Thursday, December 10, 2015

What John Really Says About Drawing and Election

The Gospel of John is easy to misinterpret, not only because it shares so little with the other gospels, but because it is filled with commentary by Jesus about his reception among the Jews. Apparently, Jesus had a lot to say about why folks and about which folks were able to recognize him as he walked on the face of earth. If one is not cognizant of contextual cues, things which were only definitely being said about that reception can be applied to the broader context of humans in general throughout time and result in erroneous conclusions.

When one takes what Jesus was saying about his reception among the Jews and mistakenly applies it to humans in general outside that time and place, contradictions arise with other scriptures regarding God's intentions toward humanity in general. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and 2 Peter 3:9 seem to be at odds with statements in John if that hermeneutical error is followed. Readily evident readings have to be discarded (really, twisted) in order to align with misreadings of John. Because God was highly selective before the resurrection in who would recognize Christ, associate with him, and form the core of the church after his resurrection does not automatically mean he exercises the same prerogatives after the resurrection and through the age of the church.

I want to reference 3 key places where this problem can be seen and demonstrate a hermeneutical framework that evaporates any issues.

First, John 12:27-33...

This passage is key because it says something explicitly about God's exertion of drawing power upon the post-crucifixion population of planet Earth (see also John 8:28). It is, in fact, different than what was said to exist for the population around Christ before the crucifixion. The member of the Trinity acting changes, as does the scope of the action. This passage must been seen, it seems to me, as the basis for understanding any other statement in John concerning drawing and election to Christ which is being applied to post-resurrection populations.

Second, the last half of John 6...

As he made these statements, was Jesus referring to witnesses of his physical visitation at that time, or was he making a broader statement applicable to all people throughout time? He seemed to speak broadly (vs. 28-58) and specifically (vs. 59-71) with regard to people responding to him within the same pericope, so the question is complicated. The section which clearly refers to specific people at that specific time (i.e. his contemporaneous disciples) is reiterated conceptually in the High-Priestly Prayer in John 17, which serves to focus, I think, Jesus' comments about effectual calling in John 6 upon those who witnessed his earthly ministry. Verse 65, in explaining v. 44, constricts the context to the more specific milieu, and therefore, vs. 44 and 65 can be readily applied to those folks at that time but cannot be applied without the mitigation of John 12 to the post-crucifixion population.

Third, John 8:42-47...

Jesus comments in this section of John were addressed to those that had some sort of belief in him (see v. 31-32), and yet contended with him and were rejected by Christ as children of the devil. They were unable to understand his words, to truly believe in him, and so be saved. I would say that their condition is not out of the ordinary for people pre-crucifixion, but does their example say anything at all about people post-crucifixion? It is an extremely important consideration given Romans 10:8-9. But there is nothing contextually that relates their condition to the human race in general, or to the post-crucifixion population in particular.

When statements in John about being drawn to Christ (which, incidentally, entails enablement to believe acc. 6:44-47) and God electing followers in the pre-crucifixion population shape our understanding about the those subjects in regard to the post-crucifixion population, confusion and contradiction occur. The sad state of Calvinism is an example of such an occurrence. When our understanding about drawing and election among the post-crucifixion population is informed primarily by the one text that deals with that subject specifically, we find that clarity and harmony between scriptures result.

Since the crucifixion, this should be clear from an accurate reading of the Bible: God is drawing all people to Christ because he genuinely wants everyone to be saved by hearing the word of Christ and responding with faith.