[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

John 8:30-32 -- Lordship Calvinism and its House of Cards

by Antonio da Rosa

In the principles of scientific justification an interpretation must submit to a "falsification criterion". If contrary data invalidate it, it must be given up.

In about 1300 A.D. William of Ockham introduced the scientific principle that whatever explanation involves the fewest assumptions is to be preferred. Called Ockham's Razor, it posits that any theory which, when confronted with contrary evidence, must supply secondary explanations in order to justify its existence is a bad theory. The continued introductions of secondary assumptions in order to explain the theory in light of seemingly contradictory evidence results in a crumbling house of cards.

In theology, when a particular theological position must be maintained by secondary assumptions, it is worthless. This is preeminently the case with the Lordship Salvation Calvinists' doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. When confronted with apparently contradictory evidence that a true saint in the Bible has persisted in disobedience, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that he could not really be a true saint at all.

Or when warnings are addressed to “little children,” “brethren,” “saints,” and those “sanctified forever,” a secondary assumption, not supported by the text, is brought in to say that these terms refer to “wheat and tares” and the specific descriptions are only the language of courtesy, not of fact. This continual addition of ad hoc explanations which are either not alluded to in the texts in question or are specifically refuted by them, render the theory useless. It becomes incapable of falsification because any data contrary to it is simply negated by additional assumptions. Text after text is often ignored in this way until the whole edifice verges on collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

Another theological position that must be maintained by secondary assumptions is the Lordship Calvinists' doctrine that the call to discipleship and the call to eternal life/eternal salvation are one and the same. When confronted with apparently contradictory evidence that the call to eternal life is a call to receive a free gift and the call to discipleship is an invitation to suffering, costly obedience, and hard works, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that salvation is a paradox, that it is both free and costly at the same time, and that the obedience required for salvation is not only the determination of the will to do so, but a perseverance in such until the end of life.

Still another theological position that must be maintained by secondary assumptions is the Lordship Calvinists' doctrine of a “spurious faith”. When confronted with the apparently contradictory evidence that simple faith alone in Jesus alone apart from works appropriates eternal life, that merely taking Jesus at His word in His gospel promise saves, and that those who are explicitly said to have faith may be in the state of not adding works to that faith, they will often offer the secondary assumption, based upon their system, that there is a difference between “believing” and “really believing”, and that “obey,” “surrender,” “commit,” and “give” are implicit semantic values hidden in the concept of the term of genuine “faith”. [Parts of this article taken and adapted from Joseph C. Dillow in The Reign of the Servant Kings pgs 25-41, see esp. 38-39]


Continual secondary assumptions plague the interpretations of the Calvinist/Lordship Salvation proponents.

John 8:30-32 states this:

As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
NKJV

As clearly as John can express it, a group of “many” “believed in” Jesus. This phrase, “believed in him” is a special Greek expression “pisteuw eis” which is almost unique to the Gospel of John. This phrase involves the use of a Greek preposition (eis) after the verb for “believe” and, so far at least, it has not been found in secular Greek. Among the instances of its use in John’s gospel may be mentioned the following- 1:12; 2:11; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:38, 39; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26, 45; and 12:44, 46.

Even a rapid examination of these texts shows that this specialized expression is John’s standard way of describing the act of saving faith by which eternal life is obtained. To deny this in 8:30 would be to go directly counter to the well-established usage of the author.

For instance, John 3:16 states, “…whosoever believes in Him [pisteuw eis] should not perish but have everlasting life”. Could not “those Jews who believed Him” be considered a “whosoever”? Does not John make a blanket statement that the one believing into Jesus has eternal life?

Notice that there is nothing in the text itself to indicate that the faith exercised by “those Jews” is anything but the faith that brings eternal life. There are no modifiers such as “spurious” or “false” or “substandard”. On the contrary, the expression is the same in John 3:16 and 6:47 (Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life). It uses the “pisteuw eis” expression with Jesus as the object. This is the very same expression that is saving faith in our most beloved texts, such as John 3:16 and John 11:25, 26!

It has been claimed, however, that the believing Jews of verses 30, 31 are the speakers in verses 33, 39, and 41. It is then pointed out that in verse 44 Jesus tells them, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” Along with the whole tenor of verses 33-47 (and especially the statements of verses 39, 40, and 42) this is seen as a clear indication that the faith described in 8:30 was not regenerating faith.

But this argument involves a missassessment of the whole context in which verses 8:30-32 are placed.

John 8:13-59 is clearly a controversy section which has its setting in the Jewish Temple (8:20). Jesus’ opponents throughout the section are His general audience in the Temple treasury. They are described as Pharisees (8:13), as Jews (8:22, 48, 52, and 57) and more simply as “they” (8:19, 25, 27, 33, 39, 41, 59). John does not expect us to understand the “they” of verse 33 any differently than we do the same word in verses 19, 25, and 27. He means the larger audience.

Verses 30, 31a (about those who believe in Him) are a kind of “aside” to the reader to explain the background and purpose of Jesus’ statement in verses 31b, 32 (about continuing in His Word). In this way the reader is allowed to learn the reason why Jesus’ words are misunderstood and how they serve to intensify the controversy that is already raging.

This technique is thoroughly Johannine. Throughout the Fourth Gospel, the words of Jesus are frequently misunderstood (c.f. 3:4; 4:11, 12; 6:34; 7:35; 8:22; etc.). Where necessary, John offers the readers the crucial clue to their actual meaning (cf. 2:19-22; 11:11-13). This is what he is doing in verses 30-31a. The reader is tipped off about the real purpose behind the words in 3:31b-32.

[Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige see pgs 41-44]


Imagine for instance that John’s “editorial” note was not included in the text, how it would read:

John 8:28-33

Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

They answered Him,” We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"

Notice the bold “they”. Without the editorial by John, the “they” would then be the obvious continuation of those hostile, disputing, and unbelieving Jews that have been referenced time and again throughout the discourse in John 8.

John’s point in his editorial is that when Jesus said the words in 8:31b-32, it was for the benefit of those “many [who] believed in Him” (8:30). Jesus did not address those who believed in Him, but it was for their benefit. It was spoken in the same manner as had the rest of the discourse Jesus had been giving from 8:13-29, in the sphere and in the hearing of all in the Temple. The unbelieving Jews misunderstood Jesus’ statement and began questioning His statements in verse 33.

The interpretation of the Traditionalist of John 8:30ff puts variance between verses 8:30,31 with verses 8:45-47, wherein 8:30,31 the Apostle John states that there was a group of Jews who both “believed into Him” and “believed Him”, but Jesus in verse 8:45 says that those whom He is talking to (who the Traditionalist says is the same group as 8:30,31, IOW the believing Jews) “do[es] not believe Me”.

Instead of seeing the true contradiction of their understanding of this passage, the Traditionalists accommodate their interpretation with a secondary assumption that the “faith” in 8:30, 31 is a “spurious” one, even in the face of the overwhelming testimony of John in his gospel that states that “whosoever believes into” Jesus IS saved, and even though not a single qualifier or modifier exists in the text to color our comprehension of these Jew’s faith. They then use this passage as a “proof-text” to their doctrine of perseverance and their position that all true believers are disciples as well.

We must not give secondary assumptions and/or modify one experimental fact in order to accommodate it with another apparently contradictory one. Instead, we must search for a higher synthesis, larger than each fact, which will explain both.

And in this case, if this were done, the Traditionalist would realize that John’s commentary and editorial in 8:30,31b was an “aside” for the reader’s own understanding, denoting that 8:31b-32 was an expression made for the benefit of those “many Jews [who] believed in [to] Him”, and that the discussion in 8:33ff is just a continuation of the dispute with the Jews and Pharisees who had been hostile to Him throughout the whole of the discourse.

19 Comments:

  • Antonio, thank you for this perfect example of how the LS heresy came about and is perpetuated. There is an alarming lack of intellectual integrity in their refusal to use sound hermeneutics to reach a proper and honest understanding of God's word - i.e. by applying Ockham's Razor principle...

    In reading this it occurred to me that all the various forms of LS theologies are fraught with this same error that evolutionists commit under the guise of "science" when interpreting data. They fail to apply Ockham's scientific principle and thus resort to inexhaustible strings of secondary explanations and assumptions to mask the considerable mass of contradictory evidence to their theory... This is precisely what we see with the current versions of Puritanism/Calvinism and LS theologies that so dominate the "evangelical" landscape. They are and always have been a very tenuous house of cards...

    By Blogger wjc, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 2:29:00 PM  

  • Well said Antonio and WJC! Thought maybe you had gone to India, Antonio. Great article on Jn. 8:30-32, the TULIP, and LS.

    By Blogger goe, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 2:42:00 PM  

  • ...One more observation. Just like evolution, the fact that LS theologies are by far the predominate view, is not a good indication of validity...

    By Blogger wjc, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 2:59:00 PM  

  • Gary, - You should accompany us to India next time. It would be a pleasure to labor for the harvest with you!

    By Blogger wjc, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 3:14:00 PM  

  • Very good explanation, bro. Antonio. God Bless.

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 4:35:00 PM  

  • Excellent article Antonio!!!
    You know when you give someone a crystal clear verse of Jesus calling someone a disciple who had not yet believed. But they still don’t believe an unbeliever can be a disciple, it doesn’t fit their theological grid. Then you know your wasting your time and it’s time to move on.
    But I love it when the BIG GUNS show up!!!
    brother alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:42:00 PM  

  • wjc,

    It is gracious of you to ask me to come with you and Antonio and I would be honored to go! If you're serious it is something I would really consider doing if I'm able. Thanks for asking!

    Alvin,

    I'm couldn't agree more with every word of your last comment!

    Gary

    By Blogger goe, at Thursday, October 30, 2008 7:54:00 AM  

  • I think the FG position makes perfect sense.

    By Blogger Celestial Fundie, at Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:00:00 AM  

  • EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT Antonio!!!

    Alvin, I'm with you on what you said....
    ..."I love it when the BIG GUNS show up!!!"
    :-)

    Gary, Go for it!!! What a privilege it would be for you to go with Antonio and WJC to India!
    WOW!

    WJC, I love it when you comment! You help me learn!!!

    David, always love seeing your name pop up! You are just always so gracious!!!

    Celestial fundie...
    I've grown to always read carefully what you say. It's really neat to sit under the teaching of those who look carefully at the scriptures.

    After reading most of the comments today under Rose's question on the group blog...
    "A Question for Consideration"
    I posted a comment about some of those things over at Antonio's blog under the title...
    "The Unconditional Gift of God."
    dated...
    10 30 08 3:20 PM

    It kind of goes along with what Antonio is saying here.

    You ALL are my favorite commentators....
    Well...... next to Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin...
    and a few others!
    :-)

    Thanking God for you all,
    Diane
    :-)

    By Blogger Diane, at Thursday, October 30, 2008 5:46:00 PM  

  • Yes yes yes!!!
    Thank you for posting this. I appreciate it so much. This makes perfect sense. How could He describe those "who believed in Him" as "children of the devil." That makes zero sense. I looked at it again and chapter 8 begins with the Pharisees trying to trick him while He was with those who beliveed in him *and* the multitudes just listening. Obviously, some were coming around, and He encouraged them to continue in His word despite the attacks of the Pharisees. He was not talking to those same people when He said "ye seek to kill me." That just wouldn't make any sense.

    The audience was made up of about four types of people from what I can tell.

    1. Those who believed in Him

    2. Those who were coming around to believing in Him

    3. Skeptical Pharisees who weren't really open to His message (I am thinking these were the ones that were still present after the ones who wanted to stone the woman left v. 9 (9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.)

    4. Those who hated Him = the children of the Devil = those who sought to kill Him

    Also - it can't be missed that he tells those who believed on Him to continue on and become disciples. 2 different things: 1. Believing on Him and 2. Becoming His disciple

    31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

    Thanks, Antonio.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 10:38:00 AM  

  • Rose.... EXCELLENT Observation!!!
    You put it so well~!!!
    Thank you.

    Diane
    :-)

    By Blogger Diane, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 2:48:00 PM  

  • Amen Rose. Good addition to an already excellent commentary on this text. God Bless.

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 7:34:00 PM  

  • Thanks Rose, you made the points very clear!!!
    It makes perfect sense!!!

    alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 8:44:00 PM  

  • Rose,

    You nailed it again Rose. Thanks for sharing that.

    Alvin,

    Keep up the good work brother!

    Gary

    By Blogger goe, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 11:10:00 PM  

  • Jesus says in 8:35, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” Abiding in the house forever appears to be a reference to eternal life. If, in 8:32, knowing the truth and being set free [from slavery to sin] by the truth is a discipleship truth, aren’t you conditioning eternal life on being a disciple, i.e., since a slave does not abide in the house forever? Furthermore, doesn’t this passage seem to be contrasting “sonship” with “slavery,” i.e., those who are sons are not slaves? Your view seems to suggest that one can be both a son and a slave to sin. What am I misunderstanding? Thanks.

    By Blogger Delivered, at Sunday, November 02, 2008 6:24:00 AM  

  • Just a quick answer, I’m sure Antonio would give a much better answer.
    Delivered said:
    Jesus says in 8:35, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” Abiding in the house forever appears to be a reference to eternal life.

    Those ones Jesus was talking to in John 8:35 thought because they were descendants of Abraham they were already sons of God but they weren’t they were still slaves to sin. They needed to be "set free" by believing in Jesus for eternal life.


    If, in 8:32, knowing the truth and being set free [from slavery to sin] by the truth is a discipleship truth, aren’t you conditioning eternal life on being a disciple, i.e., since a slave does not abide in the house forever?

    These believers Jesus was speaking to, the Son had already set them free, now they just needed to stay free by "abiding in His word."



    Furthermore, doesn’t this passage seem to be contrasting “sonship” with “slavery,” i.e., those who are sons are not slaves?

    And that is what Jesus is telling these unbelieving Jews who were not sons! So not only had they not yet been set free but they were not even in the house!


    Your view seems to suggest that one can be both a son and a slave to sin. What am I misunderstanding? Thanks.

    The book of Galatians clearly shows the danger of not abiding in Jesus word and how a son can go back into bondage to sin. But Paul reminds them they are sons even though they are not acting like it, and as Jesus said a son abides forever. (Galatians 3:26-29) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.


    All believers have been “set free” in Christ Jesus, and are already "abiding in the house in Christ!"

    Eph 1:4-9 made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

    With the bible in our hands we understand these truths if we’ve been a disciple for very long. These ones who had just believed in Jesus for eternal life now would need to follow Him to stay free. By learning their position in Christ which Paul would later reveal hopefully they would not fall into the error of the Galatian believers and enjoy their new found freedom in Christ. The Galatians should have taught us our position is not always our practice.

    If you already KNOW your “in the house” you KNOW it’s ALL by GRACE!!!

    Alvin is already sitting with Christ in the heavenly places!!! Keep looking up where your position is!!!
    And if you do you will not fullfill the lust of the flesh! Gal 5:16 walk in the Spirit!

    Antonio,
    If i'm off on anything here please straighten me out brother!!!

    By Blogger alvin, at Monday, November 03, 2008 7:37:00 AM  

  • Alvin,

    Thank you for that very helpful answer!

    Diane
    :-)

    By Blogger Diane, at Monday, November 03, 2008 7:06:00 PM  

  • FYI - I posted some more thoughts of my own.. and those of a very widely respected commentary... about this passage at my blog just now. I hope you will at leat read the well-respected commentator's thoughts. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Monday, November 10, 2008 7:25:00 AM  

  • I think it is too reductionistic, as wjc has asserted:, . . . This is precisely what we see with the current versions of Puritanism/Calvinism and LS theologies that so dominate the "evangelical" landscape. . . , to believe that Puritanism was only made up of what we are seeing displayed by contemporary LS advocates today. Remember there were many Puritans, such as Cotton and Sibbes, who completely disagreed with Westminster Federal Calvinism; not to mention the "Scottish Reformed"---which I would identify with. There is way more nuance here. Really the question revolves how one frames grace/sin, election/incarnation, etc. Btw, we all have "secondary" scaffolding, the question is, which scaffolding is best supported by the implications of the Gospel?

    Btw, why do you guys limit your commenters to those who have a blogger account? There are many out there who don't have a blogger account, nor want one.

    By Blogger Bobby Grow, at Tuesday, November 11, 2008 4:00:00 PM  

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