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"God's Purpose According to Election"
Paul's Argument in Romans 9
The doctrine of predestination has fallen on hard times. Not that it was ever very popular. Given today's theological climate, most Christians probably think that predestination-to the extent that they think about it at all-is an abstract, philosophical notion invented by a few cranks in the past. (1) In reality, though, most of the famous adherents of the biblical doctrine of predestination, besides not being cranks, held to this belief because they were convinced that the Bible clearly teaches it. (2) If you have a current subscription or current on-line account please log-in here to read the rest of this article.
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] Some New Testament scholars are content to charge predestination with being "abstract" or "philosophical," as though this disqualifies it from being true. For example, Johannes Munck, writes: "It is clear that this passage [Romans 9:22-24] does not put forward a philosophical doctrine of predestination. As elsewhere in the New Testament, God is portrayed too 'anthropomorphically' to make possible a view of predestination with an abstract concept of the deity as its subject." Christ and Israel: An Interpretation of Romans 9-11
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 70; emphasis added. Likewise N. T. Wright says: "In some older treatments, it [Romans 9-11] was regarded as a doctrinal section dealing with the abstract doctrine of predestination; but this would find few advocates today." The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 232; emphasis added.
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] See, for example, John Calvin, Institutes
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] In the Old Testament we read: "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Prov. 16:9; cf. 16:1, 19:21, 20:24; Gen. 45:5, 7, 50:20).
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] Ephesians 2:8-9 is particularly clear (in Greek if not in translation) that grace, faith, and salvation all originate as a gift from God. See also the remarkable statement in the Old Testament that the sons of Eli did not heed their father's rebuke and repent of their sins, "because it was the Lord's pleasure to put them to death" (1 Sam. 2:25; cf. Josh. 11:20).
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] One author says that the history of interpretation of Romans 9 is nothing but "the history of attempts to escape this clear observation [of double predestination]." G. Maier quoted by John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 39.
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] Augustine of Hippo, translated and edited by Paula Fredriksen Landes, Augustine on Romans
(Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982), 30-33.
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] For instance, see Pelagius' comments on Romans 9:12: "'Not because of works, but because of the one who calls, was it said, "The elder shall serve the younger." God's foreknowledge does [not] prejudge the sinner, if he is willing to repent" (Translated by Theodore de Bruyn, Pelagius's Commentary on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans
[Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993], 117).
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] Augustine, ad Simplicianum
2.5; J. H. S. Burleigh, translation, Augustine: Earlier Writings
(LCC; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 389-90. Emphasis added.
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] This is frequently done in our literature, since Rom. 9:30-33 belongs more with the material in Romans 10.
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] See, for instance, N. T. Wright, Climax of the Covenant
, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 234-35.
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] The theology of Paul's opponents is a vexing question in New Testament scholarship. However, that Jews sometimes presumed on their connection with Abraham is evident from Matt. 3:9 (parallel Luke 3:8), John 8:33-40, and Rom. 2:17-24. Compare Luke 13:16, 19:9; Rom. 4:1, 12; and Gal. 3:7.
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] It is fair to say "salvation," as this is the great theme of Romans 9-11. The words that refer to salvation or deliverance occur more often in chapters 9-11 than elsewhere in Romans. Specifically, these words are the noun, soteria ("salvation"), and verbs, sozo ("I save") and rhuomai ("I deliver"); the places are: Rom. 9:27, 10:1, 9, 10, 13, 11:11, 14, and 26 (twice). The other places where these words occur in Romans are 1:16, 5:9, 10, 7:24, 8:24, 13:11, and 15:31.
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] See the recent critique of these two interpretations of Romans 9 by Thomas R. Schreiner, "Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election unto Salvation," in The Grace of God, The Bondage of the Will: Biblical and Practical Perspectives on Calvinism
, Vol. 1 (T. Schreiner and B. Ware, eds. [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995], 89-106).
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] Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 125.
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] Eduard Norden in his classic work on ancient Greek and Latin prose literature says, "The diatribe is none other than a converted [Platonic] dialogue in the form of a [school] declamation." E. Norden, Die Antike Kunstprosa
, 2d ed., vol. 1 (Leipzig and Berlin: B. G. Teubner, 1909), 129.
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] Calvinism does not deny human "natural liberty"; however this is not a factor at the ultimate level of God's free choice. No passage of Scripture either explicitly or implicitly teaches that the human will exists with the ability to withstand God's own purposes or to direct his actions. I invite you to search for yourself. Instead, you find just the opposite as in our passage: "You will say to me, then, why does [God] still find fault? Who can resist his will?" (Rom. 9:19). The word translated "resist" in Rom. 9:19 is the opposite of "submit" (so James 4:7) and synonymous with "oppose" or "contradict" (Luke 21:15; cf. Rom. 10:21).
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Issue: "Predestination and the Freedom of God" Nov./Dec. 1998 Vol. 7 No. 6 Page number(s): 5-9
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