Does God’s drawing mean that He drags people to Himself?

Does God’s drawing mean that He drags people to Himself?

Does Draw mean Drag? by Cheryl Schatz on The Giving blog

God’s drawing: When does “draw” mean “drag”?

If we are to believe Calvinism, we would have to conclude that God is a “dragger.” Calvinists are quick to point out that in John 6:44 the term “draw” actually means “drag” and this is what God does to His elect who, in their unregenerate state, are both unwilling and unable to respond to Him in faith.

Taking the Biblical test

Let’s have a close look at the word “draw” to see what it actually means.

John 6:44 Does God's drawing mean He drags people to Himself? by Cheryl Schatz

If we look up the Greek term for the biblical usage of the word for “draw” we can see that the primary meaning is to “attract.”  There are other meanings for draw when animals, clothing, judgment and mistreatment are the context. For example, the Greek word can mean to “haul” in a net, or to “stretch” a piece of cloth.  

Haul in a net, stretch a garment

It can also mean to drag a person out for the purpose of punishment, mistreatment or judgment:


Under this category, a person can be dragged because they are unwilling to go for mistreatment, punishment or judgment, and the mover uses something like a sword as a means of compelling the unwilling. An object can also be pulled because the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself.


Do Bible translations use the term “drag” in John 6:44?

Bible translations do not use the term “drag” or “haul” in John 6:44 because the context is the Holy God and that He works by bringing an attraction to Jesus. I would invite you to do what I did and check out to see if you can find a reputable translation that would translate “draw” as “drag.” I couldn’t find a single Bible translation that shows the context of God “dragging.” In fact, the BDAG lexicon makes it clear that the context of John 6:44 is of God Himself with the meaning of “attract” for the purpose of drawing, attracting, a person in the direction of values for inner life.

John 6:44 means attract

Why does Calvinism apply a word meaning forceful dragging to God’s work on the human heart?

There is nothing at all in the context surrounding John 6:44 that represents God’s force so it should be a mystery why Calvinism teaches God must use force on unwilling people to bring them to Christ. That is except for the fact that it is vital for the doctrine of Calvinism which must have a proof text even though the context of John 6:44 does not support the meaning of force.  After all, if a doctrine denies that anyone is capable of being attracted to Jesus, how else do they get to Jesus but to be dragged when they are unwilling and unable to respond? When you have an unbiblical idea, how can the truth be found in it? It is an honorable thing to ask these questions for we are all instructed to be Bereans.

When we allow the Bible to speak for itself, it is clear that God can interpret His own terms.  Look at the very next verse, John 6:45.

John 6:45 (NASB) “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

Notice that God is equating drawing with teaching. God does not connect the term “draw” to an Old Testament passage about God dragging people to Himself. Rather God says that His drawing is spoken of in the prophets as God teaching all. If you are a Calvinist, I would sincerely like to ask you to answer several questions.

1. Can you give me even one translation that renders John 6:44 as “drag”?

2. Can you give me another New Testament example where the term “drag” is used regarding what is done to a man in a good way? (i.e. not an abusive act but a godly usage towards another human.)

3. Why do you think that the clear positive effort of God to attract and teach in the context of John 6:44 is forced into an unnatural meaning by using a term that is only used for humans in the New Testament in the context of abuse or judgment?

4. Why do you tell people that “draw” in John 6:44 means drag? Have you really thought this one through?

18 thoughts on “Does God’s drawing mean that He drags people to Himself?

  1. Another good article/exegesis. Calvinism is deductive, proof texted, eisegesis, wrong paradigm, not based on sound exegesis. God draws, influences, woos, persuades. He does not cause or coerce because He is loving, relational, not deterministic. A wrong view of sovereignty (meticulous control) and free will (compatibilism) is much of the problem with Calvinism. It is also an exegetical fallacy to assume one use of a word with a semantical range of meaning has to mean ‘drag’, as Cheryl points out. All relevant verses show that God’s will can be rejected/resisted, by His sovereign choice (hence evil, hell, suffering, Satan, Fall, etc. cf. Lk. 7:30; Matthew 23:37). The broader context of Jn. 6 also shows there is a conditional, manward element in justification/perseverence (vs TULIP/unconditional).

  2. Cheryl,
    I didn’t realize you had written this yet and so I am sorry for the delay in responding.

    My first question would be does the word used here ever describe a co-operative act?

    Thanks for writing this, I really appreciate you doing this.

  3. Welcome back, Derek! I was sick with the flu this week so didn’t finish the next post but it should be up sometime this coming week.

    Now to your question. Drawing in this context means teaching. Is teaching co-operative? Well, I would say that there are not 2 teachers but there has to be a student who does something with the teaching. That would be where the next verse comes in. God finishes His point that there is a response needed.

    There can be times when God does not want a response. When that happens he puts people to sleep. i.e. He put Abraham into a deep sleep and He made a unilateral covenant without Abraham responding.

    Is this what you are looking for?

  4. Ok, this does confuse me because I have never (even in your article) seen this word used to mean teaching. Attracting, drawing, hauling, dragging,…just never heard teaching. Perhaps you could help me with this.

    Thanks Cheryl and I hope you continue to feel better. 🙂

  5. John 6:45 (NASB95)
    45“It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

    I will be going on in this passage very carefully through the important words and grammar. We need to see the big picture, but we also need to see the minute details that God wants us to see. To understand the passage we need to know what the words mean. That is the presupposition that I come to any passage with. What has God said and why did God say it? I believe that God makes Himself clear if we are willing to learn from what He has already said.

  6. No translator has suggested ‘teaching’. Drag/causation/coercion is not right, but what is wrong with a concept of drawing, persuading, wooing, influencing, etc.? The Holy Spirit does convict and convince, even through teaching, but I do not see how ‘teaching’ is a legit word study here.

  7. Thanks Derek, I am just feeling like my old self now. That made me really behind so I am scrambling to catch up. I have the next post mostly done and it will explain in detail who Jesus to talking to, why He said the things He did, and How He fulfilled God’s prophecy. I think when you read it, it will make a lot of sense.

    I believe that we need to strive hard to see what God has already said in the context rather than adding to the context. The reason is that when we add our own ideas to what God has said, we can really go far off in left field. We don’t need philosophy to answer these questions, just a good nose to stick into the text and keep it there until we understand. That is my two cents anyways. 🙂

  8. godrulz37,
    It is fairly obvious if you follow Jesus’ words through. I won’t explain it here because I have already done that in my next article. I will get it finished as soon as I can. I think it will help to make it clear why Jesus said what He did to the Jews.

  9. Cheryl,
    I know you are going to hit on a lot of this in the next article (which I am anxious to read) but focusing just on the word for draw it does seem strange to read it as teaching. Respectively, it seems as if you are reading into it a bit. I mean no disrespect saying that as you have shown yourself to try hard not to do that. Just what it looks like from my viewpoint.


  10. Derek,
    I don’t mind that you think I am reading into the text. I think that after you read the next article, you will see that I am not. I am only pulling out what is already there. After all when Jesus uses the word “draw” He needs to tell us what He means by it, right? If He explains, then we need to pay attention.

    I am finishing our next newsletter for our ministry that has to go for set up and then printing this coming week so that is my first thing to get off the list and when I am finished, I will get the next article finished as well and post it.

    If anyone is interested in receiving a free online version of our MM Outreach News & Views in the world of religion, we did give one edition for free for evaluation. Just send me an email that you would like a copy and I will put you on our list.

  11. By the way, I always feel flattered whenever people say to me that I pay too much attention to the text. I believe that when it comes to the hard texts, we so often don’t pay enough attention, so I am happy when people see that I do pay attention.

    So I would like to offer a challenge on this text. Read it and meditate on it and keep reading until you can figure out what Jesus exposes is the meaning that He is giving to “draw”. Don’t go to a commentary! Just read God’s for Word for yourself. Read. Meditate. And pray. There is much meat in the text that we just buzz over and don’t stay in long enough to really understand what is being said.

    And then I will post my next article next week and see if it comes close to what you already figured out for yourself.

  12. Your point is well laid out and it is true that some would use this passage to point out that a man has to be “dragged” to God even though this is not the meaning of the passage. Yet it is also easy to go the other direction. The passage does state a very important point, “no one can come” by their own choosing(will), but God must do the drawing. Which means that if God dose not do the drawing, there is nothing in us that will want to come. There is no desire in us to come. So in order for man to have any inclination to want to come to Jesus, it has to come from God first, otherwise, he will not come. So as a man draws water from the pool, so God draws a man from the dark into the light of the glory of the gospel. In the end, salvation is only possible because of His drawing us to Jesus who then gives us his faith by grace through the preaching of the Word of God,

  13. Robert,

    Sorry that your comment got held up without me aware that it was even there. Your comment is up now and I would like to respond.

    It is absolutely true that God must draw a person before they can come to Jesus. However, Jesus has promised that He will draw all men to Himself. There are two important dynamics. The drawing must happen first (because man is unable to draw himself) and the drawing has been promised to all conditioned on Jesus’ death on the cross.

    Your last comment about God giving us faith by grace, I would say that God gives us the opportunity to respond in faith because He reveals Himself to us through the gospel. Faith is never said to be a gift to an unbeliever. But those who do respond in faith do so because of what God has done for them. I do agree that the preaching of the gospel is very important because saving faith cannot come without the gospel.

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