Well, as you probably know if you've read Robin's blog, we spent a good part of yesterday debating theology in Folsom. TULIP was the hot topic of the day, as it often is around there (at least when we are there to defend it). In the end, I was debating with one knowledgeable former hyper-Calvinist, arguing with one young self-proclaimed Armenian and conversing with one who didn't know what Calvinism or Arminianism were. Added into the mix were a few casual commenters/translators and my dear sister Robin, the only one consistantly on my side. It made for an interesting conversation.
The afore-mentioned former hyper-Calvinist (also known as Elijah) had a response to Romans 9, which as you know, is the Calvinist's best friend. I had not the presence of mind to read the context, weigh the merits and demerits of his argument, and come up with a response. So, I found a different passage that made my point just as well and avoided Romans 9 for the rest of the conversation. Now this, I know, is not the proper way to debate theology. Accordingly, this morning I read Romans 8 and 9 (having read the first few chapters of Romans last night on the way home) and shall try to remedy my lack of astuteness yesterday by a belated defense of the right way to read Romans 9.
First I'll post Romans 9, then I'll give an overview of the opposing argument, then all the reasons that I'm right and he's wrong :-D
1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen
according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
25 As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." 26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God." 27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:"Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth." 29 And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Now for the opposing view:
Basically, the overall theme of Romans is an argument for the status of Gentile Christians, and that chapter 9 is speaking of the physical election of the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be the forefathers of Christ. I think that the basis for this conclusion is vv. 1-4 where Paul is declaring that he wishes that he could exchange his salvation for that of his fellow Israelites and v. 5 "of whom, are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came..." and the assumption is that the rest of the chapter follows the same physical/national concept. Also vv. 7 and 8 "they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.'
That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed."is refering to the exclusion of the other lines of Abraham (Ishmal, Esau, Midiam etc.) in the ancestry of Christ.
In accord with this theme, the famous "Jacob have I love and Esau have I hated" passage should be equitated with when Jesus told his disciples that if they did not hate their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters they where not worthy to be his disciples he did meant that given a choice between them and him they must choose him, thus "hating" them. In the same way, God did not "hate" Esau except that he did not choose him to be the ancestor of Jesus. Thus the choosing was purely physical and had no spiritual significance.
I think that, in contrast to the chapter being about the physical line of Christ, it is carrying on the common theme of the physical line of Abraham vs. the spiritual line. I see the first five verses to mean basically this: "I with that I could trade my salvation for the salvation of Israel," and than he goes off to tell us some of the wonderful things about them: They where given the law, the covenant, and are the physical family of Christ. In v. 6, however, Paul hastens to assure us that the covenant with Israel was not broken, because the Church is really Israel. vv. 6-8 say : "But it is not that the word of God has taken not effect, for they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.'
That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed." This seems to me to be much the same language that Paul used in chapter 4:13, 16. " For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. ... not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" and Gal 1:7 "Therefore know that only those that are of faith are sons of Abraham."
v.11-15 (...the children not having yet been born, nor having done anything good or evil, that the purpose of God might stand, not of works, but of him who calls), it was said to [Rebecca], "the elder shall serve the younger" as it is written: " Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." What shall we say than, is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For he says to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (v. 12-15) I don't see what God choosing Jacob over Esau merely to be the line of Christ has to do with having mercy or compassion, nor do I see that it would leave God open to the charge of unrightiouness. In Romans Paul often makes a controversial statement, poses the natural objection, than ends by declaring the objection invalid. For example, he does it three times in chapter 3:1-5: "What advantage than has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them where commited the oracles of God.
For what if some did not believe? Will their unbeleaf make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Let God be true and every man a liar...But if our unrightiousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath?... Certainly not!"
I think the logical, autonomous, conclusion to all of these statements is just what Paul anticipates it will be: "God isn't fair!" But I still say we should define our idea of justice by the character of God, not the other way around. And I think that if one's view of these scriptures makes these rhetorical questions and answers pointless it would make me seriously question the view.
I'll not quote vv. 16-20 again, because they fall under what I just said.
For the benefit of my self-proclaimed Arminian friend (otherwise known as Christian) Please refer to vv. 21-24; "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"
The question raised was this: How God could "force" someone to become a Christian, or not "not let them" become one if they want to?
Here is the answer: Everyone gets what they want. The Bible is replete with evidence that fallen man wants to sin. God has issued a call to all men which he hears (see Romans 1) but since he is seperated from God, he doesn't want it. And without God interviening and giving him the gift of regeneration, he will die in his sin and pay it's penelty. The wadges of sin is death.
On the other hand, we, being Christians, love God because he first loved us, (1John 4:19). When we were dead in our trespasses and sin, God regenerated us and made us alive in Christ. It is God who works in us both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Philipians 2:13). God gives us the desire and the ability to choose him. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snath them out of My hand" John 10:27-28.
In a similar way, once we are saved, we don't complain that God gives us the ability and desire to be holy as He is holy. We want to be holy because we are His children.
The doctrine of election is not about justice, "Is God just for choosing this one and not that one?" but about mercy. What is justice? Not an equal chance for all, but hell for all. God would be perfectly just in sending every single person to hell, in saving everyone, or in saving some and not others that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessles of mercy (Rom. 9:23). In short, whatever He does is just, reguardless of how it lines up with our ideas of justice.
Chosen is used 21 times in the New Testament, elect or election is used 23 times, predestined 4 times, and foreknew twice. However you cut it, the doctrine is there. We might see it differently, but it is undeniable that there has to be something to it.
I am at something of a disadvantage today in that all my short cut all-the-verses-on-predestination-in-one-place books are at home and I'm in McComb. So I'll defer the rest of my explaination until I have them once more about me and I can give a better apology for faith being a gift.
Much of scripture is a paradox, and I'll be the first to admit it. And many things come down to my rather over-used metaphor about the elephant and the blind men. God is infinitely and unspeakably above our comprehension. Proverbs 25:2 says: "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." Kings and all the rest of us.
Perhaps in the endeavor to search out the nature of God we will all end up with a little bit more of an idea of how great he really is.