Over the years I have often surprised people by asserting that there is one passage of Scripture that is so clear, so perspicuous, that I have never seen a meaningful, coherent, contextually-based interpretation of it that does not teach with clarity the glorious freedom of God in the salvation of His elect people. That passage is John 6:35-45.
This passage formed the basis of a recent discussion with Roman Catholic proponent Scott Windsor on our webcast, the Dividing Line. Mr. Windsor’s unique “interpretation” of the passage did not fare well in cross-examination. In his attempt to rehabilitate himself, Mr. Windsor contacted Robert Sungenis of Catholic Apologetics International. Mr. Sungenis and I have debated many times in the past, not just in person in formal settings (Boston College, Long Island, Clearwater, Florida), but on line as well. Many of those interactions were rather acrimonious. Over the past few years, however, we have sought to disagree, not so much agreeably, as respectfully. It is not an easy task, of course, but both sides have made good faith efforts. It should be noted that I believe Mr. Sungenis has made many elementary errors in his response: elementary in regards to the Greek language, elementary in regards to the reading of the text, and elementary in regards to Reformed theology, which he presumes to critique. Since post-moderns confuse refutation of error with “hate-speech,” let me say up-front: I believe Mr. Sungenis wrong on all these issues. In fact, I believe him ignorant of a number of the areas he is attempting to address. It is not hateful, unkind, or unloving to say these things if documentation and reasoned thinking is provided to substantiate the conclusion. If factual support is provided, the assertions are simply truthful, and truth is not hateful. However, if the accusations are made but no reasonable argumentation is provided to substantiate the assertions, a case can then be made that one is engaging in false argumentation and personal attack.
Scott Windsor posted some of Mr. Sungenis’ comments on his website, and made sure to let me know about it, repeatedly. I finally took the time to take a look at the web page which documented all my “errors,” and found Mr. Sungenis’ comments intriguing enough to warrant a response. I firmly believe that the more people struggle against the truths of this passage, the more clearly the truth is vindicated, and as this debate continues, I believe that will become more and more evident.
My original response is found here. Mr. Sungenis then responded on his own website, and on Mr. Windsor’s. I offer my rejoinder here in the hope that believers will be edified, and the soul-thrilling truth of God’s all sufficient work of salvation will be ever more clearly understood in the hearts of minds of His people.
Refocusing the Discussion
One of the most troubling aspects of many back-and-forth discussions is the fact that they can often grow to such proportions that the reader is lost in a myriad of details that may, or may not, actually be relevant to the topic at hand. So I am going to make an effort to refocus the discussion while responding as fully as possible to Mr. Sungenis’ attempted response. To help, allow me to make some general observations and comments up front, and then provide the substantiation for these conclusions in the following material.
Observation #1: Sola ecclesia lives. Mr. Sungenis simply does not provide textually based exegesis. Those who are familiar with the rules of meaningful exegetical study of the text can see, by examining Mr. Sungenis’ efforts, that his interpretations do not flow from the text, but are made up of assertions joined with a general, “the word X does not have to mean this or that.” The over-riding concern is always the teaching of Rome, which is derived from Mr. Sungenis’ own interpretation and understanding of the writings of the Church. This then becomes the lens through which the text is seen, even if this results, as it does here, in the utter reversal of the meaning of the text. This is one of the main reasons why, though almost everything Mr. Sungenis says in his response is fully addressed in The Potter’s Freedom, I am taking the time to respond separately: it is an object lesson well worth learning.
Observation #2: Mr. Sungenis’ handling of the koine Greek language in this article does not present an in-depth, scholarly understanding of syntax. For example, aside from the fact that his original assertion regarding the use of mhin interrogatives has been refuted, his handling of such things as participles is a telling sign of a less-than-full understanding of the language. I have commented to Mr. Sungenis in the past that he needs to engage in a study of syntax that goes beyond mere grammar. Syntax involves the relationship of words and phrases. The mere noting of a word being in the present tense, for example, without recognizing it is also in a participial phrase, shows a fundamental weakness of understanding of syntactical categories and functions. These are issues that are introduced, and mastered, in later study of the language, and would not be covered with sufficient depth in a brief Master’s program. I was personally very blessed to have begun my study of Greek before seminary, in college, where I minored in the subject. As I teach Greek in seminary now, I am often distressed at the tremendous speed with which we must cover the material. I know all too well the pressures upon the seminary student and the difficulty in mastering not only the grammar, but then the syntax, of koine Greek. The result of all of this is the simple fact that Mr. Sungenis makes a number of rudimentary errors in his handling of the Greek language in context. These errors are noted below. I also note, briefly, that in light of Scott Windsor’s taking Mr. Sungenis’ words over the words of three published and established Greek grammars, this information is relevant.
Observation #3: Mr. Sungenis does not understand Reformed theology. The number of misrepresentations of Reformed thinking in this article (and in his published works) is striking. But, there is a possible explanation. Mr. Sungenis himself admitted, in his personal testimony in Surprised by Truth, p. 111,
Not being totally convinced that the militant Calvinistic theology espoused at Westminster was correct, I continued to find myself in theological debates with professors and fellow students.
In light of this, it is somewhat understandable how one who graduated from Westminster Seminary could still use such phrases as “God forces men to believe” and the like, caricatures which, while common in anti-Reformed polemics, have likewise been refuted so many times it is amazing.
Finally, Mr. Sungenis decided to spend a good deal of time focusing upon Augustine in his response. I believe the citation I offered was clear and compelling, and I still do. I simply remind the reader that Augustine changed his views over time on this issue, becoming ever more forceful in his annunciation of the divine decree of the salvation of the elect. Anyone who reads his later works well knows the force of his statements. It is quite easy to quote Augustine against Augustine by ignoring the development of his thought through the Pelagian controversy. The fact that he identified saving faith as a gift of God given only to the elect is truly without question. But I shall not clutter this reply with further discussions of Augustine’s changing theology over time: the issue is the divine teaching of Christ in the synagogue at Capernaum, to which I now turn.
First Issue: mh Does Indicate a Negative Response
In the web cast discussion with Mr. Windsor the matter of whether Jesus’ asking the disciples, “You do not want to go away also, do you” (John 6:67, NASB) came up. Mr. Windsor attempted to read free will into these words, assuming that Jesus was “giving them a choice” and that this implied the existence of free will. In response I pointed out that the form of the question in Greek uses the particle mh, and that this indicates an assumed negative answer, just as the NASB translates it. Mr. Windsor contacted Mr. Sungenis, who commented that the wording did not fit a “rhetorical question.” Now, I have no idea what that means, and I do not know if Mr. Sungenis was responding to Mr. Windsor’s errant communication to him of what I said, or if Mr. Sungenis just missed the point (I nowhere indicated the question was rhetorical, but that it expected a negative answer, which, obviously, is not the same thing). Mr. Windsor simply failed to provide any meaningful basis for reading “free will” into John 6:67, and seemingly citing Mr. Sungenis’ comment was enough to provide him with another “error” on my part. So I wrote to Mr. Sungenis and asked him to explain what I had said that was in error regarding the fact that John 6:67 is a question using mh that expects a negative answer. When he replied, on March 4, 2001, he attempted to assert that mh does not have to indicate a negative answer, and provided examples. I refuted each example, and noted the most glaring one in my previous response. His specific assertion had been:
1) MH before the main verb does not always expect a negative answer. For example, in John 7:31, MH before POIEESEI expects an affirmative answer, not a negative one. In other words, the implied answer to the question of whether the Christ will do more signs than Jesus is affirmative.
I pointed out that, in fact, the only meaningful way of understanding the passage is to understand that the crowd is saying just the opposite: that the expected answer is a negative. I even cited A.T. Robertson’s comments that specifically note the use of mh, indicating a negative answer. While it is hardly central to the issue at hand, it does speak to Mr. Sungenis knowledge of basic Greek grammar and to his general approach to exegesis and interpretation. The simple fact of the matter is that I said nothing wrong in the cited comments. No meaningful scholarship would argue I did. The issue is interpretation of the meaning of John 6:67, and the attempt on Mr. Windsor’s part to turn the question into a positive support of “free will.” In light of this background, note his response:
For clarification, it is certainly possible that the use of MH in John 7:31 expects a negative answer. Nevertheless, a few things need to be said. Since Dr. White appeals to the statement “many of the multitude believed in Him” in John 7:31, he is inferring that the belief of these people was so strong that they would be able to determine whether Jesus was the Messiah, and thus answer the question of John 7:31 negatively. I don’t think that assessment is provable, since we do not know that kind of belief the people had. For all we know their belief could be like the people of John 8:31, who are finally told by Jesus in verse 44 that their father is the devil. This chapter is in close proximity to John 7:31, the verse in question, and thus would have great impact on determining the type of belief present among them.
Comment: This is mere misdirection; Mr. Sungenis said X in his e-mail (quoted above); now he is saying non-X. He seems to be admitting he was in error, but without actually saying it. In either case, the issue is not, as I pointed out, whether these were true believers or not. Personally, I don’t believe they were. The point is that they said they believed, and they were arguing in the light of that profession. It simply makes no sense whatsoever to read the text as Mr. Sungenis originally suggested, for you would then have the following: “Then many in the crowd believed in Him and they were saying, “Surely the Christ will do more signs than this man when he comes!” That makes no sense at all! We here have Mr. Sungenis ignoring the context and attempting to over-turn a simple rule of grammar. Granted, he may well have simply provided a brief response without seriously considering the text. But in any case, he has here been shown to be in complete error on the issue. Instead of dealing with this, Mr. Sungenis continues on with a different topic:
Furthermore, we know that the crowd is not sure of Jesus’ identity, since in John 7:27 they make a declarative statement, “However we know where this man [Jesus] is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” Obviously, the people are not certain who Jesus is, which is apparent by their doubt about the origins of the Christ. Thus, when a few verses later the question of John 7:31 is asked (“When Christ comes, will he not do more signs than which this man [Jesus] did”), the uncertainty described in John 7:27, along with the uncertainty suggested in John 8:31-44 regarding the kind of belief the crowd possessed, although still plausible, a negative answer to the question of John 7:31 is not at all certain. Indeed, if a negative response were the only one expected, then we would expect to find such a negative answer somewhere in the context (which is usually the case when questions are introduced by the Greek MH), but we do not find any here, thus the matter remains indefinite.
Speaking of proximity, I think I will also add Dr. White’s own assessment of the “belief” of the people in John 6, which is stated just one chapter earlier than the people of John 7:31. In a later paragraph of this document, Dr. White writes the following of John 6’s people: “The blessed Lord was quite blunt with His audience. He knew they did not possess real faith. ‘But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe’ (v. 36).”
As kindly as it can be put, that is obfuscation. I made no error regarding mh; its meaning is clear in the passage, despite all the attempts to say otherwise. Let the reader decide.
The Potter’s Freedom
At this point I provided the exegetical section of my book, The Potter’s Freedom, regarding John 6:35-45. I will simply point out that at times Mr. Sungenis seems to forget that I did not write this section following my discussion with Mr. Windsor, so he faults me for not addressing things as if I were writing it in response to his own comments.
Right at the start, however, we encounter a fascinating discussion by Mr. Sungenis regarding the fact that I have written an entire work refuting the Arminianism of Dr. Norman Geisler. Note his words:
Since Dr. White has brought up the name of Norman Geisler, I think it is worth mentioning here that Norman Geisler is one of the most respected and well-known theologian/philosphers in the Evangelical world. He appears on the same radio programs that Dr. White appears (The Bible Answer Man; Janet Parcell’s America, etc), but on these programs he teaches an almost totally opposite view of John 6 and Predestination than Dr. White. It is ironic that two men, with two entirely different views on Salvation, can appear on the same program with the same hosts, and yet both be touted as faithful interpreters of the Bible.
There is, of course, one major flaw in Mr. Sungenis’ reasoning: it assumes Norman Geisler offered a “faithful interpretation” of the passage at hand. As anyone knows who read Chosen But Free or my response, The Potter’s Freedom, Dr. Geisler did not offer any kind of exegetical interpretation of the passage. It was one of the more amazing elements of the discussion offered in Chosen But Free. Hence, it is not a matter of “dueling interpretations” regarding this passage, and even when it is, is the suggestion being made that since there is disagreement, that the text is therefore unclear? Those who have read The Potter’s Freedom realize that the exegetical argument is, in fact, the most compelling argument put forward by the Reformed side. Sungenis goes on to make a very telling statement:
It may also be worth mentioning that Norman Geisler’s view of Predestination and the interpretation of the pertinent passages in John 6 are much closer to the Catholic view than Dr. White’s. Catholicism would applaud Norman Geisler for his balanced view of Predestination and Free Will, whereas Dr. White ascribes to the traditional Calvinist view, which believes that God predestined men to Hell without regard to Free Will. I would suggest that, if anyone is interested in a refutation of the Calvinist view of Predestination, consult Chapter 7 of the book “Not By Faith Alone.”
As Mr. Sungenis’ attempted “refutation” of predestination partakes of the same common category and context errors as this reply, I believe the reader will be helped by what follows here. But it is quite interesting to note the fact that Mr. Sungenis is quite right. In fact, I spent an entire chapter in The Potter’s Freedom documenting what Mr. Sungenis here notes. Arminianism is, in fact, very much in harmony with Rome on matters of the nature of the will, God’s sovereignty, and the nature of grace. I even provided quotations from the Catholic Catechism that closely parallel, down to the choice of words, the assertions of Norman Geisler. This is surely nothing new to anyone who is Reformed and is aware of the historical and theological realities.
At this point Mr. Sungenis begins to provide a point-by-point response to my exegesis in The Potter’s Freedom. The reader is strongly urged to consider one main issue: who presents a contextually-based presentation, and who uses a “scatter-gun” approach? Whose conclusions flow from the text, and whose come from pre-existing commitments to external authorities? We believe the answer to that question is clear.
The Context: Unbelief
I wrote in The Potter’s Freedom (hereafter TPF):
The blessed Lord was quite blunt with His audience. He knew they did not possess real faith. “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (v. 36). They had seen Him with their eyes, but unless physical sight is joined with spiritual enlightenment, it profits nothing. Often the importance of this statement is overlooked. Verse 36 is a turning point in the chapter. Jesus now explains their unbelief. How is it that these men could stand before the very Son of God, the Word made flesh, and not believe? Anyone who does not take seriously the deadness of man in sin should contemplate this scene. The very Creator in human form stands before men who are schooled in the Scriptures and points to their unbelief. He then explains the why, and yet so few today will listen and believe.
Mr. Sungenis replied:
Robert Sungenis: I need to interject here that, by an appeal to the “deadness of man in sin,” Dr. White is priming his audience to one of Calvinism’s major premises – – the total depravity of man.
To which I reply: The phrase “dead in sin” is completely biblical (Eph. 2:1-4, Col. 2:13), and in point of fact, in the context of my book, I had already established the biblical testimony to the deadness of man in sin and total depravity (TPF chapter 4, see especially pp. 100f) through a discussion of such passages as Romans 8:7-8, John 12:39-40, 1 Cor. 2:14, John 8:34-48, etc. I was “priming” no one, but making reference to those who deny man’s deadness in sin.
This doctrine teaches that, after Adam sinned, man lost his free will.
Actually, it teaches that after Adam sinned, he and his followers have a corrupt nature which results in the enslavement of the will to a sinful nature. The will, of course, remains fully intact: it is simply enslaved to a corrupt and fallen nature, resulting in the clear biblical teaching on the inabilities of the natural man outside of Christ, outside of regeneration.
St. Augustine taught, and the Catholic Church has followed his teaching, that man was NOT totally depraved after the Fall. St. Augustine taught that, although estranged from God and marred in his nature, Adam retained a residual grace and thus an ability to respond to God’s call.
I refer the reader to the preceding references.
This is why passages such as 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4-16 and Acts 17:24-31 can say what they do about post-Adamic man’s continuing responsibility to answer the call of God.
Mr. Sungenis seems to believe that the general call of repentance and faith implies a capacity that either remains after the fall, or, is graciously given to all. No such capacity is even hinted at in the first two passages, and the third refers to the very same universal call Reformed people fully believe in and practice.
As opposed to Dr. White’s theology, not only does God issue the call to repentance, He expects man to respond by using the grace God has given him. If man does not respond, it means he has resisted the grace of God. St. Augustine used such passages as Zech 1:3; James 4:8; Luke 11:19; Jeremiah 3:22; 29:13 to prove this point, as did the Council of Trent.
As opposed to Rome’s theology, and Mr. Sungenis’ interpretation thereof, grace cannot be demanded; it is free, utterly free, and is given on the basis of God’s choice and will, nothing more. Repentance, too, is a gift, given by God to His elect people, along with faith, both as part of the work of regeneration.
Mr. Sungenis’ entire view of salvation, and Scripture, is anthropocentric (centered upon man). The Bible’s own view is theocentric (centered upon God). Man’s religions are invariably anthropocentric, always including at their very heart various rites and rituals (in Roman Catholicism, sacraments) designed to control God and His power, removing from Him His sovereign freedom and placing the ultimate power of salvation squarely in the hands of man. This is where biblical Christianity differs from the religions of men, including Roman Catholicism and all forms of “Protestantism” that likewise refuse to allow God to be free and man to be the fallen creature.
Mr. Sungenis continues:
The above facts are important, since it seems by everything Dr. White has written that he attributes the obstinance (sic) and unbelief of the Jews in John 6 to the fact that God has predestined them to unbelief and eternal damnation.
Correction: all men, outside of God’s gracious act of regeneration, are enemies of God, opposed to Him and to His purposes, rebels with a self-centered cause, one might say. The focus of the passage is not reprobation: the focus of the passage is upon the gracious predestination of Christ’s elect, which explains their positive faith. Unbelief is natural to the fallen man: faith is unnatural, and requires a supernatural explanation, which is what this passage provides.
However, if one looks at the context of the Gospel of John, indeed, the context of the whole Scripture in regards to the Jew’s obstinacy, it is due to their continued resistence (sic) to God’s grace and call. Passages such as Ezek. 18:21-32; 33:11; Matt 23:37, etc., show that God continually pleads with Israel to repent.
No one questions God’s call to repentance: the claim this means that man is not what this passage says he is (unable to come to Christ outside of supernatural enablement which is not given to all, but to those given to the Father by the Son only) is what is in dispute. See TPF pp. 136-139 on Matthew 23:37.
Unfortunately, it is theologies such as Calvinism which teach that God issues such pleadings but without giving all men the power to respond to those very pleadings.
I.e., God is free to give grace as He sees fit, not as man demands of Him. The freedom of God in dealing with the guilty and vile sinner (Calvinism) vs. the enslavement of God to the alleged powers of the creature who will decide if he/she will allow God to accomplish His purposes in salvation (man’s religions).
In fact, Calvinism teaches that God pleads with the non-predestined man only because God will eventually use his non-repentance as the evidence for his damnation in the future.
Actually, the basis of condemnation is the same for all: sin. The fact that man in his sin refuses to acknowledge his Creator is, of course, evidence of God’s justice in condemning him, but it is not the basis of that condemnation.
In other words, Calvinism makes God a liar. God pretends to plead with the majority of mankind, but He doesn’t really mean it; in fact, His pleadings are really condemnations in disguise.
Such rhetoric from a graduate of Westminster who admits he never believed what he was studying there anyway is fascinating, to say the least. But in reality, this kind of accusation is meant solely to inflame emotions, not actually communicate anything. It would be easy to respond with, “Catholicism makes God a liar because God says He accomplishes all His will, yet Rome says otherwise,” but is it not far better to simply demonstrate the errors of Rome and allow the reader to decide such things? I surely think so.
Calvinism says that God’s call to repentance goes forth for two reasons: it is used in grace as an instrument in His hands in the effectual salvation of God’s people, and for those who are righteously judged for their sin and rebellion (which would include all, outside of grace), the call demonstrates the truth of Paul’s words, “they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The assumption that causes Mr. Sungenis to use terms like “liar” is that he can somehow see God’s purposes in that general call in each person’s life, which obviously he cannot.
John 6:37: Initial Exegesis
I wrote in TPF:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” These are the first words to come from the Lord in explanation of man’s unbelief. We dare not engage in hopscotch across this text and ignore the very order of teaching He provides. The first assertion is one of complete divine sovereignty. Every word speaks volumes.
“All that the Father gives Me.” The Father gives someone to Christ. The elect are viewed as a single whole, [footnote: The neuter form pa’n is used when the entire group is in view; when each individual person comes into view with reference to their response of faith the masculine participle ejrcovmeno” is used, showing the personal element of faith.] given by the Father to the Son. [footnote: Two tenses are used by the Lord in this passage: here the present tense is used, “all the Father gives (divdwsin) Me….” In verse 39, however, the perfect tense is used, “all that He has given (devdwken) Me….” ] The Father has the right to give a people to the Son. He is the sovereign King, and this is a divine transaction.
All that are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son. Not some, not most, but all.
All those given by the Father to the Son will come to the Son. It is vital to see the truth that is communicated by this phrase: the giving by the Father to the Son precedes and determines the coming of the person to Christ. The action of giving by the Father comes before the action of coming to Christ by the individual.
To which Mr. Sungenis replied:
Robert Sungenis: Funny as it may seem, there is little with which I disagree here. However, as you read on, it is the Calvinistic doctrine of absolute predestination, which Dr. White tries to assign to these verses that creates the exegetical problem.
But in reality, it is just this section that Mr. Sungenis must disagree with if he is to be at all consistent. The heart of the passage is here laid out: the existence of an elect people; the giving by the Father to the Son resulting in the coming of the elect to Christ; the use of the masculine participle showing the personal faith that results from the work of grace in the heart; the initial discussion of the present and perfect tense uses of “give”; and the perfection of the work of God in that all who are given come to Christ. The words are plain, as is the meaning. I continued in TPF:
And since all of those so given infallibly come, we have here both unconditional election as well as irresistible grace, and that in the space of nine words! It becomes an obvious exercise in eisegesis to say, “Well, what the Lord really means is that all that the Father has seen will believe in Christ will come to Christ.” That is a meaningless statement. Since the action of coming is dependent upon the action of giving, we can see that it is simply not exegetically possible to say that we cannot determine the relationship between the two actions. God’s giving results in man’s coming. Salvation is of the Lord.
To which Mr. Sungenis replies:
I would agree with Dr. White that we cannot say that “we cannot determine the relationship between the two actions,” but whether Dr. White’s “determination” is the correct one is something that he can’t prove.
There is no question, truly, concerning the relationship of the giving of the Father and the coming of the elect. Of course, all of man’s religions, that refuse to give to God the authority to freely bestow His grace as He sees fit, must find some way to reverse this order, for if it is the giving of the Father that determines the coming of any human, then salvation is theocentric, all to His glory, and is not under the control of man. As to being able to prove that the giving precedes the coming, that is not even disputable. No argument can be presented that can overthrow the simple grammar of the verse: those given, come. Period.
Although we can agree that those whom the Father gives will come to Jesus, there is simply nothing in the passage that says their coming was based on an “unconditional election,” nor that, once they come to Jesus, they will remain there “irresistibly” without any chance of falling away.
As we will see, Mr. Sungenis bases the identity of those given upon their “free will” act of coming; this reverses the text, and makes the giving of the Father conditional upon human action (standard Arminianism makes the same mistake). Hence, the “condition” he adds is human action (faith), which this passage says is actually the result of the election, not the means. Therefore, unless he wishes to suggest some other “condition,” the election is, in fact, unconditional and free. Secondly, it seems Mr. Sungenis is confused regarding the term “irresistible grace.” The phrase refers to God’s gracious act of regenerating a dead sinner and granting new life. It is not a term referring to the truth that Christ does not lose any of those given to Him. That truth is plainly and without question referred to in 6:38-39.
Those two thoughts are put there by Dr. White, but they are not in the text. If read carefully, the text says only that those who come to Jesus were given to Him by the Father.
Correction: it says much more. It says ALL who are given to the Son by the Father will come to the Father, and every one who comes is never cast out. The priority of the Father’s giving to the coming of the one given introduces election and sovereignty; the “all” introduces election and irresistible grace; the promise of the Son never to cast out any who come to Him introduces the security of the elect in Christ, which is then expanded upon in 6:38-39 where the reason for His never casting anyone out is fully explained in light of the Father’s will. So, nothing has been inserted into the text at all.
There should be no argument here, since the alternative is to say that the people themselves, without the Father’s power, brought themselves to Jesus. Catholic theology has never taught such a thing.
Note that by not dealing with the appearance of “all” in the text, Mr. Sungenis is able to avoid the actual force of Jesus’ words. Surely it is a different thing to say “Some general folks the Father gives the Son will come to the Son” than “ALL that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” The one involves the necessity of the effectiveness of the drawing of the Father to the Son, the other does not. One leaves room for synergism (as in Roman Catholicism), the other does not.
Also, the passage says that, once they come, Jesus will not cast them out. It doesn’t say that the people cannot take themselves out of Jesus. Dr. White is simply reading into the verse what his theology has dictated to him.
In reality, of course, the reader can see this is untrue. Verses 38-39 will explain that the one who is given by the Father to the Son is the same one the Son will raise up on the last day in perfect harmony with the Father’s will for Him. To posit the idea that the object of the combined love of the Father, Son, and Spirit can be lost by the exercise of man’s almighty will is to say that the Son can fail to do the will of the Father, the very thing the text precludes. The only way to read these words and not see the perfection of Christ’s work and the resulting security of the believer is to reject the theocentricity of the text, and adopt, a-priori, a man-centered standard that then allows you to ignore those elements of the text that indicate otherwise.
I had written in TPF:
But note as well that it is to the Son that they come. They do not come to a religious system. They are coming to Christ. This is a personal relationship, personal faith, and, given that the ones who come are described throughout the passage by the present tense participle, it is not just a coming that happens once. This is an on-going faith, an on-going looking to Christ as the source of spiritual life. The men to whom the Lord was speaking had “come” to Him for a season: they would soon walk away and follow Him no more. The true believer is coming to Christ, always. This is the nature of saving faith.
Again, Dr. White is reading more into the verse than what is there. I don’t desire to make a big issue of the Greek present tense participle, but I should add that Dr. White’s interpretation of it is conveniently applied to his Calvinistic theology, which teaches that once a person starts on the road to faith he will never lose his faith and he will inevitably reach heaven.
Mr. Sungenis has completely missed the point. Yes, saving faith is on-going, as I said: but the reason for the security of the believer is not based upon the actions of the believer, but upon the faithfulness of Christ the Savior. I am not, in the above cited words, addressing what Mr. Sungenis assumes. I am, however, pointing out something that is well known to students of John’s gospel: he regularly describes saving faith through the use of present tense participles and verbs (especially the use of the present tense substantival participle “the one believing,” oJ pisteuvwn), while describing surface-level, fleeting faith through the use of the aorist. My application in the above words is direct and simple: saving faith is not a one-time, surface level thing, but is an on-going faith that keeps looking, keeps believing, keeps trusting. Again, the only way such words can make sense is within the context of a theocentric reading of the text: they are meaningless within the context of Rome’s man-centeredness.
That application is not provable from the text. The present participle is merely telling us that the one who comes to Jesus will not be stopped from coming. In other words, if one attempts to come to Jesus, Jesus will not pull the rug out from under him and say, “Sorry, I changed my mind, I don’t really want you to come after all,” like the Greek and Roman gods used to do. Jesus is faithful. The question is whether we will be faithful to Him. That is why 2 Timothy 2:12 says: “If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
There is one problem in the above paragraph: coming and believing are parallel phrases in John chapter six and elsewhere. “The one coming” is “the one believing.” Is Mr. Sungenis consistent in his assertion? Would he say that in verse 40 the only meaning to the substantival participle “the one believing” is that it is “merely telling us that the one who believes in Jesus will not be stopped from believing”? Such is obviously not the meaning of the text at all. I wrote in TPF:
“And the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.” The true believer, the one “coming” to the Son, has this promise of the Lord: using the strongest form of denial possible, [footnote: Here the aorist subjunctive of strong denial, ouj mh; ejkbavlw e[xw, “I will never cast out.” The idea is the emphatic denial of the possibility of a future event.]
Mr. Sungenis replied:
So far so good. There is definitely a strong denial here. I have already said above that Jesus is faithful. He will not pull the rug out from anyone. But watch what Dr. White makes of this “strong denial.”
The reader should note again the difference between viewing salvation as the work of God, where it is Christ who actually saves His people (Matthew 1:21) and viewing it as the cooperative effort of man and God where Christ makes salvation possible but does not actually save. There is simply no basis in a synergistic, man-centered religion for a belief in the security of the believer, since there is no foundation capable of sustaining the doctrine. In other words, without a Savior capable of saving, you can’t have security! At this point I had then concluded, “Jesus affirms the eternal security of the believer.” Sungenis responds:
Again, Dr. White has read into the verse a precept from his Calvinistic theology. The verse doesn’t mention anything about whether the believer will be eternally secure from losing his salvation (which is what Dr. White means by “eternal security”). It only says that Jesus will not cast him out if he comes to Jesus. The verse teaches that Jesus is faithful, not that the believer need never worry that he could make himself fall from Jesus. I can’t impress this upon the reader enough. Dr. White’s interpretation is a classic example of reading a passage with one’s own colored glasses.
Let’s remember a few things. First, it is very easy to dismiss what someone else says as merely their own projection of their pre-existing beliefs onto the text. It takes a positive demonstration of the assertion to make it meaningful. Second, if salvation is a solely divine work then the accusation of eisegesis made here collapses. John 6:37a speaks of the Father’s giving of a people to the Son—it does not mention man’s “free will” as determining that divine act. In other words, the action of giving is fully divine. Then immediately after this statement of the Lord we find the direct assertion of the Father’s will for the Son in saving all those who are so given, and again the actions are entirely divine, not human. So, given that this phrase sits between two clearly theocentric assertions concerning salvation, who, in fact, is separating it from its context and reading into it a meaning that is not there in the original text? You see, to deny the ability of Christ to save perfectly any and all who are entrusted to Him by the Father is to make a positive assertion: and upon what basis does Mr. Sungenis ground his claim that Christ is unable to save outside of human cooperation? Surely nothing in this text. He must go elsewhere to attempt to make that claim.
So when Mr. Sungenis says I’m reading the text with “colored glasses,” this is about the only positive evidence offered for the insertion, on his part, of a completely foreign concept into the text at hand: the idea that Jesus can attempt to save a person, and fail at it due to that person’s choice. And is this not just the over-riding assumption of free-will that I identified in my previous article? Of course it is. Hence, Mr. Sungenis is engaging in circular argumentation, assuming the conclusion of his argument before he has in fact proven his argument. That assumption, I believe, comes from his highest authority (Rome), not from the text of Scripture. So, the “colored glasses” are firmly planted not on my exegetical eyes, but upon his, placed there by the authority of the Pope in Rome. This is borne out by what comes next. I had written, “Jesus is the one who gives life and raises His own up at the last day. He promises that there is no possibility whatsoever that any one who is coming to Him in true faith could ever find Him unwilling to save.” Sungenis replies,
No problem here, for this is precisely what I am contending. Jesus, because He is faithful, will never be unwilling to save those who come to Him. But I hasten to add that this present statement by Dr. White is not the same as his previous statement concerning “eternal security.”
I truly hope the reader can see the issue: for Robert Sungenis and the Roman Church, Jesus is more than willing to save, but is incapable of doing so outside of the cooperation of those He is trying to save. So Christ’s willingness does not, in Rome’s system, translate into the accomplished fact of salvation. The text, however, says just the opposite: Christ’s willingness results in the perfection of the work because Christ is a perfect Savior who is able to save!
I continued in TPF:
But this tremendous promise is the second half of a sentence. It is based upon the truth that was first proclaimed. This promise is to those who are given by the Father to the Son and to no one else. Of course, we will see in verse 44 that no one but those who are so given will be coming to Christ in faith anyway: but there are surely those who, like many in that audience in Capernaum, are willing to follow for a while, willing to believe for a season. This promise is not theirs.
Dr. White implies that he has made an important statement above, but there is nothing of real significance here.
The only way I can translate this statement is, “It is not significant to note that the promise of Christ not to cast out any who come to Him is based upon the divine sovereignty of the Father in entrusting His people to the Son, and that despite the fact that Jesus then spent the next two verses explaining that very relationship, so that He obviously felt that it was most important to do so.”
Of course, those who are not given to Jesus by the Father do not have the promise that Jesus will not cast them out. The reason they don’t have that promise is because they have never come to Jesus. According to the verse’s premise, you can’t have the promise that Jesus will not cast you out unless you come to Jesus. In logic, the condition of the category must be fulfilled in order for the category to enact its stipulations. In effect, Dr. White is making an issue of a non-issue.
Please note that Mr. Sungenis forgot that the only ones who come to the Son are those given to Him by the Father, hence the connection I described above. I continued and brought out the theocentricity of the passage in these words:
The promise to the elect, however, could not be more precious. Since Christ is able to save perfectly (He is not dependent upon man’s will, man’s cooperation), His promise means the elect cannot ever be lost.
To which Sungenis replied:
Again, Dr. White keeps adding things to the passage that the passage does not address. Where does the passage mention, let alone deny, “man’s will, man’s cooperation”??
One is hard pressed to respond to such a question. When the passage presents the Father’s divine gift to the Son and preceding and determining the very identity of every single one who, as a result of being given, come to the Son, and then goes on to reveal the Father’s will for the Son to save every single one of those given by the Father to the Son, the issue is not “where does the passage deny” synergism, the issue is, how in the world could anyone read synergism into the passage as Mr. Sungenis does at every turn?
Where does the passage conclude that those who come can never be lost??
It does so by stating that 1) all who are given come, and 2) the Son raises up all those who are given to Him in perfection (i.e., He loses none). This is simple contextual reading.
Those thoughts are simply not there. Granted, “Christ is able to save perfectly,” because He is God and does everything perfectly. Would we want a savior who is imperfect? Of course not. But how does Dr. White get from Christ’s perfection to the conclusion that Christ does not anticipate “man’s will, man’s cooperation.”
Does not anticipate? Is this stated in the context of accusing me of eisegetical insertions into the text? If Christ saves perfectly, Mr. Sungenis, are you seriously suggesting that He only saves perfectly those who enable Him to do so? The text ostensibly under consideration says that Christ saves perfectly those that the Father gives Him, and that those who come to Him are, in fact, those that are given by the Father (remember, this whole section is about why those who see Jesus do not believe while the Apostles, as we will see by the end of the discourse, do).
I had written in TPF:
Since He will not cast out, and there is no power greater than His own, the one who comes to Christ will find Him an all-sufficient and perfect Savior. This is the only basis of “eternal security” or the perseverance of the saints: they look to a perfect Savior who is able to save. It is Christ’s ability to save that means the redeemed cannot be lost. If it were, in fact, a synergistic relationship, there could never be any ground for absolute confidence and security.
Without restating the obvious, you can again see how Dr. White has confused Christ’s perfection and all-sufficiency with “eternal security.”
The contrast of theocentric and anthropocentric systems is now clear: if Christ is a perfect Savior then He is able to accomplish salvation in the Scriptural view. But in Rome’s view, Christ has a lesser task: making salvation possiblebut not actually accomplishing it. Hence, from Rome’s view, Christ can be a perfect Savior by making men savable, while as we will see in this text of Scripture, the reality is that Christ is a perfect Savior because He actually savesthose who are given to Him.
Moreover, we can easily turn the tables here and say that, in being perfect, Christ has an obligation to reject those who, once having come to Him, become faithless and remain so. If He didn’t reject them, then he wouldn’t be true to Himself, as 2 Timothy 2:12-13 tells us so clearly.
Note that in Mr. Sungenis’ view, faith is not the work of Christ either: that is, faith that truly brings a person to Christ can in essence “go bad” (the truth is many come not to Christ but to religion on the basis of a non-saving “faith” in something other than the Savior), resulting in the above scenario. However, are we not told that Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)? The divine nature of saving faith is here denied by Mr. Sungenis. The person who has been drawn by the Father to the Son (John 6:44-45) hears and learns from God and does not deny Christ, hence 2 Timothy 2:12-13 is not making reference to such a person. Keep these statements by Mr. Sungenis in mind as we come to the discussion of 6:38-39 and the will of the Father for the Son. I had addressed this tremendous passage in TPF in these words:
Many stop at verse 37 and miss the tremendous revelation we are privileged to receive in the following verses. Why will Christ never cast out those who come to Him? Verse 38 begins with a connective that indicates a continuation of the thought: verses 38 and 39 explain verse 37. Christ keeps all those who come to Him for He is fulfilling the will of the Father. “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” The divine Messiah always does the will of the Father. The preceding chapter in John’s Gospel had made this very clear. There is perfect harmony between the work of the Father and the Son.
And what is the will of the Father for the Son? In simple terms, it is the Father’s will that the Son save perfectly. “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.” It is vital to remember that this continues the explanation of why He does not cast out the one coming to Him. We must see this for some might be tempted to say that the Father has entrusted all things into the hands of the Son, and that this passage is saying nothing more than the Son will act properly in regards to what the Father has given Him. But the context is clear: v. 37 speaks of the Father “giving” the elect to the Son, and v. 39 continues the same thought. Those who are given infallibly come to the Son in v. 37, and it is these same ones, the elect, [footnote: Jesus uses the neuter pa’n again to refer to the elect as an entire group, though the fact that this group is made up of individuals is seen in their being raised to life and in their individually coming to Him.] who are raised up at the last day.
Notice how Dr. White inserts the word “elect” into John 6:37, but the verse does not mention the word elect. It only says, “ALL that the Father gives to me…” The neuter of pa’n does not mean anything crucial here, since most pa’ns in Greek are neuter, unless a masculine or feminine referent is in view.
Two obvious replies: 1) the term “elect” is thoroughly biblical (Romans 8:33, 11:7, 2 Timothy 2:10). Of course it is not used in John 6:37-39, but one must seriously ask Mr. Sungenis who, then, is being referred to if, in fact, the people given by the Father to the Son in John 6:37-39 are not the same body in view in Romans 8:33 or 2 Timothy 2:10? Did Paul endure “all things” so that someone other than those given by the Father to the Son would obtain salvation in Christ Jesus? Of course not. So the term is not being “inserted.” The term is used in Scripture of this very group, so why not use it here? 2) The Greek term pa”/pasa/pan is 3-1-3 adjective declinable in all three genders: every instance of pan is, of course neuter: pan is never masculine or feminine, for obvious reasons. So, Mr. Sungenis is simply wrong to say “most pans in Greek are neuter.” All uses of pan in Greek are neuter. His statement would be as erroneous as saying “most uses of tauth” in Greek are feminine.” No, all uses of tauth” in Greek are feminine. That’s just basic knowledge. Secondly, since it seems Mr. Sungenis is not familiar with the declension and forms of pa”/pasa/pan, he has missed the point, a point noted in most critical commentaries on the passage. Pan is a neuter singular. Yet, it is being used of the people the Father gives the Son. Generally, one would use a masculine plural to refer to a group, or at least a masculine singular when emphasizing the “singularity” of the group (similar to using the singular word “crowd” though there is a composite unity inherent in the term: a crowd is a singular entity made up of a plurality of individuals). Yet, as I pointed out, when speaking of the elect of God as a singular whole, Jesus uses the neuter singular. The object of God’s elective decree is a distinct and definite people, entrusted to Christ for full salvation. Then, when the Lord speaks of the individual who, upon being drawn and enabled of the Father, comes infallibly to Christ, the masculine singular is used (6:40). Mr. Sungenis may not think this relevant because he is unfamiliar with the discussion of the text and the forms found therein, but it is relevant to any meaningful exegesis.
Mr. Sungenis then added:
Incidentally, with regard to inserting the word “elect,” Calvinists do the same thing with 1 Timothy 2:4. The verse says, “God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” John Calvin and his followers say that the only way this verse can be understood is to read it as: “God desires all the elect to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Likewise, they will say of 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the elect of the whole world.” But neither verse is saying what the Calvinist wants it to say.
A couple of quick points: the actual interpretation offered by Reformed writers regarding 1 Timothy 2:4 is that “all men” means “all kinds of men.” I discussed this in TPF, pp. 139-145 (and 1 John 2:2 in TPF pp. 274-277). But just to show that Calvin’s interpretation was hardly anything new, I offer the following words from Augustine, Chapter 103 of the Enchiridion:
Accordingly, when we hear and read in Scripture that He “will have all men to be saved,” although we know well that all men are not saved, we are not on that account to restrict the omnipotence of God, but are rather to understand the Scripture, “Who will have all men to be saved,” as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his salvation: not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved apart from His will; and that, therefore, we should pray Him to will our salvation, because if He will it, it must necessarily be accomplished. And it was of prayer to God that the apostle was speaking when he used this expression. And on the same principle we interpret the expression in the Gospel: “The true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world:” not that there is no man who is not enlightened, but that no man is enlightened except by Him. Or, it is said, “Who will have all men to be saved;” not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will (for how, then, explain the fact that He was unwilling to work miracles in the presence of some who, He said, would have repented if He had worked them?), but that we are to understand by “all men,” the human race in all its varieties of rank and circumstances, – kings, subjects; noble, plebeian, high, low, learned, and unlearned; the sound in body, the feeble, the clever, the dull, the foolish, the rich, the poor, and those of middling circumstances; males, females, infants, boys, youths; young, middle-aged, and old men; of every tongue, of every fashion, of all arts, of all professions, with all the innumerable differences of will and conscience, and whatever else there is that makes a distinction among men. For which of all these classes is there out of which God does not will that men should be saved in all nations through His only-begotten Son, our Lord, and therefore does save them; for the Omnipotent cannot will in vain, whatsoever He may will? Now the apostle had enjoined that prayers should be made for all men, and had especially added, “For kings, and for all that are in authority,” who might be supposed, in the pride and pomp of worldly station, to shrink from the humility of the Christian faith. Then saying, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,” that is, that prayers should be made for such as these, he immediately adds, as if to remove any ground of despair, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” God, then, in His great condescension has judged it good to grant to the prayers of the humble the salvation of the exalted; and assuredly we have many examples of this. Our Lord, too, makes use of the same mode of speech in the Gospel, when He says to the Pharisees: “Ye tithe mint, and rue, and every herb.” For the Pharisees did not tithe what belonged to others, nor all the herbs of all the inhabitants of other lands. As, then, in this place we must understand by “every herb,” every kind of herbs, so in the former passage we may understand by “all men,” every sort of men. And we may interpret it in any other way we please, so long as we are not compelled to believe that the omnipotent God has willed anything to be done which was not done: for setting aside all ambiguities, if “He hath done all that He pleased in heaven and in earth,” as the psalmist sings of Him, He certainly did not will to do anything that He hath not done.
It surely seems Augustine held to the view that “all men” in this passage is contextually defined as all kinds of men long before Calvin did. If viewing the passage in this way indicates a Protestant predisposition, does it follow that Augustine was a Protestant? Be that as it may, I continued in TPF by stating, “Resurrection is the work of Christ, and in this passage, is paralleled with the giving of eternal life (see v. 40). Christ gives eternal life to all those who are given to Him and who, as a result, come to Him.” Mr. Sungenis replies:
I can’t help but notice that Dr. White has skipped over the details of verse 40.
Please note: Anyone who reads the chapter in TPF knows that I did no such thing: what Mr. Sungenis is responding to here is my discussion of 6:38-39. The last time I checked, verse 40 still comes after 38 and 39! Secondly, I dealt with verse 40 in the specific comments I offered in the article Mr. Sungenis is responding to. To say I “skipped over” anything in light of the facts to the contrary either shows that Mr. Sungenis began responding without reading the entirety of the article first, or he is simply misled.
The verse says, “this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one who perceives the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life…” In Greek, “perceives” (or “see”) and “believes” are in the Greek active voice, which means that the individual is doing the perceiving and the believing. If the perceiving and believing were irresistibly forced upon them by God, and it was Jesus’ purpose to emphasize such passivity, then we would expect the Greek passive voice.
Again, it is hard to know how to respond to this kind of assertion, as it 1) shows such an incredible lack of understanding of the Reformed position it seeks to critique, and 2) is based upon another errant conclusion based upon the original language. First, the Reformed position that Mr. Sungenis was exposed to at Westminster Seminary says that man actively believes in Christ. It is the function of the regenerated spirit, made in the image of Christ, to trust in Christ, cling to Christ, hold to Christ, look to Christ. I would challenge Mr. Sungenis to find anything in Reformed theology that says otherwise. Someone just wasn’t listening during Systematic Theology class!
Next, Mr. Sungenis is perfectly correct in identifying the voice of the terms in the passage, but he misses the truly significant point: these are not finite verbs, but substantival participles. Literally the text says that every “seeing one” and “believing one.” John often uses the present participle as a substantive, especially oJ pisteuvwn, “the one believing,” and that in contrast to those who do not have abiding and saving faith. To take the simple appearance of the active, ignore the fact that it is found in a participial form, and then apply this to a straw-man misrepresentation of the Reformed position, provides us with a glaring example of poor argumentation. There is nothing in either the Reformed position, and much less the grammar and syntax of substantival participles in the Gospel of John, that would begin to explain why Mr. Sungenis wrote what he wrote above. Is he seriously suggesting that Jesus would have to have used a present passive participle to describe the result of God’s work of regeneration in the heart of His elect? “The one being believed” makes no sense, of course: John never puts “believe” in the passive participial form. Since Mr. Sungenis insists that this is what John would have to do, could we ask him to provide us with a translation of the text as he insists it would have to be? Just how would Mr. Sungenis change the active voice present participle into a passive, and how would he then translate it? To insist that John would have to use a passive voice for the truth of God’s work of regeneration to be true is utterly and completely vacuous. Mr. Sungenis continued,
Also, note that the verse does not say that the “will” of the Father is directed to making the individual perceive and believe, but only to raising them up on the last day.
Again one is hard pressed to know how to reply to such a statement. Obviously, the ones Jesus raises up at the last day do perceive and believe: hence, if the Father’s will for the Son is that He raise them up at the last day, and they mustperceive and believe, how can the Son be held accountable for the end of the process and not the means? That would be like saying to the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, “We are holding you accountable to win the championship, however, that has nothing to do with winning any games before then.” One does not attain the end (the championship) without the means (winning games). All those raised up on the last day looked and believed on Christ: if Jesus alone is held accountable for the resurrection of the people of God to eternal life at the last day, as 6:38-39 teaches, then it follows with absolute and undeniable inevitability that He must be able to fulfill the Father’s command. This means He must be able to raise dead sinners to new life, and that is exactly what He does!
In fact, there is no verse in John 6; or the entire gospel of John; or the entire New Testament, that says God irresistibly forces belief upon the individual. Conversely, if Dr. White can find just one, then he wins this argument.
Given that Mr. Sungenis’ assertions have been shown to be uniformly a-contextual, it would seem the “argument” is already over. Of course, we must again refute the false use of the term “force,” as resurrection is not “forced” on dead men. Jesus did not “force” Lazarus from the tomb: He gave Him life, and Lazarus responded the only way a resurrected man can: by coming forth. In the same way when the Spirit of God brings new life to the dead sinner, the resultant “new creation” believes and looks to Jesus naturally. The testimony to divine and free sovereignty in regeneration is extensive in Scripture. See TPF chapters twelve and thirteen for a full accounting and defense of this glorious truth. I continued in my initial exegesis of the passage, “We must ask the Arminian who promotes the idea that a truly saved person can be lost: does this not mean that Christ can fail to do the will of the Father?” Mr. Sungenis is quick to defend the idea that one of Christ’s sheep can, in fact, by exercise of “free will,” be lost:
Notice how Dr. White has to qualify his language before he goes on to form an argument against the Arminian. He qualifies his words by referring to “a TRULY saved person.” Where does John 6 talk about “truly” saved people?
The amazing thing here is that John six is all about the very thing Mr. Sungenis here misses: remember, John calls those who follow Jesus to Capernaum “disciples” (6:60-66) who then leave Jesus. These surface level followers are then contrasted with the true followers who are drawn to Christ by the Father. So the entire context screams the very issue Mr. Sungenis says is not there! Further, Reformed theology has always differentiated between surface level followers (such as those seen in John 8:30 who, in only a matter of moments, go from believing in Christ to seeking to stone Him) and those who are the true objects of God’s work of redemption. Jesus’ parable of the soils likewise brings out this very fact, a fact that seemingly Mr. Sungenis denies.
What Dr. White wishes to promote is precisely what his Calvinistic theology dictates, that is, there are two kinds of people in the Church; those who are truly saved and those who only appear to be saved. To him, the TRULY saved are those who have been justified, once for all, and cannot lose their salvation. Without this doctrine, Calvinism falls completely apart.
Reformed theology is founded upon exegesis: it is the text that determines what we are to believe, not an external authority. Yes, the visible Church has believing and unbelieving people within its ranks, those who have experienced true regeneration by the grace of God and those who have not. Of this there is no doubt. But we have to ask again, what does this have to do with the text at hand?
In order to account for those who fall away from the faith, the only solution a Calvinist has is to say that they were never saved originally.
As Jesus Himself taught, not only here (those “disciples” who walk away were plainly not drawn by the Father to the Son, and hence were not given by the Father to the Son in the first place) but in the parable of the soils, as in Luke 8:13: “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” Note how these “receive the word with joy,” but, since there is something missing regarding their nature, they “believe for a while” but fall away.
As John Calvin tried to do, his followers invariably point to one passage of Scripture, 1 John 2:19, to back up their claim. For a thorough critique of their use of 1 John 2:19, I refer the reader to pp. 261-265 of Not By Faith Alone. There you will find that although 1 John 2:19 can indeed refer to people who were never Christians originally, this only applies to SOME people, not to all people. Calvinists try to make 1 John 2:19 an absolute teaching that applies to everyone, but that simply is not the case.
Mr. Sungenis is perfectly correct in saying that the immediate application of 1 John 2:19, in John’s epistle, is to the antichrists who went out from amongst the people. And in his book he admits that “some will leave the church who were never sincere believers originally” (p. 264). So the question is, does the Bible teach us that true saving faith is the gift of God given to God’s elect, so that those whose faith does not endure do, by their leaving the faith, show that they had no “root within themselves” (Matthew 13:6)? This is the issue. And moving the focus back to the passage, so far Mr. Sungenis has not addressed the actual topic at hand: the Father’s will for the Son is that He lose none who are given to Him.
In context, John is speaking about the antichrists who come into the church by stealth to upset the faith of Christians. If those antichrists leave the church, John assures the Christians that they were never Christian in the first place, as does Jesus in Matthew 7:21 when speaking about the Pharisees. But that 1 John 2:19 does not apply to everyone is made very clear not only by the context of 1 John 2, but by the overwhelming amount of passages in the New Testament which teach that a Christian can fall from the faith he once possessed. For lack of space, I refer you to the book of Hebrews 2:1; 3:1,6, 12, 14; 4:1, 11-14; 6:4-6, 11-12; 10:26-27, 35-38; 12:1,3, 14-17, 25-29. For a more thorough study of this, I refer you to pp. 275-293 of Not By Faith Alone.
I can only assume, then, that Mr. Sungenis has no meaningful reply to the question I asked above and instead needs to leave the context of John 6:38-39 to substantiate his assertion of the imperfection of the work of Christ in saving His elect people (the doctrine of insecurity, I have often said). But how does any of this relate to the simple facts we have seen thus far, those being that 1) The Father has given a distinct people to the Son; 2) all thus given as a result come to the Son; 3) the Son will not cast out any of those coming to Him; 4) the Father’s will for the Son is that of all that the Father has given Him, He lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. The question then remains for every person who believes that it is possible to be a true Christian, united to Christ, one of His sheep: if such a person is lost, does it not follow that Christ has failed to do the will of the Father? Wrapped up in this question is the simple fact that this passage defies any and all attempts at forcing it into an anthropocentric model. It is theocentric to its core: 6:38-39 makes no sense whatsoever unless it is understood from the start that Christ is able to save without the synergistic “enablement” of the elect coming into play. Otherwise, you are left with the Father expressing a will for the Son that He cannot possibly fulfill. Mr. Sungenis’ response completely misses this basic fact. As I had said in TPF: “If the will of the Father for the Son is that He lose none of those that are given to Him, does it not follow inexorably that Christ is able to accomplish the Father’s will?” Mr. Sungenis attempts to reply:
Again, it is obvious that Dr. White has misconstrued what the Father’s will is. The Father’s will is that everyone who perceives and believes will have everlasting life and be raised up at the last day, but Dr. White is assuming that those who once believed can never stop believing. If they stop believing, then obviously, according to verse 40, it can no longer be the Father’s will that they attain eternal life. Thus, we have answered the passage for what it states.
It is Mr. Sungenis who is missing the Father’s will by ignoring 38-39 and making 40 his key interpretive passage, removing it from its native context, and forcing it to function in a way that is utterly eisegetical in nature. Verse 38 says that the Son has come to do the Father’s will; verse 39 expresses the Father’s will for the Son, that being that the Son not lose any that are given to Him. Verse 40 then expresses the Father’s will for those who are given to the Son, that being that they look and believe upon Christ. Because Mr. Sungenis, and the Roman Catholic system, is dedicated to the defense of human autonomy and the resultant concept of synergism, the text is stood on its head, the natural flow of thought that would, of course, be from 38 to 39 to 40, is reversed, so that the contextual meaning of verse 40, which surely, in light of the preceding three verses, and what follows (6:44-45, 6:65, etc.), could not possibly be taken as an assertion of human autonomy or “free will,” is replaced with an eisegetical interpretation designed to support the synergistic viewpoint. Mr. Sungenis says he has answered the passage for what it states, but in fact, nowhere does he actually offer a contextually-based exegesis of the passage. Instead, we are only told what the passage isn’t saying, not what it is.
Dr. White is also presuming, but cannot prove, that the “will” of the Father is such that it predetermines someone’s belief, and that in such belief the individual will keep on believing indefinitely, without the possibility of disbelieving in the future.
Actually, the text is unambiguous despite Mr. Sungenis’ unwillingness to hear it: the will of the Father for the Son is expressed in 6:39. This revelation is given as an explanation of the statement of 6:37. The Son will not cast out any who are given to Him by the Father. All that the Father gives Him will come, infallibly, in faith to Him. There is no question whatsoever that the one coming to Christ does so in faith. Since all who are given come in faith, it is an obvious fact that then that faith results from being given: that is, there is none who is given who does not, upon the experience of regeneration, experience true, saving faith in Christ. Hence, the text does tell us that it is a divine act that brings about the salvation of the elect, it is a divine act that causes a person to come in faith to Christ, and hence the expression of the Father’s will for the Son in saving all those thus given does speak directly to the necessary natureof saving faith (borne out by the Bible’s teaching concerning the subject elsewhere).
This is why, as I pointed out above, that Calvinists such as Dr. White will insert the word “elect” into 1 Timothy 2:4, since they are working from the premise that God’s will to save “all” cannot be thwarted. The only way they can maintain this premise is by saying that Paul’s “all” can refer only to the “elect.” If not, then their whole theology crumbles.
And as I pointed out, and as Mr. Sungenis should know, the consistent Reformed (and contextually accurate) assertion regarding that passage is that it refers to all kinds of men (as in Revelation 5:9-10), not merely to “the elect.”
As I said before, I would suggest that the reader consult such passages as Ezekiel 18:21-29 and 33:11 where God pleads with the wicked to repent and declares that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Does that sound like God’s will cannot be thwarted? If not, then I think you would have to conclude that God pleads with crocodile tears. I think it should also be pointed out that a position like Dr. White’s would have to say that, contrary to Ezek 33:11, God DOES have pleasure in the death of the wicked, because by their death, God’s will, which did not predestine them to salvation, is satisfied. If, in that respect, God’s will is satisfied, then He must have pleasure in it.
The reader will, it is truly hoped, see the direct parallel between this kind of rhetoric and that offered by the general Arminianism of Protestant evangelicalism. And it should speak to all that rather than dealing with the plain words of Jesus regarding the specific subject of His salvation of His own people, Mr. Sungenis is reduced to quoting passages from the Old Testament in a foreign context, assuming a particular meaning, and then attempting to use that to blunt the force of the clear didactic teaching of the Lord. I continued in TPF:
And does this not force us to believe that the Son is able to save without introducing the will of man as the final authority in the matter? Can any synergist (one who teaches, as Dr. Geisler does, that God’s grace works “synergistically” and that man’s free will is a vitally important part of the salvation process, and that no man is saved unless that man wills it) believe these words? Can one who says that God tries to save as many as “possible” but cannot save any man without that man’s cooperation fully believe what this verse teaches?
We have seen that John 6 does not make a contest between Free Will and Election, but such a contest Dr. White invariably sees in almost every verse.
Actually, of course, my point is that there is no contest at all: there is no such thing as creaturely autonomy in the semi-Pelagian idea. Man is dead in sin, incapable of seeking God, the enemy of God, unable to come to Christ outside of the effective work of drawing on the part of the Father (John 6:44). No person reading the text in its native context, as those in the synagogue that day long ago in Capernaum would have heard the words as they were spoken, would for a moment think of such ideas as “free will” or “synergism.” In fact, it was the strong proclamation of the sovereignty of God in drawing men to Christ, and the fact that He alone is the source of true spiritual nourishment, that offended them so!
This is the problem with Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture: passages which seem to support their doctrines are invariably set on the highest plateau, and those verses which give an opposite view are subsumed. In the end, the subsuming of the verses they don’t like shows that they have misunderstood the verses they wish to put on the highest plateua (sic). As Dr. White has shown, they consistently add extraneous thoughts and qualifications to the text that are simply not there.
Each assertion of “adding” to the text has been thoroughly refuted, and I leave it to the reader to determine who it is who is allowing the text to stand on its own, and who is allowing external authorities to determine interpretation. Almost every paragraph of Mr. Sungenis’ response gives evidence of this. I continued in TPF: “Is it not the Father’s will that Christ try to save but that He save a particular people perfectly? He is to lose nothing of all that He is given.” The anthropocentrism of the Roman Catholic position continues unabated in the response:
Notice again how Dr. White inserts premises from his Calvinistic theology. The verse does not say “He IS to lose nothing” but “It is the Father’s WILL that…I should lose nothing.” Before Dr. White can insert the word “IS” into John 6:39, he must prove from Scripture that, in regards to God’s desire to save all (cf., 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; Acts 17:25-31, et al), that the Father’s “will” does not seek or need the cooperation of man. In doing so, Dr. White cannot just point to his favorite predestinarian verses, such as Romans 8:29-30 or Ephesians 1:5-11, which speak only in general terms, but he must answer all the passages in Scripture which show that God is waiting for man’s cooperation (eg., Zech 1:3; James 4:8; Acts 17:25-26; Luke 11:19; Matt 11:21; Jeremiah 3:22; 29:13; Matt 6:33; 7:7-8; Luke 12:31; 17:33; Rom 2:7; Col 3:1; John 1:12; 5:40; Rom 10:9-13; 10:16-21, and many other such passages). He cannot reply by giving the standard Calvinist answer: “God only asks for man’s cooperation so that he can have evidence to convict them at judgment day,” since that would incriminate God for telling falsehoods.
The reader is invited to re-read this response and consider well the ideas that underlie it. First, whether it is Mr. Sungenis inserting his Roman Catholic ideas at the expense of the biblical text or I inserting Calvinistic ideas must be determined on the basis of something more than mere assertion. Thus far we have found precious little solid evidence that the text says anything other than its plain meaning.
Next, is there truly some kind of difference in summarizing the Father’s will for the Son by using the term “is”? Surely not! The text says, “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.” Such is accurately summarized as I wrote it. But note that Mr. Sungenis then gives us a glowing example of eisegesis by simply refusing to believe that Jesus could, in fact, fulfill the Father’s will without the assistance of man! Rather than dealing with the text, he instead lists his favorite allegedly non-predestinarian verses (none of which even begin to support his assertions, see the relevant discussions in TPF) and then makes the accusation that Reformed theologians engage in over-weighting some passages at the expense of others. Just a few observations: first, this provides us with no meaningful exegesis of John six. As such, it is primarily misdirection. Secondly, while it would be profitable to go through each and every listed verse and demonstrate that each is fully compatible with the Reformed position, the main problem here is that Mr. Sungenis does not understandthe Reformed position to begin with, making the effort a waste of time. It is truly difficult to understand how someone can hold a Master’s degree from Westminster Seminary and list Matthew 6:33 as if it is relevant to the topic at hand. But such an endeavor would take us far a field, and this response is already far longer than most but the most hardy individuals can handle as it is. I had continued in TPF:
How can this be if, in fact, the final decision lies with man, not with God? It is the Father’s will that results in the resurrection to life of any individual. This is election in the strongest terms, and it is taught with clarity in the reddest letters in Scripture.
It is inappropriate to say “the final decision lies with man.” No one in all of Christian history has been able to plumb the depths of the workings of predestination/foreknowledge and free will/responsibility. We simply don’t know how they work together, any more than we know how the Trinity is 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 at the same time. All we know is that Scripture speaks of both, not only with Adam but with those after him. To deny one and exalt the other is doing injustice to both Scripture and God.
We know how God is three Persons in one Being: Being and Person are not synonymous terms. Such is not a parallel at all. The fact of the matter remains that there are only two possible positions on the matter of man’s salvation: either it is a free act of God’s grace based upon His own purpose and will (as the Bible explicitly teaches!) to the praise of the glory of His grace, or, it is a cooperative effort between God and man in which God does all He can do to save every single person but, in the final analysis, the decision is man’s. As many a preacher has put it, “God has voted for you, the devil has voted against you, and now you get to cast the tie-breaking vote.” This is the true dividing line, soteriologically speaking: the Reformers stood firmly for the sovereignty of God’s grace, and Rome stood firmly for the sovereignty of man’s will so that God’s grace, while necessary to salvation, does not in and of itself save anyone outside of their cooperation. If nothing else, this dialogue has surely shown the chasm that exists between the theocentricity of Scripture and the anthropocentricity of Roman Catholicism and Arminianism.
I wrote in TPF:
Verse 39 begins with “This is the will of Him who sent Me,” and verse 40 does the same, “For this is the will of My Father.” But in verse 39 we have the will of the Father for the Son. Now we have the will of the Father for the elect. “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.” Amazingly, many wrench this verse out of its context, misunderstand the reference to “every one who beholds…every one who believes in Him,” and say, “See, no divine election here! Any one can do this.” But it is obvious, when the text is allowed to stand as a whole, that this is not the intention of the passage. Who is the one “beholding” the Son and “believing” in Him? Both these terms are present participles, referring to on-going action, just as we saw in “the one coming” to Christ in verse 37.
Appealing to Greek present participles is not going to prove Dr. White’s case.
Note: as anyone can see, it was not intended to! The point I have often made on the basis of this is to contrast the continuing nature of saving faith against the idea prevalent amongst some Evangelicals of a kind of “one time” faith that has no abiding results.
These verbs could just as well be aorists (“those who did believe in Him”) or perfects (“those who have believed in Him”) without infringing on the intention of the text.
I remind the reader of the contrast between the aorist and present tense regarding “believe” in John, and the common discussion in the scholarly literature of John’s use of the present participle as a substantive in contrast to the surface-level faith of the disciples who turn out to be unable to “hear” the word.
The key point that Dr. White misses here, as I noted earlier, is that “beholding” and “believing” are in the active voice, not passive. The action is done by the subject who is “beholding” and “believing.” If anything, there is a unique combination of God’s election and man’s cooperation in this verse, not the one-sided view of election that Dr. White wishes us to see.
We have seen Mr. Sungenis’ error here already, and have seen that the active/passive distinction he makes is utterly without foundation in the text, let alone is it relevant to the Reformed position, which affirms that the gift of faith is actively exercised by the regenerated sinner. Mr. Sungenis is seeking to turn the phrases “the one seeing” and “the one believing” into proof-texts for his view of free will: there is nothing in the phrases, however, that supports his assertion, for neither of them address, even slightly, the real question: does the decree of God to elect a people unto salvation result in the infallible awakening of those elect at a point in time to spiritual life, resulting in their actively seeing and believing? I continued:
Jesus raises up on the last day all those who are given to Him (v. 39) and all those who are looking and believing in Him (v. 40). Are we to believe these are different groups? Of course not. Jesus only raises one group to eternal life. But since this is so, does it not follow that all those given to Him will look to Him and believe in Him? Most assuredly.
Mr. Sungenis replied:
I agree. No one has suggested that they are different groups.
No one has? Did we not read of Mr. Sungenis telling us, regarding 1 John 2:19, that there will, in fact, be true believers who do not persevere in their belief? If this is the case, does it not follow that the identity of the two groups, those given, and those raised up, will differ, unless it is Mr. Sungenis’ suggestion that the identity of the first group is determined solely on the basis of the perseverance of the second? I continued,
Saving faith, then, is exercised by all of those given to the Son by the Father (one of the reasons why, as we will see, the Bible affirms clearly that saving faith is a gift of God).
Mr. Sungenis replied:
Of course saving faith is exercised by all those given to the Son by the Father. If they don’t have faith, then the Father is not going to give them to Jesus. So this statement is inconsequential for Dr. White’s position.
This shows us clearly that Mr. Sungenis does not understand the very heart of the whole issue! Plainly he assumes an order here that is the very center of the argument, yet his words tell us he is unaware of how he has accepted this assumption without any foundation at all. Listen to the sentence, “If they don’t have faith, then the Father is not going to give them to Jesus.” In other words, foreseen faith, human action, is the basis upon which the Father gives anyone to Jesus. Rather than the clear order already seen in 6:37, where the giving of the Father results in the coming of anyone in faith to Christ, Sungenis reverses the order without even noticing it. This means he has not “heard” almost anything that has been said in the presentation I have offered to this point. He thinks the statement inconsequential, yet it is a restatement of the very heart of the passage and the very heart of the debate!
Thus ended the discussion of the quotation I provided of the positive exegesis of the text in John 6:37-40. All this and we haven’t even gotten to the actual response to my last article! Verbosity reigns supreme! At this point in the last article I quoted Mr. Sungenis’ initial remarks based upon our web broadcast with Mr. Windsor. These can be found in the previous article on this subject, as I shall not repeat them here. To simplify, I shall simply put JRWPrev for the previous article, Sungenis for his response, both indented, and then my current reply.
JRWPrev: What shall we say in response to this? A striking fact to note is that Mr. Sungenis assumes the presence of “free will” in the exact same way an Arminian does (and Mr. Windsor did). Yet, the text never makes reference to such a concept, and instead denies the very heart of that concept in 6:44.
Sungenis: Again, Dr. White is reading into the verse what his theology dictates.
So Mr. Sungenis says, but so far, we have found the case to be just the opposite.
Sungenis: John 6:44 states: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”
“….and I will raise him up on the last day” is the rest of the sentence. Without that final phrase, which is so often ignored, the passage is not whole. As we shall see, it is vital to a full and proper understanding of the text.
Sungenis: All the passage says is that anyone who comes to Jesus has to be drawn by the Father.
That’s all the passage says? It does not start out by speaking of the inability of man? It does not go on to assert that all who are drawn are also raised up? Surely the passage says much more than Mr. Sungenis wishes to admit!
Sungenis: We would expect nothing less. Anything less would be teaching Pelagianism – – that man has the free will, apart from God’s drawing grace, to respond to God. But then how does Dr. White see a “denial” of free will here?
Perhaps in the section Mr. Sungenis doesn’t see, the one that says, “No man is able”?
Sungenis: He does so by seeing more in the verse than what it actually says, and by relying on his unproven presupposition that election and free will cannot coincide. In order to prove this presupposition, Dr. White would have to find a verse or verses of Scripture which explicitly state that election and free will are totally antithetical to each other.
The reader will note that Mr. Sungenis has excised the phrase “no man is able” from John 6:44, seemingly not even seeing it on the page before him; further, there is no such phrase as “free will” in Scripture outside of “free will offerings” in the Old Testament which were simply offerings not demanded by law. The phrase “free will” came into existence in Western theology primarily through the influence of Tertullian writing long after the New Testament period. So of course there is no such passage: the idea of human autonomy is nowhere found in Scripture. God is free in the Bible: man is a creature, limited both by his creatureliness and by his fall into sin. The biblical testimony to the utter freedom of God and His sovereignty over creation, and the biblical testimony to the deadness of man in sin, has been fully proven from Scripture so often that it almost seems silly to prove it again. Both issues are fully discussed in The Potter’s Freedom. But, to refocus upon Mr. Sungenis’ attempted discussion of John 6:44, we can only say that it utterly fails to even begin to seriously deal with the text. It ignores the clear assertion of man’s inability due to sin; it didn’t even bother to cite the rest of the verse which teaches us that those who are drawn are also raised up (identifying the drawing of the Father as coterminous with the giving of the Father to the Son and refuting all universalistic applications of the text), which would seem to indicate that Mr. Sungenis is unaware of the many issues relevant to the exegesis of the text itself.
Sungenis: Suffice it to say, there is no such verse of Scripture. The only thing Scripture denies is that man, without God’s prompting grace, can make a decision for God by his own power.
Actually, the text says much more than that, it is just that Mr. Sungenis seems intent upon not seeing that. John 6:44 says nothing about “prompting grace.” Such is eisegesis. The passage says that God draws men who are unable to come to Christ to the Son, and, that the Son raises those who are drawn to eternal life, connecting this directly with the assertion of 6:37 that all that the Father gives the Son will come to the Son. This drawing is not merely “prompting grace,” it is effectual calling! This is not “wooing,” it is drawing that results in coming. It is divine, powerful, and efficient! The passage says far more than Rome can possibly accept, and hence those elements that are contrary to Rome’s theology are simply ignored as if they do not even appear on the page.
JRWPrev: He asserts, “From our perspective, it is very easy to interpret this as the Father having given to Jesus those who responded to the grace the Father gave them. They respond by their free will.” Yet, there is nothing about God giving “grace” to anyone, nor is there any reference to “free will.”
Robert Sungenis: Granted. The words “grace” and “free will” are not used in John 6, but then neither is the word “elect,” the very word that Dr. White inserted in several places in his exegesis of John 6.
See previous refutation of this complaint, and note that the Roman Catholic concept of grace and “free will” is not hinted at anywhere in the passage, as we have proven.
JRWPrev: The point I made in the program is completely skipped by Mr. Sungenis in his response, that being the fact that the giving of the Father to the Son precedes the coming of those so given to the Son.
Robert Sungenis: I didn’t skip that at all.
Actually, he did, and continues to do so, in the original context of the webcast. Mr. Windsor had insisted that men are given to Jesus at the final judgment. I would like to ask Mr. Sungenis again: does he agree with Mr. Windsor, or disagree with Mr. Windsor?
Sungenis: And I have reiterated it again, several times, in this post. Obviously, the Father has to give them before they can come to Jesus. The remaining question, however, is HOW did the Father determine to give them to Jesus? Dr. White keeps insisting that they were given by the Father’s command of predestination apart from the individuals (sic) free will, since his theology insists that he make such conclusions.
As we have now proven many times already, Mr. Sungenis has failed to bear the burden of his assertions. It is not a pre-existing theology that drives my exegesis, as it is with Mr. Sungenis. The action of the giving of the Father both precedes and determines the action of the coming of the believer to Christ. To say otherwise is to throw out not only the plain and simple meaning of this text (including the above comments on 6:44), but to contradict the straightforward testimony of Paul in such incredible passages as Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 8:28-9:24, etc. But to make this overthrow of God’s sovereign decree work, we must realize that Rome must turn this passage on its head. Instead of explaining why those surface disciples would walk away in unbelief, the passage would in essence be saying, “You do not believe because you do not believe. All that the Father gives me based upon your deciding to believe will come to Me since that’s why the Father gives them to me in the first place; and I will not cast those who come to me out, except when they choose to get thrown out themselves. I’ve come down out of heaven to do my Father’s will, which is to save those who choose to allow Me to save them, and who do not commit mortal sins that will prevent me from doing so. All those who actively by a free and autonomous will look to me and believe I will raise up at the last day….No man is able to come to Me by unaided free will, but all men are able to come to me due to the presence of prevenient grace, which may or may not lead to their conversion….” How any of that ties together 6:35 and 6:65 only the reader can attempt to figure out.
Sungenis: But that is not what the text says. The text only says that they were given to Jesus. It does not say what the mechanism for the giving is. Thus, my point above still stands: the only thing the perfect tense does is tell us that the giving preceded the coming and the raising up at the last day. Conversely, Dr. White seems to have a penchant for making any tense which is prior to the present tense refer only to predestination.
As was noted before, Mr. Sungenis is ignoring the original context of Mr. Windsor’s comments. The text says, obviously, much more than Mr. Sungenis is letting on.
JRWPrev: Further, the context of the passage, that being the unbelief of those who are hearing His words, is ignored as well.
Sungenis: This is a misuse of the context. The only thing that can be concluded from the context is that some of the Jews of John 6 were not among those that the Father “gave” to Jesus, and therefore they didn’t “come” to Jesus. It is not said that they were not “given” because the Father did not predestinate them. The text implies that they were not “given” to Jesus because of their unbelief, not that they were in unbelief because they were not “given.”
This again turns the text on its head: it is completely backwards. Jesus makes the statement that these followers do not believe. That is an established fact in 6:35. What follows, plainly, is an explanation of this assertion. Remember, these men the Lord identifies as unbelievers had not only listened to Him preach the entire day before, and wanted to make Him king (6:15), but they had followed Him across the lake and were actively seeking Him! So why say they are unbelievers? The text we are considering explains this fully, if the context is allowed to stand. Mr. Sungenis’ atomistic interpretation does not provide any meaningful explanation of the text as a whole unit. None of it “hangs together.” It does not flow. The ideas are disjointed and disconnected. Such is not the case with the common Reformed exegesis that simply allows the Lord to speak the truth.
Note what Mr. Sungenis is saying here: the unbelief of the men is why they are not given to the Son. So, if they believe, they will be given. But that means, “All that believe in Me, the Father will give to Me.” Wait, that’s backwards: the giving is before the coming. “Well, it’s a foreseen faith, resulting in the giving.” Which then results in the coming? “All those that are foreseen to come to Me the Father gives to Me and they then come to Me” is obviously a tautology that has no meaning. The text simply cannot be bent and twisted this far.
JRWPrev: Instead, a foreign context of “free will” theology is inserted out of nowhere, and the text is left in a jumbled mess.
Sungenis: Foreign?? Out of nowhere?? Already in John 5:40 Jesus said to them: “and you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life.” Sounds very much like Jesus expects them to make a volitional act of their will to come to Him. Jesus puts the onus on them for refusing, not upon God for not predestinating them.
Yes, out of nowhere and foreign: think for just a moment about what John six, as a unit, teaches. Jesus gets a “good crowd.” He works a miracle that excites them and puts them in awe. They want to make Him king. He sends them away, and sends His bewildered disciples away in a boat, only to come to them in their need on the water. The next day the would-be disciples follow Jesus to Capernaum. What does He do? He preaches a sermon that John tells us causes them to question, and grumble, and eventually walk away because they will not look to Him for anything other than physical food (not spiritual sustenance). Quite literally He drives away false professors and fake disciples with words that continue to make men stumble to this day. He is in control over every event: sovereign, purposeful. And so I repeat: to insert into this text the idea that the rebellious creature man is, in fact, able to control His ultimate work through the exercise of his fallen and enslaved will is to turn it on its head, to call night day and white black. There is no reason to be found on any level for doing this: outside of the previous commitment to that belief that causes a person to read it into the text of Scripture. And that is exactly what we have seen over and over thus far in this dialogue.
Even if John 5:40 formed the context of the next chapter (which it doesn’t), it would hardly help Mr. Sungenis overthrow the immediate context of the chapter itself. The text says: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” The irony is that the phrase “come to Me” does echo the subject of 6: 37ff, but to just the opposite conclusion that Mr. Sungenis is suggesting! Jesus said they were unwilling to come to Him, and, as He taught in 6:44, unless the Father supernaturally draws a person to Christ, they will always remain unwilling! This is the God-glorifying, ego-shattering truth that man’s religions simply will not accept.
JRWPrev: In fact, the reader may well notice that Sungenis’ interpretation does not follow the flow of the text: it skips from one section to another, even making 6:40 determinative in the meaning of the words that come immediately before it, rather than following the logical method of realizing that 6:40 is to be interpreted in light of what comes in 6:37-40.
Sungenis: By this I think Dr. White has implicitly admitted that John 6:40 gives him much trouble, just like John 5:40 would probably give him much trouble, since both verses speak about the responsibility of man to make a decision for God.
No, this is an implicit admission that Mr. Sungenis’ attempted response did not engage in exegesis that follows the flow of the text, allowing a thought to develop in the order presented in the text. Secondly, man is responsible to make that decision: and unless it is being suggested that God is unrighteous to hold men accountable to His law even when man is dead in sin and living in rebellion (and enjoying it, I might add), there is no contradiction between these truths.
Sungenis: Be that as it may, I am not ignoring John 6:37-39. I have stated before, and I will state again, that John 6:37-39 teaches that the Father is responsible for bringing people to Jesus. But John 6:37-39 does not say that the Father brings them to Jesus because they were predestined, without their free will. All the passage says is that whoever is given by the Father comes to Jesus. There is no way Dr. White can disprove that the reason the Father gives them to Jesus is due to the individuals free will response to God’s grace.
We have seen that this is a complete misreading of the text that not only ignores many portions, words, and phrases, but ignores the relationship they hold to one another. This is sola ecclesia in glowing letters: Rome’s theology precludes the teaching of the text, hence, those portions of the text that contradict Rome’s theology are simply removed by ecclesiastical fiat: “the text doesn’t say….” or “you can’t disprove this.” Mr. Sungenis can take a passage that speaks with crystal clarity of the Father’s sovereignly giving a people to the Son, the infallible coming of those so given to the Son, His perfect work of raising that people to life, and the utter incapacity of man to come to Christ outside of the work of effective drawing, and somehow come up with such things as “free will,” and then insist that there is no way I can “disprove” his assertion that it was man’s free will response to grace that determined God’s “giving.” Of course, we are not told how this comes from the text: it is an assertion from outside, as I have said. But given Mr. Sungenis’ failure to even begin to show us how this assertion is derived from the text itself, to ask me to disprove it is meaningless.
JRWPrev: In fact, it is unfair to say that Mr. Sungenis is even offering exegesis here: he is offering Mr. Windsor a way around the offered exegesis, but is not actually exegeting the passage at all.
Sungenis: I think you will find that, unlike Dr. White, I am not reading into the passage something I would like to see. As far as I’m concerned, the mechanism for how the people are given by the Father is not specified in the text, be it predestination or free will. All it says is that what the Father gives Jesus receives, period.
We have already responded to this claim.
JRWPrev: I emphasized the use of the perfect tense with Mr. Windsor because he was inserting into the text his concept of free-willism, and limiting God to the role of responding to the actions of man.
Sungenis: Mr. Windsor was not “limiting God to the role of responding to the actions of man.” Mr. Windsor was saying, as I have said, that God draws men by his grace. Hence the initial action is God’s. God does so for all men. Through grace, God even gives man the power to respond to God’s drawing. At some point, man has to make a decision, just as Jesus denotes in John 5:40 when He tells the Jews that their decision was to refuse to come to Him. Man either accepts or rejects. In the workings of this decision, we do not know how God’s grace and man’s volition work together. That is a sublime mystery that no one on this earth is probably ever going to solve. But the point remains that God’s role is not “limited to the role of responding,” especially since it is God who initiates the whole action.
While this is surely a summary of synergism, it does not comprise either a meaningful exegetical summary, nor does it respond to the actual assertion I made. Anyone can listen to Mr. Windsor’s comments and they will surely know that he was subjecting God’s decision to man’s, even to the point of saying that the “giving” of men to the Son takes place only at the final judgment! Further, we have surely seen that Mr. Sungenis’ position does result in God’s decision being determined by the free actions of man, not man’s actions being determined by the free actions of God. This is the nature of synergism. No matter how the synergist struggles, man remains the final decision maker.
JRWPrev: In fact, he introduced a very unusual, very difficult to understand idea of how men are given to Christ “at the last day.” I pointed out this was impossible, since the action of giving by the Father obviously comes before the “last day.” Look again at the text: “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. Obviously, “raise up on the last day” is a terminal action: the danger of “losing” then must come before the last day. The giving, therefore, is logically prior to the last day, which contradicts what Mr. Windsor was trying to say. Further, and naturally, the “giving” would precede the experience of danger on the part of any who might otherwise be lost, hence, it precedes (as is seen in 6:37) any action on the part of those who are so given.
Sungenis: I will grant Dr. White that the perfect tense comes before the “losing” and before the “raising” at the last day, but that is all that I will grant him, because that is all that the text says.
I will take that as a, “OK, White was right on that point, and Windsor was wrong.”
Sungenis: Dr. White keeps working on the false premise that those who come to Jesus by the giving of the Father are secured for eternity, but the text does not say that.
The text does say that all who are so given come, are never cast out, and the Son loses none of them, but when you refuse to embrace the theocentrism of Scripture and import the anthropocentrism of Rome into the text, words no longer mean what they used to.
Sungenis: The Father’s will is that of those He gives to Jesus none are lost, just as He said He doesn’t want any lost in Ezek 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9 and Zech 1:3. Again, the only way Dr. White can fit in the Father’s will is by inserting the word elect both in John 6 and 1 Timothy 2:4.
We have already seen that 1 Timothy 2:4 refers to all kinds of men (of which the elect are made up), and that it is perfectly consistent to see those given by the Father to the Son as the elect noted in Ephesians and Romans. Further, we note that 2 Peter 3:9 does, in context, refer to the elect as those who will indeed repent (see the discussion in TPF), and the other passages are surely not addressing the issue of God’s decree of the salvation of His elect people.
JRWPrev: Mr. Sungenis divorces this passage from the context. As I noted in my exegesis, 6:38-39 explains the glorious claim of 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Why do all who are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son? And why will He not cast out the one who comes to Him? Verses 38 and 39 explain this in the text, but not in the attempted explanation offered by Mr. Sungenis. He joins Mr. Windsor in reversing the order of the action of 6:37 (i.e., he makes the giving of the Father dependent upon the coming of the believer, when the text says it is the other way around).
Sungenis: I did no such thing. Check what I said. I stated clearly here and in the post I sent to Scott Windsor that the giving of the Father precedes the coming to Jesus. How could I say anything different, since it is clear in the text? I challenge Dr. White to show us where (Scott or) I said that the “coming” of John 6:37 precedes the “giving” of John 6:37.
As the reader will note, Mr. Sungenis has repeatedly asserted that it is the belief or unbelief of men that determines whether the Father gives men to the Son or not. To quote him directly, “The text implies that they were not ‘given’ to Jesus because of their unbelief, not that they were in unbelief because they were not ‘given.’” Obviously, in my comments I am referring to logical priority and dependency, not temporal: if the Father’s giving of men is dependent upon their free will actions, as Sungenis says, these must be foreseen actions. Hence, the actions of man in time determine the actions of God in eternity. This is the simple fact of how synergism works: creatures determining what the Creator can, and will, do. Pots in charge of the Potter.
JRWPrev: The perfect tense makes sense in the context in which it is used: Christ came to do the will of the Father. Surely Christ knew, when He came to earth, what that will was, did He not? Are we to actually believe that what Jesus is saying here is that He came to perform a general salvation of an unknown group, so that the text really should say, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He will give Me upon the basis of their free will action I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day”? How would that be relevant to the assertion of 6:37?
Sungenis: No, He wouldn’t say that, since John 6 is not creating a contest between predestination and free will – – a contest Dr. White desperately wishes to see in the context to support his Calvinistic beliefs.
As I have said before, there is no contest, because “free will” is no more a concern of the text than “the Book of Mormon” or “space aliens.” The reason I am addressing it is because Mr. Windsor and Mr. Sungenis keep inserting it! Surely there is no place for it in the text, but the synergist must keep sneaking it in where it doesn’t belong. I am addressing the resultant confusion in the text that comes from the very position Mr. Sungenis has already enunciated.
JRWPrev: Remember, Jesus is explaining the unbelief of the crowd: how would this explain their unbelief, since such would involve the assertion that they have the very ability to believe that is denied to them in 6:44 and 6:65?
Sungenis: Again, Dr. White reveals his false presuppositions. Dr. White believes that every time he sees a passage which says that a man cannot come to Jesus except by the giving of the Father, that passage teaches predestination. That is an unprovable assertion.
Denial of the obvious does not rid us of the obvious. Note that above Mr. Sungenis failed to even begin to interact with the fact that John 6:44 teaches utter inability and that it teaches that all those who are drawn are also raised up (i.e., that this is not merely prevenient grace, but an effectual calling). Mr. Sungenis assumes that “giving” means “trying to give, but often failing.” If “giving” actually means that the Father will draw that person to the Son effectively, so that Jesus’ words are true, “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me,” then this “unprovable assertion” is, in fact, proven.
Sungenis: The passages do not tell us the Father’s criteria for giving the people to Jesus.
No, it does not: it simply denies that the criteria lies in the person thus given. That is, the “criteria” is simply the mercy and grace of God, as we are told elsewhere (Eph. 1): Jesus’ words tell us clearly that it is not the actions of man that result in the elect being given by the Father to the Son. If it is not the actions of man, then the “criteria” must lie solely in the Sovereign Creator, and that is the consistent biblical truth.
Sungenis: All the passages say is that those who come to Jesus are given by the Father, period. Whether the Father’s criteria for bringing them to Jesus was predestination, free will, or a combination of the two, is not stated in the text, but Dr. White keeps insisting that it is only predestination. Again, he is reading into the text what he wants to see.
By selectively ignoring certain phrases, or simply denying that other phrases are relevant, Mr. Sungenis misses the entire thrust of Jesus’ words, as we have seen repeatedly already.
JRWPrev: Instead, the Father’s will is obviously well known to the Son. He is entrusted with God’s elect, and His unlimited power and salvific ability explain His assertion in 6:37: not only will He never cast those who are given to Him by the Father out, but all who are given will come to Him, since He has the capacity to bring this about! If this were not the case, nothing in 6:39 would make any sense.
Sungenis: Again, Dr. White has inserted the word “elect” into the mix, and he has confused God’s “unlimited power and salvific ability” with forcing people to believe apart from their free will.
Note the use of the term “force,” a word that is, obviously, meaningless in this context. It makes as much sense as saying Jesus “forced” Lazarus from the tomb.
Sungenis: This is an important point: the problem with Dr. White’s theology is that in his attempt to save the sovereignty of God he inadvertently makes God unsovereign. In Dr. White’s theology, the only way God can be sovereign is if He overpowers man into believing against his will. The Catholic God is much more sovereign than that, since the Catholic God is the one who remains sovereign and controls all the events of history with respect to, or in spite of, man’s free will. As the Catholic Catechism says so aptly, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.” (Para 600).
And parallel railroad tracks “meet” in eternity, too, right? No, parallel railroad tracks, should they ever meet, will result in a train crash. Rome may use high-sounding words to attempt to mix the unmixable, but that doesn’t make the result rational. Either God saves perfectly, or He reacts solely to the decisions of finite creatures. Every attempt to rob God of His freedom and subject Him to His creatures has failed, as this one does as well.
JRWPrev: Mr. Sungenis says the perfect tense is not “crucial” to the passage. Then why does he later lay weight upon the present tense of the same verb, if the verb tenses are not crucial? (Mr. Windsor said on the program that discussing these issues was really irrelevant anyway. Mr. Sungenis seems to disagree).
Sungenis: This is an attempt by Dr. White’s to ‘damn if you do and damn if you don’t.’ I am alert to such Catch 22 ploys, since I have been debating for quite a while now. Be that as it may, the only reason I brought up the present tense of DIDWMI in John 6:37 is because Dr. White tried to make an issue of the perfect tense of DIDWMI in John 6:39. His claim was that the perfect tense denotes predestination. If that is the case, then my question was what does he do with the present tense of DIDWMI in John 6:37? If his thesis about the perfect tense in John 6:39 were correct, wouldn’t that mean that the present tense in John 6:37 would say something opposite?? Yet you don’t find Dr. White making a case for the present tense of John 6:37 like he does for the perfect of John 6:39. Obviously, in his frame of mind about the purpose of Greek tenses, John 6:37 doesn’t help his case, so he ignores it. He thought that Scott Windsor, who doesn’t know the Greek, wouldn’t catch this little inconsistency. That is why Scott contacted me, and that is why I am telling what I am.
Those who have now read all the material to this point are undoubtedly amazed at what was just said. To say I “ignore” John 6:37, when I brought it out in TPF, and in my previous response, and discussed it fully, is amazing indeed. Further, I simply pointed out the inconsistency in Mr. Sungenis’ assertion: if the perfect is irrelevant, the present would be too, would it not? Surely Mr. Sungenis has approached this passage in a significantly different way that Mr. Windsor did. Mr. Windsor eschewed any discussion of the grammar of the text as irrelevant. Such a viewpoint would render a large portion of Mr. Sungenis’ books irrelevant as well, but Mr. Sungenis seems hesitant to point out Mr. Windsor’s errors at this point. Finally, again, I raised the perfect tense in the context of Mr. Windsor’s assertion that men are given to the Son at the final judgment, after they have come to Christ. Mr. Sungenis has said that “of course” the giving precedes the coming, but it is based upon foreseen faith. So, Mr. Sungenis disagrees with Mr. Windsor.
JRWPrev: The perfect tense tells us that the Son has already been given, at the time of the speaking of these words, a people. Mr. Sungenis neglects to note the use of the neuter pa’n as the object of what has been given to the Son. As I pointed out in my exegesis, it is a people, a whole, that has been entrusted to the Son. [We will see this helps us to see the consistency of the use of the present tense in 6:37 below as well.] This people is defined by God’s act of giving, not by any human act of “free will.”
Sungenis: Pay attention, this is important. This is where Dr. White has totally misconstrued the meaning of the Greek perfect tense. Dr. White is trying to use the perfect tense (“has given”) to prove that, prior to the words spoken to the Jews in John 6, the sum total of people who would come to Jesus had already been given to Jesus prior to the discourse in John 6, and for that matter, prior to any event in history. Note well: the perfect tense in Greek does no such thing. Again, let me state, the ONLY thing the Greek perfect tense does in John 6:39 is tell us that the action of the Father’s giving precedes the action of “lose nothing” and “raise it up on the last day.” The “giving” may occur in the past, the present or in the future, but whenever it occurs it will be before the “lose nothing” and the “raise it up on the last day.” That is all the verse is saying. To claim that the perfect tense is saying that all the people in view, prior to the events in John 6, have already been given is a total distortion of the text. There is simply no referent for the perfect tense that confines its beginning to the primordial past. If such a referent IS there, I challenge Dr. White to show us where it is.
Let’s think about it a moment. “It is the boss’ will that of all the accounts that have been given to you, Mr. Jones, you lose none of them, but cause them to increase in sales.” Is there anyone who would for a moment suggest that what is actually being said here is that these accounts will be given to Mr. Jones at a future point? Remember, Jesus is identifying the Father’s will for Him. Is Mr. Sungenis suggesting that the Father’s will for the Son was unknown to the Son prior to the Incarnation, for example? If the will was, in fact, known, then does it not follow inevitably that the action of “giving” here carries its normal sense? The perfect tense, especially when used in speech, refers normally to a completed action in the past with abiding results to the present. Upon what principle—contextual or grammatical—does Mr. Sungenis suggest the possibility that we should translate the passage so that it allows for, “of all that shall be given to Me”?
Next, Mr. Sungenis continues to ignore the original context in which I raised this issue, but even in these comments, he refutes Windsor’s suggestion that the giving takes place at the last day. To assert that my comments were in error but not to admit that my comments were perfectly correct in the context originally given is an obvious error.
So, Mr. Sungenis is simply in error to say that the ONLY thing communicated by the use of the perfect tense is that the action of giving by the Father precedes “not losing” and “raising up.” This can be seen so easily that it is startling that someone of Mr. Sungenis’ education could miss it: replace the perfect with a present. The present tense action would still precede the future tense “not lose.” So is Mr. Sungenis seriously suggesting that the present and perfect are interchangeable? Is this how one does Greek exegesis? Or do we recognize, as I have pointed out in my exegesis, the consistency of all of the text? That the present tense in 6:37 is associated with the personal pronoun and the personal coming of the believers as individuals; that 6:38-39 backs away from that present-tense, “in the now” situation and provides the background, the reason for the assertion of 6:37; that it does so by switching to the neuter singular pronoun so as to bring the entire people of God into view as a singular whole (the common use of the neuter singular) and by moving to the perfect tense verb, “has given,” and then the future tense “will not lose” and “will raise up,” setting up the contrast between the completed expression of the Father’s will in eternity past (the very time frame provided for the same action in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8) and the future fulfillment of the entire work of redemption. [Note: “will not lose” can also be interpreted as an aorist subjunctive, but such would not impact the point being made in light of the use of the future “raise up”.] The charge of “distortion” is best directed at Mr. Sungenis for gutting the text of its meaning so as to safeguard Roman tradition.
JRWPrev: The perfect tense points to a completed action. Mr. Sungenis says that we cannot tell when this action took place. That is quite true, but we can surely determine that it took place prior to other actions. It took place prior to the coming of anyone to Christ; and it takes place prior to Jesus’ action of “not losing” those who are given to Him.
Robert Sungenis: I would have to say that the reason Dr. White is admitting to this is that I pointed it out to him, for it surely wasn’t admitted in his radio program or the subsequent Internet debate he had with Scott Windsor.
Basic facts are not “admitted.” Nothing I have written on this subject is contradicted by basic facts. Mr. Sungenis’ reading is so unusual, and so a-contextual, that responding to it does at times require one to go over things so basic that they otherwise would not require attention.
JRWPrev: I certainly do believe that this giving took place in eternity past: but as I said on the program, I prove that by direct reference to such passages as Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-11.
Sungenis: But we are not interested in what Dr. White “believes” to be true. At this juncture, we are only interested in what the grammar of John 6:37-39 allows us to say, since Dr. White attempted to use the Greek grammar to support predestination and deny free will.
No, I used Greek grammar to refute Mr. Windsor’s false assertion that men are given to Christ at the final judgment, not before.
Sungenis: If Dr. White wants to deal with Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 at some other time, I will be glad to oblige. In fact, I think Dr. White and I should have a formal debate on this very topic, since he believes this issue is the real dividing line between our two faiths, and the faith of a man such as Norman Geisler.
Of course….and this interchange has surely shown the vast differences between us.
JRWPrev: The key in John 6 is that the giving results in the actions of coming and believing.
Sungenis: No, the “giving” of John 6:37 results only in the “coming” not in “believing.”
As a brief review of the text bears out, the two are synonymous in John’s gospel, and in this passage as well. Think about it just a moment: one can come without faith?!
Sungenis: John 6:37 does not even mention belief. When the issue of “believing” is added to the mix in John 6:40, the formula changes somewhat. In John 6:40, those that “perceive” and “believe” do so in the Greek active voice, which denotes an action of their wills, an action that is not included in John 6:37. The only actions in John 6:37 are those between the Father and the Son. In John 6:40, however, there are three actions: the Father’s will, the person’s volitional belief, and the Son’s raising them on the last day.
We see again the atomistic, a-contextual methodology employed by Mr. Sungenis. We have already refuted each element of this section in the previous material. However, it is hard not to stand in simple amazement at Mr. Sungenis’ inability to see the relationship of “coming” and “believing,” as if they are separate things! All one has to do is read 6:35 to see the error of such thinking: “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.’” Given Mr. Sungenis’ position, the one who comes to Christ and the one who believes in Christ are different people! Surely that is not the case! Instead, the careful exegete sees that there is no coming that is not in faith; and no faith that does not involve coming to Christ. The two are synonymous terms in this passage, so to make the distinction Mr. Sungenis does is simply incredible.
JRWPrev: So in summary, the perfect tense is surely very important: it not only refutes the erroneous application Mr. Windsor made (and which Mr. Sungenis did not repeat—we truly wonder what he thought of it), but it does communicate to us vital information concerning the absolute freedom of God in giving a people unto the Son. The people of God have been given to the Son. What a tremendous truth!
Robert Sungenis: Yes, what a tremendous truth it is that the people of God have been given to the Son. If it weren’t for the Father’s drawing grace and mercy, none of us would have a chance of salvation, whether it be by predestination or free will.
“Chance of salvation” vs. “a perfect Savior who does the will of the Father without fail.” The contrast is striking.
JRWPrev: John 6:40 indicates that man actively believes. The single most common means of attempting to get around the meaning of John 6:37-39, which so strongly precludes the insertion of human will and effort into the sovereign work of salvation, is to literally turn the text on its head and read it backwards. That is, rather than following the natural progression of thought, from the topic of unbelief in 6:35, through the assertion of v. 37, into the will of the Father in 38-39, and then into verse 40, they start with an a-contextual interpretation of 6:40, and then insist that the preceding verses cannot bear their natural meaning because of their assumed, but undefended (and indefensible) interpretation of that one verse.
Sungenis: As I have shown above repeatedly, we are doing no such thing. What is happening between John 6:37-39 and John 6:40 is that Dr. White has already presumed that the perfect tense of John 6:39 teaches predestination. Thus, anything anyone says to him about the sequential verses will mean that Dr. White will invariably discount them by using his pre-interpretation of John 6:39. But once Dr. White sees (and I truly hope he does) that John 6:39 is not saying what he thinks its saying, then perhaps he will be open to a more fair reading of John 6:40, or even of John 5:40.
Which is no defense of turning the text on its head. Each of these issues has been thoroughly addressed above.
JRWPrev: There is no doubt on anyone’s part that 6:40 clearly presents man as active and believing. That is not even relevant to the debate, since no one is asserting that man does not believe in Christ as an active agent. Note the plain assertion of the text: “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 “free will” argument is clear: “beholds” and “believes” are active verbs. Men behold the Son, men believe in the Son. Hence, it is argued, this act of beholding and believing forms the basis upon which God elects. Such an explanation takes a partial truth (the elect surely come to Christ, behold Christ, believe in Christ) and turns it upside down in clear violation of the text.
The careful reader, however, will note that 6:40 follows 6:35-39. Hence, if the flow of thought means anything, we already have the identity of those who will come, behold, and believe, established in these preceding verses. Remembering that Jesus is explaining the unbelief of those who have seen Him work miracles, we have the identification of those who do come to Christ as those who are given to the Son by the Father (6:37); the same ones who will be infallibly raised up by the Son as per the Father’s will (6:38-39). We have already been told in 6:37 that those the Father gives to the Son come to the Son: coming is active. Believers believe. Saving faith is a gift of God, given to His elect people.
Robert Sungenis: Without repeating myself, let me refer the reader to my above remarks. If I have missed anything, please bring it to my attention and I will address it.
Yes, the outline just provided in my comments has been thoroughly defended in the previous materials. It is simply my hope that the reader has as clear a grasp of the context and flow as possible.
JRWPrev: So it is completely true that every believer believes, every believer comes to Christ. But the wonder of the passage is that every single one given by the Father to the Son, all, without exception, look to Christ in faith and receive eternal life. It is a gross misuse of the passage to turn it into a proof-text for “free will” by removing it from its context and turning it backwards.
Sungenis: Now, here is where this issue gets a little confusing for some. On the one hand, we can agree with Dr. White’s statement that “it is completely true that every believer believes, every believer comes to Christ. But the wonder of the passage is that every single one given by the Father to the Son, all, without exception, look to Christ in faith and receive eternal life.” Believers believe; they come to Christ; every one given by the Father without exception, and they receive eternal life.
Am I, Robert Sungenis, throwing in the towel? Not quite. First, the above statement doesn’t deny free will. If Dr. White had said, “believers believe without recourse to their free will, such that God imposes belief on them against their will,” then, of course, I would object. Second, the above statement doesn’t tell us anything about whether those who believe and receive eternal life keep on believing and actually enter into heaven. One can believe but then fall from belief. One can be given eternal life but could later forfeit eternal life for disobedience. That is why Scripture speaks about “losing the inheritance,” if we fall away. Many of the passages in Hebrews that I cited above state that very thing.
Such provides a good summary of how Rome’s over-riding theology destroys meaningful exegesis. We have seen how clearly the text speaks of God’s giving resulting in the coming in faith of the elect; we have seen the Father’s will for the Son so that the Son loses none who are given to Him; we have seen that there is no such thing as person who comes to Christ in faith without the drawing of the Father, and that the Son raises up all those who are drawn (6:44). And yet, despite all of this, due to an external, allegedly infallible source (and I just note in passing, Rome has neverinfallibly interpreted this passage, hence, all of the comments Mr. Sungenis has provided are his own private interpretation, from the Roman viewpoint), these truths are subsumed and, I believe, ultimately denied.
JRWPrev: Such is very much like those who read the words of Jesus in John 8:47: “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God,” and hear it saying the opposite if what it actually says. When tradition is allowed to over-ride the text, people hear the text saying the opposite of what it really says: they hear it say, “the reason you do not belong to God is because you refuse to hear,” rather than what it actually says, the reason they do not hear is because the pre-existing condition which allows them to hear, that of belonging to God (being of the elect, being one of Christ’s sheep) is not present.
Sungenis: Contrary to what Dr. White is proposing, I take the words “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” just as they are. The verse does not say “the reason you do not belong to God is because you refuse to hear,” so I wouldn’t venture to make it say that. But the question remains whether Dr. White himself has understood John 8:47, or is he trying to make more out of the verse than what is actually there, just as he did with John 6:37-39? I am sorry to say that the latter is the case. I agree that only those who are “of God” are going to listen to God’s words. But that does not tell me HOW these people came to be “of God” (ie., whether by predestination, free will, or a combination of the two). Dr. White is assuming that they became “of God” only be an eternal decree in the distant past that bypassed their free will. Again, every time he is faced with a passage that speaks of God being involved in the salvation process, Dr. White invariably interprets this to mean that God has predestined the recipients without regard to their free will. Why does he do this? Because his theological system forces him to do so.
Another incredible example. Think about what is being said. How could these men, by an act of “free will,” embrace the message when they cannot hear it? The point of the passage is that 1) men lack a fundamental ability due to sin, and 2) God is the one who chooses who belongs to Him and who does not. The same is true of the matter of Christ’s “sheep” in John 10. The Shepherd chooses the sheep, not the sheep the Shepherd. The Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, and then tells the Pharisees that they are not His sheep! The synergist who grounds salvation upon the final decision of the grace-aided will of man simply cannot avoid the logical conclusion of their system, which involves the reversal of these passages.
JRWPrev: So too, here in John 6, while verse 40 is surrounded by the testimony of God’s sovereignty (6:37-39, 44?45, 65, etc.), those who exalt man’s will due to their traditions refuse to listen and understand.
Sungenis: Here is another problem in Dr. White’s exegesis: he puts verses of Scripture at odds with other verses of Scripture, and then he decides which set of verses he is going to let hold more weight.
Such is utterly untrue. The passage is a whole. The reader has seen clearly that only one side can offer a consistent, textually-based interpretation of the text. There has been no pitting of texts against each other at all.
Sungenis: Above, he has pitted John 6:40 against John 6:37-39, 44-45; 65, as if the final decision is going to be based on a head-count of verses.
Such is again obviously untrue. I have provided a consistent interpretation of John 6:40 in the context of its appearance, rather than what Mr. Sungenis has done, which isolates the passage from what comes before and after. This is the difference between my offered exegesis, and Mr. Sungenis’ eisegetical response.
Sungenis: What makes him do this? Sorry to say, but it is his “tradition” of Calvinism that makes such demands on him. Conversely, the Catholic position says, “let’s take all the verse together, not make one stronger than the other, and make a conclusion that is fair to all of Scripture.” In doing so, the Catholic Church sees both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, not only in John 6, but in the whole Bible. I only wish Dr. White would be as fair with Scripture.
I believe we can see who has been fair and who has not.
JRWPrev: The answer is not difficult to see. John 6:37 speaks of the person coming to Christ in faith. All that the Father is giving Him, as a result of being given, will come (future tense) to Him. This fits perfectly with John 6:44, where the Father is actively (and effectively, without failure), drawing those He has given to the Son to Christ.
Sungenis: This kind of exegesis shows precisely the danger inherent in using Greek with no boundaries. One can just rearrange the pieces, snip a little here, bend a little there, and presto, we have Greek grammar that conveniently supports the doctrine we wish to propose, in this case, Calvinism, and no other will be allowed, says Dr. White.
I believe we have already documented that it is Mr. Sungenis who engages in this kind of activity, not I.
Sungenis: First of all, John 6:44 does not get into the issue of failure or success. All it says is that whoever comes to Jesus has to be first drawn by the Father. It is a simple cause and effect relationship. It doesn’t tell us whether the person who came was predestined; used his free will; stays indefinitely once he comes; or any other detail about salvation.
Please note the above refutation of Mr. Sungenis on this passage, and how it was he who has given us a tremendous example of 1) ignoring the text as it stands, and 2) only citing a portion of it, not seeing the relationship the skipped part bears to the rest. The reader is strongly encouraged to consider well how Mr. Sungenis constantly says, “All it says is…..” while then ignoring major elements of the text. John 6:44 says much more than “whoever comes to Jesus has to be first drawn by the Father.” The reason Mr. Sungenis is blind to the rest can be found in one simple word: tradition.
Sungenis: Second, John 6:37 does not say that the effect of “giving” is due to the cause of being “given,” regardless if there is any truth to that relationship. If it were saying such, then the verse would read: “Because of all the Father has given to Me, then all the Father gives to Me shall come to Me.”
What? Such doesn’t even make sense. The action of giving precedes the action of coming; the combination of the verbal element and the assertion that all who are so given come, starts the chain of truths that Mr. Sungenis just can’t escape: that the giving of the Father is free. He has to prove it is synergistic, not free, and he has not even made the first attempt to do so from this text. Such is simply impossible to do.
Sungenis: But John 6:37 contains no Greek HOTI clause that connects its outcome with the proposition in John 6:39. They are two independent verses giving two different perspectives on the same event. The “giving” of John 6:37 looks at it from the perspective of history wherein each century is providing a group of people who come to Jesus. John 6:39 looks at it from the perspective of the final consummation, wherein all those that have finally been “given” will be raised on the last day. That’s all the verses are saying.
We would challenge Mr. Sungenis to explain to us how he places 6:39 solely in the future. We have already seen his error regarding the perfect tense verb in this passage.
JRWPrev: Sungenis’ point, however, is fully refuted by simply thinking about the use of the present in context. In John 6:37, the present tense giving results in the future tense coming. Sungenis’ idea is that our “free will” decision predicates and informs the “giving” of the Father, so that it is our choice that determines the Father’s choice. But the text refutes this clearly.
Sungenis: Not only does the text refute it, but I refute it. I have never said that the “‘free will’ decision predicates and informs the ‘giving’ of the Father, so that it is our choice that determines the Father’s choice.” Rather, I have made two things very clear:
1) that the Father’s choice works with our choice, and
2) that Dr. White’s theology egregiously dismisses free will from John 6 based on a presupposition in his Calvinistic theology.
We have already seen, over and over again, that Mr. Sungenis is presenting synergism, and he does insert free will into the passage, so that man’s decision determines God’s decision. Such is truly beyond question by this point, and the reason why he would wish to contradict himself is difficult to understand.
JRWPrev: Those who will come will do so not out of some mythological “free will” but due to the gracious work of the Father wherein He will draw them to the Son: and the Father performs this miracle of grace only in the lives of those He gives to the Son.
Sungenis: I think the above statement by Dr. White proves my point. Notice how he satirizes free will as being “mythological.” That’s because his mentor, John Calvin, despite any verse of Scripture that suggested otherwise, determined there could be no free will.
Please note: Mr. Sungenis has never provided a verse that uses the phrase “free will,” yet, he assumes it so basically, he can say that Calvin never produced a verse that denied what he only assumes. The circularity is glaring.
Sungenis: Any verse that taught free will was either subsumed under predestination or interpreted to say that it only seemed as if men had free will, since behind such statements God was secretly setting them up for a fall so he could eventually condemn them for not repenting. If you want to see the contortions he had to go through to arrive at such a position, I suggest you read pp. 457-472; 554-570 of Not By Faith Alone.
And I suggest you read The Potter’s Freedom.
JRWPrev: Now, it seems Mr. Sungenis is insisting that the present tense here must be emphasizing an on-going action (though, for some reason, the normal meaning of the perfect is said to be less than definitional in 6:39), which while possible, is not the most logical syntactical choice.
Sungenis: This is simply not true. Check the record and you will find that I do not press the “ongoing” nature of the present tense of John 6:37.
OK, here is the record. Mr. Sungenis said: “Also, the verb “give” in John 6:37 (“All that the Father gives to me will come to me”) is a Greek present tense, not a perfect, which shows that the action of “giving” is occurring presently, and is not confined to whatever White conceives the perfect tense of 6:39 to be saying.” It certainly seems that he said, “…which shows that the action of ‘giving’ is occurring presently….”
Sungenis: I simply mentioned the present tense to counterbalance the inordinate use of the perfect tense by Dr. White in John 6:39. I said that
1) it was wrong for Dr. White to make the perfect tense of John 6:39 refer to some primordial decision of God’s in the distant past irrespective of man’s free will, since the verse did not specify such a referent;
And I did so in the context of Mr. Windsor’s errant assertion that the giving takes place at the last day, a point that has been fully established; as to the consistency of seeing this giving as the same referred to in Ephesians 1:3-11, let the reader decide.
2) regarding the perfect tense one can only say that its definitive action precedes the action of the main verb; and
What? Such makes no sense. What if the only verb in a sentence is a perfect tense, and is the main verb? The perfect speaks of past, completed action with abiding results in the present.
3) that the verse does not specify the starting point for the perfect tense.
But it does preclude the application Mr. Windsor made of it!
JRWPrev: In fact, given his position, Sungenis would have to assert a kind of “iterative present” understanding of this present tense verb, since the action of “giving” would be dependent upon the free-will actions of men.
Sungenis: For those who are not familiar with such terms, “iterative” refers to something that repeats. With that, I don’t know how Dr. White is applying it. Nevertheless, Dr. White has continually misrepresented the Catholic position by insisting that we are only interested in the “free will” angle of things. Let me make it clear that we are interested in both predestination and free will. Both of those aspects are working in John 6, as I have stated iteratively.
There is no predestination in synergism. Such is an oxymoron.
JRWPrev: This makes the future action of coming determine the present action of giving, just the opposite of what the text indicates.
Sungenis: Obviously, since Dr. White has misunderstood the Catholic position, his statement above is also incorrect, both grammatically and theologically.
Mr. Sungenis has not demonstrated an error in understanding Rome’s position: if our free will choice is necessary, then God’s predestination is limited to merely offering a plan, not choosing a people. Secondly, there is nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence when one remembers that I am making reference to the terms in the text under discussion.
JRWPrev: Instead, the fact that this present tense is used in tandem with a future tense (gives/will come) throws the emphasis upon the timing of the action into the future, hence the normative translation “All that the Father gives me” (NASB, NIV, KJV “giveth”, NRSV) rather than the unusual “All that the Father is giving me….” While not fully a “gnomic” present, surely it exists in the same general area, stating a general truth of the Father’s giving of a people to the Son, and the emphasis lies squarely upon the result of that giving, the coming of the elect to Christ.
Sungenis: Obviously, I would have no problem with the grammar of John 6:37, since I am not out to distort the grammar, whatever it may be. What I am opposed to is Dr. White’s application of the grammar to his Calvinistic beliefs, as, for example, throwing in the word “elect,” as he did above, to persuade the reader to his theological perspective. All the verse states is that those who come to Jesus had the Father’s giving as its antecedent cause, period.
And that giving is election! Hence the validation of what I have said from the start.
JRWPrev: Contextually this is the point: those who stood before the Lord in unbelief, who, despite seeing miracles, would not come to Him, did not because they were not given to Him by the Father. This explains their continued unbelief.
Sungenis: Although this is beside the point, it really doesn’t explain their unbelief. For if it is true, as Dr. White asserts, that they were not chosen, in the primordial past, to believe when Jesus came, then it would make little difference whether they saw miracles or not when Jesus came.
Mr. Sungenis has completely missed the entire discussion, if these words are representative. Of course it explains their unbelief! And of course it is not beside the point, it is the point! They can stand before the very incarnate Son of God and yet stand in unbelief. Why? Is it because they are somehow “worse” than those who believe? Or, better put, that those who believe are smarter, more insightful, “better” people? NO! The reason is found in the grace and mercy of God alone, for those who are redeemed are so only by mercy. There is nothing in the elect that make them “better” than the others, more likely to “choose” God. We were all, Paul reminds us, dead in our transgressions and sins. This is the whole point, and Mr. Sungenis continues to miss it.
Sungenis: In actuality, then, the notion of using miracles as an impetus for belief really undercuts the Calvinist position. All the Calvinist can say is that the miracles are performed in front of the Jews so as to have more evidence to convict them at Judgment Day for not repenting of their sins, as if God is some kind of ogre who has to grind the point into the sand before He can unleash His fury. But for the Catholic position, the use of miracles fits in very well, since the free will component of their salvation allows the miracles to work their intended effect – – to consider more seriously their responsibility to repent. On occasion, the miracles were instrumental in turning the people to Jesus.
Aside from the rhetoric that flies in the face of so much biblical evidence, let the reader note how again the text is stood on its head: did the miracle of feeding the 5,000 join synergistically with the “free will” of the crowd to lead them to true conversion? Is that the point of the passage? Or is Jesus preparing the Twelve for the result in John 6:65-67? Let the reader decide.
JRWPrev: To throw the emphasis in 6:37 upon the present tense rather than the future action is to miss the context;
Sungenis: To claim that your opponent is “throwing the emphasis on the present tense rather than the future action” when he is not doing so, is the first and only error here.
Let the record stand on its own: “Also, the verb “give” in John 6:37 (“All that the Father gives to me will come to me”) is a Greek present tense, not a perfect, which shows that the action of “giving” is occurring presently, and is not confined to whatever White conceives the perfect tense of 6:39 to be saying.”
Sungenis: Again, the only reason I mentioned the present tense in John 6:37 was to offset the unwarranted emphasis Dr. White was making of the perfect tense in John 6:39. I neither dwelt on the “ongoing” nature of the present tense in John 6:37, nor did I postulate that its effect was overshadowing the future tense of the verse.
JRWPrev: to miss the weight of the perfect in 6:39 in defining the will of the Father is likewise an error.
Sungenis: The Perfect tense in Greek grammar does not define the will of the Father. The Perfect tense merely tell us when an action took place relative to the main verb, or other verbs, in the sentence structure. Once again, let me reiterate: the only thing the Perfect tense of John 6:39 is doing is showing that the action of “giving” must precede the action of “raising” on the last day. That’s not too hard to understand. You don’t even need to know Greek to figure that out. It is only when someone tries to inject their own theology into such a simple grammatical construction that problems start to arise.
And since we have seen that Mr. Sungenis is in error even on this basic point of Greek grammar, we encourage the reader to consider this when evaluating so many other claims made in a similar vein.
This file is more than 200K in length. It’s probably way too long. But a full response was warranted, if only to make sure that a few items were clear: 1) the flow and meaning of the text is unambiguous and clear; 2) the attempts on Mr. Sungenis’ part to interact with the text on a grammatical and syntactical level failed; 3) God is free and sovereign in His work of salvation. Soli Deo Gloria!