Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Lavender Attempt Around John 6 (Concluded)
06/22/2005 - James WhiteThe reason all major English translations do not produce the tortured, first-year Greek rendering Lavender offers is simple: they recognize the common use of the subjunctive in these sorts of conditional sentences. John uses this kind of construction frequently, and consider the utter mess it would make of the language to use Lavenders artificial translation:
John 3:2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God [as] a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God MAY BE with him."
Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one MAY BE born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one MAY BE born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:27 John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it MAY HAVE been given him from heaven.
John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless [it is] something He MAY SEEthe Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you MAY EAT the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
John 7:51 "Our Law does not judge a man unless it first MIGHT HEAR from him and MIGHT KNOW what he is doing, does it?"
John 12:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat MAY FALL into the earth and MAY DIE, it remains alone; but if it MAY DIE, it bears much fruit.
John 13:8 Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you MIGHT NOT HAVE any part with Me."
John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it MIGHT ABIDE in the vine, so neither [can] you unless you MIGHT ABIDE in Me.
And so forth. You can see the absurdity of the application of this understanding to the text, and hence the explanation why translations do not do so. Lavenders real intentions are clearly eisegetical. He writes,
The passage does not say, except the Fatherhim, implying absolute certainty that the Father will so draw. The inspired text reads: except the Fathermay draw him, a third class condition construction.
No, the passage does say "except the Father...draw him," for it is simply expressing the reality that no man has the ability to come unless the Father does something, that is, draws him. Period, end of statement. It is a statement of fact (the first portion of the sentence is in the indicative, not the subjunctive) that no man has the capacity to come. The "unless" portion simply fills in what is necessary for that coming to take place: the drawing of the Father. Lavender is not only missing the Greek, he's missing the point of the text itself. He writes,
It is impossible that this linguistic construction may yield an act of complete divine sovereignty with irresistible certainty decreed from eternity as claimed by Calvinists. Except the Father...may draw is far short of complete divine sovereignty.
This is what he's really after, but he provides not the first bit of meaningful foundation for his assertion. Is he saying complete divine sovereignty cannot be expressed in a subjunctive clause expressing the inability of man to come to Christ outside of divine drawing or enablement? Upon what basis is such an assertion made? We are not told. Evidently, Lavender believes most will not be able to see the utter disconnection between a pile of grammatical statements and the theological/traditional assertions placed right after them and sadly, on that account, he is pretty much correct. Ironically, even if you accept Lavender's tortured translation, it does not support his position: "may draw him" would only emphasize the freedom of God to draw as He sees fit---it would say nothing about any alleged synergism or free will of man. He continues,
No man is able to come to Me, except....The plan of salvation is an unconditional act of God, as is its method, how people are saved, etc. God thus initiates or makes the first move by conviction, etc.
Not only is the plan of salvation an unconditional act of God, but the actual act of saving is as well. But where does Lavender get God "initiating" or "making the first move by conviction" here? From only one source: his tradition, surely not from anything he has argued from the text itself. He goes on,
The direct object of may draw is him. So it is the individual that may be drawn by the Divine side, clearly showing that salvation is conditional; but there must be volitional response from the human side. The person must come (erchomai): his act, his volition, or a conscious deliberate act or choice must be exercised.
Yes, not only is the direct object of draw "him" but Lavender must assume a distinction between the him that is drawn and the him that is raised up on the last day, a distinction that not only disrupts the flow and the point of the passage, but one that lacks any basis in the text itself. The rest of this statement is pure, unadulterated eisegesis: Lavender does not even attempt to provide a basis for the assertions he makes. Where does the text say there must volitional response from the human side? It doesn't. Is there, as a result of the divine and effective act of drawing, infallibly a response from the one thusly drawn? Surely, there is. We do come to Christ, but we do infallibly---and surely (John 6:37). It is possible Lavender simply misunderstands in its entirety the Reformed position, assuming that because spiritual resurrection must come first then we deny the reality of the believer's coming to Christ. But there would be no excuse for such a misunderstanding, since I addressed this very problem forcefully in the material he is ostensibly reviewing. And yet that seems to be the real problem, for he continues,
The term "come (erchomai)," in one form or another, is used in the verses of our immediate discussion 4 times, verses 37, 44, 45, and 65. In each instance the form is in the active sense, showing that coming involves human action in cooperation with Divine initiative.
Yes, not only is erchomai used throughout the passage, it is used in the present tense, emphasizing the on-going nature of this saving faith. But if Lavender would allow the text to speak for itself, and if he would follow the flow of thought, he would see that Jesus said all those that the Father gives Him will come to Him. And there is no subjunctive escape hatch here, either. This bare assertion of synergism misses the fact that it is the giving of the Father that results inthe coming of the elect to Christ. How amazing that in a text that so plainly lays out the inability of man Lavender's tradition turns the text on its head so as to promote the ability of man. He continues,
Dr. White's statement: "All that are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son. Not some, not most, but all" is absolutely false in his Calvinistic context, but absolutely correct in the Scriptural context. Verse 37 deals with the church of God as a corporate unit as shown by the construction (pa/n o], pan ho) already noted above [my book from which copied]. Verse 44 deals with the individual (auvto,n (him). Accordingly, complete harmony exists between these verses: All of Hell could not keep God from having a Church (pa/n o,] pan ho); and the individual (auvto,n ( him) of that Church comes.
This is about the only substantive argument Lavender presents in this entire section, to be honest. Here the argument is that we have only a general, "corporate unit" in v. 37, but that v. 44 somehow presents a free-will individual, creating a harmony allowing for God to be sovereign in creating a Church, just not regarding the individuals who will be a part of it. And yet, even the briefest of examinations of the text shows just how poorly constructed and false this argument is. If "coming" is the action of an individual, how can John 6:37 be about a corporate unit when it specifically speaks of the one coming?Lavender is quite right that the elect as a unit are seen in the neuter in 6:38-39 especially: but the balance of Scripture is clear in that when the group is in view as the object of God's electing grace, this always results in (is not dependent upon, but results in: the order is key) the coming of the individuals who make up that singular group to Christ. The one action determines the other. No synergism: biblical sovereignty resulting in the infallible coming of the elect to Christ. Lavender concludes,
So the statement that the Father may draw does not pose a question as to the Fathers willingness to save, but the person that He may draw, the direct object..."him," must come. God does not draw irresistibly as implied by the translation draw him in the indicative mood, rather than the subjunctive.
And as we have seen, there isnt a shred of support for this desperate attempt to get around the text in the Scripture itself. It is not a matter of the Father "may draw" as we saw; there is nothing in the text that says "those whom He draws must come, and some may not." Those given come; those given He draws so that they come. The text is clear, and though one may throw a great deal of grammatical terminology around to obscure the facts, they remain the facts all the same.