Monday, November 26, 2007

Kangaroo D'Oh!

I lifted this from the meta of a post over at Triablogue. Our sometime commenter/fomenter of dischord, Kangeroodort, a/k/a Ben left it there. I don't know that they'll answer it (although I may already be wrong about that) because it is off-topic, so I thought I'd interact with it a bit. The blue font below is all Ben's stuff.

I asked the following comment which has so far been ignored directly, but answered indirectly by saint and sinner:

In the meantime, I have a quick question for you regarding John 6:44. Do you believe that one can "come" prior to regeneration? If not, then I suspect you see the drawing of John 6:44 as a reference to irresistible regeneration.

Is that the case? Would you object to an interpretive translation along these lines:"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me first regenerates them [gives them life]"?

S&S later said [concerning the contention that John 6:44 had reference to resistible prevenient grac]:This is a basic exegetical error in interpreting John 6. The problem with this interpretation is that Jesus is quoting the Prophet Isaiah. The quote comes from Is. 54:13, which is in the midst of a passage on the renewed creation and covenant. Like other passages in the prophets (Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27), it is thus speaking about regeneration, not a preaching of the gospel which we must then decide upon. Thus, those who are "taught of God" are the regenerate.

So it would seem that the drawing of John 6:44 refers to regeneration in the Calvinist scheme. To say it refers to something less is to concede prevenient grace, which the Calvinist will not do. So it is quite resonable to understand Jn. 6:44, in Calvinism, as saying:No one can come to be unless the Father who sent Me regenerates them [i.e. first gives them life].

I assume that S&S would also equate "come" with "believe" as most Calvinists do. So we could further define the passage as:No one can believe in Me unless the Father who sent Me regenerates them [i.e. first gives them life].

We could then simplify the teaching by saying, "no one can come unless the Father first gives them life."

Therefore, the giving of life, according to Calvinism, must precede coming or believing.I dare say that no Calvinist would object at this point.

What then did Jesus mean when He said in John 5:40:"...you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life."

Here Jesus plainly says that "coming" precedes the giving of life. This flatly contradicts the Calvinists interpretation of John 6:44 and renders such an interpretation impossible.

In view of John 5:40, the drawing of John 6:44 can have no reference to regeneration.

God Bless,Ben

First, let me give Ben some props here for having a grasp on the Calvinist interpretation he seeks to argue with. I would state things a little differently than he has above, but not all that much. So, yes, it is the standard Calvinist intepretation of John 6:44, that it teaches that regeneration precedes faith.

See what a nice Calvinist I am, Ben. I gave you some props. In fact, I'll go ahead and give you some more. You have proven to me that you are a thoughtful Christian man who is zealous in the pursuit of truth.

But, sadly, those last props come in spite of what you've written in this comment, and not because of it. After reading what you've written, I stubbornly refuse to believe that this is really how you go about studying the Scripture. I choose to believe better of you, in spite of the current lack of evidence. (I'm a hopeless fideist...)

1. It looks like what you've done here is this: recognized that the Calvinistic take on John 6 is all about who comes to Jesus and why, and you've seen it has something to do with the new life of regeneration. Then, you took some of those key words, specifically "come" and "life" and you've looked with your concordance for other places where the two terms occur in close proximity. Having found a place like that (John 5:40,) you've compared the way that place speaks of life and coming to Jesus and the way John 6 speaks of life and coming to Jesus. And, lo and behold, we see that you prefer the way that John 5 puts it, and have thus determined that the view you don't like, from John 6, must be wrong.

2. Let me illustrate why this is a truly horrible way to study the Bible. Let's say, as a Calvinist, I don't like the insistence that John 3:16 shows that God loves every individual in the world. And so, I hunt around in my Bible for other places that speak of the world, until I come to 1 John 2:15, where it says, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

"Eureka!" I shout. "Now I've got all those synergists dead to rights! They'll never overcome this challenge from Scriptural fact, for I have proven that love for the world is really the opposite of God's attitude!"

Does it not immediately occur to you why that would be really dumb?

I'm sure it does, Ben, but for our readers let me spell it out: To do that would be to ignore simple considerations of context. Any synergist would be totally correct to then come and rebuke me for being too stupid to see immediately that the passages are not talking about the same things. And that's true, even though John 3:16 and 1 John 2:15 use the same key words, like "God" and "love."

A very simple, surface reading would show me, if I had bothered enough to check, that different things are in view. Again, that's true even though the same author uses the same key words: He's still talking about different things. The only reason I would possibly fail to see that is if I was so ideologically blinded that I was willing to deal fast-and-loose with the Word of God so long as I got to prove my point with it. And shame on me.

3. Apprapos 1 and 2, you try to make your point here by citing a place where the same author uses the same key words, and you've simply assumed that the two different discussions are talking about the same thing.

4. But is the assumption of 3 above warranted? The discussion in John 6 is about why some come to Jesus in faith and are saved, and some do not. The matter at hand in John 5 is the sin of the Jewish leaders, who had refused to listen to any of the witnesses that God sent to them. Though they both have in common the presence of sinful unbelief, they really are two different conversations. In John 6, Jesus is explaining to His disciples the "why" of faith, and in John 5, Jesus is rebuking the Jews for the fact of their unbelief.

In addition, I would grant that the "coming" of both passages is a metaphor for faith in Christ. But it is truly a stretch to assume that the "life" the Jews were actively refusing in John 5 is the new spiritual life of regeneration. Can you not see in the passage itself that there are different sorts of "life?" I mean, the Jews were certainly "alive" in one sense, and yet had refused another sort of life. How you conclude that they were refusing regeneration specifically, and neither the spirit-life of faith in Christ (as in Romans 8) nor eternal life with Him in heaven is beyond me. Regeneration is certainly not the focus in John 5: faith in Christ is.

5. And many such things you (synergists, generally) do. Use a passage that isn't about why some believe and some don't in order to argue with the grammatical-historical exegesis of a passage that plainly is. Another example of this sort of argumentation is the resort to John 12 to blunt the force of John 6. (Hey, they both mention a drawing of men to Christ: It has to be the same...except that it's obviously different. But still, the one in John 12 is more likeable, so let's go with that one.)

33 comments:

Luke said...

Hmmmm...if Calvinists think that people can have eternal life without regeneration, then Josh struck out. :)

Also, it's good hermeneutical science to examine how the author uses words in the same book. Themes.

Yet another death-blow by Josh.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Im confused....what are you saying...no Calvinist believes one can have eternal life without regeneration....Regeneration Precedes faith...but whats your point.

Also, which Josh are you talking about...I am Josh and JC is Josh...I am confused.

Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...

I meant Ben, not Josh. My bad. I've got to stop posting while on the phone.

gordan said...

Luke, Amen to that. Actually reading what you're responding to would be helpful as well. And you wonder why people can't get enthused to respond to you.

Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Esping said...

Very interesting fact about John 6:44. The Arminians take the "draw" to be some kind of whooing or something, but infact the same greek word is used in James 2:6 when he says "But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally "DRAG" you into court?
To say "Is it not the rich who personally whoo you into the court" is completely insane! So John 6:44 is just more infallible proof of the tuth of Calvinism.

Wonderful post Gordan!

Andrew

Luke said...

Andrew, Nah, you just demonstrated the exact type of exegesis critiqued by Gordan, above. Also, John uses the word figuratively, whereas people trying to prove your point always draw upon literal uses. But I always preferred the middle ground of "brought nigh" for reasons I'll get into at a later time.

Andrew Esping said...

Then I suppose "draging" people into the court is supposed to be taken figuratively as well?

Andrew

kangeroodort said...

Hey Gordan,

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I addressed your concerns over at my blog.

Here is the link:

http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/11/gordan-gives-me-props-and-rebukes-at.html

Love ya Bro.,
Ben

gordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gordan said...

(Had to moderate myself. There are smart-alek limits that even I am ashamed to cross...)

Ben, I'll be over to your place soon, I hope. I am in the middle of some things that must take priority. Hang on, and I'll go take my lumps from you and your merry men. (Don't know why, but I'm picturing you in green Robin Hood tights, for some reason. Not a gay thing at all though...I'm talking about those manly Erol Flynn tights.)

gordan said...

Luke tantalizes us with a mystery, concerning the drawing/dragging in John 4:66:

"But I always preferred the middle ground of "brought nigh" for reasons I'll get into at a later time."

Going out on a limb here, but is one reason the fact that the one word, "drag," would crush your whole theology all by itself?

gordan said...

Umm, that'd be John 6:44, not 4:66.

Hanging up now.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Wow..thats too many errors in one comment box from both sides...HAHA...lets relax...take a deep breath...get off the phone...stop listing to the the Dividing Line for a moment and then comment.HAHA...Blessings!

Andrew Esping said...

"But I always preferred the middle ground of "brought nigh" for reasons I'll get into at a later time."

Like I haven't heard those words a million times =).

Andrew

J.C. Thibodaux said...

That was a great comment Josh.

gordan said...

Luke,

You have a problem obeying the rules when you're in someone else's house, I see.

As an administrator here, yes, I can basically do what I want in terms of deciding who gets the last word in the comment section of my own post.

I gave you ample time to make your point. I don't see how you have anything to complain about. Keep on about it and you'll simply be banned.

Arminian said...

I am not sure why you disallowed Luke to keep posting on the issue you were discussing. I was following the discussion between you. I saw the deleted posts before they were deleted. I thought he was winning the debate; perhaps that's why you disallowed him further comment? Or is it that you really did not see his comments as being relevant? They seemed quite relevant to me. And I saw him explain it. Perhaps I am missing something.

gordan said...

Arminian,

Well, you kind of prove my point, then.

I left the vast bulk of Luke's argument up for all to see. There's more than enough there for anyone to draw their own conclusions. (That's the point you prove. You saw enough. Me too.) Surely, you wouldn't be shocked to find that Calvinists who have read the same stuff have a different take on it than you, btw?

The only comment of his I deleted was the one where he tried to restart things again after I ended it. And I ended it only after he asserted that he had definitively proved his point. It's not like I stopped him before he got going. Sure, that's not how it would work if we were talking face-to-face, but this is a blog, a blog with administrators; and furthermore, a blog that is not intended to carry on endless debates. Luke is totally free to blog on his point all he wants at his own blog, and claim whatever victory he wants to claim. And you can go there and Amen him. That's fine. But there's no rule that says he must be allowed to write however many hundreds of words he wants to on someone else's blog.

I hope that helps explain things. I don't mind that there are those who think his argument was strong: I am happy to let people read for themselves and decide. I'll win some, I'll lose some, but frankly I'm already resigned to losing in the eyes of guys choosing to name themselves after their ideology.

Maybe some guy named HardcoreCalvinist will show up and say I rock, now.

:) LOL

Andrew Esping said...

Don't worry Gordan, you as a human may be beaten, but your theology can't be beaten. It never has in the history of mankind, and it never will. But of-course you already know this =).

Arminian: "They seemed quite relevant to me"

Like trying to say that John 6:44 James 2:6 is supposed to be taken figuratively? Yup, real relevant.

Rhett said...

Commenting here is not a right, it's a priviledge.

Gordan and I have formed a committee [just like good Southern Baptists do!] and are working on rules to govern comments here.

Trolls will soon be subjected a strict diet here at the Reformed Mafia.

Arminian said...

Gordan,

Thank you for the explanation. I guess it depends on what you want your blog to be. I would think that allowing free dialog would be the best way to go and participants to go on for as long as they care to, but that is definitely your call. It just makes it too easy to cut off debate when your losing hte argument.

As for 'losing in the eyes of' people who are already committed to a theological position (like yourself who is part of the REFORMED Mafia?!), I for one don't believe someone wins a debate just because I agree with their overall position. Participants in theological debate should have to make their case. There are good arguments for Arminianism and bad arguments for it just like there are good and bad arguments for Calvinism. For example, you have had Andrew in this thread supporting your position with very naive and flawed argumentation, making the very type of error you argued against in your post (in this case, assuming that because draw is used literally in James 2:6, it must be used literally in John 6:44, when it is beyond all dispute that it is used figuratively in John 6:44 (see e.g., the standard and most authoritative NT Greek lexicon, BDAG, which [1] documents the figurative use of this term, and [2] lists John 6:44 and 12:32 as figurative uses, but James 2:6 under the more literal usage). Indeed, Andrew seems to question that the word can be used firuratively at all. He has made a very poor argument to try and support your view. Will you tell him so? In any case, Iwould not say Luke was winning the debate just because I agree with his overall theological position. I have seen many Arminian arguments online that make me cringe and wish the person representing Arminianism was not doing so with their specific arguments. That's not the case with what Luke was saying. He was making the biblical case and refuting your view IMO. But again, thanks for the explanation.

And Andrew, please see my above comments about your James 2:6 argument. It violates basic rules of interpretation. Although I do n ot agree with Gordan's attempt to charge Ben wit hthe same mistake, see Gordan's OP and think about how it applies to your argument.

God bless.

Andrew Esping said...

What basic rules of interpretation? The ones set up by James Arminius or Charles Finney? Forgive my biting satire. For me there is only one way to interpret Scripture. This is that all Scripture fits together and that there is no controdiction. The idea that man can resist God's grace contradicts Scripture. The contradiction that bugs me the most is that if man can resist God's call, then man has power over God. Man, first, God second. That phrase pretty much defines Arminian Theology. Man's primary purpose is to "Glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The idea that man can resist God's call, but can also accept God's call gives some of the glory to man! Basically we have man, the creation, calling the shots for God, the creator. Have you ever read Isaiah 46:8-11? Which says:

8"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. - Is. 46:8-11

How could it be made clearer than that? God clearly has power over His creation. It is the only way it can be if God is to receive full glory.

I mean no offence to you Arminian; I am very passionate about my beliefs as I am sure you are as well. God bless you my friend. If you have any private objections you can contact me at andrew32693@yahoo.com.

Andrew

gordan said...

Arminian,

I can agree with a great deal of what you said. I did not exclude myself, of the Reformed Mafia, from being already decided. I was just tickled that "Arminian" was bothering to let me know Luke was winning that argument. And I'll admit that as a committed Calvinist, I still think very differently about that.

As for Andrew's argument:

1. I never suggested that we should not see how a word is used in other places in the Bible in order to determine what its usage might be in any other place. That strikes me as simply one of the rules of grammatical-historical interpretation! I certainly did not argue against that.

Rather, my original point was that it is wrong to simply assume (with no work or research as to considerations like context) that when a word with multiple possible meanings like "life" is used, that it automatically must mean what you want it to mean, when you go to compare it to other places.

That's what I'm saying Ben did. With no contextual support at all, he limits the use of "life" in 5:40 to regeneration, even when other possibilities for the word seem much more naturally plausible. And he does this solely because he does not like how 6:44 deals with regeneration and is looking for a text to blunt it.

That's not the sort of thing Andrew did. However, I would agree that the James use of the word does not necessarily determine how it is used in John 6. But it may well hint.

2. Nobody is suggesting that the drawing of John 6:44 is literal and not figurative. Of course we believe it is a figure. I don't even know where you get that accusation from. I believe Andrew's suggestion is that the same word's use in another place may well indicate that the force of it in Jn 6:44 is very strong, and not soft or gentle. Nothing in the context of John 6 would oppose that idea, either.

++ Another note about comments. I simply don't agree with your idea about what would be "best." James White, for instance, doesn't allow any comments at all, even from those who agree with him. Seems to work just fine for him. I think we envision a middle ground here. We like interaction, but have no desire for this to be an apologetics blog a la Triablogue, or a slobberknocking debate blog a la Pyromaniacs.

gordan said...

Addendum: Okay, I see now that Andrew seems to say that "draw" in John 6:44 is not figurative.

I think it's time to define some terms:

Literal - means it actually happens in the physical manner described. "I was bouncing off the walls" is not a literal statement unless you actually were physically crashing into walls and bouncing off of them.

Figurative - means it happens in a manner that is analagous to the thing described, but not actually, physically happening that way. "I was bouncing off the walls" would be figurative if you meant that you were so full of energy that you felt like a pinball or whatever.

In those senses, the use of draw/drag in James is literal, like Arminian's magesterial, infallible source said. (Poor people literally, physically dragged into court by the rich.)

In John 6:44 it is figurative and is an image that Jesus uses to show how it is that one comes to Him in faith. But, I stress, the fact that it is a figure has no bearing on the strength of the action that is indicated, and I think that has been Andrew's point. Dragged vs. enticed. Just because the usage is figurative here, doesn't mean it is not violent.

gordan said...

Another addendum:

After thinking about the whole comments thing and shutting them down on the conversation with Luke, it occurs to me that I could've handled it better in terms of maybe giving some warning that the end was near or something like that.

I will try to do better in the future when I decide it's time to hang up the phone, so to speak. And, Luke, if you're reading, please accept my apology for offending you with the manner in which I stopped it. (I still think I'm completely right regarding the argument though. :)

Andrew Esping said...

Ok, I'm just parshaly confused now ;)

Andrew

Luke said...

GoradnAfter thinking about the whole comments thing and shutting them down on the conversation with Luke, it occurs to me that I could've handled it better in terms of maybe giving some warning that the end was near or something like that.

Hey, it's all just water under the bridge. I'm not going to angst over it for the rest of my life.

We Baptists gotta stick together, ya know. :) .

Rhett said...

Arminian,


I'd like to throw in about $0.02 here:

"I guess it depends on what you want your blog to be."

I originally started this blog to be a privite blog to interact with my Reformed Southern Bapist friends. Very shortly after that, we decided to take it public.

Though we aren't as well known as Team Pyro or Triablogue, the Mafia blog has ended up going beyond anything that I had originally hoped for. Much of that is thanks to Gordan and some of the other guys we have brought on board.

The "Mafia" theme is kind of a joke really. I suppose it gives people the idea that we are trying to be the next big Reformed Battle blog, but that's not really the case.

"I would think that allowing free dialog would be the best way to go and participants to go on for as long as they care to, but that is definitely your call."

Perhaps, but all too often I have seen these unmoderated exchanges get very ugly (I'm guilty of it also)and sometimes these debates just seem to go on way longer than neccesary.

If it was up to me, we would have to approve every comment before it was published (as was our former policy) however, some of the other Mafia members wanted to move to the present format and that's what we did...

As for myself, I have 2 jobs, an online business, a wife, and three kids with another baby due in January. I have enough stress as it is, so getting all wrapped up in some silly blog battle (that will never move me an inch either way) isn't really how I want to spend what little spare time I have... (I hardly have enough time to write the stuff I that I do!)

"It just makes it too easy to cut off debate when your losing [the] argument."

Winning or losing a blog battle is not the issue for me because I'm one of those hard-heads who thinks I'm always right no matter how poorly it may look to those reading the exchange.

(To tell you the truth, I've never seen anyone at the Mafia lose a debate!!) ;)

Have a nice day! :)

Arminian said...

Andrew said: "What basic rules of interpretation? The ones set up by James Arminius or Charles Finney?"

**No, the ones accepted by evangelical scholars generally. You do not seem to have taken my simple advice to look at Gordan's OP and how it totally applies to your argument from James 2:6 demanding a literal meaning for the same word in John 6:44.


Andrew said: "Forgive my biting satire."

**No problem. I just think you need to study basic hermeneutics. Pick up a book by an evangelical Calvinist scholar on this if you want. Try D.A. Carson's EXEGETICAL FALLACIES. It will should disabuse you of the method of interpetation you are trying to apply here pretty qucikly.

Andrew said: "For me there is only one way to interpret Scripture. This is that all Scripture fits together and that there is no controdiction."

**Arminians take that approach as well. This has nothing to do with Arminianism and calvinism. Maybe you should consider that Arminians don't see their interpretation of the Bible as creating contradictions, but Calvinism's interpretations as doing so. What's actually going on is that we have different interpretations. It is not a matter of one or the other being more committed to God's word, but reaching different conclusions about what God's word teaches and means, both pisitions being within the bounds of orthodoxy.

Andrew said: "The idea that man can resist God's grace contradicts Scripture. The contradiction that bugs me the most is that if man can resist God's call, then man has power over God.

**But it seems that you would limit God's sovereignty by claiming that he is not sovereign enough to allow man to resist his call. (BTW, many Calvinists believe in the general call that is resisted by man. But then you have man resisting God's call.) It's not a matter of having power over God, but operating within the limits God has set up and according to what he makes possible and allows. It is the way he desires it to be, and has sovereignly decided it would be so.

Andrew said: "Man, first, God second. That phrase pretty much defines Arminian Theology."

**You obviously domn't understand Arminian theology. God is first in Arminian theology every bit as much as in Calvinist. Actually Arminian theology views him as greater because he is free and soverign enough to give man free will if he so chooses.

Andrew said: "Man's primary purpose is to "Glorify God and enjoy Him forever." "

**Amen. I wholeheartedly agree. It's just that Arminianism gives God more glory IMO than Calvinism.

Andrew said: "The idea that man can resist God's call, but can also accept God's call gives some of the glory to man! Basically we have man, the creation, calling the shots for God, the creator."

**Not at all. Scripture reveals pretty clearly that faith gives all the glory to God and none to man. Moreover, man can only do as God allows for him to do. Man is not calling the shots. God is. But he does allow man to act freely in many circumstances. He does not irresitibly control man in all that he does.

Andrew said: "Have you ever read Isaiah 46:8-11? Which says:

8"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. - Is. 46:8-11

How could it be made clearer than that? God clearly has power over His creation. It is the only way it can be if God is to receive full glory."

**I have read that precious passage before and affirm it and rejoice in it. But it gives your position no support. Of course God has power over his creation. That is not at issue at all. But that passage does not say that God irresitibly causes all that man does, man's resitance to his call or anything like it. It's that pesky interpretation of Scripture thing again and actually exegeting Scripture rather than reading your theology into it.

Andrew said: "I mean no offence to you Arminian; I am very passionate about my beliefs as I am sure you are as well. God bless you my friend. If you have any private objections you can contact me at andrew32693@yahoo.com."

Thanks. May the Lord bless you as well.

Arminian said...

First, Gordan, let me commend you for being willing to apologise. That was mature.

Gordan said: "Rather, my original point was that it is wrong to simply assume (with no work or research as to considerations like context) that when a word with multiple possible meanings like "life" is used, that it automatically must mean what you want it to mean, when you go to compare it to other places.

That's what I'm saying Ben did. With no contextual support at all, he limits the use of "life" in 5:40 to regeneration, even when other possibilities for the word seem much more naturally plausible. And he does this solely because he does not like how 6:44 deals with regeneration and is looking for a text to blunt it."

**I don't think Ben limits life regeneration at all. You seem to be missing his argumnet. He is saying that regeneration is the beginning of life. Therefore, if life comes by faith (which the Gospel of John clearly teaches), then its beginning also does.

gordan said... "In John 6:44 it is figurative and is an image that Jesus uses to show how it is that one comes to Him in faith. But, I stress, the fact that it is a figure has no bearing on the strength of the action that is indicated, and I think that has been Andrew's point. Dragged vs. enticed. Just because the usage is figurative here, doesn't mean it is not violent."

**Ok, but now you are agreeing with me. Calvinists frequently argue that the word itself means irresistible force. But this simply is not the case. Nor does it mean it is violent. All of this must be established from the context, not from the word used since it is not inherent to the meaning of the word, particularly in its figurative uses.

Now, your response raises some other questions. Calvinists say different things about this, but typically as of late they are at pains to say, against Arminian charges, that God does not force us to believe. But your comments seem to be advocating that God does force us to believe and that this is a violent thing. Is that your position?

Rhett, thank you for adding in your 2 cents, and explaining your position. You have every right to run the blog the way you want. We do not have to agree on it.

God bless!

gordan said...

Arminian,

I have been interacting a little with Ben at his blog, and you are right about what he means when he speaks of faith and its relationship to life.

Of course, we differ on what John has to say about that relationship. Ben has brought up some additional verses from chapter 5, and simply assumed that they teach causality: that faith causes life, or even that it necessarily precedes it. The verses don't say that, though.

On the topic of John 6 again, no I don't believe that God forces us to believe. Or, at least, that's not the way I would state it. Did God force me to be born of flesh? Well, I guess in a sense you could say that, but that's not really how it went down. I don't feel violated over it. Same goes for being born of the Spirit.

In this discussion, I would use words like "violence" quite figuratively, to illustrate the fact that faith in Christ is so radically opposed, so antithetical to the natural state of man, that merely "wooing" is an absurdity. You can't woo a cow to hunt, kill, and eat a sheep, however adept you are at the art of wooing. It's not consistent with the cow's nature. Something would have to be radically, yes even "violently," different about that cow for it to start hunting sheep. You couldn't woo it to do that: you'd have to somehow reach in an, at its foundation, make it somehow anti-cow.