Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
John 6 and the "Pristine Faith Restoration Society" (#3)
08/02/2006 - James WhiteIn our last installment we examined Tim Warner's assertion that rather than the great promise of God to His people that He has provided a full and complete salvation in Jesus Christ, Warner's man-centered "progressive dispensationalism" leads him to make this amazing statement:
Jesus did not tell the Jewish crowds what God had absolutely decreed, but God's desire and purpose. "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39-40).
We considered what this meant. First, we noted it has no connection to what came before: it disrupts the flow and isolates the text. Jesus is explaining the unbelief of these men, and contrasting them with those who are given to Him by the Father, who are coming to Him in faith. Warner's interpretation does not take this into account and is thereby proven eisegetical. Next, we saw that this means that the best God can do is wish Jesus would be able to save all those given to Him. But what is worse, it seems that it also follows that while the Father would like for all those who look upon the Son and believe in Him to have everlasting life, this may or may not take place! Talk about eternal insecurity! What a horrific misreading of this precious text.
But now we move from here to the perversion of the Greek language presented by Warner in his response to me on John 6. He falls into the "let's read some basic grammars of the Greek language but not really do much in the way of serious translation" trap. In a section called "Grammatical Uncertainty" he makes the very same error Dave Hunt made in reference to the subjunctive in the Greek language. In the process, he likewise misuses the single source he cites on the topic, and that in an incredibly obvious fashion. He writes:
The Greek verb, in the phrase translated "should lose nothing," is "apolesw" - first aorist active subjunctive. The purpose of the subjunctive mood is usually to imply some level of uncertainty, and "generally represents the verbal action (or state) as uncertain but probable." This probability depends on certain objective factors or circumstances. Likewise, in the clause, "I should raise him up at the last day," the verb translated "should raise up" is "anasthsw" - aorist active subjunctive. This is a statement, not of result, but of intent or purpose alone. Jesus communicated the Father's desire that Jesus would eventually raise up all who saw Him and believed on Him. These verses do not state what absolutely WILL occur. Rather, Jesus relayed the wishes of the Father. The importance of this will become obvious when we compare Jesus' final report to His Father regarding His completing this mission at the end of His earthly ministry.
Now, a footnote is provided. The reference given here is, "Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 461." I have taught Greek Exegesis using this work, and have taught the section on the subjunctive, so I know Mr. Warner simply has no idea what he's talking about here. That's the kindest thing I can say, because otherwise, he's being dishonest. Why? As I will document below, he is grossly misusing Wallace. But, beyond that, before going back over what was just said, I note that he cites Wallace a second time, and note what he says:
Wallace goes on to claim an exception for cases where the Divine will is involved, claiming that in such cases, "ina is used to express both the divine purpose and result." (p. 473). However, it is evident that this conclusion is based on Wallace's own Calvinistic bias rather than the grammar of the examples he cites. His primary example for this is John 3:16, in the clause "should not perish." Wallace writes, "The fact that the subjunctive is all but required afterina does not, of course, argue for uncertainty as to the fate of the believer. This fact is obvious, not from this text, but from the use of of (sic) ou mh in John 10:28 and 11:26, as well as the general theological contours of the gospel of John."
You see, if Warner were right in his description of the subjunctive, the vast majority of statements in all of Scripture expressing purpose in divine or human action would of necessity have to involve doubt or hesitation in expression. In other words, there would be no means in the Greek language to express a certainty of purpose or result. But this is obviously ridiculous. Yet Warner does not seem to have sufficient translational experience to realize how common the subjunctive is in these contexts, especially in purpose/result clauses following the Greek term i[na (hina). The term appears 663 times in the NA27 Greek text. I would refer the reader to the fuller discussion in the referenced section in Wallace, for Warner is surely missing the majority of what Wallace is saying, and as I will document below, if he had actually bothered to cite Wallace correctly, Wallace would refute his own assertions! For our purposes now it is sufficient to point out that especially when i[na is used with an infinitive ("to do something") it is often functioning in a purpose/result clause. Here's an example from Paul:
Galatians 1:15-16 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,
This is a very common form. God was pleased to do something. What? "To reveal." This is an infinitive (avpokalu,yai). And what was the purpose of God's revelation? Why did God do what God did? The i[na clause explains: "so that I might preach." This is why God set Paul apart and revealed the Son to Him. There is nothing in the grammar, by using the subjunctive, that demands us to say, "Well, God revealed His Son to Paul but He was limited to just hoping that Paul would as a result preach...." This is to completely miss the point. It is a common error of those who do not actually translate the text outside of controversial passages (since you would run into this kind of construction so often elsewhere) to miss this normative grammatical structure. i[na is what determines the use of the subjunctive here, not the other way around, and as a result, it is an error to start with the mode, grab hold of one possible meaning of the subjunctive, and then read that back into specific uses. But let's look at some examples in John:
John 6:5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?"
Infinitive: to buy bread. Purpose: so that these may eat. Not, "so that hopefully these folks will be able to eat but we really don't know and I am actually discussing the idea that maybe some of these folks have had gastric by-pass so that they may not be able to eat." Simple purpose clause: buy food for the purpose of eating. Just that simple.
John 6:12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost."
Here we have an imperative (command) with the i[na providing the purpose of the command. Specifically, gather up (command) so that or for the purpose that nothing will be lost. Simple meaning, here expressing the why of a command. There is nothing here indicating "Well, maybe the disciples missed some, so, something was, really, lost, and that because of the use of the subjunctive." No, the subjunctive is used here to provide us with the purpose of the command, nothing more. Context, context, context. Just one more:
John 6:15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Infinitives are "to come" and "to take by force" and the purpose clause introduced by i[na is "to make Him king." Again, not, "to try to make Him king but there is doubt as to whether they could and you have to remember the Romans were pretty powerful and then you have all the politics involved so the subjunctive is used to refer to all these things." No, that's eisegesis. That's reading something into the text for which there is no warrant.
So, having noted this, lets go back to what Warner is trying to do with John 6:39. Here is the text:
John 6:39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, [i[na] that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
Now, Warner is going backwards when he goes to a general possible meaning of the subjunctive in particular texts and then reads that into this text. Sound exegesis learns all the possible ranges of the subjunctive but allows the text to determine the actual meaning. In this case, we note that the text starts with tou/to de, evstin (now this is...). In this instance, the i[na clause is filling out the meaning of the "will" of the One who sent Jesus. There is nothing whatsoever in the text implying uncertainty. Nothing. Zero. In fact, Warner is completely missing the entire point to argue in this fashion, both exegetically and theologically. All the i[na is doing here is telling us what the Father's will for the Son is in this context: it is in no way even suggesting inability on the part of the Son, synergism, or all the other related issues Warner tries to squeeze through his misuse of the subjunctive. Now, Warner's error is seen not only by pointing out his misuse of the Greek, but by following the argument itself: Jesus says that He will not cast out the one who comes to Him as a result of having been given to Him by the Father (v. 37). But why? Why will He not ever cast them out? Because He is doing the Father's will. And the Father's will, expressed in v. 39, is that the Son lose nothing of that which has been given to Him. This explains why none of those referred to in v. 37 will ever be cast out.
Now, Warner seems to miss that his viewpoint demands something else: if it is just a hoped for result of God's will that Jesus loses none (as if He will---Warner is confused with the Judas issue, as we will see later) then it follows that while Jesus may tryto raise up His own on the last day, if Warner is right, there is doubt as to His capacity to do so! Now, Warner may try to get around this by saying, "Well, the only reason Jesus fails to raise someone up is because they do not cooperate in believing." But the vast majority of those who believe in Jesus will be dead "on the last day." Resurrection is something Jesus does by His own power and on the last day. If I need to be raised up, I surely cannot assist in the process! So the point is, if you start engaging in this kind of argumentation, you end up completely turning the text on its head. Can you imagine Jesus answering the disbelief of the Jews by saying, "Hey, you are unbelievers, and the reason you are unbelievers is because those the Father gives me sometimes come to Me, but sometimes they don't, and I've come down from heaven to try to do the Father's will, but I can't do it myself, I need your help...you who are unbelievers in the first place."
Please note that the gospel itself is lost in Warner's position if he were to follow his own thinking about i[na. Why? Look at the next verse:
John 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, [i[na] 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."
You see, vs. 39 and 40 are in parallel to one another syntactically. Verse 39 gives us the will of the Father for the Son and comes first; it explains why the Son will never cast out one who comes to Him. Then verse 40 gives us the result of this, specifically, that the Father's will is that everyone looking and believing in the Son would have eternal life and the Son will raise that one up on the last day. But note the use of the subjunctive! Warner says "these verses do not state what absolutely WILL occur." So, does it follow that there will be those who believe and look upon Christ (present tense, not in false faith, but true, abiding faith) who will not receive eternal life and will not be raised up? Only if you accept Warner's warped view of the subjunctive.
This is why Warner is wrong to dismiss Dan Wallace's comments as being merely an opinion based upon Wallace's Calvinism. Indeed, if Warner had quoted the rest of the first citation he gave, his point would have collapsed, for Dr. Wallace actually concluded that introductory paragraph by stating, "Still, this is an overly simplistic definition in light of its usage in the NT."
However, as I noted above, Warner has massacred his single grammatical source here, that being Dan Wallace's work on Greek syntax. If he wished to seriously inform his readers about the use of i[na in the subjunctive, why skip the entire discussion of this very issue provided by Wallace in the section on the subjunctive? Answer? Because it would not support his point. On page 472 we read,
1) Purpose }Ina Clause (a.k.a. Final or Telic }Ina)
The most frequent use of i[na clauses is to express purpose. In classical Greek, this idea would have been expressed more often by the infinitive. The focus is on the intention of the action of the main verb, whether accomplished or not. In keeping with the genius of the subjunctive, this subordinate clause answers the question Why? rather than What? An appropriate translation would be in order that, or, where fitting, as a simple infinitive (to . . .).
We must not suppose that this use of the subjunctive necessarily implies any doubt about the fulfillment of the verbal action on the part of the speaker. This may or may not be so; each case must be judged on its own merits. The subjunctive is used, however, because it answers the implicit deliberative question. Further, many instances of purpose clauses shade off into result as well, especially when the divine will is in view. (See purpose-result category below.)
And surely, the full discussion that Warner misrepresents in his second footnote is worth reading from p. 473:
3) Purpose-Result ~Ina Clause
Not only is i[na used for result in the NT, but also for purpose-result. That is, it indicates both the intention and its sure accomplishment. BAGD point out in this connection: "In many cases purpose and result cannot be clearly differentiated, and hence i[na is used for the result which follows according to the purpose of the subj[ect] or of God. As in Jewish and pagan thought, purpose and result are identical in declarations of the divine will." Likewise, Moule points out that "the Semitic mind was notoriously unwilling to draw a sharp dividing-line between purpose and consequence." In other words, the NT writers employ the language to reflect their theology: what God purposes is what happens and, consequently, i[na is used to express both the divine purpose and the result.
This probably does not represent a change in syntax from classical to Koine, but a change in subject matter. It is, of course, possible to treat each of these examples as simply purpose i[na clauses in which there is evidently no doubt about the accomplishment from the speaker's viewpoint. Hence, in order that is an acceptable gloss.
And so we see that Warner's attempt to insert "grammatical uncertainty" fails completely. We will continue our examination of his claims in later articles.