John, the Predestinarian

When I find myself in a discussion with someone concerning what the biblical doctrine of predestination really means, inevitably somewhere in the conversation he or she will say something like, “But what about John 3:16?”

Of course, I see no conflict between John 3:16 and Ephesians 1:5. Neither do I see a contradiction between the expressed love of God for the world and the free offer of the gospel which is so preciously conveyed in John and the mysterious and yet affirming love for the elect before time which Ephesians or Romans clearly celebrate.

I find it interesting, though, to read this comment by the British New Testament Scholar C. K. Barrett who, as far as I know, has no bone to chew in this argument. Barrett, whose students included J. Dunn and N. T. Wright, among others, sees that this passage, and especially the verses immediately following John 3:16, is in its very tone and direction predestinarian:

“In v.19-21 the predestinarian teaching of this gospel comes clearly to light. Men are divided into two classes, those who do evil and those who do the truth. The former inevitably reject Christ and are rejected; the latter as inevitably accept him.” (The Gospel According to St. John, page 182)

Barrett’s expression of what predestination means as he goes on is not as clear as I would want it to be. I share here what I do just because I find it ironic that the very passage appealed to to reject predestination is said to have a predestinarian foundation and to reside in a gospel whose very nature is predestinarian.

It’s ironic, that’s all.

It should come as no surprise that a guy who names his blog ‘Somber and Dull’ finds delight in irony. It makes me smile.