Was John A Presbyterian?

A reading for Thursday, February 6, 2014: John 6:60-71.

Was the writer of John a presbyterian? One of the few things most people that are not presbyterian know about presbyterians is the doctrine of predestination. Other churches and denominations believe in the same doctrine, but it seems presbyterians get most of the credit or the blame for it depending on your perspective.

The disciples said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

Predestination simply means that God chooses. Human beings do not have the capacity to seek God on our own. God chooses to come to us, to reveal God self to us, and to grant us the knowledge of faith. If we believe, it is not something we have chosen or earned on our own. It is a gift of God. Most scholars would argue with me that this is in fact the classic doctrine of predestination, but it's the one that makes the most sense to me.

The problem with predestination often comes when it gets worked out with other doctrines of the church, the doctrine of salvation for example. If God chooses, according to John Calvin, then God must choose to save some from death while others are damned from heaven.  Thus we end up with classic Cavinism over against those that would argue for "free will" or Arminianism.

Or with the relationship of time and eternity. Does God know exactly what will happen at every moment, and choose to direct all human actions and causes? Even the story from John indicates that Jesus knew who would believe and who would not. But again, if that's true that God chooses everything that will happen, then did God choose my illness or the death of someone I love? It's a very difficult teaching and one that has caused many to turn and walk away, just as those that followed Jesus did in the story today from John.

Perhaps though that's taking predestination to a place it doesn't belong.  Jesus simply says to the twelve disciples, “Did I not choose you, the twelve?" and “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”  Perhaps the point is that we rely on God to reveal faith to us and the truth is God has chosen to reveal it to us. It is not for us to decide who is saved and not, or why bad things happen to good people. This is beyond the understanding that God chooses.

I don't know if John was the first presbyterian or if it was Paul who taught some of the same things, but in the end we simply rely on God to choose to reveal faith and grant life. Even if we don't like it, perhaps we have been chosen to stand with Peter who responded to Jesus in this way, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 


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