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James White: John 6, the Father and the Son, Salvation, and Roman Catholic Apologists
Scott Windsor: "James White Has Been Proven Wrong So Many Times, It Isn't Funny"
James White: So runs part of the headline on Scott Windsor's "response" to his appearance on our webcast. I swore I would not even waste my time looking at it. Many felt I had wasted an entire program a few weeks ago having an amateur "apologist" on the program, Scott Windsor, to discuss John six (click here to listen). I did so for a reason many could not possibly understand: I have tried, repeatedly, for almost fifteen years, to reason with Mr. Windsor, all to no avail. I have provided him with resources, information….you name it. But, Scott simply doesn't hear the message. So when I heard that Scott had spent many hours crafting a "response" to our debate (why do folks feel the need to "respond" to debates when they were in them?), I told a friend of mine, "I'm not even going to look." And at first, I didn't. But Mr. Windsor kept making reference to it, and even sent me an email in which he again asserted he had proven me "wrong" numerous times, so I finally gave in. Maybe it was a moment of weakness, I don't know. But here is the article I looked at. click here.
Any person who listens to the program will find the majority of the written "response" most telling. The problems with its are so manifold it is about as difficult to respond to it as it is to rebut Gail Riplinger: it takes three pages just to set up all the background and context errors made by the author under review, so that any response ends up being an exercise in frustration (let alone as exciting as chewing aluminum foil while watching paint dry). Some of the alleged errors are simply humorous they are so obviously the result of Mr. Windsor's lack of comprehension of what it was we were supposed to be talking about in the first place.
But, in the midst of scanning through the article, I ran across a few citations of Robert Sungenis. In fact, right as I started looking at the article, Scott Windsor himself dropped into our chatroom so we started discussing the problems with his article. One of the issues I raised with him was the "24th" error he alleged in my comments. Here is what his article alleges:
Scott Windsor: Let's go on to this other point though, Jesus turns to the 12 and I assume you would see that these are part of the elect, the called, the drawn. (James responds "right.") And He turns to them and says, "Will you also leave?" He gave them a choice! Was He only kidding when He said that?
James White: Oh, wait-wait-wait-wait-wait! This is where we have to look at what the Scripture actually says. There is a way in the Greek language that you can phrase a question that expects a negative answer, and that is the way Jesus phrased this.
Scott Windsor: He may have phrased it that way, but He still gave them a choice. "The Greek wording does not use the type of wording used with a rhetorical question." (Telephone conversation, Robert Sungenis, February 6, 2001). Obviously it was not purely a rhetorical question, because Peter answered Him! [WC=24]
James White: Now I immediately chuckled since it seems Mr. Windsor is unaware of the difference between a question that expects a negative answer and a rhetorical question. They are, of course, not the same thing, and his response assumes they are. We demonstrated in the chat channel that indeed the particle mh when used with a question assumes a negative answer: we cited three different Greek grammars (Mounce, Davis, and Perschbacher) that all said the exact same thing and fully substantiated the assertion I made. As anyone can see from listening to the program, Mr. Windsor tried to insert the concept of free will into John 6:67, and I pointed out the form of the text does not support his position. I did not attempt to make any positive point on the basis of the passage: I had already done so in John 6:37ff.
So it was clear that Mr. Windsor, being unable to deal with the original text himself, had decided to depend upon Robert Sungenis. In fact, when faced with the joint citation of two of the above three grammars, Mr. Windsor commented,
Scott Windsor: "again... I don't know the Greek.... I asked someone who did (actually a couple people who did and both concurred)... so I defer to Sungenis.
James White: So Mr. Windsor invests in Robert Sungenis greater authority in the
Greek language than established, proven and published grammars. I'm thankful
Mr. Sungenis does not claim such a position for himself, but for some reason
Mr. Windsor is comfortable making such a blind leap.
Now while I wish to focus upon a later issue wherein Mr. Sungenis provides a lengthy section of Mr. Windsor's article, I should note in passing that when I wrote to Mr. Sungenis about this particular issue, I was most surprised by his response. He attempted to say that mh does not always have to indicate a negative response. He provided one example that he said indicates a positive response, John 7:31. However, upon examination, Mr. Sungenis is obviously in error:
But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" (NASB)
Mr. Sungenis interprets this passage to mean, "Yes, Christ will perform more
signs" than those Jesus did. Yet this is not the obvious meaning of the text
at all. Instead, Mr. Sungenis has completely missed the clear statement that
these are the words of believers in Jesus. They are responding favorably and
were saying that surely the Christ would not perform more signs than Jesus had
performed, hence, Jesus was the Messiah. As A.T. Robertson put it, Will he do?
(mh poihseiÈ). Future active indicative of poiew with mh (negative answer expected).
Jesus had won a large portion of the pilgrims (ek tou oclou polloi) either before
this day or during this controversy. The use of episteusan (ingressive aorist active)
looks as if many came to believe at this point.
Whether these were true, regenerate believers or not is not the issue at the moment; their statement is properly translated by the NASB, which recognizes the form of the question. Not only does Robertson contradict Sungenis regarding the use of mh, but he also recognizes the obvious fact that these people are indeed arguing for Christ, not against Him. Sungenis is simply in complete error at this point.
Robert Sungenis: 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.
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
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)." END
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)." END
James White: With this in mind, I would like to turn to the assertions made by Mr. Sungenis in the body of Mr. Windsor's "response" to our debate. I believe his words provide an excellent opportunity of testing both the validity of my oft?repeated claim that consistent Roman Catholics are not able, due to what I might call "epistemological ham-stringing," to engage the text in its native context (i.e., to engage in meaningful exegesis), and hence that this is supportive of my belief that Rome teaches sola ecclesia, the Church as the highest and final authority in all things. John 6:37?39 and the Sovereignty of God
Before we can meaningfully examine, and refute, Robert Sungenis' position, we must first understand what it was I was attempting to say. One can listen to the program and hear that in the course of five minutes I presented the standard Reformed understanding of this passage. But, for those who may not have access to the Real Audio recording, I provide here the section I wrote on this passage from my rebuttal of Norman Geisler titled The Potter's Freedom:
Robert Sungenis: 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.
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." END
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." END
James White: The setting is important: Jesus speaks to the crowds gathered in the synagogue at Capernaum. They have followed Him there after the feeding of the five thousand the day before. They are seeking more miracles, and more food. Jesus does not pander to their "felt needs," but goes directly to the real issue: who He is and how He is central to God's work of redemption. He identifies Himself as the "Bread of life" (v. 35), the source of all spiritual nourishment. In our modern setting we might not feel the force of His words as they must have felt them that morning. "Who is this man to speak this way of Himself?" they must have thought. Not even the greatest prophets of Israel had directed people to faith in themselves! Not even an Abraham or an Isaiah would claim to have come down from heaven, nor would they ever say "the one coming to Me will never hunger and the one believing in Me will never thirst." We must attempt to feel the sharp impact of these words just as they were spoken.
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.
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. This doctrine teaches that, after
Adam sinned, man lost his free will. 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. 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. 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.
The above facts are important, since it seems by everything Dr. White has
written that he attributes the obstinance and unbelief of the Jews in John 6
to the fact that God has predestined them to unbelief and eternal damnation.
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 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.
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. 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. 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.
The above facts are important, since it seems by everything Dr. White has written that he attributes the obstinance and unbelief of the Jews in John 6 to the fact that God has predestined them to unbelief and eternal damnation. 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 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. 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. 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. 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.
James White: "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.
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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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. 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." END
James White: "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.]
Robert Sungenis: 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." END
James White: Jesus affirms the eternal security of the believer.
Robert Sungenis: 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. END.
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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." END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: Dr. White implies that he has made an important statement above, but there is nothing of real significance here. 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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"?? Where does the passage conclude that those who come can never be lost?? 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." END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: Without restating the obvious, you can again see how Dr. White has confused Christ's perfection and all-sufficiency with "eternal security." 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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.
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. END
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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: I can't help but notice that Dr. White has skipped over the details of verse 40. 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. 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. 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. END
James White: 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?
Robert Sungenis: 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? 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.
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 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. 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. END
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 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. 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. END
James White: 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?
Robert Sungenis: 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.
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. 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.
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. END
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. 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.
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. END
James White: 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?
Robert Sungenis: 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. 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. As Dr. White has shown, they consistently add extraneous thoughts and qualifications to the text that are simply not there. END
James White: It is 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: Appealing to Greek present participles is not going to prove Dr. White's case. 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. 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: I agree. No one has suggested that they are different groups. END
James White: 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).
Robert Sungenis: 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. END
James White: This, then, is the position I have presented over the course of the past decade in previous books, in The Potter's Freedom, and in brief on the webcast with Mr. Windsor. In response, Mr. Sungenis is quoted as saying:
"The perfect tense of dedooken is not crucial. White is taking it to mean that the Father chose everyone without their free will, but the text does not say that. 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. In fact, the next verse, John 6:40, uses "sees" and "believes" in the Greek present tense, active voice, showing that the people are seeing and believing at the present time, by their own wills (Greek active voice, not passive), and it is the Father's will that each one who does this will be raised on the last day. This is also significant since the "last day" in John 6:40 is pivoting off of the "last day" in John 6:39, showing that the "have given" of John 6:39 must be related to the those who chose to "see" and "believe" in John 6:40. If anything, there is a dynamic relationship here, not one weighted to the Father making all the decisions. 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. The "give" of John 6:37 is the same Greek word as the "has given" of John 6:39, only a different tense. Moreover, we can say the same about 6:37 as we did about 6:39, that is, those the Father "gives" to Jesus are those who have responded to the Father's call by their free will. The Father gathers these people and brings them to Jesus. In the final analysis, one cannot say what period of time the perfect tense of John 6:39 refers to, since the text does not give a reference point. It is very easy to abuse the perfect tense, because we don't always know when the action of the perfect tense starts. White is assuming that the perfect tense refers to a time long before the coming of Jesus. But all we can tell from the verse is that the action of the perfect tense occurs before the future tense occurrences of "I shall not lose" and "I shall raise him up." Although it is possible that the perfect tense refers to an event in the mind of God before the world was created, there is absolutely nothing in the grammatical text itself that demands that interpretation. That interpretation is simply commandeered from other passages they see as teaching absolute predestination, which they then place in John 6:39. That fact, coupled with the present tense didoosin in John 6:37, and the present tense, active voices of "seeing" and "believing" in John 6:40, leans the interpretation to a present interaction between the Father and man, not an exclusive action by the Father in the distant past.James White: 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.
Robert Sungenis: Again, Dr. White is reading into the verse what his theology dictates. John 6:44 states: "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." All the passage says is that anyone who comes to Jesus has to be drawn by the Father. 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? 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. 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. END
James White: 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. END
James White: 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. 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 free will, since his theology insists that he make such conclusions. 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. END
James White: Further, the context of the passage, that being the unbelief of those who are hearing His words, is ignored as well.
Robert 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." END
James White: Instead, a foreign context of "free will" theology is inserted out of nowhere, and the text is left in a jumbled mess.
Robert 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END
James White: Now we can summarize this response as follows:
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.
Robert 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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 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. END
James White: 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).
Robert 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. END
James White: 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?
Robert 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. END
James White: 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?
Robert 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. The passages do not tell us the Father's criteria for giving the people to Jesus. 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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). END
James White: 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).
Robert 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. END
James White: 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."
Robert 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. END
James White: 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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. END
James White: The key in John 6 is that the giving results in the actions of coming and believing.
Robert Sungenis: No, the "giving" of John 6:37 results only in the "coming" not in "believing." 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. END
James White: 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END
James White: 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. END
James White: Indeed, Augustine put it well long ago:
CHAP. 16.??WHY THE GIFT OF FAITH IS NOT GIVEN TO ALL.Robert Sungenis: By quoting this, Dr. White has opened up a whole new can of worms. The Calvinist is forever trying to make St. Augustine one of their own, but try as they may, they cannot succeed. Granted, St. Augustine wrote some rather strong opinions about predestination in his time, but with four grand distinctions:
Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God's gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and to acknowledge in those that are not delivered what would be due to themselves; so that he that glorieth may glory not in his own merits, which he sees to be equaled in those that are condemned, but in the Lord. But why He delivers one rather than another,??" His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out." (On the Predestination of the Saints)
"Let us take care not to defend grace in such a way that we would seem to take away free choice; nor again can we insist so strongly on free choice that we could be judged in our proud impiety, ungrateful for the grace of God" (PL 44, 2, 18, 28).Is this not what Paragraph 600 of the Catholic Catechism stated, 1,500 years later?
"God, however, wills all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth; but not in such a way that He would take away their free choice; for the good or evil use of which it is most just that they be judged" (PL 44, 33, 58)
"Grace does not make free will void but establishes it...faith itself, in which seems to be the beginning either of salvation, or of that series leading to salvation which I have just mentioned, is placed in our power" (NPNF, V, 106).
"We are, therefore, in no way compelled, if we retain the foreknowledge of God, to discard our choice of will, or, if we retain choice of will, to deny - - which were shocking - - God's foreknowledge of future events. Rather, we embrace both." (PL 41, 5, 10, 2).
Be that as it may, let's look closer at the statement from St. Augustine that Dr. White quoted. Here it is again, with my comments:
St. Augustine: Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God's gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given."Robert Sungenis: Agreed. Faith is a gift from beginning to end. It is not given to everyone. Yet, I think I know why Dr. White is quoting this. He thinks that God's giving or not giving of the gift is completely arbitrary, but St. Augustine doesn't say that. All he says is that some are given the gift, others are not. The Catholic Church teaches, with St. Augustine (as one can tell from the above quotes I gave) that some people don't receive the gift of faith simply because they have refused to receive it. END St. Augustine: But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Robert Sungenis: Agreed. Catholic doctrine is clear that God owes no one anything. Everything we have is a gift of grace. We all deserve condemnation. If it weren't for God's mercy we would all end up in Hell. By law, God could justly punish each one of us for eternity.
St. Augustine: Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and to acknowledge in those that are not delivered what would be due to themselves; so that he that glorieth may glory not in his own merits, which he sees to be equaled in those that are condemned, but in the Lord.Robert Sungenis: Agreed. There is no room for boasting in the Christian faith. No one merits heaven by his own works. No one can put God in a position of legal obligation to save him. Only God's grace as a merciful Father saves us. That is what I spent 816 pages saying in Not By Faith Alone.
St. Augustine: But why He delivers one rather than another,??" His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out." (On the Predestination of the Saints)Robert Sungenis: Agreed. Some are delivered, some aren't. That is a fact of history and theology. God could have decided to save the whole human race, but He didn't. But I think the reason Dr. White finds this quote to his liking is that he thinks it teaches that God's deliverance of one and not the other is completely arbitrary, apart from free will, for that is what Calvinism believes. But notice that St. Augustine does not say that. All he says is that God's judgment are unsearchable, not that they are arbitrary.
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END
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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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. 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. END
James White: The use of the present tense "give" in 6:37 refutes the interpretation White makes of 6:39
The final element of Mr. Sungenis' attempt to derail the exegesis of John 6:37-39 and its witness to the truth of sovereign election and divine predestination is based upon the use of the present tense "give" at John 6:37. Jesus says, "All that the Father gives (present tense) Me will come to Me." Sungenis comments:
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. The "give" of John 6:37 is the same Greek word as the "has given" of John 6:39, only a different tense.James White: What shall we say to this? Does the use of the present tense in 6:37 mean the perfect in 6:39 cannot have reference to the same divine act we see in Ephesians 1:4?6? Not in the least. So then, why is "give" in the present in 6:37, but the perfect in 6:39?
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.
Robert 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. 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. 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." 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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:
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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.
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END
James White: This makes the future action of coming determine the present action of giving, just the opposite of what the text indicates.
Robert Sungenis: Obviously, since Dr. White has misunderstood the Catholic position, his statement above is also incorrect, both grammatically and theologically. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. END
James White: 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.
Robert 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. 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. END
James White: To throw the emphasis in 6:37 upon the present tense rather than the future action is to miss the context;
Robert 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. 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. END
James White: to miss the weight of the perfect in 6:39 in defining the will of the Father is likewise an error.
Robert 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.
Thank you for taking the time to read this rebuttal. May God bless you in your study.
Thank you for taking the time to read this rebuttal. May God bless you in your study.
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