Christianity: A Bargain That Will Cost You Everything

Parable of the Hidden Treasure (1630)
Parable of the Hidden Treasure (1630)

Sometimes, when we talk about Christianity, we present it as a great deal. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus says (Matthew 11:30). But other times, it sounds like Christianity is costly. Remember that Jesus also says “he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). So which view is right? Both of them.

There’s a pair of images that Jesus gives that sheds some light on this (Matthew 13:44-46):

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

At first, these two might be expressing the same thing, but there’s actually something to be gained from each one. The first image is of a treasure buried in a field. The man who finds this treasure buries it again, and then gives up everything he has to buy the field. Notice two things. First, buying the field costs the man everything he has.

Second, it’s still a steal. The man in this parable is getting the land for cheap. What Jesus is describing isn’t even legal. If you find treasure, or oil, or gold or whatever on someone’s property, you can’t conceal that fact from them when you’re trying to buy the land. Jesus is describing Christianity as an incredible deal, so good that He’s basically saying that we’re ripping God off. Look at what we get out of the deal, and look at what He gets.

So what can we take from this? You could say that Christianity is a bargain, but it still costs everything you have. Or to put it another way, Christianity costs everything you have, but it’s still a bargain. The Christian life really does require us to be willing to give up everything that we have to follow Christ. For some of us, that might literally mean giving up:

  • the promotion, because it requires you to work on Sundays or to spend too much time away from our families; or
  • the boyfriend, because he’s pressuring you to do things contrary to the faith;
  • the promise of having a wife and kids, because He’s calling us to the priesthood or religious life;
  • the comfort of popularity, because our friends are a bad influence; or simply
  • our self-centeredness, as we are daily asked to put others in front of ourselves when we really don’t want to.

And we can choose to look on it negatively. But we can also choose to look at it as the most amazing investment imaginable. Just consider. Imagine if you had a time machine, and could go back and invest in Apple or Microsoft or one of those companies when it was just starting. Chances are, you’d gladly give up all of your money, you’d struggle to make ends meet, putting every spare dollar into buying more and more stock in the company, knowing that one day, these short-term sacrifices would make you extremely wealthy. And that’s just for money, just for this life. Christianity contains the certain promise of so much more. Give up everything you have to follow Christ, and you’ll gain eternal happiness.

And what’s better is that this investment gains dividends now. It’s not that you’ll get eternal life but you have to live a terrible life now. Even if that were true, it would be worth it. Trading a few decades of unhappiness for unending billions of decades of bliss would be a great deal. But the truth, God is the author of human nature. He knows what will truly fulfill us both in eternity and here and now.

And this is what’s revealed in the second of the parables that Jesus uses. He compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a Pearl of Great Price, but more importantly, he compares you and I to “a merchant in search of fine pearls.” In other words, it’s not just that the Kingdom of Heaven is valuable in some objective sense. It’s that it’s the fulfillment of what you and I have been searching for our whole lives. The happiness that we crave, and that we do anything to gain, that’s the happiness God is promising us. That’s the pearl.

So with that, two parting words of advice:

First, It’s no good trying to do Christianity by half-measures. The price of the Kingdom of Heaven is to give up everything to follow Christ. So look at whatever is holding you back, whatever you’re not willing to part with, and ask yourself, “would I really trade eternal happiness with my Creator for this?”

Second, your heart is longing for the Pearl of Great Price. Stop trying to satisfy it with imitation pearls, no matter how shiny they are. Trust God to provide the joy that He made you for, and the joy that He promises to give you.

134 Comments

  1. Dear Father to be. It is a common occurrence to hear Priests tell their parishioners that they are the pearl of great price and ABS has heard that with increasing frequency the last several years.

    To what do you attribute that common error?

    Is it the change in modernity from a theocentric to an anthropocentric orientation?

    1. I would say that it comes with the way the text itself is worded: “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,” and “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant.” In the first example, the kingdom of heaven is the treasure which one sells all he has to get-the kingdom of heaven is in this case talking directly of Christ (Christ is the treasure which we give everything for). In the second, the kingdom of heaven is not the pearl, but it is the merchant-the kingdom of heaven is the thing which gives up everything to have the treasure. So, in the second example either the kingdom of heaven refers to the Church OR to Christ (if the Church, it is the kingdom of heaven giving up everything for Christ, her Bridegroom. If it is Christ, it is He Who gives all He has on the Altar of the Upper Room and Calvary for His bride, the Church, the pearl of great price).

      1. Your reply is a bit quizzical because the observation of ABS was about the perplexing propensity for priests to say that we are the pearl of great price when it is the case that it is Jesus who is the great pearl, not us.

        ABS wonders if this recent novelty is not unconnected with the recent change in our focus from God to man – a change boasted about by Pope Paul VI in his most questionable commentary about how we (The Church ) have the cult of man.

        ABS does want to add that the parish who gets Father to be will be a fortunate one

      2. Hi Anthony,

        Regarding the ‘treasure hidden in the field’, I think the treasure is God the Father, and the combined humanity and divinity of Jesus is ‘The field’. And the reason I think so, is that we need to search the words and deeds of Jesus to acquire a detailed knowledge of God the Father, wherein, when we ‘see’ Jesus we ‘see’ and understand ‘The Father’ as well. This is to say, there are people who are not very interested in Christ’s words and deeds, which means they are not interested in searching through a vast field, with the consequent result that they will never discover the ‘Father’. Even in the Gospels we find many people of Christ’s era who only saw the humanity of the Lord, and completely neglected to associate His humanity with ‘Divinity’, or God. And this is why Peter’s confession of Christ’s divinity was so noted by the Lord in the Gospel account. That is to say, even the apostles struggled with finding the treasure of God the Father in the ‘person of Christ’, and even leading Jesus to have the dialog with Philip in the last weeks of His life, stating: “Philip, if you have seen me you have seen the Father”. So, it seems that the ‘Treasure’ is a knowledge of God the Father, and we learn about Him by studying every square inch of the revealed field ‘Jesus Christ’ until we find God the Father.

        Another idea is…that nobody goes digging around a field without a hint or idea that a treasure indeed might be found there. It’s like a man with a metal detector. He will never go into a wild forest and just start searching. This would be complete lunacy. Rather, he needed to hear about a site from someone beforehand, as a place where ancient or valuable treasure might be found. It is not just pure luck, searching out in the middle of ‘nowhere’.

        The same is true with religion. Missionaries go out into the world and point people towards ‘the field’ which is Christ. And after getting to know the topography of the field, and even finding some minor artifacts or clues, they begin to gain good confidence that they are getting closer to the ‘motherload’. They might gain these clues from attending Mass, occasionally, or thumbing through a biography of a Saint, or Bible, found in a home or library. And, so, keeping on searching and studying will bring them closer and closer to the Holy Faith, which teaches the fullness of the Holy Trinity.

        On the other hand, multitudes of people already know the name of Jesus, after 2000 plus years. And they almost all celebrate His birthday every year. But how many of these make Jesus the primary study in their life? In not doing so, many will only discover a ‘superficial Jesus’…maybe a ‘nice guy who forgives everybody’. But they will never find God the Father in this superficial study of the Lord. To find God the Father, a person needs to study carefully both the words and deeds of Christ as presented in the Gospels, and then to imitate the Lord by putting His words into practice in their lives. Then they will come closer to knowing God the Father, wherein they will seek to ‘do the will’ of the Father in their lives, even as Jesus did. Therein, understanding and fulfilling the will of God the Father in their lives, they will have discovered the fullness of the ‘motherload’ treasure, extending even to eternal life.

        Anyway, this is my opinion on the subject (and acknowledging also that there are probably plenty of other insights out there).

        – Al

      1. Hmmm the question personally directed to you by ABS has been studiously ignored and that silence bears with it a substantial message.

        So, ABS will just vanish after wishing you a successful and profitable vocation.

        Adios.

        1. ABS,

          Why be so sensitive? Plenty of other’s here highly appreciate your frequent comments and pertinent links that you provide. What about the rest of the commentariat? Whether anyone answers comments at all should not make a difference to the commenter, as we all know that the Lord Himself is listening to us. And plenty of people also read, but don’t respond. It’s not a big deal.

          That said, I hope you stick around… and keep contributing your particular insights regarding the Holy Faith.

          Best to you in the Lord,

          – Al

  2. As T.S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding”, last of the “Four Quartets”:

    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)

  3. You are on your way to becoming a very well-rounded priest. Your insight and understanding our culture is quite a gift to the priesthood. What a blessing to those whom you will serve. We need more priests, and many more like you.

  4. It seems as if there is another twist to the ‘selling all that you have ‘ teaching. And that is, sometimes God sells it all for you, whether you like it or not. The best example of this is the story of Job, where he had everything but lost everything also. And then, also, with ‘Jonas and the whale’. He was called by God, but refused. But, God didn’t just let him go his own way. By Divine Providence he caused Jonas to be thrown into the sea by his companions, and then even as with the fish that ‘providentially’ gave St. Peter the silver coin in the Gospel account, Jonas was swallowed by a whale and deposited onto the shore….ready then to do what God originally told him to do.

    And we see this somewhat with the patriarch Joseph, too. I don’t think he ever expected that his brothers would throw him into a well and then sell him into slavery. Yet in losing everything, he became basically the king of the world at that time. And then Moses did one little act of charity in defending a poor man, and he also lost everything as he was a leader of the known world at that time. And he had and had to flee to a foreign country to tend sheep. The same with Joseph and Mary, they were forced to flee to Egypt, not of their own will, but by the instruction of an angel.

    So, sometimes we ourselves choose our course of life, whether we will make a decision to sell everything we have (symbolically and sometimes literally speaking), or not; and refuse to trust in God’s Divine Providence. But, other times, God chooses to sell it for us, and then we need to be very docile and patient like Job, Mary, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Jonas, Elijah, Tobias, John the Baptist…and many others,,,waiting to see the treasure of immense value that is coming our way.

    1. Yes, Al. At the birth of a child with a significant disability, my husband and I mourned what we then perceived as a great loss. HAH! God certainly loves us beyond our wild worrying. Not what we truly deserve and not always recognized as such, God sometimes disguises his blessings as stumbling stones.

      1. This, I think, is also why the Lord taught: “Blessed are the poor”; because it is much easier for them to give up, or sell, all that they have, because they have…nothing. Their attachments to this world are much less than the attachments that the very rich usually have, and especially the wealthy class back in the days of Jesus. Back then, wealth usually mean’t the management of many people and many assets… servants, slaves, and the like. These can all become weeds for a soul, choking off the simple spirituality that God wants us to have, even according to Christ’s saying: ‘Unless you become even as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The poor are always looking for God’s Divine Providence in this life, and actually become accustomed to miracles of charity (minor though they might be) in this regard. In this they grow in simple faith and love of God. The rich usually want to control everything and everybody, and so do not rely on God as much as the poor do. The story of King Nebuchadnezzar is a good example of this.

      2. Misspeaking again…above I meant to say that WE sometimes misconstrue God’s blessings as stumbling stones. We don’t expect a blessing from a differently wrapped package. The Jewish people expected a Messiah to rule a kingdom on earth.

        1. We almost always misconstrue God’s blessing to us. This is why being not too judgmental is such a great virtue.

  5. For apologetic purposes, a pertinent question might be:

    Once the ‘treasure buried in the field’ has actually been found and paid for; and also, once the ‘pearl of great price’ has been acquired…can these divine treasures in any way be lost through carelessness, robbery by evil men or the lies of Satan, or even ignored through a loss of desire for the said treasurers, preferring other treasures of they ‘World’? Considering that Satan tempted even the Son of God Himself in the desert, and Christ certainly possessed such treasures, that it is the work of Satan to do this very thing…to steal away the precious treasure of grace and faith from those who have already found it. Why else would the Lord include in His prayer that He taught to his Apostles and disciples: “…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” …if such a loss of these treasure was not possible in this world? And actually, ‘temptation’, by it’s very definition, seems to be directed precisely towards the end of either hiding these treasures from being found in the first place, or robbing or reducing them to nothing, due to diabolical or human seduction.

    Also, if these divine ‘treasures’ were not capable of being lost, then why would St. Paul, who surely found these treasures, say:

    ” …I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air: But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.’ (1 Cor. 9:23) ?

    The Catholic Church throughout it’s history, has taught that such ‘treasures’ can indeed be lost… by committing ‘mortal’ sin… but then can be recovered again by the forgiveness of those sins (accompanied by the penitents necessary contrition and penance), through the powers given to the Holy Church by the authority of Our Jesus Christ.

    1. If this is a spin-off conversation we want to have, I’ll be glad to take the contrary position.

      So: no, it cannot. Christ teaches that pretty plainly in John 6: Those the Father gives will come (v. 37). Of those the Father gives, none will be lost; all will be raised up at the last day (v. 39). Only those drawn by the Father come, and those who do are raised up at the last day (v. 44).

      So, consider someone who, right now, has this gift. He must, by v. 37 and 44, have been given by the Father, because no one comes otherwise. But those who are given by the Father will be raised up at the last day; therefore, he will be raised up at the last day, and not even one such will be lost.

      Paul echoes this message, noting in Romans 4 that our righteousness is credited to us entirely apart from our works – indeed, that we are evaluated as those who do not work. Obedience, being a work, is not factored into that evaluation. The author of Hebrews likewise notes, in chapter 10, that we are perfected forever – that we are “made righteous” in the eyes of God, and that none of our sin yet needs to be covered.

      I cannot see that Scripture knows anything of a mortal/venial divide that could cause us to lose and subsequently regain our salvation. The pearl, once possessed, is ours forever.

      I do think, though, that two caveats need to be made to what I just said. First, we need to be careful of the error of saying, “You can be a Christian and live like the devil” – a view that’s often in mind when people say “once saved, always saved.” Paul, again, addresses that in Romans: “Should we sin more so that grace might increase? By no means!” He goes on to explain that we were raised in order to be like Christ – that’s the very purpose for which he bought us, and to truly have received salvation, that old nature must have been killed. Salvation, as it’s been said, may be by grace alone – but grace never remains alone; true salvation must, given time, produce works. A person who fails to produce fruit must of necessity never have been attached to the vine in the first place.

      A second error is to believe there is no consequence to our sin. There certainly are – they just aren’t salvific consequences. First, every forgiven sin must have been carried by Christ; as we sin more, we pile more onto the burden he carried. Second, when we disobey, we deny ourselves the blessings of obedience, both in this life and in the life to come. I think that’s the answer to your question, Al, regarding why we should pray for deliverance from temptation. It’s the reason Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 9: he runs and forces himself onward “for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings.”

      1. The problem is, there is no Christian or ‘Servant of God’, living who knows absolutely the strength or quality of his faith, and whether this faith will increase or decrease as his life progresses towards eternity. Some who think they have great faith, might believe they are ‘saved already’… but they ignore teachings of Christ such as this:

        “Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth. But if that servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming; and shall begin to strike the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk: The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not, and shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers. And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.

        So, Irked, we have Jesus teaching us very explicitly that Christians are ‘Servants of God’, and that we can either do the will of the Father faithfully and diligently in this world, or NOT DO the will of God in a sufficient way according to His standards, thereby meriting the mentioned ‘stripes’ above. We will not know the outcome of our salvation until we are particularly judged…ie..”The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not….”. So, this signifies that no Christian servant can be absolutely sure of his salvation until God judges him. If he had many great gifts, and seems more faithful than all the rest…in God’s eyes He might have used only 1/2 the gifts that he was provided. And if a Christian servant was given very few gifts, but used them perfectly in the eyes of God….even though he seemed to be ‘nothing much’ in the eyes of other Christians…in the eyes of the Lord, he has done well with what he was given.

        So, nobody knows the extent or quality of the gifts and graces that we are provided by God, or what He demands of us. We can only hope and pray that we be faithful servants with what we were given, using those gifts and doing the will of God accordingly.

        1. Hi Al,

          The problem is, there is no Christian or ‘Servant of God’, living who knows absolutely the strength or quality of his faith, and whether this faith will increase or decrease as his life progresses towards eternity.

          Sure. Thankfully, that pressure isn’t on us. Christ is pretty clear that he’s the one holding on to us, and not vice-versa – that, as he says in John 6, he will lose none. It’s his strength, not ours, on which we rely – faith is, after all, “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” so our salvation is his work from first to last.

          I definitely agree that Scripture teaches us to run the race, to fight the fight, to study to show ourselves approved – but it also says, very plainly, that Christ will not lose even one of those God has decided to claim. Warning passages, like the ones you cite, are one of the means by which we’re encouraged and kept in obedience – like I said in my post, we want to win the rewards, and not to emerge (as in 1 Corinthians 3) as someone whose life has burned down around him – but these don’t contradict the plain teaching in these other passages.

          It seems like some of your points are running towards a question of “assurance of salvation,” or “With what confidence can we know that we’re among the saved?” – but that seems to me like a bit of a subject change.

          1. “With what confidence can we know that we’re among the saved?”

            This is to say…’with what confidence can I have that I will be able to not lose, or permit to be stolen, my treasure in the field and my pearl of great value’ until the end of my life?

            For the Catholic the confidence can be such as this:

            If I am baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit, and follow the will of God which is taught by Christ’s Holy Church founded upon St. Peter, according to the saying “Those who hear you, hear Me” and also,”the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”; and if I am united to this Church through the participation in the sacraments that she commands of her members; and if I commit no mortal sin so as to separate me from ‘communion’ with the Holy Church, (but if I do commit sin and I repent and receive the forgiveness of my grave sin from those capable of forgiving such sins..i.e.. priests and Bishops); And if do all these things till my very last breath…then can I be ASSURED of my salvation. I have run the good race like St. Paul.

            And while a person is in the ‘state of grace’, not having committed and un-absolved mortal sin, and is following all of the Gospel precepts of Christ, and is cautious with himself like St. Paul was; and more over, if he prays the Lord’s prayer frequently, asking God always to give him a good spirit, and to not let him fall into temptation…..then, even though he not be particularly close to death, He can feel assured of his salvation IF he can remain in that same “state of sanctifying grace’ that he is in.

            But, on the other hand, if after living some time in this grace…little by little he becomes negligent in prayer, mortification and diligence in living up to the Church’s health giving precepts; and if he is then tempted and commits adultery, grand theft, abortion, etc…and thereby is not allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist in that state of unrepentant sin; THEN the state of salvation for that person is in great eopardy. He has fallen from the state of sanctifying grace which is a state needed for salvation, and so he should greatly fear dying in this same state of mortal sin. So, herein, his salvation is NOT secure anymore. (without true confession)

            And this is what Jesus said in the quote above. If the Master comes before he can repent…when he least expects it…like a thief in the night…he will be counted among the ‘unfaithful’… he will lose his former state of sanctifying grace that ‘saves’…and to the contrary, will merit hell by his acts uf unrepentance and apostasy from the Church that Christ established. This is what unrepentant mortal sin does, it breaks communion with Christ’s ‘body’, His Holy Church.

            St. Paul also said this of himself in the first quote I provided, restating the warning found in Jesus’ teaching…saying that the reason he brings his body into subjection is so that he will not fall into temptation, will not ‘fall off a cliff’ during the race that he’s running. He said: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” So, again, if St.
            Paul didn ‘t have confidence of his salvation, and therefore chastised his body to bring it under subjection….how can anyone have complete confidence in their ultimate salvation?

            What St. Paul was doing is what the Church terms ‘mortification’. It is exercising oneself against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. That’s where the word ascetic comes from….”askēsis”, which means training or exercise in Greek. And so, Christians must strive and fight and discipline themselves against temptation and sin in this world. In doing so, they can have ever more assurance of their salvation. This is what the Early Church taught from the times when the Scriptures were written, to the ‘Didache’ catechesis (90 AD), to the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ catechesis (300AD), to the ‘Synod of Alvira’ (305AD)canons, etc…up to our present Catequism of the Catholic Church. Follow all of this and you will have a much better assurance, or confidence, in your eternal salvation.

            Best to you,

            -Al

          2. The earliest Church catechism, the ‘Didache’ teaches the need to follow one of two ways in life. And whether you believe in Christ and have been baptized, or not, you are still subject to follow one of these two ways. Herein we can find and example, in a simplified form, on how the early Church taught the faith to their ‘catechumens’. Here’s how it begins:

            “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways. The way of life is this: ” First, you shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not thou to another.” …

            AND,

            But the second commandment of the teaching is this: “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”; Thou shalt not commit perjury, “thou shall not bear false witness”; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is the snare of death. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but completed in action. Thou shalt not be covetous nor extortionate, nor a hypocrite, nor malignant, nor proud, thou shalt make no evil plan against thy neighbor. Thou shalt hate no man; but some thou shalt reprove, and for some shalt thou pray, and some thou shalt love more then thine own life.

            My child, flee from every evil man and from all like him. ”

            **************************************

            And so we see how the early Church taught the newly converted Christians to follow the ‘good way’ that leads to life, and flee from the ‘evil way’ that leads to death.

            This is to say, that IF a Christian and is baptized, and he has been deceived by Satan and turns away from his original love and faith in God…and consequently, he starts to walk on the evil path mentioned above, this former’believer’ WILL NOT BE SAVED. This is what the Early church taught.

            And the other references provided above such as the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ …reaffirm this type of early Christian catechesis. It’s basically re-elaborating on what St. James (chap. 4) taught the early Christian flock during his time :

            ” From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members? You covet, and have not: you kill, and envy, and can not obtain. You contend and war, and you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God. Or do you think that the scripture saith in vain: To envy doth the spirit covet which dwelleth in you?”

            So, these are the two ways that a Christian can walk, one is the ‘narrow’ way, and the other is the ‘broad’ way. And regardless if you THINK you are ‘saved’, or not, if you follow the wrong way, you will end up at the direction that you are headed. Your faith does not save you when you are following ‘the world’ as St. James says above: “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.”

            Thus we can learn from the early Church about ‘confidence regarding our salvation’.

          3. Hi Al,

            “With what confidence can we know that we’re among the saved?”

            This is to say…’with what confidence can I have that I will be able to not lose, or permit to be stolen, my treasure in the field and my pearl of great value’ until the end of my life?

            Well, that’s kind of my point: I think it’s worth distinguishing, “How certain am I that I am currently saved?” from “How certain am I that, if I’m currently saved, I will continue to be so?” – if that makes sense. I was just saying it seemed like we were shifting a little from the latter towards the former; maybe that was a misread! If we’re both happy sticking with the latter, cool.

            So, again, if St. Paul didn ‘t have confidence of his salvation, and therefore chastised his body to bring it under subjection….how can anyone have complete confidence in their ultimate salvation?

            Well, I’d point again to the passages I brought up. I do believe Paul was confident of the continuance of salvation for those God had chosen. He says precisely in the opening of Philippians: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” And I think that’s the basic divide I’d point to between our perspectives: that when Christ speaks in John 6, or when Paul talks in Romans 4 or Philippians 1, or when the author of Hebrews talks in Hebrews 10, they emphasize that our continued salvation is God’s work in us, and that God will infallibly complete that work that He has begun: that He will lose none, that He claims us as those who do not work, that He is making us perfect so certainly that we can be said to be already made perfect, and so on.

            So my human frailty doesn’t enter into my salvation; there is no “if” test that determines my fitness, because I’d fail any such test. It’s Christ’s faithful work, and not my own, on which I depend for my salvation – so that no man can boast.

            Now, that work of God is reflected in our continued struggles, and that’s a struggle to which we’re commanded. I think Paul catches that tension nicely in Philippians 2:12-13: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” We work, but our work is really God working in us.

            In light of the fact that the Bible pretty unambiguously teaches that we can’t lose our salvation, then, what do we make of the warning passages? Well, like I said, faith – real faith, living faith – must necessarily produce works; it can’t do otherwise. If I find that I have no interest in the things of God, and do not produce fruit, and otherwise give no sign of my regeneration… that’s a pretty good reason to think I never had it in the first place – that I’m a “servant” who isn’t worthy of the name, that I’m one of those to whom Christ will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you.” But again, that’s not a question of losing something I previously had – it’s a matter of never having it in the first place, and so again I’d ask to save that for another day.

            And so we see how the early Church taught the newly converted Christians to follow the ‘good way’ that leads to life, and flee from the ‘evil way’ that leads to death.

            Yes, and amen! And to be possessed of living faith, and not the “dead,” unsaving faith of which James speaks – the kind of faith which even demons have – is of necessity to be set on the way of life. Thus the exhortation: live like what you are.

        2. I still think that you consider committing deadly sin after accepting the faith to be of no real harm or consequence that affects salvation. And if this is the case then why did Jesus teach: “whose sins you forgive will be forgiven, and whose sins you retain will be retained”? This signifies terrible consequences for the sinner, because the Church (through the Apostles) has the power NOT to forgive mortal sins, i.e.. adultery, theft, murder, etc…that a Christian might indeed commit after recieving faith in Christ. So, Christ gives his Church power to decide on these spiritual matters, and the consequence can be either salvation or damnation for the particular sinner.

          And likewise, Jesus foresaw all of the sins that would occur in the Church, even as we encounter when we read the first 3 chapters of the Book of Revelation; wherein we see that God calls the Churches who are deficient in faith to repent and amend their ways. And He threatens them also at the same time. And in the Gospel, Christ instructs His apostles on the correct way to go about reforming the faithful who have fallen into sin, and with consequences also concerning the salvation of the offensive party or person. Jesus says:

          “But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matt. 18:15)

          It seems that you don’t consider these scriptures which deal with grave sin in the Church. Clearly Christ is talking about Christians, as He says that if they listen NOT to the Church, then treat them as ‘heathen’.

          Moreover, this teaching apples to every generation, and so a physical and organized Church would need to be established all over the world so as to obey Christ’s precepts taught here. That is, that if a fellow Christian sins against me, I should in the last resort take Him to the Bishop, or priest (as his representative), to resolve the matter. And it could mean the damnation of the sinning brother if the Church should rule against him, and he does not repent.

          So, it is the Church also that has great power here on Earth, both to forgive sins and retain them also…according to the word of Christ the Lord.

          1. I still think that you consider committing deadly sin after accepting the faith to be of no real harm or consequence that affects salvation.

            I want to stress the “that affects salvation” part, here. Because with that caveat, you’re absolutely correct; sin does not remove us from salvation, because salvation is not based on our actions. I see no other way to read the passages I’ve brought up.

            This does not by any means require that sin is of no real harm or consequence in general, only that those consequences are not salvific in nature. Nor, again, does it suggest that it is logically possible for a person to be possessed of saving faith and yet produce no fruit.

            And if this is the case then why did Jesus teach: “whose sins you forgive will be forgiven, and whose sins you retain will be retained”

            I’d be happy to talk about that, and the other verses you bring up here. Can we go back for a couple of the passages I’ve mentioned upthread, first? I want to make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

            What do you make of, say, John 6? Do you see a problem with my argument from that passage? What about the argument from Romans 4? What do you understand these passages to say?

          2. John 6: Those the Father gives will come (v. 37). Of those the Father gives, none will be lost; all will be raised up at the last day (v. 39). Only those drawn by the Father come, and those who do are raised up at the last day (v. 44).

            The problem I have with these teachings is that they are far from clear as to specifics and details. Where is the Church indicated when Jesus says those the Father gives will come? It is presumed to be to the Church that Jesus will build upon Peter…no? If so, even you yourself have not yet come to His Church, and so your salvation would be in jeopardy if you read it as such. Or, does one not need the Church, but only a Bible? And who says what is really necessary except the Church itself, who decided under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which books of the New Testament to include in the canon?

            So, my read on this is that one needs to come to Christ through the ‘doors’ of the ‘sheepfold of Christ’…His Holy Church, receiving the sacraments and following the customs given even as the early Christians did. So, that is to say….what does it really mean to be a Christian? And, can you be a Christian without any union with the Church that Jesus established? Moreover, after 20 centuries have passed, it would only be common sense that that Church that Christ was building, would be exponentially larger than it was in the first century…something like we find in the combined Churches of Catholic and Orthodox, today.

          3. Hi Al,

            The problem I have with these teachings is that they are far from clear as to specifics and details. Where is the Church indicated when Jesus says those the Father gives will come?… If so, even you yourself have not yet come to His Church, and so your salvation would be in jeopardy if you read it as such. Or, does one not need the Church, but only a Bible?

            I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church is indicated by Christ at all here, sure. It’s no more relevant to what he’s saying than any other specific denomination. “The church” in the sense of “the universal body of believers,” on the other hand, is certainly indicated – it’s precisely those who come.

            But I think this is kind of a distraction from our topic of the day. Whatever we take to be the requirements to “come to Christ,” what does he have to say about those who do? Of the statements I made:

            1) Those the Father gives will come (v. 37).
            2) Of those the Father gives, none will be lost; all will be raised up at the last day (v. 39).
            3) Only those drawn by the Father come, and those who do are raised up at the last day (v. 44).

            … are there any that are not taught by this passage? What does the passage say, concerning who comes, and who is raised up? Talk me through what you see it saying, if that helps!

          4. “The church” in the sense of “the universal body of believers,”

            Sorry to say it, but now you’re sounding a bit like Phil. The universal body of believers…according to who? What faith? What practices and creeds? You know that the early Church struggled greatly with heresy and schisms in the first few centuries, with the likes of Monatanism, Donatism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Monophysitism, etc… Are these heretical groups part what you call the ‘universal body’. And what about the synods of believers that condemned them? Is there any particular belief or practice in your defined group? Are there sacraments? Women priests/ministers/ deacons? Who does the baptizing and forgiving of sins, if necessary, according to your definition? Is there any written history defining or recording the acts of your defined ‘universal’ body? Do they all get along together, or physically meet together? Who are th shepherds…anyone who feels he’s qualified? Is this body a visible body, or a mystical body…such as an idea, with no way to tell who is who, and what each member believes? if there is any sort of common creed, etc… Do any of the Bishops who attended the Nicaean Council I belong to this body? Does anybody know, or can anybody understand which ones were… and why?

            These are all questions that you should be able to answer.

            The Catholic faith is very transparent, with catechisms published in every major language in the world, and a history detailing centuries of scholastic theology, philosophy and historical deeds (such as the founding and building of modern era European civilization)…for all to study and scrutinize.

            It seems to me that your definition of the Church as a ‘universal body of believers’ is merely spiritual and ephemeral, and really quite undefined. But I may be wrong? Are there any details you can provide?

          5. Sorry to say it, but now you’re sounding a bit like Phil. The universal body of believers…according to who?

            According to God. I claim no supernatural ability to discern precisely who is and isn’t in that category, or just exactly how heretical you can get before your faith isn’t truly in Christ. We’re not given the ability to read people’s hearts.

            But I don’t think any of this much matters for the topic at hand, and it seems like most of your questions here would take us pretty far afield from that topic. Set the requirements where you think they should go, for someone to count as coming to Christ. What, then, does Christ say regarding such people in John 6? Are my assertions regarding what he says true, or not?

      2. Irked,
        You said:
        “A person who fails to produce fruit must of necessity never have been attached to the vine in the first place.”

        That’s not true. In the parable of the vine and the branches, you can’t be a branch unless you’re attached to the vine in the first place. The fate of the branch then depends on producing fruit.
        All branches are believers who abide in Christ “in the first place”.

        John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

        If the believer produces fruit, he will be pruned to produce more. If the believer does not produce fruit, he will be cut off and thrown in the fire.

  6. Hi Al and Irked,

    Time constrains me from reading your posts; I glanced only, and it appears you may be positing the same or nearly similar points as in previous threads? Pardon me if I’ve assumed in error or if my comments are off the mark.

    Tomorrow at Mass we shall read John 17:1-11. Jesus said, “I glorified you [the Father] on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do….” Last Sunday we read John 14: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

    Notice that Jesus had work to do. Why would we not have work to do? Our actions count! Sin glorifies neither man nor God. How can we believe we are saved if we choose works tainted with sin? God would not direct us to follow his commandments if he did not give grace so that we could honor them. He would contradict his own justice and mercy if he asked of us the impossible.

    In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul says, “He chose us…that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight, in charity.”

    It is a contradiction to say that in God’s sight we have been chosen to be holy if at the same time we have chosen sin.

    There is a difficult but worthwhile tome which you may find enlightening in your understanding of the Lord and each other. It is “Predestination: The meaning of Predestination in Scripture and the Church.” by Catholic theologian Garrigou-LaGrange (O.P.). He describes historical Catholic thinking on predilection and damnation, quoting extensively from Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, Duns Scotus, Thomas et al. He describes Catholic reasons for opposition to Pelagianism, Protestantism, Jansenism, and other like-isms.

    Best of pearls to both of you,

    1. P.S.: Faith/belief is an affirmation of the mind. It is a vision of an end. The end has been visioned to us by Jesus opening the gate to the Father’s Heavenly abode. The Holy Spirit dwells in the church. Grace is given as needed so that the affirmation of our mind may lead us to see our means to our end. Jesus is the way, the truth, the light. We are to follow (to act, to walk the way and to talk the truth and to see the light). We choose to act in addition to assenting by faith.

      We may wish to become a teacher. The teacher role is there and the vision of it is given to us, but we reach that point only through study, passing grades, credentialing, and practice.

    2. Hi Margo,

      it appears you may be positing the same or nearly similar points as in previous threads? Pardon me if I’ve assumed in error or if my comments are off the mark.

      Well, sort of. I’m arguing from John 6 again, but we didn’t actually get to have any back-and-forth discussion of that last time. My hope is that, in doing so, we’ll get to say some things we haven’t said before.

      Notice that Jesus had work to do. Why would we not have work to do? Our actions count! Sin glorifies neither man nor God.

      Yes, and amen! Paul says that we were created in Christ to do good works. I argue this exact point upthread.

      How can we believe we are saved if we choose works tainted with sin?

      Well, because our salvation isn’t a matter of our works. Again, I think I argue some of this in my opening post or two.

      1. Thanks, Irked, for your reply.

        I agree that salvation is not a matter of our works. Do you agree that damnation is a matter of our choosing sin?

        Osee13:9 “Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me.

        1. Hi Margo,

          Yes and no, I guess? We come into the world already damned, before we make any choices at all – but we do so on the grounds of Adam’s choice counting for us, so the human choice for sin is certainly responsible there. And once born, we inevitably choose sin as well, which further condemns us.

          I’m hedging here a little bit, because I would deny that we’re innocent until the first time we, ourselves, sin – if that makes sense? I’m not sure that’s at all what you’re trying to say, but that’s the thing I’m steering around.

          I would also say that, after our salvation, there is no longer any logical possibility of our being damned by future actions – at that point, our salvation/damnation is not a matter of our actions, but of God keeping us and crediting Christ’s righteousness to us. I’d caveat that, as I do above, by saying that it is not possible for a person to have ever tasted true saving faith – to have been crucified with Christ, to be freed from sin, to have the old man put to death, to be made perfect forever – and yet to revel in sin forever after just as they did before.

          Does that answer your question?

          1. Hi Irked,

            Is there any writer in the history of the Church from year 100 AD until 1200 AD that you can give me who proclaims your same creed and beliefs..or something similar? I’ve never come across any so far in the studies that I’ve done. So, I’m just curious if you ever found any other Christians during this time frame that believe as you do? I’d like to read some of their writings.

            Or, who was the first person after 100AD to profess such beliefs..if you know?

          2. Hi Al,

            Sure. To give just a few: the Didache teaches believer’s baptism; Augustine offers some fairly reformed theology; Athanasius denies the idea of a single church leader. I don’t agree with these leaders and documents on all points, any more than they agreed with each other on all points, but these aren’t unprecedented teachings.

            But I’d really rather we not sidetrack into the expressed theology of eleven hundred years, and how that interacted with the (sometimes legal!) pressure from the various councils – that seems like a big topic for another day. Right now, I’m still just hoping to hear your discussion of what John 6 teaches regarding salvation.

      2. Hi Irked,

        If you are interested in John 6:39, here is the context that you’re looking for, which is necessary for the understand of the passage. That’s to say..just looking at one verse reveals almost nothing. It’s like looking at the the biblical saying “I am the Good Shepherd, and then drawing the conclusion that Jesus ‘shears sheep’ every year as does every other shepherd. ( I actually know something of sheep, as I helped perform surgery on a number of them after dogs attacked, killed and wounded various which were kept on my former ranch in CA) So, since context is needed to address your John 6:39 request, here it is, John 6:31-41….(not too long, but is part of the ‘Bread of Life discourse)):

        “…Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. [32] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. [33] For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. [34] They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread. [35] And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.”

        ME: Jesus here refers to His own sacred Person who teaches the world what is, and what is not, the Will of God the Father for the world so that people might accomplish it. And, as this concerns the ‘Bread of Life’ it must be associated with the Eucharist, as Jesus said: “Take and Eat, this is my body” on the night before He died. So, when Jesus says to do this, we are to OBEY His word, for He emphasizes (only a paragraph down and part of the same story) : “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. [55] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”

        Continuing….

        “[36] But I said unto you, that you also have seen me, and you believe not. [37] All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out. [38] Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. [39] Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. [40] And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day.

        [41] The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”

        ME:
        Again. it is clear that Jesus is referring to the Eucharist, when He says “bread which came down from Heaven”. So, in no way can we disassociate this passage from it, as it is the dominant theme and will be continued at the ‘Last Supper’ and then at Calvary. And these need to be studied with this passage, because the ‘Last Supper’, and Eucharist, are the fulfillment and conclusion of this very story. That is, we are taught to understand these passages by what Jesus said the night before He died, in ‘breaking bread’ and ‘distributing His Blood’ for the Apostles to drink. He also commands..”do this in remembrance of me” …and other similar verses.

        So, When Jesus says that…

        “Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. [40] And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting”

        …we need to understand what “seeth the Son means”. And ‘to see’ signifies ‘to understand’, and to understand also signifies to ‘obey’ that understanding. So, in particular, and relating to this ‘Bread of Life Discourse’, every Christian who professes Christ must pay careful attention to what Jesus teaches on the Holy Eucharist, and must also do what He said to do, and celebrated it as instructed (even as St. Paul teaches). Otherwise….that Christian indeed DOES NOT SEE CHRIST…because He doesn’t understand Christ when He teaches on His most important doctrines, and taught the very night before He died as a ‘New Covenant’ in HIs blood.

        So, to come to Christ …is to understand the Eucharist VERY WELL. And this means, to understand not only the scriptures and what they teach on the subject, but to understand also how the Early Church practiced the Eucharistic liturgies.

        So, this verse and chapter (in John 6) you are trying to get commentary on ….discusses probably the holiest of the Sacraments that Christ instituted for our sakes here on Earth, as He said: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”

        So, to come to Jesus (6:37) is to come to both His words and His sacraments. The sacraments are received in obedience to the commands of Jesus, which obedience is the living out and putting into action those things that Jesus instructed us to do. That is, He not only told us to ‘believe’, but to also ‘do’ certain things, for example:

        “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:18)

        Moreover, concerning obedience to Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist, Early Church History gives a very good account on how that infant Church actually fulfilled this request in the first few centuries of Christianity. Again, you can find references on the Eucharistic celebrations in the Didache, and then also in the early catechisms such as “Apostolic Constitutions” and “The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus”, not to mention the history provided by St. Justin Martyr. Moreover, if you read the canons of the Synod of Alvira (google all of these topics), you can get an even better understanding on how the Eucharist was valued and practiced by the Church in the ‘pre-Nicean’ era.

        We can continue on the subject in the future, but the main point is….that to come to Jesus, it to also come to His authentic Eucharist. This is WHY He taught these passages, and from which many of His disciples actually abandoned Him. So the passage you refer to in John 6….cannot be isolated from this most excellent context provided by St. John the Apostle.

        Best to you,

        – Al

        1. Hi Al,

          So I would obviously dispute that the Eucharist – which John doesn’t even record, and which the listeners at this point would certainly have had no concept of – is in view here.

          But I don’t think that’s actually the relevant point today, because in discussing the Eucharist, it seems like we’ve elided the actual phrases in question. You cite verses 37 and 39; where do you actually provide the meaning of those verses, in this context? By all means, we always need context – but we then have to answer the question, “In that context, what does this phrase mean?”

          So let’s trace back through your explanation. You say that the Eucharist is in view in v. 31-35; for the sake of argument, let’s say I don’t contest that. You give, in verses 36-41, a long description of what you understand “come to Christ” and “see Christ” to mean – again, let’s say I don’t dispute those, for now. But right in the middle of that passage, Christ says, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” And again, in verse 39, he says of those given, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” And again, in verse 44 – which you stop before reaching – he says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

          Where do you address the meaning of any of these verses, specifically? As far as I can tell, your explanation skips them entirely: from 35 to 40 to 55. Suppose that I grant everything you’re saying about the Eucharist – what, then, does it mean to say that all who come are given, and all who are given are raised up at the last day? Does it not follow that if I come – if I truly come, with whatever requirements you think are entailed there – that I must first have been given by the Father? And does it not follow that, if I have been given by the Father, I will be raised up?

          Our question today is whether it’s possible for someone at one time to come, and then to fall away. But it seems to me that such a one must have been given by the Father, or he would never have come at all – and if he was given by the Father, he must be raised up at the last day, for Christ will not lose even one.

          Now that you’ve set context, what do you take these verses to mean in that context?

          1. Irked,

            The problem is with the meaning of ‘come’….because it is also written “many are called but few are chosen”. And Judas came to Jesus, was His disciple, and then betrayed Him to death. We also have this teaching on some disciples who THOUGHT they were following Christ…but were deceived:

            “And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, SHALL SEEK to enter, and shall not be able. But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are. Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
            *************

            So, this is to say, Christians might have knowledge of Christ (such as Judas), they will be baptized and associate with the other disciples…and will not be distinguished from the others, as weeds and wheat are very similar in appearance…and these will be rejected by Christ.

            Moreover, a person needs to follow ALL that Christ commanded them, in all of His words and all or his examples…and this is ‘the narrow gate’ that they pass through with obedience and diligence in following the Good Shepherd. And then He needs to ALSO maintain and persevere in His faith until the end of his life…and not be like those weak disciples who abandoned Him at the ‘Bread of Life discourse’, which is what John 6:32-55 is PRIMARILY about.

            This is to say, if a person comes to the Church, learns about Christ, is told about the need to be baptized, is told about the Eucharist, is told about everything the Church demands of Him; and He believes in the love and goodness of Jesus, but does NOT want to be baptized because He thinks he doesn’t need it, or receive the Eucharist, because he doesn’t understand it…then this person really HAS NOT come to Christ in a sufficient way. He came close, but did not enter into the Holy Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, by those very sacraments that Christ commanded His disciples to receive.

            So, to learn about and receive the sacraments of the Holy Church ‘in good faith’ is one way to PAY THE PRICE for …The ‘Pearl of Great Value’. But this is not to say that a disciple does not need to CONTINUE to received those same sacraments and thereby maintain union with Christ’s, one and only, holy Church founded upon St. Peter, as is related in the Gospel..

          2. Hi Irked,

            I hope you don’t mind if I jump in. Like Al, it is extraordinarily confining to focus on only one or two verses. We do the Lord short shrift if we restrict and make him thin and narrow, like a Giacometti sculptured man. We too are more than the sum of our parts.

            I hope you understand and indulge a broad context so that we may understand how, why, where we differ.

            In John 6, the events occur at Passover. The opening of the water of the Red Sea and the opening of the gates of Heaven occurred prior to and after the events in John 6. These passages are given to us so that we may more fully comprehend the Passover of the Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ,

            In John 6, Jesus feeds the multitude since he has compassion for our bodily needs. As in the Garden of Eden, God fashioned clothing for the first sinners. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray for our daily bread–bodily and spiritual. On a simple literary level, Jesus calls himself bread from Heaven. He was born in Bethlehem ( “house of bread”), and immediately after his birth, his mother laid him in the manger–a feeding trough for animals.

            Jesus teaches how He will satisfy our spiritual need. As He once described Himself as living water to the Samaritan woman, so He now calls Himself living bread.

            Rarely does John repeat what Matthew, Mark, and Luke report, but he does so with respect to the miracle of the loaves. If nothing God does is by accident or without permission, it seems as if John mentions this miracle and this teaching of Jesus because it is ultimately important.

            Man communicates by sign and we understand by symbol. Bread is a sign and a symbol of the Lord. Catholics go further to BELIEVE that our Lord does multiply Himself and does give Himself to us in Eucharist since, as He said, He should not leave us orphans, and He will be with us always.

            At the Last Supper, the Lord took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it, saying, “Take and eat,” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” The next day he was put to death.

            To the issue of verse 39: “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” We see that Christ says “I” will never drive away. But some CHOOSE not to come. Some choose not to believe that Jesus Himself gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. Jesus will never drive away those who come to him. He offers his grace to all.

            John 6:65 notes that some among those who heard Jesus’ teaching did not believe (in his teaching on Himself as the Bread of Life). And Jesus knew who it was who should betray him. We see Judas ‘coming’ to Jesus at the Last Supper, taking the morsel of bread which Jesus offered. Jesus offered himself but Judas did not believe that what he ate was the Lord’s life.

            The Father giving to the son is akin to Christ giving Himself to us. Our faith is a living faith, our belief is in a God or miracles, a God who transubstantiates our mere bread (body) into an eternal raised body (His) by virtue of our having remembered and believed in His teaching that His body is living bread come down from heaven so that we may believe that we may conform ourselves to Him and dwell with Him always and wherever He may be.

            Finally, the quote from Osee: 13:9 “Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me.” We choose our destruction. By calling upon the Lord and asking for His grace (His divine life) to help our unbelief, we choose to be saved.

            Thanks for reading/listening. God bless.

          3. Hi Al,

            The problem is with the meaning of ‘come’….because it is also written “many are called but few are chosen”.

            Yes. All men are called to repent, but only those chosen – equivalently in John’s gospel, those given – will do so. I don’t think that’s a problem for the reading here, though; we’re discussing those who are chosen.

            And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

            I think Matthew catches the critical sense here – that Christ says not only “I do not know you,” but also, “I never knew you.” These cannot be people who came and fell away, or he would have known them at some point; they can only be people who thought they came and did not.

            But again, that’s not a problem for us here, because we’re not discussing, “How can we know that we’ve ever come to Christ?” – we’re discussing, “Can those who once come to Christ ever fall away?” I’d like to redirect us back to that topic, and particularly to what Christ teaches us on that point in verses 37, 39, and 44 of John 6. What do you see him saying in those verses specifically?

            I recognize I’m becoming rather redundant here, but… well, that was my original question to you, and I don’t see that you’ve addressed it beyond the general argument that John 6 discusses the Eucharist (which, again, not the primary topic I want to sidetrack into today).

          4. Hi Margo,

            I hope you don’t mind if I jump in.

            Not at all!

            Like Al, it is extraordinarily confining to focus on only one or two verses.

            Oh, I agree. There are other passages we need to look at as well. But I think it also does the Lord short shrift to entirely skip over any verse in the consideration of our broader context.

            There are passages where we have to say, “Well, this is a hard verse, and if it stood alone, I’d probably misunderstand it. But in the light of such-and-such verse, here’s what I understand it to say.” I did some of that in my conversations a couple of threads ago, with verses I find difficult.

            But as part of that, we have to be able to say, “Here’s what I see these verses actually saying, even though I can see where they could be read other ways in isolation.” My objection here – and the reason I’m being such a stickler on this point – is that the last time Al and I talked, we never actually got around to the Catholic interpretation of any of the verses I brought up: not John 6, not Romans 4, not Hebrews 10. Instead, we just kept moving on to new Catholic-friendly verses for me to interpret.

            And, I mean, I should have to answer y’all’s verses, too, and I tried to do so in that thread. But part of looking at the whole of Scripture has to include looking at the passages I bring up, or there’s no point in the whole exercise.

            I’m skipping over your discussion of the Eucharist, because as always, that’s a topic that could eat our whole conversation. But:

            To the issue of verse 39: “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” We see that Christ says “I” will never drive away. But some CHOOSE not to come.

            Yes, absolutely true; most of humanity chooses not to come. And, as per verse 37, those who choose not to come are those who have not been given by the Father, right? Because all who are given by the Father will come, and all who come will be raised to life eternal.

            And that’s my basic point. I know ninety-five theses are traditional, but let me stick to three:

            1) Those the Father gives will come (v. 37).
            2) Of those the Father gives, none will be lost; all will be raised up at the last day (v. 39).
            3) Only those drawn by the Father come, and those who do are raised up at the last day (v. 44).

            Would you disagree with any of those? Because taken collectively, I don’t see that there’s any room for a person who comes, but is not given by the Father – and anyone given by the Father is raised up at the last day.

          5. Hi Irked,

            You are so gracious; thank you for allowing my intrusion.

            No, I don’t disagree with scripture. But to explain how I interpret these passages, please indulge again a digression. I’m sorry that you don’t wish to discuss Eucharist, and I should honor your wish if I could, but as a Catholic, I know no other way. John 6 is about Eucharist.

            In Matthew 16:13ff, Jesus asks who the disciples think He is. Peter answers, “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responds that the Father has revealed this to Peter, not flesh and blood. Peter accepts (believes) divine authority above and beyond that of Jesus who has not specifically revealed this spiritual gift–it is a gift rom the Father. Jesus here reveals some understanding of the Trinity while reiterating the spiritual nature of his Kingdom.

            Next, Jesus reveals that He must suffer and die. Peter rebukes him, ‘Heaven Forbid!’ Jesus responds, “Get behind me, satan, thou art a scandal to me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23).

            The disciples must accept IN TOTALITY all of Jesus’ spiritual teachings and revelations. They must believe ALL that He has taught. Relying only on some teachings and on those of men rather than the gifts of the Father, the teaching of the Son, and the outpouring help of the love between those two tends to perdition. Jesus calls his lead disciple ‘satan’ for his balking.

            No man has ever seen the Father and lived (but for the Son). It follows that only those who accept the revelation of the Father regarding his Son will be raised. Those who the Father gives to the Son as his Body. A Father will not give a stone to his child when he asks for bread. He will give Him bread–a living body. What is that body? The body which carries the living bread of Christ within its members. That is the body which the Father gives to His son and that is what He shall raise.

            Best,

          6. Hi Margo,

            Hm, let me try to clarify a bit. It’s not so much that I want to cut off saying that John 6 is about the Eucharist – I disagree, and I think I basically argued why I see it differently, but that’s not the point.

            The problem (as I see it) is, as I said to Al: so, let’s say that I grant that John 6 is about the Eucharist. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I nod my head at everything you’re arguing.

            Okay. So coming to Christ involves sincerely receiving the Eucharist. Cool. So, taking as a given that claim: what, then, do these three verses have to say about those who take the Eucharist?

            Or, hm, let me try that another way. Al’s original thesis, as I understand it, was that there are people who are saved for a season. Such a person, let us suppose, is a true and sincere convert, attends Mass, takes communion with a clear and righteous heart – but later in life, through some mortal sin he falls away and, as he does not seek penance, is thereby damned. Where do you see such a person fitting into the categories Christ describes here?

            A) Is such a person given by the Father?

            B) Does such a person ever come to Christ, at any time? (Again, you can interpret “come to Christ” as you think the passage merits.)

            C) Will such a person be raised up at the last day?

            It seems like, given that we agree that John 6 teaches the three theses I laid out, we’d have to either say, “Yes” to all three questions, or we’d have to say “No” to all three questions, or we’d have to say, “This is a contradiction, and no such person can exist.”

            We can’t say “Yes” to all three, because that would mean the person is raised up to salvation, and that contradicts the claim that he’s damned.

            We can’t say “No” to all three, because that would mean the person never came to Christ, which contradicts the claim that he received communion/came to Christ/reword-as-you-like.

            So I have to say “This is a logical contradiction, and there can be no such person.” No one given by God can end up in hell; no one not given by God can have salvation, even temporarily.

            How would you answer?

            It follows that only those who accept the revelation of the Father regarding his Son will be raised. Those who the Father gives to the Son as his Body.

            Amen!

          7. (Just to head off one line of response: we, as imperfect and limited beings, obviously can’t perfectly judge whether any person like the one I’m describing actually was a sincere convert, actually did commit mortal sin, and so on. For the sake of the example, let’s say that we’re just stating these as facts about the person – they aren’t our fallible perceptions of the truth, but the actual ground truth itself: he was sincere, he did sin mortally, and so on. If, as a matter of fact in the eyes of God, these things happened to him, then how would we answer the three questions – or would we have to reject the example as an impossibility?)

          8. Good morning, Irked,

            What do you think? I think it means just what it says. Whomever God the Father gives to the Son the Son shall not lose–the Father and the Son are one in will. We are not given to know what time frame God the Father gives to the son. It may very well be after our physical death. But we ourselves, until that time, have free will to sin mortally and thereby cut ourselves off from the life of Christ. That is what the definition of mortal sin is, and one does not commit it without knowing what he chooses. One chooses destruction intentionally. God respects our free will and gives us every grace to love him. But we are free to ultimately decide. Perhaps there is even some choice we may be given at the moment of death to repent–we don’t really know, and we grant that final giving to the Son and our final coming to Jesus to God the Father.

            May be offline today. God bless.

          9. Good morning Margo!

            I will definitely be offline today. (And probably a fair bit in the next few days.)

            What do you think? I think it means just what it says. Whomever God the Father gives to the Son the Son shall not lose–the Father and the Son are one in will. We are not given to know what time frame God the Father gives to the son. It may very well be after our physical death.

            Hm, okay. So, let me repeat back what I understand you to be saying, and if I get it wrong, please stop and correct me.

            What I understand you to be saying is that you could read this passage to say that God gives us to Christ after our deaths. It follows that “come to Christ” is also something that happens after our deaths – right? In other words, it’s possible for Bob to be saved, right now, and not be one of those who “come to me.” (Because if Bob had come to Christ, he would have to have been given by the Father, and he would have to be raised up – but you understand that Bob could still fall away right now, so that must not be true of him.)

            I think that’s the really critical part, so let me double-check: there are people who have a sincere, obedient faith, who if they die right now would go to heaven – but it’s at least possible that some of these people have not come to Christ. Is that accurate?

            Okay, if not, this next part probably doesn’t matter. But if we are on the same page so far, two questions:

            1) It seems like your reading would say that those who come to Christ – those who die in sincere, obedient faith, if I’m understanding you right – will be given by the Father. In other words, being given is the result of dying in faith. But doesn’t this passage say that the Father giving is the cause of coming, and not the other way around? In other words, doesn’t it say that those given (v. 39, an already complete action) will come (a future action)? How, then, can the “giving” be a response to our eventual state at death?

            2) In verses 40 and 47, Jesus says that the one who believes has eternal life. It seems to me that “believes” is something we do right now – right? Both John and Acts call us “the believers” – that’s kind of our defining thing, right now.

            So, if “believes” is related to our salvation right now, and “comes” is related to our future state, do you understand “believes” to be different from “comes?”

            It seems like you would have to say that, yes, these are two different things (believes being present, comes being future) – but in that case, why are the exact same promises made of both? Look, for instance, at verse 35 – “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Or look at 40 and 47, which promise eternal life to those who believe, just as 37, 39, and 44 promise it to those who come.

            (Just to say it explicitly: I really appreciate that we’re able to talk about these verses directly. Thank you!)

        2. So, thinking about it: let me offer a little bit of exposition on my own, going verse-by-verse and covering everything as thoroughly as I can, to see why I think this teaches we’re unable to lose salvation. Maybe that will make my critique a little bit clearer – why it seems to me that, while your explanation covers some of the verses in this chapter, it doesn’t address the ones I was specifically asking about.

          So. John 6:25-51, with special note to verses 37, 39, and 44.

          When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

          Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

          Okay, so here’s our context. Jesus is talking to a Jewish audience – the same folks who were just there at the feeding of the five thousand. They’ve been looking eagerly for him, but Jesus, knowing their hearts, sees the problem: they aren’t interested in a word from God, but only in having their bellies full of bread. He’s going to seize on that metaphor in the verses to follow.

          “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

          Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

          Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

          So there’s that theme: you want the wrong kind of food. You’re looking for physical food, when you should be wanting spiritual food. Okay, say the Jews, so we’re all good law-followers; what’s the law require of us here to be spiritually satisfied?

          Belief, he answers them. What’s required of you isn’t behavior; it’s belief.

          So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

          Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

          So here’s the metaphor continuing. They want a sign – and again, they’re fixated on getting their bellies full. Jesus says, again, “You want the wrong kind of bread. You should want to be full spiritually, not physically – and you can only do that by eating “the true bread,” which comes from God just as much as manna did.

          “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

          Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

          And here’s the resolution, because they still don’t get it. Jesus finally spells it out: “What you need is me. I’m the thing that will satisfy you spiritually, the thing that’s come down from heaven. I’ll satisfy the longing of your hearts. But…”

          “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

          Now things get nasty. You good, faithful Jews – you’re still unsatisfied. You’re unsatisfied because you don’t believe – you haven’t come in faith. And then Christ gets personal – see, if God had given you to me, you would have believed, because I won’t lose even one of those people. The ones the Father gives – and not the Jews – are the ones who will have eternal life.

          There’s a teaching here that, in Reformed circles, we call election – the idea that God has picked out a people for himself, that those who come are those He’s chosen specifically to come. I don’t want to go too far into that here, except to say that Christ is pretty unambiguous on at least one point: everyone given comes; everyone who comes is raised to life eternal. The preceding verses establish that coming to Christ is a matter of belief, of faith, and not of action – but even if we disagree on that, the “given -> come -> live” progression holds.

          And this is an offensive teaching:

          At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

          “You didn’t come from heaven,” they say. “You’re from down the street. What do you mean, claiming to be the one thing that will satisfy us? Where do you get off, claiming that you are the way to salvation, and not our observance of the law?”

          (This is a complaint that’s going to recur a lot in John – cf. John 8, at the absolute scandal of claiming that descent from Abraham wasn’t enough to save. It’s one of the major themes of the book.)

          “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.

          And Jesus makes it worse for them. We already have that everyone given by God comes, and is given life. Now we find out that those who are not given don’t come, and so aren’t given life. There’s an if-and-only-if here; so, you unbelieving Jews, if you don’t believe, it must mean…?

          It must mean you were never given by God. And that’s the relevance to our topic today, as well: if someone is not raised at the last day, Christ says that means they weren’t given by God. And if they weren’t given, they never came to him at all – simple as that.

          There can be no one, then, who comes, and then falls away, and then comes back again, and then finally dies in sin – either they were given or they weren’t. The people given will live forever; the people not given don’t come in the first place.

          No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.

          Again, a continuation of that earlier metaphor: “I’m the thing that will satisfy you spiritually – the only thing – and your only access to me is belief, not your heritage. You can’t even see God.

          “While we’re on the subject, this ‘bread’ – me? It’s not just for Jews. It’s for anyone. Gentiles will have it, too.”

          I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

          “One more thing: I’m going to die for you.”

          It’s a scandalous teaching, aimed directly at the pride of his audience. In verse 66, many are going to turn away because of it – because they were never given by God, and so do not believe.

          That’s my reading of John 6, verse-by-verse. I would be interested in seeing a similar treatment that explicitly addresses what 37, 39, and 44 are saying in this context.

          1. Does this make sense? Though it is God’s will that “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”, God does not force His will upon us. He wills that we be saved, but allows us free will to choose against his will. So we are not guaranteed salvation from a one time choice to profess belief, as we still have free will to turn away again.

          2. Hi Irked,

            I think I’ve gone over it already. The problem is : What does it mean to come to and be a disciple of Christ? It is clearly NOT just to study his words, as studying His words is NOT being baptized, which is an act. So too, READING about the Eucharist is NOT THE SAME as RECIEVING it in the liturgy of His Holy Church. Also, reading about forgiveness of sins is NOT the same as having your sins forgiven in all actuality, by a priest or bishop, who are Christ’s appointed leaders of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church until the end of the world.

            So, the Catholic church also has the ‘elect’ that you speak of. And these are the ones who believe in what the Church has taught, both in the present and the past, and faithfully remain in communion with this Church via the sacraments provided, and ding obedient to what this Church commands of he children, via disciple, prayer, works of mercy, Sunday common worship, etc… all that the clearly written catechism teaches…until the day of their death.

            And then they will find out if their faith was sufficient, and whether ‘the camel will fit through the eye of the needle’. But to judge oneself before this time…to elect oneself, or even if someone tells you that you are ‘elected’…this is probably a ominous sign as even the Catholic Church does not do this while a man is living. Only God is the judge of the soul, and as Jesus said it will occur at the ‘end of the times’.

            It is a great proof that election is possible if one follows what Christ, the Good Shepherd said…to enter by the ‘sheepfold door’ and not try to jump over the fence. The Catholic Church has always been the door. And even as far back as Ignatius of Antioch in his letters, he confirms this, regarding Church, the Bishops and the Eucharist:

            “Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.”

            -“Letter to the Ephesians”, paragraph 20, c. 80-110 A.D.

          3. Hi Case,

            I hear what you’re saying, but whether it fits with our intuitions or not, I don’t see another way to read this. Christ explicitly denies that there’s anyone who comes to him and is not raised up at the last day, and he’s pretty clear that only and all those given by God will come, and so will be raised up. I think we have to yield to that.

          4. Hi Al,

            I think I’ve gone over it already. The problem is : What does it mean to come to and be a disciple of Christ?

            To come to Christ is to believe in him as the one sent from God to save us. He says as much in the passage.

            I don’t really want to sidetrack into election here, except as much as is absolutely essential for our point; I’d still like to know what you understand verses 37, 39, and 44 to say in context.

          5. As you asked, here’s a read of John 6: 37, 39, and 44: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.:

            But first, Irked, (Can one, being electric, be shocked?!) John 6:5:

            “…a great crowd had come to him.” Some of that crowd believed, “This is truly the Prophet.” Some who have come here hold an imperfect understanding of who Jesus is. In fact, “they would come to seize him and make him king.” (John 6:15). Yet still these ‘believed’ in Jesus. They saw him and his miracles with their own eyes, yes? Yet they are unwilling to allow Jesus His own end. They want their conception of salvation rather than his. They want literal bread; He wants to give them his spiritual flesh and blood. They in essence cast themselves out. Jesus does not turn them away but John 6:67: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

            John 6:39: The will of the Father is that Jesus should lose nothing of what the Father has given Him. Actually, He shall lose nothing of ‘it.’ Perhaps people are not being talked of here at all, but perhaps heaven and earth materially are intended. (Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never…Matthew 24:35). John 1:1-3 says that the Word (Jesus) was God, was with God, and all things were made through him. God made all things good. Men alone have chosen the privation of goodness. Jesus loses NOTHING that is good.

            And John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

            Jesus’ raising may mean raising into heaven, but it may also mean the resurrection–raising from the dead, and of everyone which is to occur just prior to the final judgment on the last day. ( Matthew 22:31;Matthew 13:47). The Father’s ‘drawing’ may be his drawing forth or calling (by a trumpet perhaps) of the elect and reprobate. For Jesus shall judge us all at that time, and only then shall we know to whom the “him” of verse 44 refers.

            God bless.

  7. Hi Irked,

    “I’d still like to know what you understand verses 37, 39, and 44 to say in context.”

    You’ve asked and I’ve tried to give the answer many times regarding the supposed level of catechesis needed to proclaim that ‘your treasure (faith in Christ) has no possibility of being stolen’, and ‘your pearl (faith)has no possibility of being lost or corroded by some type of spiritual acid’…ie..in the way that acid affects all natural pearls. But you continue to teach that indeed a person can know for certain that these ‘treasures and pearls’ will not be lost through any means”. The problem is, that you explicit teachings of Christ, regarding this subject matter, such as:

    “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke11:21)

    Can you not listen to Christ, and understand that a Christian can be converted, and thereby acquire ‘a pearl of great value’ such that ‘…an unclean spirit is gone out of a man’…. but then this same man returns to his impure state, is conquered by temptation and sin again… and is consequently worse off than before? If a Christian teaches as you teach, he will not warn his listeners against losing their ‘pearl’ and ‘other treasures (buried in the field)…as he is ‘already in eternal possession of them’. You hereby contradict Christ’s teachings with which he tried to warn his disciples of the danger of losing their ‘pearls’ of grace and salvation through the attack of demons. Why would Jesus teach this lesson if it were not a valuable warning for His followers?

    So this is to say, you need to reconcile this saying with John 6:37..” All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out.” And then also consider “Many are called but few are chosen”. So, as I said many times before we need to understand WHAT IT MEANS TO ‘COME’ TO JESUS. And the early Church as I’ve stated before gives us the answer. It is not just hearing the ‘good news’ and having an emotional response to it. This is called by the Church,’the kerygma’. But there is more to coming to Jesus than this: Converts need to obey Christ and His Church. Listen to what Jesus said, before His ascension into Heaven:

    “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you..” (Matt. 28:18)

    You see, Irked, a ‘believer needs to OBSERVE ‘ALL THINGS WHATEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU’….that is to say…the whole Gospel message. A person needs to be fully catechized, and not just receive the ‘kerygma’,or emotional response, if he is to ‘come to Christ’. The whole catechesis that is essential…the comprehensive teaching of Christ, and the practicing thereof, that signifies that a person has COME TO CHRIST per the John 6:37 verse.

    And verse 39 ….”Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath GIVEN me, I should lose nothing”, is the similar. A convert is NOT GIVEN TO CHRIST unless he comes to THE CHURCH THAT JESUS FOUNDED AND OBSERVE ALL THAT HE COMMANDED. So, it is the Church who decides whether a person is a follower of Christ, or not. And if a person is not willing to be taught all of the things that the Church wants to teach it, for instance, regarding the Sacraments that Jesus commanded, or how to Pray the ‘Lord’s Prayer, or how to fast as Jesus taught, or items pertaining to divorce and the moral life, or other items such as gathering for the Eucharist on Sundays, or forgiving of sins, etc…. then this person WILL NOT BE ALLOWED ENTRANCE INTO THE CHURCH BY THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM ….no matter how much he thinks that he knows and loves Jesus. This is to say, ALL WHO COME TO JESUS COME ALSO TO HIS CHURCH TO BE TAUGHT CORRECTLY. Again, Jesus said: “Teaching them to observe ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you..” (Matt. 28:18).

    And verse John 6:44, is the same. It says:

    “[44] No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. [45] It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be TAUGHT OF GOD. Every one that hath heard of the Father, AND HATH LEARNED, cometh to me.”

    Note the highlights, Irked. A person needs to LEARN the entire catechesis that the Church teaches, even as Christ commanded the Church to teach and feed. IT IS THESE CHRISTIANS THAT ….”COMETH TO ME”.

    So, to conclude….

    To come to Jesus is to come to His Church who are the authoritative body and teachers of Christ in this world. They are the appointed teachers of His Gospel. And if a person is attracted to Christ by the teaching of the Church’s missionaries he will then be catechized regarding the many things that Christ taught in the gospel message. But he still has NOT come to Christ yet. After accepting the doctrine ( ie. explanation of the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Holy Orders, such as the Diaconate, etc…) all taught by the Church, the person will agree to be baptized by the Church wherein He receives power and grace from the Holy Spirit. Now, after Baptism, a Christian has not only the teaching of the apostolic faith, but also a gift from God…the Holy Spirit Himself…to strengthen and enlighten Him. Regarding this, consider this scripture:

    “And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost SINCE YOU BELIEVED? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John’s baptism. Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance, saying: That they should believe in him who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

    So, you see Irked, that even Christians who already know Jesus (see ‘since you believed’, highlighted above) still need the sacrament of Baptism to receive the power of the Holy Spirit from the authorities in Christ’s Church…in this case, St. Paul was the one to baptize them. They were not sufficiently catechized before hand, and even though they knew something of the Lord Jesus Christ, they still were lacking in their knowledge of the sacraments. so, they needed to receive the catechesis from the Church, and then to receive the sacrament of Baptism from the same Church. THEN they received the power of the Holy Spirt via that sacrament administered by the Church.

    SO, I hope this finally shed light on what it means to “Come to Christ”….one needs to come to the Church that Christ founded and be taught properly from them, (ie…those who hear you hear me); and then they receive the spiritual gifts that Christ provided for all who belongs to His Mystical Body, the Church, here on Earth. So, it’s not only knowledge and love of Christ, but obedience to Christ through learning from and following and receiving nourishment from his Holy Church…. that brings one fully to Christ.

    Best to you,

    – Al

    1. Pardon the bad editing. In the first paragraph it means to read : “The problem is, that you ignore the explicit teachings of Christ, regarding this subject matter, such as:…”

      And, there are plenty of other ‘typos’ included that I thought that I corrected.

      But I think you can get an idea of what I’m trying to say: To come to Christ, as cited the the verses you inquire about, means that you need to physically associate with the Church that Christ established on the ‘Rock of Peter’, and not merely to read the ‘word of Christ’ from the Bible. Moreover, one must learn the Gospel of Christ in the ‘proper context’…and also receive the physical sacraments from the Church as well…which sacraments fulfill the word of Christ, the gospel, that is taught by the Church. In receiving the sacraments, a person is provided the actual gifts of the Holy Spirit, as is demonstrated in St. Paul’s quote, above, concerning those who only received ‘John’s’ baptism. Moreover, Christ indicates through many parables that a Christian MUST CONTINUE in the faith, and not be robbed of it, or have it smothered by weeds, or have Satan snatch it away…etc… In Chapters 2 & 3 of the Book of Revelation, it gives ample examples of these things for all to understand. But my comment here is already far too long to include these also. So, you can read them yourself from the scriptures….and note how many times Christ says that the Churches must ‘persevere’ in the faith…to receive the reward of salvation…which is a far different teaching than ‘Once saved, always saved” that you are promoting. Here is a link demonstrating these truths, from Revelation Chps 2&3:

      http://www.drbo.org/chapter/73002.htm

    2. For those still following the dialog here…

      Does this passage from the Book of Revelation sound ANYTHING LIKE…’once saved always saved’? :

      “And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These things saith the First and the Last, who was dead, and is alive: [9] I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich: and thou art blasphemed by them that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. [10] Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tried: and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful until death: and I WILL GIVE THEE the crown of life.

      How can anyone preach such a ludicrous doctrine as OSAS, in light of just this one minuscule teaching? This is Jesus Christ Himself saying that if they are faithful UNTO DEATH….He will give thee…”salvation”…ie..’the crown of life’.

      How hard can it be to understand this stuff???

    3. Al,

      You’ve asked and I’ve tried to give the answer many times

      I don’t really know how far we’re going to get here. What I’ve asked for is a specific response to a specific teaching: an explanation of what you understand Christ to be saying in these exact verses, in their context. Not, “What does Christ teach elsewhere?”; not “What do other verses in chapter 6 say?” – but for these verses, specifically, what is he saying? Margo and Matthew have both offered (different) explanations of what the verses entail, which gives us something we can talk about – but you will not. I don’t know why that is; I only know that I’ve been asking you this question for two threads now, and you will not answer it.

      And I’m not going to follow you onto other verses until you do so. I’d love to discuss some of these other passages; I think it’d be very interesting to talk about the way we interpret parables, or why I don’t think the “empty house” is at all a reference to Christians, or any of the other passages you bring up – but I’m not going to do that while you won’t engage with me on a basic tit-for-tat level.

      Tell me what these verses are saying – or just assert that you agree with one of Margo and Matthew! – and we can move on: we can split our posts between my asking (and you answering) questions on a passage of my choosing, and you asking (and my answering) questions on a passage of your choosing. And, I hope, we can do so without “YELLING” at each other.

      So, as I said many times before we need to understand WHAT IT MEANS TO ‘COME’ TO JESUS.

      Okay. So, given your understanding of what it means to come to Jesus, what does it mean to say (as v.44 does) that anyone who comes must have been given/drawn, and will be raised up at the last day? And who, in this view, are those (in v. 39) given by the Father?

  8. Irked,

    Allow me to jump into the fray and see if I can provide some direct answers to your questions. The reformed case for what they call the “perseverance of the saints” rests heavily on their interpretation of John 6:37-44. I will examine the logic of your premises and conclusions you stated above. First I will say, and I hope you agree, is that John 6:37-44 is talking about the elect, ie those predestined to heaven from before the foundation of the world. It might surprise you to learn that I as a Catholic believe in unconditional and infallible predestination to heaven. I am what is known as a “Thomist” in the Catholic tradition on predestination for reasons that will become clear. Suffice to say, my position is the one that Thomas Aquinas held and he was heavily influenced by St. Augustine on this point. That being said, let me address your points.

    Verse 37 says: “All that the Father gives to me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.”

    Who are those given by the Father to Jesus in this verse? If the answer to this question is “the elect” (and I think it is), then we can say that this is a special kind of giving. It is the giving of eternal predestination for salvation. How do I know it’s predestination to salvation? Because of what is said in verse 39 which says:

    “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.”

    I often hear Calvinists emphasize the fact that Jesus is able to, and in fact succeeds at fulfilling the Father’s will for Him. This is good because it is true. However, what conclusions can we draw from this fact? As of now we are told:

    1. The elect will come to Jesus
    2. It is the Father’s will that Jesus raises the elect on the last day.
    we can conclude from the above that:
    3. Since Jesus does not fail to do His Father’s will, the elect will be raised up at the last day.

    That’s all the information we have so far. Notice that all this information pertains to the elect. It says NOTHING about what happens to the non-elect. The biggest mistake Calvinists make in their exegesis of this passage is that they infer things about the non-elect from what is affirmed about the elect. From none of the above can we conclude that “the non-elect do not come to Jesus in any sense.” However, perhaps you think that can be logically inferred if we have more information. Let’s continue.

    Verse 44 states: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    We know that this verse is talking about the elect because of the second clause “I will raise him up at the last day.” And it was pointed out to me that in the Greek, it is clear that this “him” who is raised up is the same “him” that is drawn. All of this is true. So this verse says two things:

    1. The elect cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws them
    2. The elect are raised up at the last day

    Premise 2 was actually our conclusion from verse 39 so we already know that to be the case. All verse 44 adds to this is that it is impossible for the elect to come to Jesus without the divine aid of the Father’s drawing. From NONE of this information can we conclude that “the non-elect are not drawn to Jesus in any sense and they do not come to Jesus in any sense.” All of the information in verses 37-44 pertain to what happens to the elect. They are NOT about what pertains to the non-elect.

    Also, none of this information tells you who the elect are or if you are one of them. As Al pointed out, what it means to “believe in Jesus and to come to Him” is FAR more than “I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.” Rather, truly believing in Jesus is a total life commitment which involves not only trusting Jesus as our Savior, but obeying His commands and in believing everything He says. This is important because what the Jews were griping about was not Christ’s teaching on predestination. They were griping about His teachings on His divinity (verses 41-42) and the Eucharist (verse 52). Now that I have explained the meaning of John 6:37-44, it is important to point out that to separate this passage from it’s Eucharistic context is a huge mistake. We know right from the beginning of the chapter that these events are taking place at Passover, exactly a year before the Last Supper and the Cross. The miracle of the loves is HEAVILY Eucharistic. It even uses the same Greek word in John 6:11 (eucharistēsas) that is used in ALL of the Last Supper accounts. The synoptic accounts of the miracle actually draw the parallel even more because they all use the language of: “He blessed, He broke, He distributed.” This is called “foreshadowing.” It was also not lost on the Early Church Fathers. Furthermore, the manna from Heaven is discussed in John 6 which is an Old Testament type of the Eucharist (something else noted by the Early Church Fathers). Why then does Jesus bring up election/predestination in this passage? Because grace is necessary to believe these things. The big error here of the protestant reformation is that “Eat my flesh, drink my blood” is just a metaphor for “believe.” Rather, the truth is that:
    If you truly do believe and have come to Jesus, then you will eat His flesh and drink His blood.” If you refuse to eat His flesh or drink His blood, then you do not truly believe in Jesus. Jesus is a package deal and therefore, believing in Him is a package deal. As St. Augustine said, “if you accept the Gospel in part and deny it in part, it is not the Gospel you believe in, but yourself.”

    May God be with you.

    Matthew

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Allow me to jump into the fray and see if I can provide some direct answers to your questions.

      Direct answers would be welcome!

      The reformed case for what they call the “perseverance of the saints” rests heavily on their interpretation of John 6:37-44.

      One of a few such passages – Romans 4 and Hebrews 10, say, also come up – but yes, it’s definitely an important one.

      First I will say, and I hope you agree, is that John 6:37-44 is talking about the elect, ie those predestined to heaven from before the foundation of the world. It might surprise you to learn that I as a Catholic believe in unconditional and infallible predestination to heaven.

      I do agree, yes. Not that surprised – I’ve had some conversations with a Catholic coworker regarding the range of Catholic opinions on free will/determinism/etc. – but you definitely have my attention!

      Reading your later remarks, let me see if I can sum up: your understanding is that there are some people elected to salvation, who are irresistibly drawn and who will inevitably end up in heaven. There are other people who are not so drawn; such people may come to Christ, and may even die in believing faith, but they are not guaranteed not to lose their faith. There are, in other words, two different kinds of Christians: those elect, and those unelect. For the first kind, the answer to Al’s question is, “No, they cannot lose their salvation”; for the second kind, the answer is, “Yes, they can.” We, as limited human beings, can’t guarantee which category we’re in, and so we have to assume that we’re in the second category.

      Is that approximately correct?

      Follow-up just for my own curiosity: does it follow that the elect are unable to commit mortal sin?

      ***

      So we’re on the same page through most of your remarks. I originally reposted ’em saying, “Yes, I agree,” but that got long, so assume that I either agree (or have blindly missed an objection to) what you say up until the points I remark on.

      However, what conclusions can we draw from this fact? As of now we are told:

      1. The elect will come to Jesus
      2. It is the Father’s will that Jesus raises the elect on the last day.
      we can conclude from the above that:
      3. Since Jesus does not fail to do His Father’s will, the elect will be raised up at the last day.

      I would add “(0). There exist people the Father has given, whom we will call ‘the elect.'” I think that’s implicit in your definition, but I think we need it to keep the “giving” from just disappearing from these premises.

      Notice that all this information pertains to the elect. It says NOTHING about what happens to the non-elect. The biggest mistake Calvinists make in their exegesis of this passage is that they infer things about the non-elect from what is affirmed about the elect. From none of the above can we conclude that “the non-elect do not come to Jesus in any sense.”

      I would agree, to this point – though as you say, I think the matter is clarified shortly.

      So this verse says two things:

      1. The elect cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws them
      2. The elect are raised up at the last day

      And here’s where we disagree. The verse says no one can come. I would agree, as you said upthread, that this passage is generally describing the elect – but “the elect” is just a fancy name for “those who are given by the Father,” who are primarily in view here. A verse that discusses those who do not come – that specifies which people cannot come – is necessarily also talking about people other than the elect. (In context, it’s talking about his Jewish audience, which is part of what ticks ’em off so badly.)

      Indeed, since “the elect” is just “those given by the Father,” your construction of (1) is basically tautological: “Those given by the Father cannot come unless the Father draws them.” I think a much better construction is:

      (1a) Humans cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws them.

      Or, equivalently:

      (1b) Humans cannot come to Jesus unless they are elect.

      And in light of that, I’d obviously disagree with:

      From NONE of this information can we conclude that “the non-elect are not drawn to Jesus in any sense and they do not come to Jesus in any sense.”

      In a salvific sense – the sense in which he’s talking here – I think we have to conclude exactly that.

      Also, none of this information tells you who the elect are or if you are one of them.

      Yes, that’s true. We as human beings are not given to know who the elect are; they don’t glow.

      As Al pointed out, what it means to “believe in Jesus and to come to Him” is FAR more than “I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”

      So I would invert this argument a little bit: I think to claim Christ as Lord and Savior entails far more than this would imply it does. An offering of lordship necessarily implies a promise of submission, both in thought (believing what he believed) and action (doing what he does), and I would agree that someone who does not sincerely offer these things is not saved.

      Where we differ, I think, is in whether our inevitable failure to live up to that promise imperils the gift.

      Now that I have explained the meaning of John 6:37-44, it is important to point out that to separate this passage from it’s Eucharistic context is a huge mistake.

      I would, as you suggest below, again argue in rather the reverse: that rather than this event point to the Eucharist, both the Eucharist and this event point in another direction. It certainly is significant that Christ does what he does at the Passover – not because that points to the Supper, but rather because both it and the Supper point to the only true breaking of his flesh on the cross, and his serving as the true Passover lamb. I think John 6 makes it pretty plain that the “eating” is a metaphor for belief: to come to Christ is to take his very self into your inmost being, to let him satisfy you in a way no earthly bread can. I think Catholicism errs in making the clearest expression of that metaphor instead a part of the fulfillment of the metaphor.

      I think this would be a really interesting subject to follow up on, but I hope it makes sense that I’m trying to constrain the conversation as much as possible. Last thread, we started on worship, and I think I ended up arguing… predestination, persistence of salvation, the Eucharist, Christ’s actions as priest, and a couple others beside. That was pretty frustrating on both sides, I think, and I’m trying really hard to limit the scope here to Al’s original question.

      If you refuse to eat His flesh or drink His blood, then you do not truly believe in Jesus. Jesus is a package deal and therefore, believing in Him is a package deal.

      I concur. My objection on that teaching is, fundamentally, that it doesn’t seem to me to come from Christ.

      1. Irked,

        I’m on my phone so I can’t give a full reply but I will say a few things for now. John 6:44 is still talking about the elect. The statement: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” is a true statement for every elect person. “I will raise him up on the last day” is also true for every elect person. That’s all that is being said. To infer anything else is to read into the text. The text simply doesn’t say “The non-electric never come to Jesus in any sense or believe in any sense.” We know this for example from Acts 8:13 where of Simon the sorcerer is said that “Even Simon the sorcerer believed.” But later on, things didn’t go so well for him.

        Your statements 1a and 1b are not equivalent. They are two different claims and 1b is a non sequitur from 1a. Your 1b statement is putting a limitation on what God is able to do with the non-elect. Why is God incapable of drawings someone into a relationship with Himself temporarily to accomplish a certain purpose and then, for a mysterious and praiseworthy reason (perhaps to use said person as an instrument to reach someone else who is elect) allow that person to fall away? It does no damage to God’s sovereignty to say that is possible. In fact, it does do damage to God’s sovereignty to say that that scenario is impossible. God as the potter can do what He wants with the clay. That includes the non elect clay.

        I will leave the points about the Eucharist alone for now to focus on our discussion of election. Sufficient to say, your position is not that of the Early Church Fathers and didn’t exist until the 16th century.

        May God be with you

        Matthew

        1. Hi Matthew,

          I think your phone auto-corrected to “the electric” at one point, which would make an absolutely fabulous alternative theology: “God only saves those who have been struck by lightning. No, not figuratively.”

          (Sorry, it just gave me a chuckle.)

          Okay, more seriously, let me look at your point:

          John 6:44 is still talking about the elect. The statement: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” is a true statement for every elect person.

          Why would we read it as only talking about the elect? It seems to me that the more natural interpretation of “no one” is – well, no one, and that this passage is dividing those drawn (i.e., the elect) from everyone else, who cannot come. You say…

          The text simply doesn’t say “The non-electric never come to Jesus in any sense or believe in any sense.”

          … but it doesn’t grammatically need to do so, right? If it says, “No one comes unless X,” the most natural reading is that it’s making a universal statement. If you want to say, “Well, but in light of other passages we can’t read it that way,” fine and good – but I don’t think it’s fair to say that interpreting “no one” as “no one” is reading into the text.

          Your statements 1a and 1b are not equivalent. They are two different claims and 1b is a non sequitur from 1a.

          That depends, I think, on whether “drawing” and “giving” are equivalent statements. I believe they are, in this context.

          Your 1b statement is putting a limitation on what God is able to do with the non-elect.

          Again, I don’t think that’s quite fair. Your question is, “Why couldn’t God- ?” – and that isn’t my assertion at all. I have no theological problem with saying that, for all I know, God could have chosen to call people only for a season. My claim is just that God’s desire, as He expresses it here, is to not do that thing. That’s not a limit on His power; it’s just saying, “Well, that’s not what He said He was going to do.”

          So I could absolutely be wrong as to what I understand Him to say He’s going to do, but I don’t think the charge of “limitation” is fair.

          A couple of follow-ups of my own:

          1) In verses 64 and 65, Jesus says to the people, “There are some of you who do not believe. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” I understand Christ to be saying here: See, you haven’t believed in me, because you can’t believe in me unless the Father enables you, as I said back in verse 44. But it seems like my interpretation would be inconsistent with your reading, in which v. 44 applies only to the elect; clearly these people are not elect, since (as v. 64 says) they do not believe him, and indeed abandon him immediately afterward, something you and I would agree that the elect cannot do.

          So my question would be, given that he’s addressing unbelievers here – and, per v. 64, even speaking specifically of Judas – what does he mean by his words in v. 65? Why bring it up, if he’s not talking to the elect?

          2) In the Thomist understanding of “the elect” – that is, that this is the sub-category of Christians who cannot lose their salvation – does that phrase have the same meaning elsewhere in the New Testament? So, for instance, in Matthew 24:31, when Christ promises to gather his elect from the four winds, is he speaking only of this sub-group? Likewise when Paul says he endures everything “for the sake of the elect,” in 2 Timothy 2:10, or that he was made an apostle “to further the faith of God’s elect” in Titus 1:1, or when Peter writes “to God’s elect” in 1 Peter 1:1 – are these passages also only addressing this subset, or does the phrase have a different meaning there?

          ***

          And another thing lol. You admit you don’t know who the elect are. How then can you say definitively that you’re one of them then? Or do you not do that?

          So what I would say is that I know as purely as I know anything that I sincerely claimed Christ as Lord, and that the faith He gave me to do that continues today. It’s not, in a strict sense, impossible that I could be wrong – I could be mistaken that Christianity is true; I could be hallucinating all this, and there might be no such thing as the Bible (or the internet, or this computer); I could, in some sense, be a creation of a nigh-all-powerful AI inside a computer simulation. These are basically unfalsifiable suppositions, and so there are extremely finicky senses of “know” in which none of us ever knows anything – but I am as sure as I can be about anything, by my own memory, the promises in Scripture, and the witness of the Spirit within me.

      2. And another thing lol. You admit you don’t know who the elect are. How then can you say definitively that you’re one of them then? Or do you not do that? I’ve actually heard different things from various Reformed folks on that question. I’m a bit curious as to what your answer might be.

        Matthew.

        1. Irked, …yeah auto-correct lol.

          You said: “Why would we read it as only talking about the elect? It seems to me that the more natural interpretation of “no one” is – well, no one, and that this passage is dividing those drawn (i.e., the elect) from everyone else, who cannot come.”

          The original Greek bears this out better than English. The two “him”s are the same word in Greek “auton.” The same person is being discussed in both clauses of John 6:44. Yes, the audience is non-believing Jews but you don’t know if they are elect or not. They might have come to faith later for all we know. It simply doesn’t say the non-elect “cannot” or “never” come. If you want to stipulate that it is true for the non-elect that they cannot come UNLESS the Father draws them, then fine. But only the elect would be raised up on the last day. That’s why it makes the most sense to see both John 6:44a and 44b as referring to an elect person.

          You say: “Again, I don’t think that’s quite fair. Your question is, “Why couldn’t God- ?” – and that isn’t my assertion at all. I have no theological problem with saying that, for all I know, God could have chosen to call people only for a season. My claim is just that God’s desire, as He expresses it here, is to not do that thing. That’s not a limit on His power; it’s just saying, “Well, that’s not what He said He was going to do.”

          Interesting. So God can call someone into a relationship of grace with Himself and then allow that person to fall from grace? That’s all the Council of Trent was trying to say. I didn’t say that that was what John 6:37-44 was primarily about, only that it would not contradict such a position and the Calvinist doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints” does not logically follow from anything there. “Perseverance of the Elect” however, does logically follow from that passage and that’s what I believe and is very strong in the Catholic Tradition. Given that this passage still doesn’t tell us if you or I will be among those raised up at the last day, there’s just no way you can conclude from the information here that you or I are among those raised up at the last day.

          To answer your follow ups,
          1. Your point is valid but it would be a big mistake to infer that the reason “many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him” is because Jesus said “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John tells us why the Jews/disciples were upset in verses 41,42,52, and 60. It’s not because Jesus said “the Father must draw.” It’s because Jesus said “I came down from Heaven” and “Eat my flesh, drink my blood.”

          That being said, I fully affirm that faith is a gift from God, a gift of grace. We all need grace in order to believe the teachings of Jesus, especially on the Eucharist. That’s why Jesus said what He said in verse 65. Without a special grace, no one would believe or understand that we are to eat Christ’s Flesh and drink His Blood. It appears you haven’t been given that gift either…yet ;). I will pray for you to receive it. I can put it this way: Because the elect truly believe in Jesus, they will not object to eating Christ’s Flesh and drinking His Blood the way Jesus established us to do so.

          2. That’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of the Thomist position. The elect can lose their salvation, but they’d be getting it back before they die lol. The elect get predestined, call, justified, and glorified. But lots of things can happen between justified and glorified. But if God predestined someone to be glorified, they will end up being glorified. I dislike using the term “irresistibly” because it’s not the most accurate. “Efficaciously” is better. Most of us can testify to the fact that we resisted God at various points. I certainly did. Thankfully in my case, God was persistent ;).

          As far as subsets go, the better analogy is the parable of the sower. The seed that’s on the good soil are the predestined to glory. The seed on rocky soil believe for a while and then fall away. They still received the seed which is grace from God, but God permitted their fall. The Greek word for “elect” can also mean simply “chosen.” We would have to ask ourselves when it is used “chosen for what?” In many of the verses you cited, the word “chosen” is what I have in my translation. There can be different senses in which someone was “chosen.” For example, Judas was chosen (ie elected) to be an apostle but he was not predestined to glory.

          Finally, your last answer wasn’t all that clear. Are you as certain that you are going to heaven as you are certain that Jesus is God? Have you seen your name in the Book of Life? Have you seen my name in it? lol. Is it a divine revelation of scripture that Irked is going to heaven?

          May God be with you.

          Matthew

          1. Hi Matthew,

            The original Greek bears this out better than English. The two “him”s are the same word in Greek “auton.” The same person is being discussed in both clauses of John 6:44.

            “Draws him” and “raise him up” are clearly the same person, absolutely, but I think that’s sort of my point. Let me try a syntactically identical construction: I say to you, “No one can come to my party unless I invite him, and I will give him presents.” Now, it’s certainly true that the “invite him” and “give him presents” apply to the same person – they are both auton. But would anyone say that this is a message only concerning only a limited group of people?

            No, of course not! It’s a message that divides all people into two groups: those who cannot come, on the one hand, and those who are invited and get presents on the other. No one would say, “Well, this is only a message regarding a limited group, because only a limited group get presents.” That I am limiting presents to a small group within the whole is itself the point of the sentence.

            The construction of the sentence in John 6:44 is identical. It’s a division passage; on what grounds would we take it to introduce a new division, when the whole section is about Christ dividing between those given/coming/rising and those not?

            Or let’s try it this way: Bob cannot come to Christ, unless the Father draws Bob and Christ will raise him up at the last day. There are two possibilities for Bob. Either:
            1) Bob is drawn and subsequently raised to life, or
            2) Bob is unable to come.

            One of these things must be true. If it’s the first, Bob is elect; if it isn’t, he ain’t. If we generalize from Bob to all people, we have… well, no one can come unless they’re in category (1), exactly what Christ says.

            I don’t see any reason here to restrict “no one” to “no one in the elect.”

            Yes, the audience is non-believing Jews but you don’t know if they are elect or not. They might have come to faith later for all we know.

            As a group, here is what we’re told of the people Christ references in verses 64-66:
            1) They do not believe.
            2) They include Judas, “who would betray him.”
            3) Many of them turn back and no longer follow him.

            I’ve tried to write a response here a couple of times, and I keep tearing them apart, but let me try this. I think it’s a remarkable reach to assert that these people must have been elect, when their failure to believe is the only thing clearly documented about them – and when a linguistically-simpler alternative is to just say that they’re proof that no one (fully general!) can come unless they’re drawn. It seems like John is writing the passage in a way specifically antagonistic to that interpretation: that we have to take the folks that he defines by their lack of faith, and say, “No, but these were still the people chosen by God to have ultimate saving faith.”

            But it also seems to me that, since you interpret 44 as being only about the elect, you must likewise interpret 65 in that way. And that seems to me to be a pretty awful problem with your reading of 44: that it cuts against the clear thrust of this later verse

            This was the question I was asking in question 1. It sounds like you misunderstood me to say that the people were leaving because of Christ’s teaching on election, and that wasn’t my point at all – I was trying to say, “Doesn’t it sure seem like the people in 64-66 are not elect? Doesn’t that seem like the natural read? And yet verse 65 applies verse 44 to them – shouldn’t we maybe take that as a sign that when verse 44 looks like it’s talking about all people, that’s exactly what it’s doing?”

            But let’s take that a step further. Clearly, whatever else we can say about these people, we have to say they’re not being drawn at this point. Right? Because otherwise it makes no sense for Christ to say, “This is why I said no one can come unless the Father draws them.” If they are being drawn by the Father, he’s not demonstrating anything about who can or can’t come.

            So the set of people “not being drawn” is not empty. There are some people who meet that criterion – some who are not drawn. Right so far?

            Let me follow up with a question, then. You say that 44 tells us nothing about the unelect. My question is, “Can the unelect who are not being drawn come to Christ? Do we know what the answer to that question is?”

            Because if the undrawn unelect cannot come – then 44 applies to them as well, right? And if the undrawn unelect can come, then they’re more able to come to Christ under their own power than even the elect – who, as per verse 44, cannot!

            Right?

            Doesn’t that seem a bit… strained… of a reading?

            It simply doesn’t say the non-elect “cannot” or “never” come. If you want to stipulate that it is true for the non-elect that they cannot come UNLESS the Father draws them, then fine.

            I do so stipulate, yes. And the Father does not draw the un-elect, because the Father’s action to draw is itself election.

            But only the elect would be raised up on the last day.

            Yes. Only the elect, i.e., those drawn, are raised up. I see only one division being made here: those drawn/given/coming/raised up, and those not.

            That’s why it makes the most sense to see both John 6:44a and 44b as referring to an elect person.

            No, not at all. The passage is a contrast: a person is either elect, or he’s not. That’s the point of it: no one can come, unless he’s elect.

            Interesting. So God can call someone into a relationship of grace with Himself and then allow that person to fall from grace?

            God could have chosen to work in that way. According to John 6, though, He chose not to work in this way; my argument is regarding His will, and not His capability. Trent erred in asserting that God has chosen to work other than in the way God has self-revealed.

            2. That’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of the Thomist position. The elect can lose their salvation, but they’d be getting it back before they die lol.

            Okay, interesting. Thanks for clarifying – my apologies for the misrepresentation.

            For example, Judas was chosen (ie elected) to be an apostle but he was not predestined to glory.

            Okay. So in your reading, when Christ or Peter or Paul (or John, in 2 John) say “the chosen” in these passages, they mean “the chosen for salvation at any point,” and not “the chosen to definitively be glorified at the end of their lives?”

            Finally, your last answer wasn’t all that clear. Are you as certain that you are going to heaven as you are certain that Jesus is God?

            Yes.

            Have you seen your name in the Book of Life?

            No.

            Is it a divine revelation of scripture that Irked is going to heaven?

            Only in the sense that it says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

            Jesus is Lord – of my heart, mind, body, and spirit. God raised him from the dead. Though I am undeserving, though I willfully rebel, though my righteousness is so thin as to be counted as one who does not work

            I will be saved.

            God be with you, too.

          2. It seems like John is writing the passage in a way specifically antagonistic to that interpretation: that we have to take the folks that he defines by their lack of faith, and say, “No, but these were still the people chosen by God to have ultimate saving faith.”

            Ugh, that was clear as mud, wasn’t it? Let me try again.

            It seems like John is writing the passage in a way specifically antagonistic to the interpretation you present: that, for your interpretation to hold, we have to take the folks that he defines by their lack of faith, and say, “No, but these were still the people chosen by God to have ultimate saving faith.”

          3. Irked,

            Now not only are you reading things into John, your reading things into me! Stop it! lol.

            You said: “Or let’s try it this way: Bob cannot come to Christ, unless the Father draws Bob and Christ will raise him up at the last day. There are two possibilities for Bob. Either:
            1) Bob is drawn and subsequently raised to life, or
            2) Bob is unable to come.”

            But Bob’s inability to come to Jesus without the Father’s drawing does not logically entail that Bob is going to heaven. Understand how the logic works? Jesus’s two statements in John 6:44 are obviously both true statements but the second one is not a logical corollary of the first. It doesn’t have to be in order to be true. Let’s modify your example a bit:

            Suppose in addition to Bob, there is also Bill. Unlike Bob, Bill was not given to Jesus by the Father in eternal predestination. However, it is still true that Bill is unable to come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. Does it follow from that that Bill is raised up at the last day? The answer is no. While the same statement is true for Bob (that he cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws him), Bob is raised up at the last day. What’s the difference? Bob is predestined to Heaven and Bill isn’t. Their mutual inability to come to Jesus does not distinguish them, but God’s predestination does. None of these facts would prevent God from drawing Bill into a temporary relationship.

            I had already said it’s fine if you stipulate that the non-elect also cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. That is also a true statement. Does it follow that since they are not raised up that they can never come? No.

            You said: “It seems like John is writing the passage in a way specifically antagonistic to the interpretation you present: that, for your interpretation to hold, we have to take the folks that he defines by their lack of faith, and say, “No, but these were still the people chosen by God to have ultimate saving faith.”

            Why? I didn’t say that! lol. If you’re right and “no one can come” applies to everyone, then I was correct that it’s talking about the elect assuming that the elect fit under the category of “everybody” lol.

            You asked: “My question is, “Can the unelect who are not being drawn come to Christ? Do we know what the answer to that question is?”

            If the Father draws them, yes. Will they be raised up at the last day? No because they are not of the predestined.

            You said: “And the Father does not draw the un-elect, because the Father’s action to draw is itself election.”

            That is incorrect. To draw, and to choose are two different verbs. Essentially, you are confusing God’s predestination with God’s call. The drawing takes place in time, throughout our lives. Predestination occurs out of time, from before the foundation of the world. It is necessary to be predestined to be glorified. But it is not absolutely necessary to be predestined to be called. That is why “Many are called, few are chosen (ie elected).

            You said: “No, not at all. The passage is a contrast: a person is either elect, or he’s not. That’s the point of it: no one can come, unless he’s elect.”

            Only one person is mentioned in the verse and he happens to be elect because he’s being raised up on the last day. You keep making the same mistake of assuming that because the elect are drawn and raised up, that since the non-elect are not raised up, they aren’t drawn. This is a logical non-sequitur. Stop it! lol.

            Let me try to illustrate this: E=elect, D=drawn, R=Raised

            If E, then D+R. From this, you want to conclude:

            If not E, then not D or R.

            This is a logical fallacy called “Denying the antecedent.” It simply will not do. Briefly to answer your last points, I would say that yes, the word “chosen” is probably used in a current status sense but I would have to do more research on all of those other verses. As for your assurance, you must have been mistaken earlier then when you told me you don’t know who the elect are. Evidently, you know that you are one of them! lol. One thing that is getting us bogged down and talking past each other is that we have different ideas of what it means to be “saved.” That conversation needs a whole thread of its own lol. I’m trying to get you to do some logical examination of John 6 though without any presuppositions.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          4. Matthew,

            Now not only are you reading things into John, your reading things into me! Stop it! lol.

            So, I need to lead off with an apology – I had totally misread the point you’re talking about here:

            Why? I didn’t say that! lol. If you’re right and “no one can come” applies to everyone, then I was correct that it’s talking about the elect assuming that the elect fit under the category of “everybody” lol.

            … and that led to a long mistaken reply in places. Sorry about that!

            I started off trying to do a point-by-point fisking reply, but it got long and redundant. Soooooo, let me not do that and instead try to sum up what I hear us both saying. (Spoilers: still long.)

            It seems to me that the core verse on which we disagree at the moment is John 6:44, which, just to have it handy, says:

            “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

            What we don’t contest is that the “them” in “draws them” is the same as the “them” in “raise them up.” We both agree on that point – but we still disagree on the meaning of the verse as a whole.

            I have to confess I’m having trouble making logical sense of your interpretation. What I understand you to say is that this verse is saying, “If an elect person is not drawn, he cannot come”; it sounds like you’re reading “and I will raise them up” to indicate that the verse is only talking about the elect, because only the elect are guaranteed to be raised up. Is that at all in the right neighborhood?

            Because I think that’s a pretty awkward way to read the verse. I gave an example that I think illustrates this: “No one can come to my party unless I invite them, and I will give them presents.” If you replied to that directly, I’m afraid I missed it. Regardless, that’s a “divider” statement: it splits the world into two categories, the people who cannot come to my party, and the people who are invited (and given presents). It would be syntactically weird to say, “This is only a statement about people who are given presents,” because the function of the sentence is to indicate what kind of people are given presents, and what kind aren’t. John 6:44 does exactly the same thing; it doesn’t make sense to say, “Is this talking about an elect person or not?” because what it’s doing is dividing the world into two kinds of persons: those drawn and raised, and those not.

            But I think you have exactly the right idea to diagram out the sentence logically. (I was actually teaching about affirming the consequent a couple of months ago!) So here we go:

            So let’s set up some propositions. We need, I think, E (for elect), C (for called), D (for drawn), R (for will be raised), and G (for given), at a minimum. Really these should be predicates, with arguments – but I hope we can fake it without that. We’ll find out, I guess!

            My goal, in general, is to show that “the elect” is exactly the same as the group of people raised – in other words, that no one who isn’t elect is raised up, and that no one who is elect isn’t raised up. “Elect” doesn’t actually show up in this passage, so I’m going to do that in a different way: I’m going to show either that “those who come” and “those who are raised” are the same group, or that “those who are drawn” and “those who are raised” are the same group.

            I think either of those should do it, right? If everyone drawn is raised, then no one is drawn unsuccessfully, or temporarily, and the drawn are the elect. If everyone coming is raised, then no one comes for a season, and “those coming” are the elect. I really think all these terms are equivalent, but if I’m tracking our argument, either of those ought to do it.

            Before continuing on: would you agree? If not, what would I need to show (using terms present in these verses) to establish my position?

            For your part, if I fail to establish my claim, you’re right and I’m wrong.

            So I need to show either

            T1) D if and only if R

            or

            T2) C if and only if R.

            So what have we got? I’d actually like to start with a premise that I think we’d both accept, but that’s not explicit in this chapter: people who don’t come to Christ are not raised. Would you agree with that? In other words,

            1) If not C, then not R.

            Now, verse 44 says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” You interpreted this as, “If E, then D and R,” and object that it’s logically invalid to conclude, “If not E, then not D and R.” And you’re quite right – that’s not a supported conclusion from that logical statement.

            But I also think it’s the wrong logical statement. Verse 44 doesn’t begin with, “If you’re elect” – it’s starts with a universal statement. And so I think 40 renders in one of two ways:

            2a) “Not C, unless D and R,”

            or

            2b) “Not C, unless D. If D, then R.”

            In ordinary English, 2a says, “No one comes, unless he’s drawn and I raise him.” 2b says, “No one comes unless he’s drawn. If he’s drawn, I will raise him.”

            Suppose we take (2a) first. A standard rule of logic is that “X unless Y” is equivalent to saying, “If not Y, then X.” I’d embed a link, but that’d hide the post; Google “X unless Y” and you’ll find examples. As an easy stand-in, “The trash isn’t picked up unless it is Wednesday,” is equivalent to, “If it is not Wednesday, then the trash isn’t picked up.”

            So (2a) is equivalent to:

            3a) If not (D and R), then not C.

            By DeMorgan’s Law, we can replace that with

            4a) If not D, or not R, then not C.

            But by standard implicative laws, that’s the same as saying;

            5a) If not D, then not C.
            6a) If not R, then not C.

            Now, it’s fully possible to argue that 2a is the wrong model for this verse, but the rest of this is just standard rules of logic – the same as you’d find in any propositional logic textbook. There’s no judgment call to be made once it’s in propositional form.

            So we have:

            1) If not C, then not R.
            5a) If not D, then not C.
            6a) If not R, then not C.

            Taking the contrapositie of (1) and (6a), we have

            7a) If R, then C.
            8a) If C, then R.

            And that’s an if-and-only-if construction: R if and only if C. Those coming are raised, and those raised come. No one, then, comes and falls away.

            But maybe (2a) is wrong. Maybe instead (2b) is correct:

            1) If not C, then not R.
            2b) Not C, unless D. If D, then R.

            Let’s split that up:

            1) If not C, then not R.
            3b) Not C, unless D.
            4b) If D, then R.

            Again, 3b) is the same as, “If not D, then not C.” So:

            5b) If not D, then not C.

            Using the hypothetical syllogism on (1) and (5b) gives us

            6b) If not D, then not R.

            But taking the contrapositive of that, we have

            7b) If R, then D.

            And again, (4b) and (7b) are an if-and-only-if construction: everyone drawn is raised, and everyone raised is drawn. There’s no one who says “no” to God, or who is drawn but then falls away.

            Then with either reading, my thesis holds. Is my conclusion insufficient? Are my readings of v. 44 impossible? Are some raised who do not come? Because otherwise, I see no way around this conclusion – and indeed, it’s this kind of textual evidence that persuaded me to this position in the first place. (Far from presupposing predestination, I was once a very reluctant Calvinist – dragged in by what seemed like the unavoidable testimony of Scripture.)

            As for your assurance, you must have been mistaken earlier then when you told me you don’t know who the elect are.

            Not mistaken – it’s just a different question. I don’t know who the elect are; I know who one of ’em is, though! It’s the difference between, “I can tell when I myself am sincerely happy, and not acting,” and “I can’t in general tell you who is sincerely happy, and not acting.”

            I’m trying to get you to do some logical examination of John 6 though without any presuppositions.

            Back atcha, brother!

          5. Irked,

            Rather then parse through all of your logical data, I will focus on where you made a critical error. First, the goal of the Calvinist is to conclude the following:

            1. If drawn, then come
            2. If come, then raised
            3. Therefore, if drawn, then raised and
            4. If not raised, then not drawn and not come.

            The logical information we are given is as follows:

            From John 6:37. If given, then come.
            If come, then Jesus doesn’t cast out.

            From John 6:39. If given, then raised (because Jesus will fulfill the Father’s will.

            From John 6:44. If not drawn, then not come.

            It’s on verse 44 where we are going to have a point of contention. I do not accept that the second part of the verse (and I will raise him up at the last day) affects the conditional mentioned in the first part (no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him). John 6:44b is simply not a conditional statement.

            You said: “Now, it’s fully possible to argue that 2a is the wrong model for this verse, but the rest of this is just standard rules of logic – the same as you’d find in any propositional logic textbook. There’s no judgment call to be made once it’s in propositional form.”

            Well that’s good because I do argue that your 2a is the wrong model for this verse lol. If it was, then you would be correct and the Calvinist implications would follow. If it is not, then I am correct and the Calvinist implications would not follow. The reason I reject it because in order for that to be correct, the verse should have said: “Unless I raise you up on the last day and the Father draws you to me, no one can come to me.” But that’s very awkward. It makes being raised up a pre-condition of coming to Jesus.

            Your 2b doesn’t work either because “If D, then R” is not what the verse says. You kind of want it to say “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him; and if he is drawn, I will raise him up at the last day.” That would be reading into the text. The “I will raise him up at the last day” is simply not a part of any conditional in the verse.

            As for being a reluctant Calvinist, did it not give you pause that the entire Christian Church for 1500 years supposedly lost this essential teaching and was in heresy for that long. Given that you could be wrong in your interpretations of John 6 because “the heart is a deceitful and wicked thing, who can know it?” maybe another look at it is warranted no?

            And lastly, well, you first said “I don’t know who the elect are, they don’t glow.” But now your saying “well I know I am elect!” …Are you actually glowing? Are you wired up to the electric? lol sorry 😉

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          6. Hi Matthew,

            John 6:44b is simply not a conditional statement.

            So I guess I’m left wondering: what does that phrase do, in your reading? Clearly it doesn’t just disappear; how does it change the meaning of the sentence, to have it present?

            Well that’s good because I do argue that your 2a is the wrong model for this verse lol.

            As I argue for yours, sure.

            The reason I reject it because in order for that to be correct, the verse should have said: “Unless I raise you up on the last day and the Father draws you to me, no one can come to me.” But that’s very awkward. It makes being raised up a pre-condition of coming to Jesus.

            That’s one way the verse could have expressed that sentiment, sure. I don’t think it’s the only one. But given that we’re talking about logical conditions, and not temporal ones, I don’t think that’s particular awkward at all. Indeed, if drawing, and believing, and giving, and eating, and coming, and being raised are all as interchangeable as this passage seems to make them, it’s perfectly natural: “No one comes, unless he’s one of those drawn – those ones I will raise up.”

            The “I will raise him up at the last day” is simply not a part of any conditional in the verse.

            Then, again: what does it do in the verse? Who is the “him” that is raised up, if not the “him” that is drawn?

            As for being a reluctant Calvinist, did it not give you pause that the entire Christian Church for 1500 years supposedly lost this essential teaching and was in heresy for that long.

            a) I’m not persuaded of the truth of that assertion. Heck, I get suspicious when anyone asserts they have the universal agreement of the fathers on anything; those boys are just too unruly.
            b) There’s only one standard we’re given, and “But what did the Catholic Church think for a while?” ain’t it.

            Given that you could be wrong in your interpretations of John 6 because “the heart is a deceitful and wicked thing, who can know it?” maybe another look at it is warranted no?

            “But what if you’re wrong?” can be a response to absolutely anything. I continue to look, and to strive for an open mind; this continues to be what I see.

            Are you actually glowing? Are you wired up to the electric?

            Boogie woogie woogie woogie.

          7. Irked,

            “So what does that phrase do?”

            It’s an affirmation, not the antecedent of a condition. That would mean Jesus has to first raise us up on the last day before we can come to Him, which makes no sense. If 44a is talking about everyone (meaning it’s equally true for the elect and non-elect), then 44b simply would affirm that out of everyone, there are the elect that are raised up at the last day. Think about it, this is in the context of the Bread of Life discourse. The Jews balk at two sayings of Jesus:

            1. That He came down from Heaven.
            2. That we must eat His flesh and drink His blood…whatever that means 😉 lol.

            Jesus digresses into this brief discussion on election to explain why they are balking at those things. He’s telling them that although they don’t believe in Him or what He’s saying, there are some that do and they will be raised up at the last day. And that the unbelieving audience has not received the grace to believe those things, at least not yet.

            You said: ” Indeed, if drawing, and believing, and giving, and eating, and coming, and being raised are all as interchangeable as this passage seems to make them, it’s perfectly natural: “No one comes, unless he’s one of those drawn – those ones I will raise up.”

            But they are not interchangeable anymore than foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified are interchangeable. They are distinct terms with distinct meanings. To use all those different words when they mean the same thing would be very confusing to say the least. But the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, and especially our Lord, choose their words carefully. Nothing in John 6 says that everyone who is drawn is also raised up. Once again, that’s being read in.

            You said: “Then, again: what does it do in the verse? Who is the “him” that is raised up, if not the “him” that is drawn?”

            If they are the same elect person as we stipulated, then we should look at the entire verse as referring to a single elect person. This one elect person could not come to Jesus unless the Father draws him to Jesus, and he will be raised up at the last day. Simple. And it’s also worth pointing out that “No one,” and the two “him”s are all singular, not plural. So it’s a consistent way to read the verse as specifically discussing a single person. You could almost take it in a 2nd person to make it clear. If I said “You cannot come to me unless the Father draws you, and I will raise you up on the last day,” you would know two things:

            1. You couldn’t come to me unless the Father drew you and
            2. You will be raised up.

            You would NOT know that I didn’t draw you to me if you weren’t going to be raised up. I could change the second statement to “I will not raise you up on the last day” and the truthfulness of the first statement wouldn’t be damaged at all. You still wouldn’t be able to come to me unless drawn, regardless of what happens after that.

            So, we can interpret the verse as meaning either out of everybody who are all equally incapable of coming to Jesus on their own, some of them will be raised up, or that the elect cannot come unless drawn, and they will be raised up. Take your pick, either one works within a Catholic understanding and neither L or P from TULIP follow from them.

            In response to my historical claim you said: “a) I’m not persuaded of the truth of that assertion. Heck, I get suspicious when anyone asserts they have the universal agreement of the fathers on anything; those boys are just too unruly.
            b) There’s only one standard we’re given, and “But what did the Catholic Church think for a while?” ain’t it.”

            a) Find me a Church father that held this opinion, I’ll wait. And don’t you find that rather cynical? These are the martyrs of the Church. They lived immensely holy lives. They were madly in love with Jesus Christ and His Church. And they held positions of authority in the Church. You’ve got some cajones to call them “unruly boys.” The fact is, not a single one of them wouldn’t have excommunicated you for your Calvinist beliefs. That’s not a position I would want to be in.

            b) So the standard I should use is some non-ordained french lawyer’s very fallible private interpretations? Or your very fallible private interpretations?

            Well if you can be wrong, then you have to admit that the Catholic Church could be right. And I’m supposed to leave the Catholic Church which claims to speak with the voice of Christ and join a group that doesn’t do this? Can this group give me anything more than fallible opinions?

            Oh wait!!! I can’t see your glow because…it’s electric!!! (sorry I had to lol)

            May God be with you

            Matthew

          8. Good morning Matthew!

            It’s an affirmation, not the antecedent of a condition… If 44a is talking about everyone (meaning it’s equally true for the elect and non-elect), then 44b simply would affirm that out of everyone, there are the elect that are raised up at the last day.

            So it seems like that would render the phrase something like this: “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. I will raise some people up at the last day.”

            As you argued to me, the “him” that’s drawn is the same as the “him” that’s raised, right? Let me see if I can find that – ah, here:

            The two “him”s are the same word in Greek “auton.” The same person is being discussed in both clauses of John 6:44.

            So I’m saying the same thing back: the same person is discussed in both clauses. The one raised is not – can not be – divorced from the one drawn.

            Indeed, even your own logical translation paired these two: “If elect, then drawn and raised.” Now, as translations go, I (naturally enough) like mine better – “If coming, then drawn and raised” – because “elect” isn’t even an explicit category in the chapter, and your translation omits “coming” altogether. But it’s baffling to me that, having proposed a reading in which “D+R” are grouped as the conclusion of the implication, you’d now insist that, no, “raised” can’t possibly be part of that conclusion. What happened?

            In your reading below, you suggest one possibility is that Jesus is just saying “I will raise some of these folks up,” with no indication as to which ones. But again, doesn’t that seem absurd – that he’d use “him” with no indication as to who “him” is, in the midst of a sentence that specifies a particular group? Wouldn’t it seem more natural that the “him” is the one he’s just indicated – the one drawn? Doesn’t the sentence make more sense if Jesus isn’t just saying, “Well, somebody gets raised”?

            Let me turn your question back around to you: is it possible that my reading is correct here? Is it incompatible with the passage itself – or only with the broader sweep of Catholic teaching? Because you charged me with laboring under preconceptions – and yet it seems to me that you simply can’t let the passage have either of what seem like two reasonable interpretations.

            Think about it, this is in the context of the Bread of Life discourse. The Jews balk at two sayings of Jesus:

            1. That He came down from Heaven.
            2. That we must eat His flesh and drink His blood…whatever that means 😉 lol.

            I think the objections in 60 and 66 go beyond those – that it’s also his teaching that they’re unable to come that offends.

            But they are not interchangeable anymore than foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified are interchangeable.

            So I worded that poorly, and can only appeal to the lateness of the hour. Let me try again; some of these words clearly mean different things – believe, given, and raised, as easy examples. But they all refer to the same group; they’re interchangeable in the sense that the same guarantees can be made regarding a person given as can be made regarding a person believing as can be made…

            I mean, looking at the passage: 35 equates coming and believing. 37 says the one given, comes. 39 says the one given is raised. 40 says the one believing is raised. 44 says the one drawn is raised. 45 says the one hearing from God comes. 47 says the one who believes has eternal life. 50 says the one eating won’t die; 51 says the one eating will live forever. 54 says the one eating will be raised up.

            This is a passage about who is raised. So, who will be raised? The one given, the one believing, the one drawn, the one hearing, the one eating. Some of these actions focus on God’s part, and others on ours – but they’re all talking about the same group of people, to the point where Christ switches freely from one descriptor to another to better get his point across.

            Nothing in John 6 says that everyone who is drawn is also raised up. Once again, that’s being read in.

            It seems to me rather that the last half of the verse is being read out.

            If they are the same elect person as we stipulated, then we should look at the entire verse as referring to a single elect person.

            Is that how “if” statements work? If I say, “No one can come to my party unless I invite him, and I will give him presents,” is that whole verse about only one person, who gets presents? Or is it specifying what kind of person can’t come, and what kind can: the kind who is invited and given presents?

            You’re asserting a rule of grammar here that just doesn’t exist, where the filter – the “unless” part – restricts who the broader first part is about. That defeats the point of an “unless” sentence!

            I could change the second statement to “I will not raise you up on the last day” and the truthfulness of the first statement wouldn’t be damaged at all.

            Does it not seem like “I could invert the last part of what Jesus is saying, and it doesn’t change his point” is an argument against your reading?

            Find me a Church father that held this opinion, I’ll wait.

            I think Augustine held some fairly Reformed views during his life – Augustine’s theology changes over time, of course, and he doesn’t systematize it in quite the same way as Calvin will, but many of the broad strokes are there.

            And don’t you find that rather cynical? These are the martyrs of the Church. They lived immensely holy lives. They were madly in love with Jesus Christ and His Church.

            And they were nutters! I mean, I say that in love, but some of those boys were nuts. And they didn’t agree about beans. They didn’t agree on the exact nature of the Trinity. They didn’t agree on the canon. They didn’t agree about authority. They didn’t agree about the Eucharist. They didn’t agree –

            – in basically the same way that the church has continued to not agree on stuff down through the ages.

            Minus that period where one branch of the church got the power to murder anyone who disagreed too publicly.

            Far from promoting cynicism, I find that a tremendously comforting thought; they worked out their faith just like I work out mine – except I have the benefit of two thousand years of their effort, thank God.

            And they held positions of authority in the Church. You’ve got some cajones to call them “unruly boys.”

            They’re my brothers, and I love them, but they weren’t alabaster saints. If “unruly” is a bridge too far, what of the way they talked about each other?

            The fact is, not a single one of them wouldn’t have excommunicated you for your Calvinist beliefs.

            The fact is, if I showed up to a modern Catholic church holding point-for-point the beliefs of someone like Cyprian or Athanasius, I’d be excommunicated just as fast. No bishop of bishops! No apocrypha! No bodily assumption of Mary! If you want to talk about chutzpah – I mean, my church would let the fathers take full communion, at least.

            Or your very fallible private interpretations?

            The standard you should use is Scripture. There’s always going to be a a “and then you interpret it with wise counsel” layer, because literally everything you know has that layer.

            But now I think we’re starting to tail-chase.

            Well if you can be wrong, then you have to admit that the Catholic Church could be right. And I’m supposed to leave the Catholic Church which claims to speak with the voice of Christ and join a group that doesn’t do this?

            Surely the question is not, “Does this group claim to speak with the voice of Christ?” Anyone can claim anything; if a strong claim were all we wanted, we’d be as well off as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          9. Irked,

            We’ve been beating this horse for quite some time so this will be my last comment on John 6. You want verse 44 to say essentially this:

            “No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, and him whom I draw, I will raise up at the last day.”

            From this you derive: If drawn then raised, if not drawn, then not raised. Only the elect are drawn and no one else. If someone isn’t raised, then they never came to Jesus at all despite any appearances or actions that would indicate otherwise.

            But that is not what the verse says. I read it thusly:

            I will raise up on the last day him, who could not come to me unless the Father draws him.

            This is much more in line from the text and your derivations would not follow. That’s why I said primarily this verse is talking about the elect. It says absolutely nothing about who is drawn and who isn’t drawn or what happens to someone after their drawn. There is also no limiting factor in the verse. If you apply “no one can come to me unless the Father draws him” to everyone and don’t take in the context of verses 37-40, you are left with universalism. Being drawn to Jesus by the Father, and coming to Jesus are necessary but not sufficient conditions for being raised up at the last day. There is something still missing and that is being given to Jesus by the Father in eternal predestination (verses 37,39). If given, and drawn, and come, then and only then is someone raised. Being given to Jesus by the Father and being drawn to Jesus by the Father are NOT the same thing. Being given in predestination happens in eternity and being drawn happens within the temporal sphere.

            You said “Wouldn’t it seem more natural that the “him” is the one he’s just indicated – the one drawn?”

            Except the text, once again, doesn’t say “the one drawn I will raise.” It says “I will raise the one who could not come unless drawn.” We can conclude from the fact that he is raised that he was drawn (If R, then D). But you cannot derive “the one drawn, I will raise” from “If raised, then he was drawn” without committing the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent.

            My entire point here was not to prove that Calvinist doctrines are contradicted by John 6:37-44. They are not, but neither are they logical derivable from this text either. The text does indicate that the elect (ie those given) will not be lost but Catholics can happily affirm that. However, Calvinist doctrines are contradicted in many other scriptures that I would like to discuss with you.

            As far as the Church Fathers go, once again, you have an extremely cynical viewpoint. There is not a single Church Father who denied the Trinity. Augustine frequently affirmed that someone could be justified by God and then fall away and be lost forever, even in his treatise “On the Predestination of the Saints and the Gift of Perseverance.” He affirmed we have free will in “On Grace and Free Will.” To say “they didn’t agree about beans” is probably the biggest example of the pot calling the kettle black in human history. How many different protestant sects are there? How many different Churches were there in Augustine’s day? ONE!!! …Unless you count the schismatic Donatists lol. The Church held councils with binding authority and they used it. They excommunicated people over heresy and one was not allowed to dismiss them. And furthermore, no one would have excommunicated me for believing in the bodily assumption of Mary. It was open for discussion and multiple opinions were allowed. It was never considered a heresy or a Council would have been called to address it. You on the other hand, deny things the Fathers affirmed and affirm things they denied. That is not compatible with them. There simply are no Church Fathers with distinctly protestant beliefs.

            Do you have email? Mine is [email protected]. Perhaps we could discuss things over email instead of taking over Joe’s poor blog lol.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          10. Hi Matthew,

            Sorry for the slow reply – on the road! I agree, time we wind this down.

            But that is not what the verse says. I read it thusly:

            I will raise up on the last day him, who could not come to me unless the Father draws him.

            This is much more in line from the text and your derivations would not follow. That’s why I said primarily this verse is talking about the elect. It says absolutely nothing about who is drawn and who isn’t drawn or what happens to someone after their drawn. There is also no limiting factor in the verse. If you apply “no one can come to me unless the Father draws him” to everyone and don’t take in the context of verses 37-40, you are left with universalism.

            So this would be exactly my critique of your reading: if this is what it means, then it teaches universalism. I would take that as a reason to favor another parsing of the sentence, and I think the sentence admits to others that don’t require universalism.

            You argue your reading is much more in line with the text, but I simply don’t see that beyond the level of assertion. It fundamentally requires that you do away with the text’s opening statement: that the set of people who cannot come unless the Father draw them is all people. Any reading that costs you the very opening words of the verse cannot fairly be read as more in line with its meaning.

            And indeed, I still see no reasonable way to unify your reading with verse 64, in which Christ turns to unbelieving Jews and says, “See, you’re the ones I was talking about here.” That cuts squarely against the idea that this is speaking only to the elect – and yet, if it’s speaking to everyone, your reading again gives us universalism. This seems to me a problem avoidable only by extreme contortions.

            It seems to me that, by contrast, my reading has only the problem that it leads to a conclusion Catholicism cannot abide. I’m biased in that, obviously – but I simply don’t see any real reason that this reading cannot work in the passage, beyond the bare assertion that “raised” can’t be a consequence of “drawn” as Christ words it. Again, I think I’ve provided a natural English sentence that we’d read in precisely that way.

            Being drawn to Jesus by the Father, and coming to Jesus are necessary but not sufficient conditions for being raised up at the last day.

            And yet no such requirements appear here. Instead, we see the same pattern repeat again and again: the one given lives. The one believing lives. The one drawn lives. The one hearing lives. Is it not plausible that all these constructions are highlighting a single group of people – describing different aspects, from different perspectives, of a single category of “those who will be raised up?”

            In other words, this…

            If given, and drawn, and come, then and only then is someone raised.

            … requires either that these conditions by identical, or that several of the verses lie to us. Because the verses don’t say those given and drawn and coming are raised; they say those given are raised. They don’t say those believing and given are raised; they say that the one who believes is raised. The reading where these are multiple overlapping circles seems to me to destroy the plain, unambiguous simplicity of the promise:

            Hey, did you believe in Christ? You’ll be raised.

            Did you come to Christ? You must have been drawn – and you’ll be raised.

            Being given to Jesus by the Father and being drawn to Jesus by the Father are NOT the same thing. Being given in predestination happens in eternity and being drawn happens within the temporal sphere.

            Again, no one has said otherwise. It’s not the phenomena which are identical – it’s the group to which they are applied.

            As far as the Church Fathers go, once again, you have an extremely cynical viewpoint. There is not a single Church Father who denied the Trinity.

            I didn’t say they denied the Trinity. But there certainly were different, and wrong, understandings of it among prominent early Christian teachers. Your own Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Justin Martyr misunderstood the relationship between Father and Son. I don’t much fault him for that – he may not have even had the whole New Testament – but we do the fathers no service by pretending a unanimity they did not have.

            To say “they didn’t agree about beans” is probably the biggest example of the pot calling the kettle black in human history. How many different protestant sects are there?

            Yes, exactly! They, like us, understood the details of the gospel in different ways. Far from cynicism, that’s a comfort to me; when I argue with a church authority on the meaning of Scripture, I’m following in a proud Christian tradition.

            And furthermore, no one would have excommunicated me for believing in the bodily assumption of Mary.

            That’s not what I said, though. I said that if you rolled in today, and – following the tradition of Cyprian or Athanasius or others – you rejected papal authority, and the canonicity of the Apocrypha, and the bodily assumption of Mary, that the Catholic Church of today would expel you.

            I said, in other words, that if many of the fathers continued today to hold to the doctrines they espoused in life, you’d kick them out. In light of that, it’s a little funny to attack my view of them.

            You on the other hand, deny things the Fathers affirmed and affirm things they denied.

            Yes. As do you. As must we all, because they did such even among each other.

            Do you have email? Mine is [email protected].

            Sure, sending!

    2. Good morning Matthew, and thank you sincerely for your helpful reply since it seems we all have been dancing around these issues and have not been able to succinctly reply to Irked. Garrigoou-LaGrange’s Predestination seems to contain much wisdom if one has enough to grasp it. Thomas’ lectures on John 6 are more easily understood but Garrigou contains the modern more full explanation. Thomas’ lectures go into great detail about how one is drawn: dhspriory.org/thomas

      Thomas also talks about the resurrection occurring before the General Judgment at the end of the world as distinguished at the particular judgment at each person’s death. It is worth noting that the resurrection of the body precedes the final general judgment. So even the non-elect apparently are somehow ‘drawn’ as they are also resurrected.

  9. Hi Irked,

    I hope to respond seriously later but I comment now only on the ‘electric’ glow of the elect! You talked about the elect not glowing, and Matthew turned that into the “electric.” This is all very choice and eclectic indeed. And those not struck by lightning? Hahahahah. Who says God has no sense of humor?

    Further, you said, “I could, in some sense, be a creation of a nigh-all-powerful AI.” Presumably you have been influenced by Awlms through his guidance by the Holy Spirit!

    Cheers to all.

    1. “nigh-all-powerful”….should read…..”theological hillbilly Al”.

      But, if the Holy Spirit works through common sense, then I give Him all the credit, because most of what I find in the Gospel, seems to me to correspond with common sense. I don’t think most of it needs to be microscopically analyzed to be understood. If so, who in the the year 835 AD would understand it? How could starving barbarians follow the gospel and become disciples of the Lord?

      Moreover, why should ‘predestination’ be focused on at all? What value does it have pertaining to the Gospel message. And IF it was important, why would Jesus just spend a few sentences on the subject in the whole of the Gospel message? And do we find anyone who asked of Jesus about it specifically? Mainly they were concerned with: “Lord what do I need to do to get to eternal life”. Thats the focus we find in the Gospels. And Jesus then answers them…”follow the Commandments”…”eat My Body and Drink My Blood”….’Be baptized and born again’…’whatsoever you do to the least of My Brother, that you do unto Me”, “If you Love me my Father and I will make our abode with you’….etc….

      A preoccupation with understanding predestination seems to echo the spirituality of St. Thomas the Apostle…in all of his concerns and doubts. It seems suited for someone who wants to guarantee his own salvation without trusting in the Lord to judge him…for better or forworse. But, Jesus says to trust ‘Our Father’…because He doesn’t give scorpions to his children that ask for eggs and food. And so, if we listen to the Lord in all simplicity, we merely ask Our Father to give us a good spirit…even as Jesus told us specifically to ask for. So, obedience and trust in Christ and the Father, is much more important than knowing our state of salvation….when all we really need is a child’s trust. And this is why I am very little interested personally in predestination. On the other hand, picking up my cross and following Christ is a real concern for me…that is…whether I am carrying it sufficiently, in imitation of Christ. Or, whether I am running the race as strongly as I can, as St. Paul mentioned and did. So, If I intend to get to Heaven, I don’t want judge myself, but rather keep my eyes on the ‘Good Shepherd’ so as not to get lost by following they ways of with myself or the world.

      So, Hillbilly… wannabe theologian.. kindergarden Catholic Al, says. Best to everyone, and keep following our Most Loving Lord! Nothing makes life more worth living!

      1. Moreover, why should ‘predestination’ be focused on at all? What value does it have pertaining to the Gospel message… A preoccupation with understanding predestination seems to echo the spirituality of St. Thomas the Apostle…in all of his concerns and doubts.

        C’mon, dude. You opened the topic of, “Can we lose our salvation?” I’ve been trying to talk about election the bare minimum necessary to answer that question. Don’t ask a question and then snark at me for trying to answer it.

        1. Hi Irked,

          When I said “why should ‘predestination’ be focused on at all? What value does it have pertaining to the Gospel message…?” I wasn’t talking of our discussion here, but of the topic of predestination as a whole, as it is not a focus of Christ’s Gospel message. And in the History of Christianity it also is not a particular focus, if you subtract the years since Martin Luther’s teachings. The topic seems to be more of a response to it’s teaching as a Protestant doctrine, than as a core interest found of the Gospel as taught bu Christ. And if it were of particular importance, then surely there would be some parables or more detailed statements of Christ providing details in story, metaphorical and symbolic rhetorical form.

          But rather, to the contrary, we find the opposite to occur. The free will and choice of individuals is over and over portrayed and taught by such parables as ‘the prodigal son who decides to return’, to the ‘distribution of the talents and the accountabilty of the profits invested’, to the goats and sheep at the judgement some whom CHOSE be charitable and the others who CHOSE to be selfish and greedy, to the vineyard workers who decided to rebel against the vineyard Lord, and even unto killing His son. these all portray the decisions that people make in this world using their own free will, and also the consequences that those decisions will result in at the last judgement.

          This is to say, some people choose to follow the Light…and some people choose to hide from it. And God honors our decisions that we freely make.

          1. Hi Al,

            When I said “why should ‘predestination’ be focused on at all? What value does it have pertaining to the Gospel message…?” I wasn’t talking of our discussion here, but of the topic of predestination as a whole

            But surely the answer to the question, “Why focus on predestination at all?” is “Because the way we understand that to work will shape our answer to questions like the current topic.” We talk about election because it has direct consequences for issues that we care about, like “Can you lose your salvation?”

            I also think we need to be careful with “Well, but the Bible doesn’t talk about this much” as an argument – I suspect none of us would accept, “Well, but the Bible doesn’t talk about it much” as a reason to judge sexual sins as probably not a big deal, but that’s exactly the argument some folks make.

  10. I loved the blog post this week. Being rather new in the Faith I have been reading here and must admit the following has me wondering. I see Christ commanding the Apostles in the Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19). My limited experience has shown me that most faith traditions agree that this means evangelization so it seems unambiguous. If this is unambiguous across most of Christianity is it overly simplistic of me to think the Father draws “all nations” to the Son since we need God’s Grace to believe and Christ doesn’t say “go make disciples of” just some of the nations? Is it a reasonable argument to say that all are elected to come to Christ but maybe many may choose not to follow? I also wonder if that is a reasonable premise that maybe it presents a special problem for the doctrine of predestination as He does “gather all the nations” and then separates the sheep and the goats for judgement (Mt 25:31-33). Just thoughts of a new guy. Where do I have it right or wrong?
    God bless you all.

    1. Hi Stefan,

      Welcome to the company of eclectic electric catholics (Irked, this includes you in a universally specific sense.) It seems that you have it all very right. Do you have your Catechism handy? Bl. Fulton Sheen ( a priest for the common guy) explains: “…though God can be discovered by study, instruction, and reading, these alone will not bring one to God. There must also be a willingness to accept the Truth personally, that is, in all its implications. It is easy to find Truth; it is hard to face it, and harder still to follow it.” (Lift Up Your Heart, p. 152).

      Pray God someone with more knowledge may correct my understanding if it is flawed; I don’t have my Catechism handy… But it seems as if God, being infallible, eternal, omniscient, etc. has known from before time who chooses to accept Him/His Son and who does not. He wants all to be saved, and he has known from time immemorial who those shall be. We do not, and for God’s own good reasons, he allows us all to dwell together in this earthly space for some predetermined times, and he commands us all to love one another, to make disciples of all as you point out. The choice is ultimately His whether he grants more grace, more help to one than to another. He knows that some–no matter how much heaven and earth He could move–still shall choose not to see or hear or accept Him. So in this sense, some are predestined (He knows all that we yet don’t.) to share His glory. Others are predestined (known to God) as choosing another path.

    2. Hi Stefan,

      You ask:

      Is it a reasonable argument to say that all are elected to come to Christ but maybe many may choose not to follow?

      So there are those who would say all are elected to salvation. I think the objection raised upthread is that Christ is pretty clear in John 6 – and this is something that Matthew and I agree on! – that there are some people designated for salvation in a way that other people are not. (We differ on exactly what’s going on with those other people.) Likewise, there are passages like Romans 8:30: “Those whom he predestined, he also called; those whom he called, he also justified; those whom he justified, he also glorified.” Clearly not everyone can be “predestined” or “called” in that sense, because not everyone is justified in the sight of God.

      Like I say, Matthew and I disagree as to what God is doing with the people who aren’t “the elect,” but I think the argument that God calls or elects everyone in the same way has to deal with these verses in one fashion or another.

      This is maybe a bigger discussion than I have time for in the next few days, but at a very shallow level, that’s what keeps some folks from saying, “Well, election is just a universal thing.”

      (It is certainly true, though, that God commands all men to repent – in that sense, there’s a universal call. And God does teach that He has chosen followers for himself from all nations – so in that sense, as well, it’s a “universal” thing.)

      1. Irked,

        I think our disagreement falls along the lines of what is possible for God to do with the non-elect. The reason for our disagreement is that you believe justification is a one-time juridical decision and an extra-nos imputation of an alien righteousness. It makes no sense that sin should remove that because the person is still a rotten sinner on the inside. If being a rotten sinner didn’t stop God from imputing this righteousness then why should any more sin make a difference right? Correct me if I’m getting that wrong. Of course, Catholics believe that righteousness is an ontological state of the soul and not an extra-nos imputation. All righteousness is God’s gift but it dwells in the soul. That is why St. Paul said “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

        Matthew

        1. Hi Matthew,

          Correct me if I’m getting that wrong.

          Well, again, I wouldn’t say that God could not have formed a plan of salvation like you describe. I’d only argue that, by His own self-revelation, He did not form such a plan – that in the plan He actually established, justification is a one-time event. So I don’t think “what is possible for God to do” is the right line here – “what is consistent with God’s statements” is.

          (I’d also tweak “the person is still a rotten sinner on the inside.” Because you are regenerate; you’re made new, and no longer a slave to sin. But that old sinful man, dead though he is, is still a corpse you’re dragging around with you. So you’re absolutely still sinning, but you’re still not the same person you were before – you’re a person being gradually conformed to Christ. I would say, as you suggest, that our continued sin does not prevent Christ from imputing his righteousness to us, though I’m not sure I understand the distinction you’re drawing with “righteousness dwelling in the soul.”)

          1. Irked,

            So you admit then that the Catholic view of salvation is within the realm of logical possibility? I appreciate that but unfortunately, I cannot return the favor to the reformed position. The reformed position on justification leads to legal fictions such as Luther’s “simul justus et peccator.” Since God cannot lie, He cannot call something Holy and Just if it is not actually and truly Holy and Just.

            You say: “But that old sinful man, dead though he is, is still a corpse you’re dragging around with you.”

            That is false. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. When God forgives sins and gives us His righteousness, sin is obliterated. The question then becomes, can the New Man return to old habits and spiritually die again? Matthew 13:20-21, Matthew 18:23-35, Galatians 1:6, Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 6:4-6, and Hebrews 10:26-31 all indicate the answer to that question is yes. And that list is far from exhaustive. Adam was created in total righteousness and yet he still managed to fall from grace. A third of the angels who were all created in goodness still managed to fall from grace. The fact that no Christian believed this for 1500 years also speaks volumes.

            Furthermore, this doctrine is incredibly spiritually dangerous. They way the reformed interpret Romans 4:8 logically leads to the position that you can sin with absolute impunity. There are no more eternal consequences for any sin you commit no matter how grievous. Martin Luther himself said “I could commit adultery a thousand times a day and not lose my salvation.” Is there any wonder why the Catholic Church would recoil in horror and such a statement? St. Paul said that adulterers would not inherit the Kingdom of God. Luther would have me believe that a wanton lecher could never repent and march right in?

            I know that the reformed claim not to be anti-nomian but they are logically stuck with it. That’s why St. Paul said “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Irked, you would do well to listen and do the same as would we all. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for souls to devour. This dangerous teaching can convince people to take off their spiritual armor and become easy prey for the devil. This is the Church Militant. We are at war. This false teaching attempts to convince people that the spiritual war is over, put down your sword, take off your armor, eat, drink, and be merry. This is actually one of the primary reasons why there are no baptist mystics. What is even the point of virtue and self denial? What’s the point of even going to Church? No. God keeps the knowledge of who the elect are hidden to Himself. Occasionally, He may share it privately if He chooses to but Scripture no where states that Irked or Matthew are going to heaven. It says we are to “work out our salvation in FEAR and trembling.” This is a holy fear obviously, not an irrational terror. But nonetheless, the presumption that you are one of the elect is an incredibly dangerous idea.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          2. Hi Matthew,

            So you admit then that the Catholic view of salvation is within the realm of logical possibility?

            As far as I know, God could have chosen to work that way. Given what He’s since said, though, it’s no longer possible, as it would require Him to contradict Himself.

            The question then becomes, can the New Man return to old habits and spiritually die again? Matthew 13:20-21, Matthew 18:23-35, Galatians 1:6, Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 6:4-6, and Hebrews 10:26-31 all indicate the answer to that question is yes.

            You’ve been gracious and engaged with me on a verse of my choosing; if you’d like me to respond to a passage or two in particular from this list, I’ll be happy to do so.

            They way the reformed interpret Romans 4:8 logically leads to the position that you can sin with absolute impunity. There are no more eternal consequences for any sin you commit no matter how grievous.

            Which is why Paul specifically addresses this objection not two chapters later: “Should we sin more, that grace might increase? By no means!” Paul got called an antinomian, too.

            There are no salvific consequences for you. That’s a far cry from there being no eternal consequences, as I’ve argued upthread.

          3. Irked,

            You said: “There are no salvific consequences for you. That’s a far cry from there being no eternal consequences, as I’ve argued upthread.”

            Remind me again what those eternal consequences are supposed to be? Would you say along with Luther that you could commit adultery a thousand times a day and not lose your salvation? Do you believe you can sin with impunity? And Paul may have been accused of being anti-nomian but he wasn’t. He said adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

            Matthew

          4. Remind me again what those eternal consequences are supposed to be?

            For yourself, a loss of eternal reward, though not a salvific loss; for others, your hypocrisy may be part of the means by which they do not come to salvation; regardless, a further burdening of your Savior – who died for you! – with the weight of your sin.

            Would you say along with Luther that you could commit adultery a thousand times a day and not lose your salvation?

            I would say that a person whose heart is indwelt by God is incapable of continuing to live like the devil. I can’t draw you that exact line, and it’s not my responsibility to do so, but living faith will necessarily produce works. The person who is genuinely indwelt by the Spirit and yet gives no evidence of it does not exist; more, he cannot exist.

            Do you believe you can sin with impunity?

            I believe there is now no condemnation for God’s elect – that it is God who justifies, and Christ who intercedes; who will accuse us?

            And Paul may have been accused of being anti-nomian but he wasn’t.

            Nor, contrary to report, am I. Yes, adulterers shall not enter the kingdom – and this is what some of us were! But we were those things; we we washed, we were sanctified, we were justified – and we are not them any longer.

          5. Irked,

            You said: “For yourself, a loss of eternal reward, though not a salvific loss; for others, your hypocrisy may be part of the means by which they do not come to salvation; regardless, a further burdening of your Savior – who died for you! – with the weight of your sin.”

            I think the appropriate response here is…so? lol. I would still gain the infinite which is Heaven. If sin doesn’t damage that then my sins just got a lot harder to resist. It’s also silly to say that the “loss of eternal reward is not a salvific loss.” What is an eternal reward then?

            In response to my question about Luther’s statement, you said: “I can’t draw you that exact line, and it’s not my responsibility to do so, but living faith will necessarily produce works. The person who is genuinely indwelt by the Spirit and yet gives no evidence of it does not exist; more, he cannot exist.”

            Well that’s awfully convenient isn’t it? lol. How much sin in someone’s life would reveal that they aren’t saved and who gets to be the judge? This problem is compounded if you say that all sins, no matter how slight, all deserve eternal damnation. If that’s true, then we deserve damnation every day and distinction between sins that show we aren’t saved and sins that don’t show we aren’t saved would be completely arbitrary and ad hoc.

            I asked you “Do you believe you can sin with impunity?” You replied: “I believe there is now no condemnation for God’s elect – that it is God who justifies, and Christ who intercedes; who will accuse us?”

            …So do you believe you can sin with impunity? lol that’s the way logic works. If no sins are ever more imputed to you then you can sin with impunity…

            I appreciate that you realize that anti-nomianism is an error but it’s one the reformed are logically stuck with. The commandments of God become suggestions. Nice to follow but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

            Matthew

          6. II Peter 1:10: “Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election.”

          7. I think the appropriate response here is…so? lol.

            And I’d say – and I know you mean this facetiously, so this is not aimed at you – I’d say that a person who loves Christ enough to name him Lord does not hear, “This will add to his burden on calvary,” and respond, “So?”

            Let me turn this around a little bit. Suppose you believed that you could commit a sin, entirely free of consequences to yourself. Does your faith provide no other incentive not to do so, other than those consequences?

            I doubt it very much. I would be surprised if you didn’t say, with me, that at least one reason we refrain from sin is because we love Christ, and because he told us not to do so, and because when we stand before him we want him to wrap us in an embrace and say “Well done!” – and not to look at us with sorrow and say, “Why did you waste what I gave you?”

            Paul’s own answer to the antinomian charge is, I think, no more grounded in a loss of salvation: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

            He doesn’t say we don’t sin because of the consequences for us; he says we don’t sin because it’s inconsistent with who we are. And – because I can’t resist – he concludes, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

            We will – certainly! – be united with him.

            What is an eternal reward then?

            We’re told of crowns, of pure white stones; indeed, the language of heaven is full of particular rewards to encourage us. I don’t understand exactly what those things mean – but I want ’em. I want a prize to lay at the Savior’s feet, and not just the ashes of a squandered life, revealed by fire to have never produced a work worth remembering.

            Well that’s awfully convenient isn’t it? lol.

            It is, yeah!

            How much sin in someone’s life would reveal that they aren’t saved and who gets to be the judge?

            I’m betting you can guess my answer by now, but: I’unno, and God.

            This problem is compounded if you say that all sins, no matter how slight, all deserve eternal damnation. If that’s true, then we deserve damnation every day and distinction between sins that show we aren’t saved and sins that don’t show we aren’t saved would be completely arbitrary and ad hoc.

            Right, it’s not a determination we can reliably make by surface-level examination. God looks at the heart; He judges.

            …So do you believe you can sin with impunity?

            Without salvific consequence, yes, as I said. If you don’t: who brings the charge? Who accuses you of a sin that’s just too bad?

            I appreciate that you realize that anti-nomianism is an error but it’s one the reformed are logically stuck with. The commandments of God become suggestions. Nice to follow but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

            You believe, as I do that, there are some sins that do not imperil your salvation. Correct?

            Are the commands those sins violate only suggestions?

    3. Stefan,

      Irked holds a Reformed position of predestination while Matthew and other Catholics subscribe to Roman Catholic teaching. Basically, Catholicism holds that predestination by God does not deny human free will.

      Here are two authoritative sites which explain the Catholic position: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35730
      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm

      Irked comes at the concept from the Reformed perspective (Calvinism) and most of us others come at it from Roman Catholic teaching.

      I squirm at Irked’s statement that, “He has chosen followers…” This seems to imply that God chooses who follows him. It seems to negate that human individuals have any choice in the matter. R.Catholics believe that we choose to sin (or not), just as Adam and Eve, while walking with God, chose to disobey Him. We also choose to obey God, just as Jesus did. Since all good things are given to us from Him, in essence, we act in good ways because of the help he gives. We choose His help. We choose Him. Through his sacraments whereby he gives Himself to us. If we do not choose Him, Of ourselves, we can do nothing (but sin).

      1. Hi Margo, you wrote above:

        “I squirm at Irked’s statement that, “He has chosen followers…” This seems to imply that God chooses who follows him. It seems to negate that human individuals have any choice in the matter.”

        Your squirming is very justified Margo. And this is because Irked’s theology opposes the most fundamental truths that Jesus, and in fact, the whole Bible teaches going all the way back to Genesis, when it is written : “And God said: Be light made. And light was made. [4] And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness.”

        The analogy of Light and Darkness is one of the most fundamental themes for teaching morality found in sacred scripture, and it also teaches something regarding predestination and ‘free will’. And Jesus teaches about Light and Darkness many times in His gospel message, such as:

        “You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.” [Matthew 5:15]

        “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
        [Matthew 5:16]

        “The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!” [Matthew 6:22]

        Christ also says: “Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: But if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.”

        So we see that Jesus talks very generally of ‘man’, which means ‘any man living in this world’ can understand ‘day and night’…’light and darkness’…by their very human nature which is created in the ‘image of God’ …the Light obviously being associated with God, and the darkeness, with Evil; and so Jesus uses as an analogy for the moral life. This is to say, to follow good or evil, light or darkness, will be the choice of every many on this Earth as a fundamental part of their human nature given to mankind since HIs creation.

        And St. Paul confirms this, when He writes:

        “For there is no respect of persons with God. For whosoever have sinned without the law, shall perish without the law; and whosoever have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:11)

        So, the problem that I see with Irked’s position on predestination, and what makes some ‘squirm’… as you say….is that he is implying that St. Paul is wrong in this quote, and that some people, do NOT have a free choice to follow light or darkness, good or evil…or, as Paul says: … the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them..”

        But Jesus taught that even the ancient Sodomites will be judged on the light that they were given by God, to CHOOSE either Good or evil, light or darkness…in their lives. And, furthermore, that those who have exposure to the greater light….will be judged much harsher than the Sodomites, who had a smaller light provided to them…but still ‘light’ none the less. Read how Christ describes the relative degree of light that is provided to various individuals or cities:

        “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance.
        Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day.”

        So we see in all of these passages, that light and darkness have been offered to mankind as a CHOICE since the beginning of his creation. However, the intensity of the light provided by God to particular men or ‘cities’, might be either greater or lesser. But none the less SOME light is still provided to them, and therefore, they will be judged according to the amount of light that they are given to them by God. Those who have received little light, will receive a lesser judgement, those who received a greater light, a harsher judgment. Thus, the harsher judgement that awaits Capharnaum, in relation to Sodom in the quote above. Moreover, Jesus reiterates this teaching in the ‘parable of the talents’. wherein some people are given lesser number, and some greater quantity of talents, and each will be judged on the particular amount of talents provided to them.

        But, to say that some people are not given a ‘choice’ and are predestined to Hell from all eternity, is to teach that indeed NO ABILITY TO CHOOSE or follow THE LIGHT was ever provided to them by God; or if it was it was only a deception. And this contradicts all of these Gospel teachings of Christ. Moreover, it contradicts basically the entire theme of the Old and New Testaments.

        So, your ‘squirming’ , and mine as well…is very justified when listening to such doctrines proposed. They make no sense to people who can read the bulk of sacred scripture and understand the common symbolism and teachings regarding ‘light and darkness’, which is also probably the most dominant theme throughout the whole of sacred scripture, from the very first page of Genesis.

        Best to you,

        – Al

        1. Good day, Al,

          Yes. To whom more is given, more will be asked. Luke 12:41-48:

          “Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’ The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and then begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

          It is good to call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit received at Baptism and sealed at Confirmation. God gives so much good to those who choose to receive it.

          God bless, and thanks, as always for your input.

      2. As a follow-up:

        This seems to imply that God chooses who follows him.

        I understand that to be God’s teaching on the subject, yes – that in our natural state of spiritual death, it is impossible for us to choose Him. Light has come into the world – but men loved darkness instead of the light, because their deeds were evil.

        But it is still our choice; we simply choose wrongly.

        1. It is POSSIBLE for us to choose him because God first wills that all should be saved. It is first his intention that we should be saved. In that sense we are all chosen by Him to be saved. It is we who, despite being given grace to choose correctly, deny that grace and deny Him.

          Israel’s people were chosen, yet not all believed. Their understanding of chosenness was incorrect. They were chosen only in the sense that from among them would come God’s glory.

          1. So, this is a long possible conversation, but briefly: Paul explains that not all Israel is Israel; that not all ethnic Jews were chosen to be saved. But he also says that those God calls, He glorifies; I understand Scripture to teach something stronger than what you’re saying here.

            Again, not really something I have time to do a full defense of at the moment – on vacation! – but passages like John 6, or Romans 9, seem to teach that God has not called all men in this sense; that all those He calls, He raises; that He was pleased to call some, and not others – not for any virtue in these people, but that His mercy might be demonstrated.

          2. Romans 8:29: Those he foreknew ( those He knew from before all time, those He knew would choose his grace, those He knew from before all time would choose to love Him) would be called and justified and glorified. He does not choose those who believe in other than His own ends. He says that if we love him we will keep his commandments. He foreknew before we ourselves that, given his grace, we would choose that grace, and therefore He will glorify those.

          3. Romans 8:29: Those he foreknew ( those He knew from before all time, those He knew would choose his grace, those He knew from before all time would choose to love Him) would be called and justified and glorified.

            With respect: no.

            Those He foreknew, He called. Those He foreknew, He justified. Those He foreknew, He glorified.

            Don’t reverse the direction of this sentiment; don’t make the glorification the cause, instead of the effect. Don’t make it passive – “they would be justified.” Look a verse back, and we see He predestined them to be conformed; he set their destiny to a purpose. That’s not a passive recognition: “Oh, this person’s going to come to Me.” It’s an active decision: “I destine this person for this end.”

            Follow that same passage forward to verse 33, and we find that He chose us. Not that He recognized our choice, that we choose and then he responds; Paul, in awe, says that He chose us. God – the God of all the universe – looked down at worthless specks like us, “before they had done anything good or bad,” and said, “Not for anything in them, but so that My purpose in election might stand: I choose them to be conformed to the image of my Son.”

            That’s why we hold what we do.

            He does not choose those who believe in other than His own ends.

            If He did not choose those who would believe in other than His ends, there would be no one for Him to choose. He chose the rebels, the murderers, the enemies of God – the ones who loved darkness instead of light. He chose Saul. He chose us.

          4. Irked,

            The ironic thing is that when you said this: “God – the God of all the universe – looked down at worthless specks like us, “before they had done anything good or bad,” and said, “Not for anything in them, but so that My purpose in election might stand: I choose them to be conformed to the image of my Son.”

            That’s almost all good Catholic teaching. The only issue is if you say that you know for sure if that’s you. None of those verses say “God chose Irked for heaven.” But guess what? I’ll pray that He did! lol. That’s what St. Augustine recommend we do every day. Namely, pray for the gift of perseverance to the end. God is able to keep us from falling, so we should ask Him to keep us from falling! But we should never presume that He will if we decide we really like our sin. That’s why we must fight against temptation every day and beg forgiveness for our sins every time we commit them. Pray the Lord’s prayer often.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          5. Matthew,

            Heh. It does complicate these conversations somewhat that there’s not “a” Catholic position to respond to on this issue – that I would guess there’s some space between you and Margo and Al on this point. Not, like, no points of commonality – but it is a little funny to simultaneously be told, “No, this notion of predestination is a dangerous teaching, and God chooses everyone,” and “Hey, that’s almost perfectly good Catholic theology!”

          6. I don’t think that’s their main gripe. Their problem is that all the emphasis is here when it’s not really supposed to be. They can correct me if I’m wrong. But the Catholic Church allows different positions to be taken on predestination. I know mine is less popular nowadays but it’s the most satisfying and I’m in good company :). Also believe it or not, I think it’s the most sharp critique of reformed theology. Did you ever read Jimmy Akin’s article “A Tiptoe Through TULIP?” Here’s a link:

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/tulip.htm

            You might be surprised at how close Thomists and Calvinists are. I see it kind of like “so close, and yet so far” lol.

            Matthew

          7. Hi Matthew,

            Maybe so! I read “Jesus teaches a very different gospel from you” as a pretty strong thing, there, and not just a “I think you emphasize this too much” – but folks can speak for themselves.

            Can’t say as I’ve seen the article, but thanks for the link! In my experience double-predestination is a bit less common than he seems to think, but YMMV. But I think my sharpest response – on an initial glance – is that I entirely agree with a later point: “A Catholic must affirm that there are people who experience initial salvation and who do not go on to final salvation.” I agree – as I understand your faith, you must do so – but that does make his argument that verses stating the contrary are “taken out of context” seem… a bit suspect.

            That’s probably getting uncharitable of me, though, and I do appreciate the article. It’s interesting to see the range of positions within orthodox Catholicism in more detail.

          8. Irked,
            And how exactly is one conformed? By believing one is just like Jesus? Psychiatry calls that evidence of delusional thought.

          9. One last question for anyone still awake:

            Can we agree on something like the following: GOD knows the predestined but we humans do not.

          10. Hi Margo,

            And how exactly is one conformed?

            By the work of the Spirit within us. I’m not sure I understand the reason for this question.

            To your other question: yes, we are unable to tell reliably which other people are saved and which are not. We can guess at other folks, from observation – but they’re just guesses, and they’ll be wrong often enough.

          11. Hello old friend, Mr. Irked,

            I hope you are having a good vacation. Somewhere sunny?

            If there is no free will (What do you mean by ‘as it is typically construed?), then how do you understand its use in John 5:39-40:

            “You search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting. And it is they that bear witness to me, yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.”

            Specifically, how do you see the word “willing” [to come]? If our coming depends on God alone, why does Jesus say some are not “willing to come.”

            I read here that Jesus grants us free choice.

            You seem to suggest that we may guess about the salvation of ‘other people.’ Do you suggest that one is certain of one’s own?

          12. Hi Margo!

            I hope you are having a good vacation. Somewhere sunny?

            Little too much so today – played by the pool with my nephews and walked away with a sun-headache. (Thank heavens for air conditioning, is all I’m sayin’.)

            If there is no free will (What do you mean by ‘as it is typically construed?)

            Heh. So.

            So there are various understandings of what’s meant by “free will.” One of the classic views is what’s sometimes called “contrafactual free will,” which is (crudely put) the idea that if we took a chain of events, and rewound them, and played them out again, that something different might happen. This time around, I asked for chocolate ice cream – but I also like vanilla, and if the exact same chain of events played out, with me in the exact same frame of mind, I might want vanilla instead.

            A similar notion is the idea that, even if I could know everything about a situation – the exact position of every particle, the exact thread of every thought in your head – that wouldn’t be enough for there to be a course of action that you’d take. “Free will” requires that there are always several possibilities that meaningfully could happen – that would be consistent with who I am and what I’m thinking. But the choice at this point isn’t just a random one; it’s… free, in a way that isn’t particularly cleanly defined.

            Other folks give some quite different definitions. One that I quite like comes from a philosopher named Harry Frankfurt, who argues that your will is “free” if you can have the will you want to have. So, for instance: I want to eat chocolate. But, if I’m on a diet, I might not want to want chocolate. If, by virtue of that, I can make myself stop wanting chocolate – if I can make myself have the will I want to have – then my will is free. If I can’t, I don’t.

            I don’t see any reason to hold that we have either of the first “two” – if we want to say those are two different things – types of will; I think the first is inconsistent with Scripture, and the second with logic. But I think we might sometimes have Frankfurtian free will. Even then, I don’t think it’s a universal thing; I think sometimes of Paul, saying that the things he does are not the things he wants to do. That’s a man struggling to bring his will under his control, to me.

            I don’t mean to say this is an exhaustive list; there are all kinds of variations (compatibilist, incompatibilist, semi-compatibilist, etc.) – but it’s hard to be more specific without knowing exactly what someone means by the words. Here’s a return question that might help narrow that: suppose we have Alice and Bob, both ordering ice creams. Alice has free will, and Bob doesn’t. Let’s suppose we can know anything we want about Alice and Bob; we can rewind time; we can do anything you think would be helpful. We’re trying to figure out which one has free will and which one doesn’t – is there any means by which we could tell the difference?

            Specifically, how do you see the word “willing” [to come]? If our coming depends on God alone, why does Jesus say some are not “willing to come.”

            I do believe that we have a will – that we desire things, that we act on those desires, and indeed that we are judged based on those actions. We are by nature willful, intentional rebels; given the opportunity to come to God, we give a full throated “No!” – and given the opportunity to change our wills, we’d say the same thing. We are happy in our rebellion, before He changes us – and He justly judges us for that rebellion.

            So you’re accountable for your will. That doesn’t make it free. That may strike us as unfair – but He had no obligation to offer salvation to us at all, and who are we to object to the terms on which He chooses to offer it?

            You seem to suggest that we may guess about the salvation of ‘other people.’ Do you suggest that one is certain of one’s own?

            I think it’s possible to be basically certain – barring the possibility that we’re all hallucinating, or that for some other reason Christianity is false, or etc. – yeah. Hebrews tells us to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence; John says he writes that we may know we have eternal life. I take these pretty literally.

        2. If what you imply is that ‘we ( all) simply choose wrongly’, then how is it that a prophet such as Elias was taken to heaven in a flaming chariot? And how is it that Moses face shined with visible radiance? And, moreover, both of these prophets were visibly seen talking with Jesus on the Mount of the Transfiguration?

          Clearly both God the Father, and Jesus also, had great love for the Prophets of the Old Testament. He even used them as a comparison to the evil acts of the Pharisees, saying:

          “… You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell? Therefore behold I SEND TO YOU prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: That upon you may come all the JUST BLOOD that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel THE JUST, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate.” (Matt. 23:33)

          It seems that Jesus teaches a very different Gospel than you. He calls these ancient prophets “just” and ‘sent to thee (by God)’…demonstrating their approval in His eyes. I think your understanding of the nature of justification is very wrong. I rather prefer to listen carefully to Jesus Christ (and His Church) when He teaches on such subjects, as in the quote above.

          – Al

          1. If what you imply is that ‘we ( all) simply choose wrongly’, then how is it that a prophet such as Elias was taken to heaven in a flaming chariot? And how is it that Moses face shined with visible radiance?

            Grace. Grace beyond measure; grace abounding; grace that remakes wicked human hearts and draws them irresistibly to its source.

            Does anyone really believe that Moses – Moses the murderer, Moses who snarled, “Must I bring forth water for you people?” – was righteous by virtue of his own deeds? Was David – murderer of his closest friends, adulterer with their wives – righteous in himself? Was Abraham – adulterer, liar, coward – counted righteous because of the goodness of his actions?

            Or was his faith credited to him as righteousness, and the right action simply the natural expression of that faith?

            The prophets say that our righteousness is like a filthy rag to God: an unclean, blood-soaked thing fit only to be burned. That God is still pleased to dwell with men like that – with men like us – for even a moment, much less to call us just, should melt our hearts with wonder.

          2. But Irked, you seem to imply that we actually do nothing important, or have no essential role, with Faith; that free will does not play a part. And this is whereI think you are wrong, because it goes against so many bBblical teachings.

            For instance, Jesus said:

            “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, IS NOT WORTHY of me.”

            But what you seem to proclaim is that ‘through faith’ this person who takes not up his cross IS WORTHY of Christ, because Christ MAKES HIM WORTHY by His own cross.

            The problem is….this is NOT what Jesus is saying. This is a different Gospel teaching fthanthe Lord’s teaching.

            The Gospel of Christ says that some will be ‘worthy’ and some will ‘not be worthy’…and this is due to their ‘free will’ to choose to either due what Jesus said to do, or ‘not to choose’ to do these same things. Christians, out of LOVE FOR JESUS, WANT TO TAKE UP THEIR CROSS FOR HIM, IN IMITATION OF HIM. THEY DESIRE IT OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL, BECAUSE IT IS “THEIR CROSS”, THAT GOD THE FATHER DESIRES ‘THEM’ TO CARRY.

            Again, focus on the word ‘worthy’. If everything important for salvation was done by Jesus, and therefore nothing important is needed of ourselves, then ALL would be worthy, and without doing ANYTHING. Yet, this isn’t the Gospel message.

            Here is the rest of the passage, that includes more ‘unworthy beliefs and actions’ that people might either choose to do, or not choose to do, of their own free will:

            “Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I WILL DENY HIM before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, IS NOT WORTHY of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, IS NOT WORTHY of me. And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, IS NOT WORTHY OF ME of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man. And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he SHALL NOT LOSE HIS REWARD.”

            Best to you,

            – Al

          3. But Irked, you seem to imply that we actually do nothing important, or have no essential role, with Faith; that free will does not play a part.

            Yes. We do not have free will, as it is typically construed. Scripture does not teach that we do. We have faith because God has given us faith; there’s nothing in us that would produce it – and our salvation is by faith from first to last.

          4. “Yes. We do not have free will, as it is typically construed.”

            Therefore, you imply that God caused Eve to eat the forbidden fruit?

            And for Cain to kill Abel?

            And for Judas to betray Jesus?

            This is ludicrous.

          5. Therefore, you imply that God caused Eve to eat the forbidden fruit?

            And for Cain to kill Abel?

            And for Judas to betray Jesus?

            This is ludicrous.

            These people did what God had purposed for them to do – but they also did what they chose of their own wills to do, and God held them accountable for that choice. I think we see that tension clearly in Acts 4: “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

            Herod and Pilate will be judged for their action, because it was theirs; they own the decision. But they did what God had decided should happen, and His decision that they should do this came first. Does that make Him the cause?

    4. Hello Stefan,

      Having been both Catholic and Protestant (Presbyterian-PCA), I have noticed a distinguishing characteristic of my fellow separated brethren in that most of my Presbyterian brothers and most protestant/evangelical brothers often interpret all of Christ’s teaching based on a single verse or even a single book while neglecting to include the rest of God’s Word as a whole to influence their interpretation.

      This is evident of Irk’s insistence on interpretation of John 6 and only John 6 without considering the rest of the Word of God which becomes a narrow tunnel vision like interpretation that neglects and even does harm himself and all of Scripture.

      Yes, the bible consists of many books combined into one book, but they are all “God-breathed” and God cannot contradict himself. So instead of looking only to what one verse says, best practice and even common sense says to look to see what else the bible says on the matter–which obviously is no small matter, but that’s why there’s a Church that Jesus planted and which He said would never fall into ruin. If I were you Stefan, I’d find that Church and follow it.

      1. This is evident of Irk’s insistence on interpretation of John 6 and only John 6 without considering the rest of the Word of God

        Hey now, that’s not remotely fair. I asked to look at this verse first, because I spent the last thread hunting down other folks’ prefered verses and never got to discuss my own. I’m fully willing to look at the rest of Scripture subsequently.

  11. What a discussion! Very well thought out and articulated positions by Irked, awlms, Matthewp, margo, and all. I submit to you all that most people reading through the comments would say: “You know, I can see their point. That does make sense.” – for either ‘side’ of the topic.

    The more fundamental questions I have for each of you is:

    1. What was the method Jesus taught for me to discern which position is true?
    2. Does Scripture record that means that Jesus established for me to know which position is true?

    Peace to you,
    Joe

  12. Hi Joe,

    The obvious top-off-my head answers: Where gates of hell shall not prevail. Where He is Alive, where He doth Abide, and where He Dwells. Amen.

    Best to you.

    1. In the event of any ambiguity, I answer: The Catholic Church. Her teachings and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, are the source and the summit of our life in Christ. The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church established by Christ, with the help of those chosen disciples who chose Him.

  13. Hi Joe,

    1) I think Paul gives the clearest answer: the one gospel entrusted to you. But I think Paul echoes Christ: “Have you not read what God said to you…” – what he’d said in the Scriptures.

    2) Yes. Indeed, it is the means.

    1. Irked,
      I’m looking for a specific answer. Obviously, all here are basing their position on “what he’d said in the Scriptures”. But you have arrived at Interpretation A, and others at Interpretation B (or C, D, E…).

      I’m pretty sure you realize that the others on this thread are also familiar with the “one gospel entrusted to you”. So it’s not the Bible or something else. It’s your Biblical interpretation vs. another’s Biblical interpretation.

      My question is not who’s is the better interpretation. That’s always going to depend on the observer’s arbitrary opinion. My question tried to illustrate that Jesus didn’t teach us to learn the faith by privately interpreting Scripture – even when it’s done by very bright and genuine believers like you (and I’m not being a wise guy!)

      He personally taught 12 men and gave them Divine authority to teach others – (What you bind on earth is bound in heaven…. / He who hears you, hears Me. / The tradition I received from the Lord, I hand on to you, that on the night He was betrayed….). And He also gave them a pretty good assurance that they and their successors would succeed in preserving what He taught (Lo, I will be with you to the end of the age.)

      Regarding #2, where in Scripture would I find support that Jesus (or any Apostle for that matter) said Scripture is the means He intended for us to use to understand the correct position on a matter of the Christian faith?

      Peace to you,
      Joe
      (I’m just the average Joe, BTW, not our esteemed blog host Joe.)

      1. Hi Joe,

        I’m still on the road, so answers likely to be brief, but: I do not see that there is any alternative, ultimately, to having a standard of “my interpretation of… something.” Catholicism can claim a different source to personally interpret (i.e., the teaching of the Magisterium), but we’re all going to ultimately have a “private interpretation” layer.

        On the other hand: I would absolutely agree that Christ didn’t teach the “me and my Bible under a tree” sense of private – “private” as in “completely divorced from all Christian teaching throughout history.” We study in community – but the community helps us understand the authority; it is not the authority.

        I would actually disagree as to whether the divide is “the Bible or something else.” I’d point to Al’s remark a bit upthread:

        And who says what is really necessary [for salvation] except the Church itself, who decided under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which books of the New Testament to include in the canon?

        “Who says what is really necessary except the (Catholic) Church itself? That is a different source – a “something else” – and it’s a source presented as more fundamental than the canon itself is.

        And He also gave them a pretty good assurance that they and their successors would succeed in preserving what He taught (Lo, I will be with you to the end of the age.)

        Sure. I believe their successors – the whole body of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant – have done that, by preserving the Scriptures.

        Regarding #2, where in Scripture would I find support that Jesus (or any Apostle for that matter) said Scripture is the means He intended for us to use to understand the correct position on a matter of the Christian faith?

        Consistently. We find it most centrally in Christ’s dialogues with the devil and the Pharisees, where he again and again returns to Scripture as a basis: “Have you not read where God said to you…?” – over and against other claimed sources of authority. This is the example he sets for us: ground your beliefs on Scripture, and challenge everything else by that means.

        We find it in Galatians 1, where the teaching of spiritual authorities is made subservient to the local church’s understanding of the received gospel; today, the only way the local church can honor that command is via Scripture. We find it, of course, in the fact that Scripture and Scripture alone is praised as the breath of God – and that no other source is offered similar authority.

        1. Satan too used scripture to further his argument. So scripture here reveals that an entity may use scripture in pursuit of evil, selfish, or simple misguided positions. Also, the Pharisees held Jesus to fault for doing (good) work on the Sabbath.

          1. Sure. Scripture can be abused as well as used – I don’t suggest that we should accept any and every reading as equally valid. But when Christ counters the devil, he goes to Deuteronomy; when he refutes the Pharisees on the Sabbath, he goes to Samuel.

        2. : Catholicism can claim a different source to personally interpret (i.e., the teaching of the Magisterium), but we’re all going to ultimately have a “private interpretation” layer.

          Joe: The difference is only one interpretation has the Divine backing. And it’s not mine, yours, or the most brilliant Bible scholar (remembering, of course, that the level of “brilliance” assigned to individual Bible scholars is solely dependent on the observer’s opinion – “His/Her commentary makes the most sense to me so I designate that one as the best. The others are good – they get some things a little wrong – but that one is the best.”

          I: We study in community.

          Joe: Community being defined as all those who agree with your POV. I think you’d have to agree there are many diverse ‘communities’ in the Protestant world. How can there be more than one Protestant/Evangelical/”Bible alone” seminary if they are all “just teaching Scripture guided by the Holy Spirit”? BTW, in the Protestant ‘community’, who speaks for God in declaring, without a doubt, what the true teaching is on say Infant Baptism? Or the nature of Holy Communion? Or the possibility of losing one’s salvation?

          Are you saying, Irked, that only those ‘communities’ who agree with your views on those fundamentals of the faith are correct and the others are wrong? Sounds like you alone are the authority.

  14. Joe,

    Regarding question1:

    Jesus taught me to study and treasure His own words very carefully, and to put them above every other teaching, including the other books of the New Testament, because He said: “Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.”

    And this word He uses “keep” is the key, because to merely believe in Jesus, does not mean you need to ‘do what He says’. But here He tells us it is putting His word into practice in our lives…’to keep them’…is how we ‘shall not see death forever”. So, in believing Jesus, I seek to do what He says to do. First, for instance, is to be baptized, and then to receive the Euchrist as He taught us to do. But I know I cannot baptize myself, and I know that I am not called to transubstantiate the bread into the Eucharist. This is to say, I realize that I need a Church to baptize me and then give me the Eucharist. Moreover, I also need to believe that the Church baptizing, and giving Holy Communion, is the ONE that Jesus wants to perform these sacred tasks; and so, I look for the marks of what might be the true Church, knowing that it needs to be ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC, as all of these characteristics are taught by Christ in the same Gospel that I am trying to keep.

    Now, the only Church that I find matches these 4 qualities and characteristics, happens to be the same one that has converted most of the Western World over the last 2000 years….which is the Roman Catholic Church.

    And regarding question 2….

    In the Gospel Christ says: “Those who hear you, hear me”. Herein He refers to the Church that He established on St. Peter, ‘the Rock’ and foundation of His Church as He taught. And after St. Peter, we have the witness of the Early Church which teaches the same as I have been arguing over the last few days. The Didache, especially teaches on the necessity of following the Commandments of God, as part of the ‘narrow way’ that a Christian should follow. It says:

    “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways. The way of life is this: ” First, you shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not thou to another.” …
    And,

    “But the second commandment of the teaching is this: “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”; Thou shalt not commit perjury….etc…,”

    So, clearly the early Church taught that the commandments were important to keep, regarding our sanctification and salvation. As said, the keeping of the commandments is part of the “way of life”, described above; as compared to the “way of Death” that it also expounds on.

    So, Jesus in His Gospel tells us to 1. ‘keep His word’. And keeping His word means we must then 2….follow His Church in all things, but especially in receiving the Sacraments which it provides. And, 3…we must learn from the Church, and especially through literature such as the Didache, and of all the other catechisms, encyclicals, proclamations, canon laws. etc… that have been produced throughout the centuries.

    So, that’s the way that I follow Christ.

    Best to you…. and thanks for the great blog!

    – Al

  15. Ah, Joe advises us to give up everything. Everything is quite a big word. It includes my ideas about God, it include my ideas about “me”, it includes “me”, it includes that which “me” is made of, thought.

    If this is what Joe meant by everything he’d be on the right track for sure.

    But that’s not what he means. What Joe really means is, give up your ideas and adopt his ideas.

    And if we agree with Joe’s proposal we wind up with the very same thing we already have, a huge pile of symbols which we are using to inflate the “me”, the most substantial obstacle to experience of God.

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