Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Romans 9

Now for the missed Romans class on Tuesday. I can't possibly go through the whole text of Romans 9-11, so what follows are some thoughts on verses of particular interest (at least to me :-). Below give 1) at least a 100 word comment reaction to some of the specifics of my post and 2) at least 2 responses to the comments below. Let's set Tuesday midnight as the deadline.

This is part 1 of three.
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9:2 ... it is a great grief for me and a constant sorrow in my heart [for my Jewish kinsmen who have not believed]...
Romans 9-11 are not an afterthought or a later insertion into the text of Romans (an interpolation). The issue that has been driving Paul's argument is the question of how the Gentiles can be included, accepted by God, without having to enter into God's covenant with Israel?

Or perhaps to put it the other way around, how can Paul take seriously God's relationship with Israel in the Scriptures (remembering there was only the OT as the Scriptures at this time) if, as Paul claims,

1) the Law does not in any way make the Jews right with God and
2) the Jews are justified the same way as the Gentiles, apart from Law?

It seems to throw out the window all the Scriptures and depict God as "divorcing" the wife of His youth for a younger Gentile.

There is also the further question--how can Jesus be the Messiah when the majority of Jews have not believed in him? Since the audience consists of believers, this question seems less at issue, although we can see it poking its way through the text.

So Romans 9-11 addresses God's election of and covenant with ethnic Israel. Someone might see Paul as saying that God has suddenly changed His mind and plans with regard to Israel and the OT Scriptures. What's up with that, Paul?

9:5 ... belonging to whom are the fathers and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, the one who is over all, God, blessed forever, Amen.
This is a highly debated verse. The question is whether it should read:

1. "Christ, ... who is God over all, blessed forever," or
2. "... flesh. The One who is over all, God, be blessed forever."

I personally wonder if Paul intended some ambiguity here, some blurring of Christ into God the Father in the train of thought. In general, however, Paul maintains a fairly sharp distinction between God in reference to God the Father and Christ as Lord. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the word "God" only refers to God the Father.

And it would be unlike Paul to speak of Christ as over all things. Romans 11:36 for example only speaks of God (the Father) when it says that "from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory, forever. Amen." Similarly, after all things are subjected to Christ in the future, then Christ will turn the kingdom over to God (Paul never seems to need to say, "the Father," God always or virtually always refers only to God the Father). He will do this "so that God might be all things in all things" (1 Cor. 15:28). The subjection of all things in the creation to Christ is always ultimately, "to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:11).

So while I would not be surprised if Paul means to blur the two together, I don't think there would be any question in his or the Romans' minds that 9:5 ends up being about God the Father and that therefore, while it perhaps does not capture the entire meaning of the verse, the best translation remains, "... belonging to whom are the fathers and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh. The One who is over all things, God, be blessed forever."

This verse is, however, one of those where an original meaning reading and a theological reading perhaps can legitimately go their separate ways. The Christian reader is allowed, along with most Christians throughout Christian history, to see in this verse a full affirmation of Christ's divinity, even though it is not exactly what Paul himself was thinking.

9:6 And it is not that the word of God has failed, for not all those from Israel are Israel.
A number of interpreters in the Calvinist tradition (Moo might be Lutheran, anyone know?) see Romans 9-11 as primarily being about "the justification of God" (e.g., John Piper, Tom Schreiner). Certainly that subject is in play. But I think the underlying issue is Paul's Gentile oriented gospel. If the question in Romans 9 has to do with whether God is to be blamed, this issue has arisen because of Paul's claim that the Gentiles are in by faith, at the same time that the bulk of the Jews are out.

The Moo/Piper/Schreiner approach thus still reads Romans 9-11 too much like a systematic theology rather than a defense of Paul's understanding of the gospel.

Moo suggests that the true Israel here refers to those ethnic Jews who have believed on Christ. I think he's probably right, with the understanding that believing Gentiles are grafted into that Israel as well. Ethnic Israel thus remains the center point, rather than some completely redefined Israel.

9:19-20 Therefore, you will say to me, "Why will He still find fault?" For who has resisted His will? O mortal, who are you yourself indeed, who are bringing God into judgment? The clay will not say to the potter, will it, "Why have you made me thus?"
This is a classic predestination text, but of course Paul isn't really talking about individuals, although there may very well be implications for individuals. Paul is discussing God's inclusion of the Gentiles and His apparent hardening of most ethnic Jews. Paul's answer to the person who finds this situation problematic is, "Shut up. God can do whatever He wants because He's God." That the Jew-Gentile issue is the real topic appears explicitly in 9:24 and following.

We should remember, however, that the same Jews whom God has currently hardened can still be saved in 11:11. Indeed, Paul indicates that all Israel, including those currently hardened, will be saved around the time of Christ's arrival, the parousia (11:26).

More to come...

90 comments:

jeff said...

Romans 9-11 is desperately needed in Paul's argument. I do feel he is speaking about the nation of Israel rather than individuals though I can certainly understand why some would see it that way. His audience is both Jew and Gentile. In chapter 9, Paul refers to both Abraham (his classic example of the faith argument for inclusion of Gentiles) and Moses, the Lawgiver. I see 9:13 as the only support for this text dealing solely with individuals as it is from a time before the Law. However, the surrounding texts point strongly to the nation of Israel, therefore I lean in that direction.
I find 9:19-20 to be dealing explicitly with the nation of Israel. The key is in verse 19. Paul takes up the imaginary diatribe language again which he first used in Chapter 2 where Paul declares the Jews are guilty like the Gentiles are. This same "you, us, we" language structure of chapter 9 riddles Chapter 2 (which, by the way, no one argues is to the Jew). Paul also uses the potter/clay image reminiscent of Jeremiah (I realize Gentiles would know who Jeremiah is, but with such heavy references as Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah's writings, I lean toward a national Israel reading). The reference to Jeremiah could also be done to recall to the audience a time when it seemed the nation of Israel was doomed, but the judgment and call to repentance resulted in restoration.That's really more than 100 words isn't it?

Ken Schenck said...

Great thoughts... no problem on the more than 100. That way I don't have to debate whether to give you full credit for this comment :-) Thanks, Jeff.

Sharon said...

I agree with Moo's interpretation that when Paul says, "not all those from Israel are Israel" he is distinguishing between ethnic Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Christ and those who do. This interpretation especially makes sense in light of what Paul says in chapter 11 about some of the natural branches being broken off because of unbelief. It also makes sense in light of the more immediate context of verses 7 and 8 in which Paul talks about the actual descendants of Abraham and the children of promise.
It seems that chapters 9-11 really do fit well where they are as long as one looks at the larger context. I used to shy away from these chapters because in my mind I had labeled them "predestination/election" and found them to be troubling and confusing. However reading them now in light of what Paul has been saying all along in Romans, they make a lot more sense (though they are still slightly confusing of course:) ).

Amber Rae said...

Paul does seem to be separating Jews (ethnically) from true Jews (those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah). While God did choose Israel to be his chosen people, does it really mean that the rest of the world can't be included in? I mean it seems that way at times when you read the Bible, yet, God's plan is to include everyone in his plan; both Jews and Gentiles. Yet, through the ages, we Christians have basically disowned the Jewish people in general and in some cases as a whole, and basically said that they are no longer God's chosen people, that they have lost that privilege, that we are now God’s chosen people, the New Israel. Is it right to do that? To say that they no longer belong to God’s chosen people when the promise was originally made to them?

Amber Rae said...

Sharon - predestination can confuse anyone. I mean I'm confused by it. Though, I am pretty easily confused. Especially on days like today. Anyway, when I was growing up I often read Paul through a lens of free will and whenever he mentioned anything about predestination I got confused and skipped the verses. But the more I am learning about Paul and reading his writings in other ways other than for WBB, I realize that he does believe in predestination. Sorry to bring Wesley into this, but he was a hairbreath away from Calvinism, which believes in predestination. Predestination is never a comfortable topic in any setting, unless your denomination believes in it whole heartedly.

Amber Rae said...

Wow. Sorry everyone for that confusing last post. I just couldn't think of how I wanted to say that. Anyway, moving on.

Jeff - I noticed that Paul does indeed like referring to Moses and to Abraham. Especially when it comes to issues of faith. Not only Paul though, other writers in the New Testament refer to these two men of faith. I mean, we look to Abraham and a lot of us assume that he was in a way always Jewish. But he wasn't circumcised until after he received the promises from God. So Paul did make a great point by using Abraham for a reason to include the Gentiles in salvation. I wonder what the Jews thought of this? They probably didn't like it too much.

TimJim777 said...

This is an interesting way to consider the “shift” in how the different teachings of the bible seem to mesh between the two testaments. The “old timers” version of “thou shalt, and shalt not” seems to be rather put to the side as the next hot thing pops up and people just start saying “LOVE!”. The jews must have felt some strong moments of dejection and nowadays we just considers jewish tradition as some other sect. How sad that the start of every thing we now believe is put off to the side and considered so different. Perhaps it would be better for more people to look back to these roots and discover not what we can change but what we can share.

TimJim777 said...

Sharon, i feel that this is something that many people do. just "shying" away from the bible because it might be alternate to what we WANT to believe. i think its great that you can say that and this is something that more people need to come to terms with. being honest with ourselves is incredibly important especially when it involves our spiritual beliefs.

TimJim777 said...

amber, what if perhaps the world is G-d's chosen people? rather than choosing who is the greatest of us all (as Jesus rebuked the disciples for) we should try to act our position as a children of G-d and love all our brothers and sisters.

Sharon said...

Tim, interesting comment about discovering more that we can share with the Jewish faith rather than focusing so much on change. Without getting into the realm of trying to be justified only by keeping the law, I think we could find more traditions and things to celebrate in relation to those Jewish roots. However most people would probably just wonder, "why?" and go on their merry way.

Sharon said...

Jeff, interesting point about 9:13 describing something that took place before the Law...I never thought about that fact. I do agree though that the context points to Israel.

Sharon said...

Tim, interesting comment about discovering more that we can share with the Jewish faith rather than focusing so much on change. Without getting into the realm of trying to be justified only by keeping the law, I think we could find more traditions and things to celebrate in relation to those Jewish roots. However most people would probably just wonder, "why?" and go on their merry way.

jeff said...

In regards to (Amber Rae's post) God's choosing Israel and all that... Yes, God did choose to reveal Himself and enter into a covenant with the people of Israel. Sometimes the question of why Israel comes up, but I like to look at it all historically and remember a few things in regards this issue. 1)The world fell and God no longer "walked in the Garden in the cool of the day" with man (cf. Genesis 3:7). This meant the 'front porch and lemonade' relationship could never be. 2)God instituted sacrifice at the end of Genesis 3, and the world kept falling away. 3)Flood. 'Reset' button and save those who are deemed righteous. 4)Babel...Human beings still defy God and are creating nations. 5)things are a mess. 6)God chooses then to reveal Himself in a special way to one man, Abraham.[Hey, He had to pick somebody, right?] 7)God enters into a permanent deal with this guy [Genesis 15] which will result in a man, then a family, then tribe, then people, then nation devoted to God. A people whose very culture and identity is to be shaped around God. And through these people, God will reveal Himself to the world. This revelation comes to us through God's Word and Jesus Christ. And in this is also Salvation for all who believe.

jeff said...

Tim, you are correct in stating the error (or perhaps even danger) of shying away froma areas we do not want to believe in. And that is one reason why Christianity is not something that can be lived out in a vaccuum. In Christian fellowship and community we grow together. We should be like the "noble Bereans" and search the Scriptures and test the spirits together.
Of course that does not mean we will all agree on every little thing at any one moment in time, but the main objective should ever be to exalt Christ.

Michael said...

I think I would have to go with Moo when talking about verse 6. I believe that Paul is referring to those who are Jewish and have faith in Christ are the true Israel not those who are Israel only by ethnicity. I do believe though we too who have given our lives to Christ are now part of the true Israel. I also believe though the promises made to the Jews are not obsolete but are manifested in Christ and will be if not already accomplished. God makes promises to keep not to break and whatever God says He will do He will do. This in of itself is seen all through the Bible. God never changes and will always remain the same therefore these promise will be fulfilled.

Michael said...

Hey Sharon,
I'm with you I to hate to try and struggle with these verses especially coming out of the Armenian side of things. Yet I think it is good to stretch our minds and try anyways. The one great thing that comes from this is that we see how big God is and the very fact that we can not figure everything out helps us to realize He is God indeed.

Michael said...

Hey Amber,
I think we as Christians do need to reach out to our brother and sister Jews who believe in Christ. I believe they have so much to offer, As well as the Jews who do not believe in Christ. I believe it is our Job to reach out to the Jewish nation who do not believe in Christ and in Christ like love lead them to the cross.

John Miller said...

Predestination really makes me wonder...

Why would God harden some people if he is all loving. I know that I am not spurring any new thought in saying that, but I would like to hear people’s reactions to it.

Personally, I hold that people who are not relieved of God’s wrath are glorifying God in their eternal suffering. One thing we hold to be honorable about God is that he is just. If God did not send any sinners who did not accept Christ to judgment, would he still be just or merely loving? But the suffering of those who deserve punishment testifies to God’s justice. So everyone, in heaven or in hell, will be giving glory to God.

Aside from all that, my most important question is “Does this mean that I actually have to be nice to Calvinists? “

John Miller said...

Tim,
I like the thought. I have never really explored Jewish tradition other than just trying to understand a certain passage of Scripture, certainly nothing that I planned on specifically applying and mixing in (or letting mold) my theology. I guess the challenge from what you said is for all of us to "Find our inner Jew".

John Miller said...

Amber,
I wish the rest of the world was included, but I cannot justify bringing myself to jump head first into that universalistic theology. (It might have something to do with the fact that I dont believe it, I am not sure though). I guess the way I have always dealt with that was by saying, God can do whatever he wants to do, I just need to worry about making myself right. I would like to say that we are the New Israel, but now after studying this I don't think we can say "Out with the old, in with the new!"

Joel Liechty said...

A wonderful aspect of Christianity and theological endeavors is our ability to work with passages we don't like. Of course, this makes us feel all good inside. In fact, I can sleep at night after I explain away a verse or make it fit my own theological imperative. And this works well. I think we allow ourselves as Christians to do this. We just get really mad when we see the paradigms of others wrongly affect their ministry.

Since we find that are paradigm differences are relegated to the realm of debate amongst ourselves, it's not disturbing to have these discussions. The question, perhaps, is how do we address such verses to those outside the church who are critical. Verses like 9:19-20 are fodder upon which the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins thrive on. And even if we are able to intellectually and logically defend a coherent theology, the very fact we have to develop such a theology is ammunition enough. I may never have to respond to the likes of them in person, but in my ministry I will have to address those who have heard their rhetoric. I guess my question for those who wish to respond is this, "How do we deal with the rhetoric of these people?"

Joel Liechty said...

Tim, what an interesting treatment of generational issues. I would imagine, as you seem to allude, that perhaps the Jewish rejection of Christianity was not entirely theological but also a simple reaction to a "new" religion that seemed to throw out the old and bring in the new. And perhaps an application of this today is how can we respond positively to the generation we are following? How can we take the baton and continue the race they have started without alienating them. Of course, this is an age-old question. So I guess that makes you wise to raise it!

Joel Liechty said...

I like a God who finds glory in bringing suffering to others. Sounds very homey and friendly. It's like sitting in front of fire on Christmas with a cup of hot chocolate enjoying the glow of Christmas lights and saying, "How wonderful it is that all the poor homeless people are suffering right now. It's a beautiful picture of justice for the ones who deserve to be there."

It's a beautiful thought. What a wonderful God we serve.

Shea Prisk said...

I must admit that I do enjoy reading Dr. Schenck's comments on just about any passage of Scripture. I have to think that this is largely due to the fact that I have never really dug into the Bible before his classes, so almost immediately I think that anything he says is gold. Perhaps this is a problem, but whatever, Indiana Wesleyan is happy. In this post, I especially appreciated Schenck's thoughts in verse 6. I had never thought that this verse might be alluding even further to a Gentile audience, but after reading it several times, it does seem like a real possibility. Also, it would further allude to the fact that the faith of the Gentiles is something to envied, and that the faith of the Jews is something to be looked down upon. Very good thoughts, I'm glad I have an opportunity to better understand this stuff!

Justin Warner said...

In a verse as contraversal as Romans 9:5 i think i tend to read this with a more theological mindset even though that may not have been what Paul was intending. I think i see Christ's divinity in this verse reading it ""Christ, ... who is God over all, blessed forever." Although i can't help but wonder if Paul unknowingly put the words in this order, because i cannot ignore the fact that the use of God in reference to the Father shows up over a majority of times. Although i do believe Paul may have been intentional showing the divinity in Christ by stating "Christ, ... who is God over all, blessed forever." I would like to see several translations to determine whether Paul is blurring the two together purposefully or if the majority trend continues and he is simply referring to God as the Father.

Shea Prisk said...

Sharon, I like that you brought up Moo's interpretation of that verse. The separation of ethnic Jews who do believe in Christ and those who do not really does make sense. Also, you give some excellent support of this theory through the use of Paul's other writings. Thanks for providing me with some new knowledge.

Justin Warner said...

Joel, i agree that that it is great to work with verses we don't like, although i feel that sometimes the bias we form due to the negative feeling towards those passages may cause a inaccurate exegesis. I would be careful allowing yourself to take a systematic theological idea out of some of these verses. Because with something as debatable as theology you may find a difference of opinion in your church that may cause conflict. But don't get me wrong i am glad you are getting good sleep at night :)

Shea Prisk said...

Joel, I enjoyed the fact that you brought up that our God finds glory in bringing suffering to others. It is a strange concept and something that may seem a little twisted at first, but in the end is for the best! I'm not sure that I totally believe that, but I think that's close to what I'm supposed to believe. But in the end, yes, we do serve a wonderful God.

Justin Warner said...

Shea, although i disagree with your sucking up to Dr. Schenck i do agree with how much of a help it is to see these verses laid out. But rather than just telling us how helpful it was i am curios about your thoughts on Moo in regards to Romans 9:11 is he reading it with too much systematic theology in mind or do you think he is reading with a defense of Paul's understanding to the Gospel. I personally agree with Dr. Schenck but i know that you have found common ground with Moo this semester so i was wondering your thoughts?

Anders said...

i have often struggled with trying to understand paul's discussion of predestination in light of understand God's granting us free will. This helps clarify for me a little bit about what Paul probably meant with the term predestination. I firmly believe that Paul was referring in a more corporate sense to predestination rather than an individual predestination, while that could still be true i have trouble believing that. I would like to know what exactly Schenck means in reference to the jews that God has hardened. Are you suggesting that there are people God has purposely hardened in the sense that he has chosen not to save them?

Anders said...

timjim,

i think you raise a good point about trying to find a common ground that we can share. i don't think paul was ever trying to be divisive in his understanding of the new covenant but trying to understand it as the fulfillment of the expectation of the old and his hope for all people to come to the saving knowledge of that. so you raise a good point.

Anders said...

jeff,

i like your statement about how the reference to jeremiah could be a reference to a time when the jews thought israel was doomed but God was bringing about salvation. maybe that's what Paul is trying to do here is say to the Jews that there salvation is here and israel is not doomed.

AFolz said...

These passages can be difficult to wrestle with for many of us, but in the end looking to what Moo has said on this does shed some light to the discussion. Paul does not seem to be creating or forming a “new Israel” but rather he is redefining what this word and nation will include. I think that you make a very strong and well rounded and balanced point Dr. Schenck, that this “Israel” that Paul is talking about here does include the Gentiles believers that have been grafted into the tree of Israel. As far as the Jews go, it seems as though Paul is referring to the Jews that are believers of Christ. This of course would have been a smaller number of people in comparison to the Orthodox Jews of the time, and thus begins to raise the appropriate questions about what Paul is doing here with the scripture as you have raised. We see that Paul uses a great deal of scripture (Old Testament, which is all they had) as he is going through various points in the letter to the Romans. Yet Paul is, and most of us on the blog would likely agree, understanding and interpreting scripture through the circumstances that he is in, and in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ that he had received to become an Apostle.

AFolz said...

Sharon,
I strongly agree and side with many of the things that you mentioned in your post. Great insights and comments. I also believe that Paul is making a distinction among the ethnic Jews (nation of Israel) and the Jews that believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. I really appreciated how you brought in the comment about how the branches will be broken off that is found in chapter eleven. That was terrific. See you in class tomorrow, keep up the great work!

AFolz said...

Anders,
Great comments and insight! I think that you might be onto something there with the whole idea of it being a corporate predestination rather than an individual one. Too often with our Western American cultural context, we look at such things and automatically assume the individual is being referred to there. I personally tend to think of predestination within the context of how people like C. S. Lewis might think of it, and I often look at it with a middle knowledge point of view. This may not be true or correct to do, but helps my understanding some. We should ask Dr. Schenck what he means exactly in class tomorrow. Great Question!

Kate C said...

I am having a hard time understanding why Paul would intentionally be making an an ambigous statement in verse 5. Did he believe that Christ was God and that the two names could be used interchangeably? Was he scared to admit that Christ as Lord and God the Father are the separate yet the same? How would the audience have reacted to Paul saying explicitly that Jesus is God? I would like to study this verse in the original Greek to try to form a clearer understanding of what Paul meant. The NLT states, "and he is God..." and the NIV seems to be saying the same thing.

Joel Yoshonis said...

I agree with Dr. Schenck on 9:5 in that I wonder as well whether or not Paul intends some sort of ambiguity between Christ and God the Father. It is interesting to think about Trinitarian development at the time of Paul. What is intriguing to me is how Schenck points out that Paul usually develops a clear distinction between God the Father and Christ in his other writings. Blending the two together is not a trend of Paul's. This seems to correlate with Christ's pattern of glorifying the Father in the gospels and not himself. However, either interpretation does not seem to merit any concern for no theological truth seems to be compromised regardless of whether or not Paul was referring explicitly to Christ or the Father.

Joel Yoshonis said...

Sharon,

I agree with Moo's interpretation (for now at least...) as well that Paul is distinguishing between those ethnic Jews who have believed and those who have not. I think the danger here has been the Church's tendency to use verses like this as basis for replacement theology - that God has replaced Israel with the Church and it is thus Israel who is grafted into the Gentile Church rather than Israel being the root and the Gentiles being grafted in, as Paul writes in Rom. 11.

Joel Yoshonis said...

Amber

In response to your question, I think the Church owes the Jewish community a huge apology. To call ourselves - Gentiles - the New Israel apart from the true and ethnic Israel is arrogant and unbiblical. While this does not simply include anyone who claims Jewish ethnicity into the true Israel, I do not believe that Jews were somehow cast out of their role as Israel, superseded by the Church (made up of Gentiles), and now forced to rejoin the "New Israel" with no significance to their ethnicity.

Kati said...

I’ve realized that often when I look at these difficult passages in Scripture I am focused on myself. I wrestle with these passages speaking of predestination in order to determine what they mean for me in my life, but as I continue to mature I can see the error of my ways. I think my first priority in reading Scripture should be to learn more about my Glorious King and draw closer to Him. I believe that through these verses we can learn so much about the character of God. One thing that sticks out to me is the fact that God is sovereign. What a beautiful thought to know that the God of the Universe, my God, has everything under control. Even the things that we don’t understand, He does. God is so good!

Matt Bedwin said...

I have always wondered what exactly it meant that the Jews were God's chosen people, yet they had completely ignored and rejected the Christ. Now, i really have no idea why this is, whether it is predestination as talked about here, or whether it was the hardening of some Israelite's hearts (similar to the hardening of pharoah's heart maybe); but i rather tend to look at the application behind this whole idea of Jews rejecting the Christ. Maybe that is to my detrement because im sure it borders on deductive bible study, but never the less i look at this and think about how as human beings we are prone to reject the very thing that is salvation. I.E. choosing sinning over following God. Now, i realize this isnt the most intellectual post, but thats just what i was thinking as i read this.

Matt Bedwin said...

Joel Y.
I find it very interesting as well to look at passages like 9:5 and see how the writers of the bible as well as the first generation of christians began to have these ideas of "hey, what if the Father and the Son are the same..." Then maybe later, or even before, "What if the son and the spirit are the same." Then going on to think about how the three of them are one in the same... Maybe its just me but i have no idea how the trinitarian concept really developed because it sounds kind of far fetched without some sort of foreknowledge. Interesting, thats all.

Matt Bedwin said...

John, I also wonder why an all loving God would harden anybody's heart. Like what i eluded to in my first comment, with Pharoah's heart being hardened. How could a loving and graceful God do something that would take away the free will of a person? The text doesnt say that Pharoah hardened his own heart, but it says that the Lord hardened his heart... How can that be? Maybe there is no answer to that... Maybe it is as schenck said "Shut up. God can do whatever He wants because He's God."

Bobby Wrigley said...

Something new to bring up that came to my mind as I read verses 1-6 (more specifically verse 6) is God’s plan for humanity. I see a certain train of thought prevalent in the church today that portrays Jesus as God’s plan B for humanity. Plan A – being God’s promise and law given in the old testament – failed to keep Israel faithful to God and free from their sin, so God implemented plan B: Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection.

I think this train of thought is a misunderstanding of God’s plan, for how could God’s plan fail?

I think God’s plan is more to work through a group of people to show his redemption – and this group of people is called Israel. But Israel isn’t closed off. The Scripture says they “will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). I see Jesus fitting right into this narrative.

I may be straying too far from the topic, but this all comes out mainly from the question of “what is the purpose of the law?” I see one of the huge purposes of the law as defining rules, guidelines, and a morality so that Israel can find their identity as a group of people destined and called by God. And Jesus flows right into Israel’s story (this is very apparent with the genealogy in Matt 1, amongst countless other passages.)

Bobby Wrigley said...

Joel Leichty

In response to your comment on the wonderful God we serve: I am a little confused as to whether this is sarcasm or if you are for real about liking a God who finds glory in bringing suffering onto others.

If you are joking, than that is funny.

But if you are not, then that would be my biggest problem with predestination right there.

Bobby Wrigley said...

Joel

I find your comment about the church and Jews today interesting and important. While we do owe them an apology, we must still seek to point them to Christ - this is what Paul sought to do, a Jew himself. How do we do this while respecting their ethnicity and role as the people Israel?

kati said...

Bobby - I think you make such a good point when talking about whether Jesus was plan A or plan B. I also think that it is not good to look at Jesus as a backup plan. He is the point and purpose of it all.

Anonymous said...

John - It is hard to understand God hardening someone's heart, but like you mentioned we must keep in mind that God is just. We defintely can't ignore the verses that talk about such things. I think it comes down to faith; we have to trust that God is perfect and in control. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, so what may seem crazy to us makes sense to Him.

Ken Schenck said...

Anonymous, you raise an essential issue--what do we do when passages conflict with our "spiritual common sense"? This is not a matter of wanting to get out of a passage because we don't like what it says. This is a passage that seems to contradict the central feature of God's character in the New Testament. Jesus does not emphasize or embody the justice of God, even though that teaching is present in his teaching. Jesus emphasizes God's love and mercy, as does the rest of the NT.

So when we have a passage that seems to say that God only loves some, the tension is not created by our unwillingness to hear or obey. It is precisely the fact that we have listened to the bulk of the NT that we wrestle with this exceptional passage.

What are we to do with passages like this?

1. Ultimately, since it is not the main thrust of the NT and does not seem to fit with the general tenor of the NT, we certainly will not make it the central element in our theology. Until we can fit it with the main points, we may even need to quaranteen it from the rest of our theology as a difficult passage.

2. We also recognize that all of the Bible is incarnated truth. No one would be able to understand it otherwise because none of us read it from a vantage point outside our human flesh. That means that we have to get into the flesh of Paul to understand him in his original meaning.

The NT and OT thus say things, not only ethical but theological things, that have to be read against a) the cultural understanding of the day and b) the place of that writing in the flow of revelation. When passages come into serious cognitive dissonance with the heart of deeply spiritual people, as this passage often does, it is our Christian duty to ask ourselves if this might be a passage so enmeshed in a cultural understanding at a point in revelation history that we cannot directly bring it over to today.

This is also a prime candidate for this possibility.

Passages of the Bible do stand in tension with each other. We have no choice but to prioritize, select, and deselect. It's not a dodge. We can do no other.

Joel Stone said...

I find these thoughts on the blurring of (Father) God and Christ (Son) in 9:5 rather interesting. This makes me call into question the idea of the Trinity with how we are so quick to separate the three persons. Even though there are so many references to the three in the scriptures, but if Paul is indeed blurring the lines between the Father and Son, should we not also have a blurred view of them as well, leaving a sort of mystery to the three? Or perhaps this is where the three become one and could Paul be blurring the lines on purpose in order to remind us that God is one God, who should be viewed as one God to emphasize Christ’s deity. These are really just some random thoughts and in no way am I intending to sound like a hieratic.

Joel Stone said...

Joel Yosh.

I agree with your thoughts on the Jewish community. I think we have gone to great lengths to separate ourselves (Christianity as a whole) from the Jews. But just because we follow Christ, does that separate them from being God's chosen people? I know that this is somewhat addressed by Paul, but I don't think that God would just forget His original plan of using the Jews to be a light to the whole world.

Joel Stone said...

Joel L, I believe this to be a very good question when preparing for ministry in the church. How do we deal with those people? I don't know. I guess I share in this question. I am drawn to the "you can't argue with someone who has already made up their mind" argument, but I think is more of a cop out. So how DO we address this issue in our exegesis and defense?

Nate Thompson said...

I’m kind of encouraged by verses 19 and 20 in this text because it is a healthy reminder that regardless of the nature of what God has done, he is still God and who are we to even question his actions? In my mind I am reminded of Dr. Schenck’s comments about living as Arminians even if we believe that God has predestined the inhabitants of the world. So we must live sharing the love and wisdom that God has given us truly fulfilling God’s purpose in shaping us the way we are. In doing so we bring glory and honor to God and I see no greater purpose in life.

Kate C said...

Kati,
thanks for that reminder with your thoughts on predestination. i often have the same struggle, and it is helpful to be reminded that we are merely humans with limited understanding. we need to trust and rely on God's infinite knowledge.

Kate C said...

anders,
that was thought-provoking for me to think that Paul is referring to predestination in a corporate sense rather than an individual sense. sometimes i am so quick to apply things i read personally that i miss out on the intended meaning. thinking of predestination on a corporate level helps me understand why paul wrote this.

Tyler M. said...
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MT McGuire said...

Joel Y, I appreciate your criticism that we often drift towards replacement theology. In my operating, I tend to drift that way. In recognizing God's intention for selecting a people group through which to bless the entire world, I sometimes view Israel as has-beens. I don't think this is a good thing.

MT McGuire said...

These are great questions that I wonder myself. In reading Paul, I wonder how I can retain the significance of Israel in my mind. I think I would probably be asking Paul, “what’s up with that?”
I’m still thinking through this principle that God wanted to bless the world through Israel in light of Romans.
I find it interesting that in the majority of cases, Paul's usage of "God" is referring to God the Father. Does this have any implications for theology?
I am often unsure of how to approach Romans 9. I really appreciated the concept that our mode of operating is still Arminian. Paul doesn’t connect predestination with living. So after all of the debate our mission is still the same.

MT McGuire said...

The distinction between verses intended to address and those intended for individualis a valuable one.

Nate Thompson said...

Mike, thanks for your comment about the connection between the true Israel and the faithfulness of God. I think so often we don't necessarily remember that our adoption into the family of God connects us to the true Israel. He is so faithful and I think remembering this will allow us to gain a greater understanding of how Paul's writings can connect to us.

Nate Thompson said...

John, thank you for sharing your thoughts about predestination. I do have a difficult time as a Arminian understanding how God would harden someone's heart if he is a loving God who wants all to come into a relationship with him. It certainly reminds me that there are certain things that I want to talk to God about when we all get to heaven. It does help remind me however to be thankful for the sacrifice that Jesus made so that I might not suffer God's wrath.

Anthony Livoti said...

Growing up in a traditional theological background, I have heard pretty much everything in regards to predestination. This has always been an interesting topic for me, because after all, it is kind of important to how people view salvation. Seeing how people respond to salvation based on their theological tradition has always been an intriguing study. People in each theological tradition (Calvin, Armenian) can be just plain main about which one is right. But, in my experience, Calvinism seems to be more mean, because it is really easy to say that another person's opinion doesn't really matter; God is sovereign, not them. Regardless, I don't think that Romans 9 is a predestination passage (anymore) =)

Anthony Livoti said...

John Miller -

The argument that predestination offers usually resides in the fact that God is sovereign. This means that he can do whatever he wants (and if you take it far enough, you say that God can do evil, but since it is God who does it, it is no longer evil). Basically, God hardens people for his glory. You see, the argument is that God is indeed loving, but he also doesn't tolerate sin. When a person is "far gone" enough, he just hardens their heart, causes them to hate him. This is so he can show his justice in their punishment.

Yes it seems twisted, but it makes perfect sense if you are in the tradition...

Anthony Livoti said...

Matt Bedwin,

I appreciate your true thoughts as you pondered over this passage. I would just like to say that I agree with you, it seems strange that Isreal wouldn't accept Christ. But look at the History of Israel. They hadn't been doing a great job of accepting the God that was given to them who saved them all the time. They whined like unfed infants whenever things didn't go their way and whored themselves to other gods rather frequently. I mean, they had a pretty rough history. Then, when the religious Jews finally thought they were getting it right, Jesus showed up, throwing everything off. Can you imagine? The Pharisees and sadducees have finally gotten their religion down pretty well, and then Jesus goes and screws it all up.

I wouldn't have accepted him as a religious leader at that time either. In fact, I'd be pretty pissed.

steve.hands said...

I was really hoping to see some "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" explanation going on above. That's one of the sections of this chapter that always bothered me.
The thing that Schenck talks about, that somehow I've always managed to miss, is just how odd it is that the Jewish Messiah didn't end up reaching most of the Jews. It is pretty confusing that the Messiah's main effect was upon the Gentiles. It also is kind of odd that the Messiah totally messed with the Jewish understanding of God's relationship with them. They seemed to rely almost entirely on their understanding of the Law, whereas Jesus pushed them to have faith. I guess it's the whole "stumbling stone" thing.

steve.hands said...

Nate T,

I agree about the comfort that can be found in verses 19 and 20. God is bigger than we can understand. If we could, then we could also put Him in a box. Our God is not limited to what we can see or know about Him. Balance this with the view that God is love and that He acts for the good of all those that believe. With both of these thoughts in mind we can see a mysterious large God that is capable of working for our good because He loves us even when we don't get it.

steve.hands said...

Amber,

I don't think that God's promises ever end. When He made promises to Israel, I do not think that we can say that they somehow all get transferred over to us as the Church. I think some of them do, like when David was promised that his descendants would rule forever; I believe that was fulfilled in Christ. The promise to Abraham that His descendants would be God's people I think still applies to the nation of Israel. We are grafted in, as Paul explains, but Israel retains its status as well. Not all Israel is Israel, but some definitely still is.

iwuadambomb321 said...

I am blown away by the challenge that Paul had to face of somehow working out the transition from the old covenant to the new. I can’t imagine the pressure and fears he must have had (although he was inspired somehow by the Holy Spirit, which probably made things easier). I think this is why these chapters can be so fuzzy and confusing. This was not an easy issue to work through; it’s even hard for us to wrap our minds around how to fit the old into the new when we have both Testaments and 2000 years of church history.

I had a question though…in 9:19-20, Schenck says “Paul isn't really talking about individuals, although there may very well be implications for individuals.” How do we know when there are implications for individuals? What is the filter that we must use to decide if there are implications for individuals?

Also, you say later that the Jews God hardens can still be saved. On what basis are they saved, and what does it mean that “all” of Israel will be saved at Christ’s coming?

iwuadambomb321 said...

Steve, I agree. I had discussions on Calvinism with my Calvinistic pastor back home over Romans 9. He used the words “not by works” to basically say that if faith was from any of our own effort, then our salvation is by works and is not by “Him who calls”.

iwuadambomb321 said...

Dr. Schenck,
I really appreciate your post to Anonymous. That is a really practical way for us, who have limited knowledge and understanding, to still carry on with what we know is true while trying to figure our the difficult passages.

-Derek Trout- said...

Me thinks that verses 17-22ish might be some of Schenck’s “naughty verses” for those of us in the Wesleyan tradition. But what especially catches my attention is verse 18. I don’t think that this sits well the idea of “free will.” How can one have free will if God chooses to harden their heart? And how can God have mercy on those He only wants to have mercy on? Doesn’t God show mercy to all? Isn’t God’s mercy infinite and far reaching? Yes, I certainly think this these might be some naughty verses…

-Derek Trout- said...

Joel Stone - I think there is a mystery about the trinity...the idea that makes the most sense within the whole view of Scripture if the "three in one"
But you are right, there is without a doubt a mystery about the trinity...

Michael Badenhop said...

In response to 9:19-20, I find these verses to be particularly confusing. Even if we conclude that it is speaking of groups, even of Jews and Gentiles, the precedent is still set that God “has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” I do not believe 11:26 is of any great bearing in the argument concerning predestination, for it seems to imply still that God’s chosen people will be saved; it says nothing of their free will playing any role in this salvation. However, it is certainly true that other parts of the Bible uphold human free will within the context of salvation. So what do we do? Perhaps we need to realize that the Bible cannot neatly be broken down in such a matter that either Calvinism or Arminianism becomes the dominant Biblical view… perhaps we would be better off to let the text remain in tension, to go ahead and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe our ability to understand is exceeded by God’s understanding. Maybe God both chooses and allows us free will; perhaps both predestination and free will may coexist. It’s a stretch for the human mind, but I think the tension is non-existent in the Divine Understanding of God. What I’m trying to say is this: we have here in Romans and elsewhere in scripture a divine mystery, which perhaps we may be better served simply to accept as mystery instead of attempting to resolve that which we cannot resolve. Embrace the paradox, and know that you have been chosen and that you still have some sort of free will.

JBrehm said...

The two points: 1) the Law does not in any way make the Jews right with God and 2) the Jews are justified the same way as the Gentiles are correct. This has been Paul's argument throughout all of both books we read this semester. These are two arguments that Paul is consistent about within his letters. He is completely shutting down the Jewish notion that they are better than the Gentiles. When he gets to the 'transformed mind' part later, he is stating how the Jews should be thinking towards the Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles are the same to God, period.

Michael Badenhop said...

Bobby-

Thanks for your thoughts; I never really thought about it before, but it really does seem as if there are many who think Jesus was God’s second plan, almost as if He were a sort of backup option…but if that were the case, then we would deny from the very beginning any necessity for Christ in the Godhead. I’m not sure where the church stands on this issue, but was it part of God’s plan to come into the world since the beginning, since even before Adam and Eve sinned? I guess I can’t really answer that, but I think the incarnation has always been not only part of the plan, but the central part of it! So thanks for pointing out that idea, Bobby. It may be one we will have to address as we lead and guide God’s people as pastors.

Michael Badenhop said...

Jeremy- I think I agree with you for the most part, as far as salvation goes the Jews and the Gentiles are in the same boat: they need Jesus. But I can’t help but think that maybe there is some differentiation between Jews and Gentiles in the mind of God. Though they have been hardened, somehow God still plans to bring them back, so that all of Israel is saved… of course this could just be speaking of Israel in redefined terms, so I don’t know if that is best argument. However, it just seems as if God still has a plan for Israel, as if it has a special plan for Israel, as if it possesses some special place in His heart. So I think as far as salvation is concerned, you are absolutely right, but I think that perhaps Romans might seem to suggest there is some differentiation between the two in the mind of God.

Scrammy said...

So basically Paul is saying in Romans 9 that he longs for his Jewish people to become Christians. What was up with the Law then? Does this mean God does not honor His covenants? How can the Gentiles be allowed into God's Kingdom? Paul's answer is “who are you to ask those questions? God can do whatever He wishes”.
Paul quotes Hosea to show Gentiles were meant to come into the Kingdom. Is this a new thought? Is there any rabbinical commentary on this? It would not be the first time Paul creates a new train of thought in light of the work of Christ. However, there are plenty of times Jewish tradition leads right up into the New Covenant and its effects.

joel larison said...

It is an interesting task for me to attempt to read Romans 9-11 in more of an immediate context of Jewish/Gentile relations instead of a systematic theology. It makes perfect sense to me in Moo's interpretation of Paul believing that real Israel is ethnic Israel that believes that Jesus is Lord because of Paul's allusion to Isaac being a child of promise to Abraham. Before this class I had a hard time trying to reconcile certain passages that seem to have Paul still "working out" his theology, but I can now clearly see him trying to desperately explain how both Jews and Gentiles fit into God's plan for reconciliation. There is a certain mystery to predestination and I completely think that modern Calvinists like Piper have a much firm grip on the theology of Calvinism than Paul did. Christians need to not ignore tough passages like this but embrace them trying to find God's character instead of trying to find a systematic theology that fits in it.

joel larison said...

Scrammy, I don't think a Christian has to logically see God abandoning his covenants. I have no problem with all of Israel being saved through Christ in the end. They might not recognize it now, but Piper's interpretation is that they will all enter heaven through Christ. Is this heresy?

joel larison said...

Joel Y,

I completely agree with your comment that replacement theology is dangerous and uncalled for. It is quite presumptuous for the Church to assume as well.

Scrammy said...

Derek,

They are obviously naughty.

I really agree with Schenck in that whether it was the people themselves, God or both, the way you talk about it in a first century context is to attribute it to God and show how He is working all things out.

Scrammy said...

Amber,

I like what you are getting at. How often I wonder do I read scripture and twist it to suit me in small ways like, "aw the Jews won't all be saved. They have to believe like the rest of us. They just got to be part of the story"

But that is just my evangelicalism coming through I think... I've never even wrestled with that question so thanks for bringing it up!

Ray3 said...

In line with Moo’s position, in verse six. It is not that the word of God has taken no effect: Paul thinks of someone looking at Israel and saying, "God's word didn't come through for them. He didn't fulfill His promise for them because they missed their Messiah and now seem cursed. How do I know that He will come through for me?" Paul answers the question by asserting that it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel: One meaning of the name Israel is "governed by God." Paul says here that not all Israel is really "governed by God." Did God's word fail? No; instead, they are not all governed by God who are of Israel. Paul tells us that no one is truly Israel unless he is governed by God. We have a parallel situation with the word 'Christian.' Not everyone who is called a Christian is truly a follower of Christ.

Ray3 said...

In regards to Michael’s Post, you are right in saying that “God never changes and He will always remain the same, therefore these promises will be fulfilled.” It is we that is changing, that is hopefully changing for the better. Since we have a limited capacity to see and understand all the glorious wonders and to know the ultimate wisdom of God. We point the finger back at God, and say God’s word has failed.

Andy said...

I'm definitely with moo on the true Israel being those Jews who have put their faith in Christ. I believe we have to come to this conclusion here because Paul is definitely making a distinction between True Israel and "False Israel." Throughout history People have been grafted into the Jewish faith. From the very beginning Gentiles could enter the Jewish faith and become Jewish. God has had a covenant with Israel from the time of Abraham but I do not see this covenant as automatically saving all Jews. I believe that it all comes down to faith in the end. Being Jewish by faith or ethnicity does not brring one into the kingdom of God. The only way to do that is through faith. Just as is seen in Hebrews, people of the Old Testament were justified through their faith, not by their "Jewishness" or even through the sacrifices. "The blood og bulls does not cover sins." The sacrificial cultus was for us. It cleared our conscience and let us know that we are right with God.
So who is the real Israel? It is those who put their fith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, and Lord of all. Be they Jew or Gentile, those who believe are now the new Israel.

Andy said...

Michael, I am totally with you on the letting the text be in a bit of tension. There is not a clear answer on Calvinism/Arminianism and personally I like that. God Does not deal in those terms, we do. There are beautiful parts of both systems and I believe that they work best when combined. We don't have the answers...God does.

Andy said...

Steve I'm with you that it miffs me a bit that so many Jews just missed it. I can see how they thought he was going to be a political messiah instead of a more spiritual Kingdom of God kind of messiah. But we do have to remember that Israel had always been after a king. They asked for one in Samuel and They saw what a king really stood for. God offered a different way and so many missed it. It's tragic but true. I know God has a plan for them however.

Ray3 said...

In response to iwuadambomb321 , I too share your perspective on the great challenges that Paul faced when confronting the Jews with the gospel. I can’t imagine any other person better qualified than Paul, to take on such a formidable challenge. Remember he was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, with great zeal. God uses people with the “Right Stuff” in order to fulfill his purpose. In this case, He chose Paul for his impeccable credentials in Jewish history and law. Paul had the expertise of his past, in order to convey the thoughts of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews. To him it wasn’t fuzzy or confusing, but yet, we do not have the 1st century mind set of that era to heart.

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