right with God, may be a trap and a snare unto themselves, and not come to the Son so that they may be healed. This is why true believers do not turn away from Jesus over these words, but receive them, while the lost simply finds yet another excuse to reject God. The Calvinists, on the other hand, insist that even if the Arminians are correct, and that this passage is about the giving and drawing of those who were in covenant relationship with the Father to His Son, it must nevertheless be a “remnant by grace,” which is a Calvinist buzz word for Irresistible Grace. But why should we assume that? The Calvinist answers, “Because that’s the only way anyone comes to the Son (Jon 6:37),” and thus the Circular Logic of the Calvinist is exposed.
Calvinist, James White: “If the overall discourse is ignored, an improper interpretation of individual texts can be offered. This is one of the most oft-missed elements of correct exegesis, normally due to the presence of traditions in the reader’s thinking.” (Scripture Alone, p.87, emphasis mine)
That is the fundamental problem of the Calvinist interpretation for this passage.
Former Calvinist, Steven Hitchcock, says: “It strikes me as ironic that Calvinists of such high caliber, possessing extensive abilities of intellect, and who are widely esteemed for their skill in the exegesis of the Scriptures, can be so reckless and unwilling to examine these texts carefully. Has it occurred to anyone that we should seek to understand the context in which these texts are found as they are only in the Gospel of John and fairly close to one another in proximity?” (Recanting Calvinism, p.187, emphasis mine)
Agreed. It may also be a factor of Confirmation Bias, as Calvinists only see what confirms their already established presuppositions. The other irony is the fact that James White devoted so much effort into labeling his opposition as being glued to “tradition,” and yet it was his own tradition that foiled him.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “Those who are not Christ’s sheep cannot hear the voice of the Shepherd.” (Debating Calvinism, p.85, emphasis mine)
And yet, what does Jesus do? He encourages them to consider the evidence of the miracles: “...though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38) Why do this, if they cannot consider it? The problem for many of them, was that due to their unrepentance, they could not bear to hear the words of God, which is common for those in sin.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “The text shows that the work of the Spirit and our faith in God’s truth are the result of that eternal choice.” (Debating Calvinism, p.110, emphasis mine)
But the passage doesn’t make mention of an eternal choice. Calvinists begin with their presuppositions, and don’t even realize the mistake that they are making in their interpretation.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “Despite seeing Him and hearing His preaching, these men stand before Christ in unbelief: They refuse to truly come to Him in faith. Why?” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)
Because they hadn’t heard and learned from the Father, as per Jesus’ explanation at John 6:45; they were unbelievers. They didn’t know the Father; they rejected the Father, and consequently were outside of a covenant relationship that the Father, in which otherwise, God would have drawn them to His Son.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “All who are given come. Not some, not most, but all. How can this be if, in fact, the coming is conditional upon human effort, desire, or choice?” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)
(Seeing a Calvinist emphatically using the word “all” is pure irony.) The answer is because these were already covenant believers with the Father. Again, those who had heard and learned from the Father (i.e. covenant believers) were the ones coming to the Son, unlike these unbelievers that Jesus was talking to, and hence Jesus was diagnosing their fundamental problem: they weren’t right with God, and that’s why they weren’t coming to Him. It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, and I perceive the problem is that Calvinists are viewing the text as a matter of the Father drawing elect-unbelievers to faith, rather than God drawing covenant-believers to His Son, in order to follow Him.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “The drawing of the Father is in fact limited to the elect, those who are given by the Father to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, pp.294-295, emphasis mine)
The error of the Calvinists is regarding the subjects of the text. This passage does not introduce a Calvinistically elect class vs. eternally Unconditional Reprobates.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “One might ask, ‘How is this relevant to explaining the unbelief of the Jews who were listening?’ Their unbelief is explained with reference to the fact that God must graciously give a person to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.120, emphasis mine)
Jesus says nothing of the kind. True believers came to Christ; these did not. Thus the math shows that these were not true believers. Nowhere is Jesus saying that God is giving unbelievers so that they can believe. Instead, this is the giving of believers. We know that from John 6:45.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “The Jews grumble about the claims Jesus makes for Himself, for they can see that His teaching implies His divine origin and status.” (Debating Calvinism, p.121, emphasis mine)
White adds: “There is no reason for these unbelievers to grumble. Why? Because it is not within their capacity to come to Him in faith: As condemned sinners, they are dependent upon the grace of God for that.” (Debating Calvinism, p.122, emphasis mine)
White writes: “The words of the Lord Jesus in John 6 are clear and compelling. The plethora of failed explanations of the passage produced by the those who oppose the message that offended so many in the synagogue in Capernaum (and evidently continues to offend today) is testimony to the force of the teaching and the clarity of the text.” (Debating Calvinism, p.141, emphasis mine)
This raises a point that reveals an even greater flaw in the Calvinist interpretation. What did, in fact, the Jews grumble about? Did they grumble about anything related to a Calvinistic Election vs. Reprobation? No. Moreover, the disciples didn’t take it that way either. Additionally, Jesus didn’t elaborate upon any kind of Calvinistic interpretation. If Jesus had taught anything resembling to Calvinism, you can be rest assured that the disciples would have inquired about it. We know that because of Matthew 19:27. Jesus made a point of how difficult it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and that drew the following inquiry from Peter: “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” Jesus could have easily explained that Peter was part of an eternal draft, but Jesus gave no such explanation. Calvinism is nowhere to be found here.
In fact, if the unbelieving Jews had taken a Calvinistic understanding of an Unconditional Election, they hardly would have protested, because they saw themselves (on account of being Jews) as exactly that! There would have been no complaints from them, as that is precisely what they already believed about themselves. But what they didn’t like was the idea that Jesus, whom they rejected, was the Son of the God, so that by not having been given and drawn to Him, implies that they were not right with God.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “We must let this passage teach what it teaches, no matter what our preconceptions might be.” (Debating Calvinism, p.123, emphasis mine)
Again, White fails to take his own advice.
Calvinist, James White, comments: “Preaching this truth is never popular. The result of Jesus’ sermon was the founding of the Church Shrinkage Movement: He started with five thousand; He ended with a small, confused group.” (Debating Calvinism, p.124, emphasis mine)
White adds: “Despite the negative response it garnered, He kept pressing this truth upon His listeners. And their response? The next verse says they walked away. They no longer followed after Him. But those who truly were given to Him, like Peter, confessed that He had the words of eternal life. What about us? Will we walk away from hard truths, or will we speak as Peter, knowing that Jesus has the words of eternal life? May God grant us grace to hear and obey His Word.” (Debating Calvinism, p.124, emphasis mine)
Now this is a concern, as James White links a denial of Calvinism to walking away from Christ, which is a very cultic perspective, on White’s part. In essence, he’s taken a concept that is foreign to the text, and made a denial of that foreign concept, into a denial of Christ. That’s brazen.
So, in other words, not believing in Calvinism = walking away from Christ. All that White has accomplished is to show that he has a cultic mentality. Calvinism is the Gospel; reject Calvinism, and you’ve rejected the Gospel. That’s the train of thought here. He could back peddle from it, but you can clearly see what his perspective is. Also notice the matter of the “hard truths.” That is a psychological trick at work. What it does is that it attempts to measure one’s faith and sincerity to God by how dark of a matter that a person is willing to accept about God. In other words, the more awful a thing is, the greater amount of faith demonstrated. The psychological trick is in using people’s devotion to God against them. Here is a fantastic article on that very issue.
Calvinist, James White, writes: “Jesus begins where Christian salvation begins (and ends!), with the Father. The Father gives a particular people to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)
White writes: “If this giving does not involve sovereign predestination, what does it involve? Jesus Himself says it results in eternal life. If that is not election unto salvation, what is?” (Debating Calvinism, p.137, emphasis mine)
White adds: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
This is pure eisegesis.
John Calvin writes: “In the first place, Christ says, ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me.’ By this Christ means that faith is not dependent on man’s will, as if this man or that man may believe indiscriminately, as if by chance, because he elects those people he gives, as it were, to his Son.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.160-161, emphasis mine)
That is just proof-texting, and has nothing to do with the context.
Calvin writes: “For the word ‘gives’ has the same meaning as if Christ had said, ‘People whom the Father has chosen he regenerates and gives to me, so that they may obey the Gospel.’” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.161, emphasis mine)
Same problem. The passage mentions nothing about regeneration. Calvinists simply begin with their presuppositions, and the interpretation develops from there.