Over the course of the debates we have done I have often had to point out the difference between theocentric religion and anthropocentric religion. This normally comes up when encountering someone who reads one of the passages in the Bible that can be read prescriptively (“do this so as to be saved”) or descriptively (“this is what a saved person does”). For example, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13) is read by someone who views the faith in a man-centered fashion, “by enduring to the end one brings about one’s own salvation” (even if the person then says, “Oh, but I can only do that because God graciously gives me the opportunity of doing so”). A person who views salvation as centered upon God and what He does reads the passage, “the one who is saved endures to the end” as a description of what it means to be truly saved: faith that comes from God endures.
One of the most striking tests of whether someone looks at the Bible from a man-centered or (by grace alone!) a God-centered view is found in John 6:38-39, where the Lord Jesus explains the reason why all those who come to Him will never be driven away. Here the will of the Father for the Son is expressed in that it is the Father’s will that the Son lose none of those who are given to Him by the Father (referring back to v. 37, where Jesus said that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him) but that He raise them up at the last day. The person who understands that Christian salvation is a divine act, free, sovereign, and all to God’s glory, can fully understand these words. Jesus has the power and ability to save completely all those who trust in Him (Hebrews 7:24-25). He is a perfect Savior who does not need meritorious works on the part of men to “complete” His work. But one who has a man-centered understanding will have to work very hard to escape the meaning of these words.
While looking for James Akin’s “inceptive aorist” argument in his debate notes posted at cin.org a few days ago, I ran across the following “explanation” of John 6:38-39 that illustrates anthropocentrism to the nth degree:
Next, Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.”
True. It is the Father’s will that he lose none of those given to him. It is also the Fathers will that nobody commit murder and adultery, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t commit murder and adultery. They do. You have to distinguish between which divine will you are talking about, the will by which he desires what will happen and the will by which he decrees what will happen. In this passage, Jesus is talking about the former, and we know that because some who have been given to him are lost. In John 17:9-12, Jesus says: “I am praying for . . . for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. While I was with them . . . I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
So of those the Father gave to Jesus, Jesus lost Judas in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In one sense God wants all who are given to Jesus to persevere, but in another sense God allows some of them, like Judas, to not persevere.
First, distinguishing between the will of God expressed in His law (“you shall not murder”) and His actual decretive will expressed in creation itself is quite proper: but it has nothing whatsoever to do with this context. John 6:38-39 is about the divine will of the Father for the Son in the eternal covenant of redemption, which is hardly relevant to the fact that while God expresses His law, sinners break that law! What needs to be seen here is that Mr. Akin is saying the Son of God can fail to do the will of the Father! What an amazing statement! What in the text leads Mr. Akin to this conclusion? Well, nothing in the immediate context is cited (nor could there be anything cited, at least from any meaningful exegetical viewpoint), but one idea is offered by leaving this context and confusing categories with reference to John 17. There, in the context of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, Jesus makes reference to Judas, the son of perdition, and says, in reference to the apostles, that He has lost none of them, except Judas, “so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” The idea that it was God’s intention to give Judas to the Son and the Son raise him up on the last day (the context of John 6) is utterly without merit. This is a simple confusion of one context (John 6 being salvation) with another (John 17 being in reference to the apostles and Judas as the son of perdition), resulting in the overthrow of the plain words of Jesus in John 6:38-39. Indeed, one must wonder: what if Judas had persevered, at least past the point where he was to fulfill his role as the betrayer? Such are the conundrums faced by those who view the faith from an anthropocentric position. Further, the eisegetical nature of Akin’s comment is seen by noting that he forgets that vs. 38-39 are an explanation of v. 37: why will the Son not drive away any who comes to Him? His interpretation divorces the answer from the question and leaves the question with its opposite answer, since, in the judgment, Christ will in fact drive away some of those who came to Him at one point, but did not persevere!
It is truly a blessing to be delivered from such man-centeredness, and hence to rejoice in the divine reality that the Son will never fail to do the will of the Father, and that is the only hope I have for salvation!