Theological Conference 5 – The Misapplication of Romans 9 to Predestinarian Views

Click here to listen to The Misapplication of Romans 9 to Predestinarian Views as presented by Ray Faircloth, Apr 28th 2008, Atlanta Georgia. Commentary by John Obelenus

On the extreme Calvinistic side there are particular individuals who from “before the foundation of the world” are chosen to be ’saved’, and ‘damned’ by God. The complete and utter lack of free will. Ray explains that this paper is derived from the fact that Romans 9 is often used to support these ideas, when in fact this chapter does not uphold this idea whatsoever.
JAT Robinson: “But we must not press Paul’s analogies, here or elsewhere. He has brought it in for one purpose only to show that God has absolute freedom over his creatures: He is not concerned at this point to find one which will safeguard their freedom”. “To press” means to find all the answers in one analogy. Rather than finding one (or two) answers in one analogy, and then having multiple analogies.

Ray asserts that Romans 9-11, on the whole, is not about the choosing of individuals, but rather people groups, nations, to further his (God’s) purposes. Chiefly, Israel, and the Gentile inclusion to Israel.

Paul upholds God’s justice, his correctness, in rejection of Israel, as a result of their rejection of God’s Messiah, precisely because God has improved the status of Gentiles, some of Israel does in fact believe, and the future chance for Israel to repent.

Ray finds three illustrations in this section. The first is about Isaac and Jacob. Two groups are formed from different seeds, “the children of the flesh”, and “the children of the promise”. Next, from one seed, Jacob is chosen, not Esau before either were born. These two stories prove that God’s sovereignty can be seen in many ways that might be obvious, or not. As we continue on to v16, we do not find that God compels men to believe. Rather in v16, the will of man and the will of God are both involved. “Yet predestinarians commit the fallacy of the False Dilemma when they decide that something that depends either initially or ultimately on God means that it can depend only of God. The fact that the man wills show he has his part to play and therefore displays freewill.”

The second illustration is that God uses his enemies to accomplish his purposes, specifically the case of Pharaoh. He also reminds us that Moses acts as the representative of God’s people, and Pharaoh as the representative of God’s enemies. Often times predestinarians will say that Pharaoh had no free will God hardened his heart. In fact the Scriptures say that both Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and God participated as well. (v18, Ex 4.21, 8.15, 1 Sam 6.6 – where the Egyptian nation is included). “Interestingly the main Hebrew word used concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by God is ‘chazaq’ which means ‘to strengthen or give courage’. So God’s part was that of emboldening Pharaoh to do what he was stubbornly determined to do even in the face of the devastating plagues on Egypt.”

The third illustration is about the potter and vessels from Rom 9.20-21. This illustration comes from Jeremiah where God has determined to judge Israel for not being what he intended them to be. This makes the opposite point which the predestination intends to make! And is Israel repents, God will not judge. Again talking about a nation, not individuals. Morever, this is not a permanent decision. Israel was not a vessel of wrath initially, but is now – yet can repent and escape wrath. CK Barret: “It appears that the designation ‘vessels of wrath’ and ‘vessels of mercy’ is not irreversible… that he is also thinking (as Hosea did) of the temporary lapse of Israel and their subsequent return, that is, of the possibility that ‘vessels of wrath’ might become ‘vessels of mercy’.

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