Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the Pastor's Desk: part 4: John 6:37

In the next part of the sermon notes, Pastor Butler speaks of the relation of sound doctrine to different areas of the Bible's teaching such as the depravity of man and salvation by grace. Since the sermon notes do not say much at this point, I think it is better to refrain and wait for the MP3. However, his understanding of these points comes out later in the sermon notes.

Pastor Butler believes that there are two equal truths. He uses the analogy that with the left eye one sees God's sovereignty and with the other eye one sees man's freewill.
We are not called to express favoritism for the one eye that sees God is sovereign over all his creation, or the other eye that sees that God has given men and women an independence to choose and believe what they will choose and believe.
So as we look at his sermon notes we must keep in mind his presuppositions.

He cites John 6: 37,
"All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out."
He then adds commentary that any Calvinist could agree upon.
My Father has chosen some to give to me, and all these will believe on me and will be in my kingdom, church and family. And to any of you who are considering following me, please know that my arms are open. Anyone who chooses to come to me will be received."
Yet it is his understanding of his own statement that reveals his presuppositions. He approaches this philosophically and not Biblically. He adds his left eye/right eye analogy to this statement. In other words, he is assuming in this one statement that God has absolute power to bring a sinner to come to Christ, while on the other hand, man has an autonomous libertarian freewill. He believes both truths are equally taught. As he states here,
Yet Jesus was also saying that men and women have a free will, that each of us is responsible for our decisions and conduct, even decisions of faith, and that any one who will come to Jesus will be eternally saved.
He defines this statement to some extent.
This is a statement without limitation of any kind.

It leaves God's free grace open, and whosoever will may come and may be assured that he or she will not be refused.
So again, a Calvinist could agree with this technically, but the text itself says the exact opposite when it comes to man's will. Notice Jesus' words in John 6:44
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jesus explains to us why they are unbelieving. He tells us clearly that man is not able to come to Christ unless something happens. So man's will is not free in and of itself. It is enslaved to sin. It is the Father who frees men from their sin and draws and gives this people to the Son.

In other words, God's free grace is not hypothetical or that it makes men savable. In this text, God's grace actually does something the sinner could never do for himself. It saves him. God's grace is not only necessary (something Roman Catholics taught and still teach), but that it is sufficient in and of itself.

In more technical language, this comes down to Monergism verses Synergism. Is God's grace sufficient to save without cooperation of the sinner, or is the sinner's will needed to make God's grace effectual? This is the battle of the Reformation. To deny this point is to go back to Rome.

So at this point, much of what has been said could be technically agreed upon. However, when looking closely, Pastor Butler abandons the text and imposes his philosophical view of man's will. This is not balanced. This is elevating man's ability and maintaining a philosophically driven contradiction. In other words, it is God who does whatever He purposes. Nothing in the text says man has a similar ability.

1 comment:

RichardS said...

You are really hitting at some important points here. Thanks for doing this. The Reformation was brought about through the help of the debates Luther was part of. At the very least it helped Luther see how Rome looked to the authority of men and that he was looking to Scripture. Your dealing with this issue in this way is really good and hopefully will be very helpful to many.

Your point about the other man bringing his philosophical point of view and attaching it to a word or doctrine of Scripture is very insightful. It is easy to bring error in under the guise of being biblical when we use biblical words to transport non-biblical teachings in with. Thank you for pointing that out and being faithful to take on this issue without rancor.