Thursday, November 27, 2008

Romans 11

Final installment in the Romans make-up. Same old, same old--100 word comment response then at least 2 further comments on the comments of others, done by Tuesday night midnight. Outsiders also welcome to participate.

The three posts are:

Romans 9
Romans 10

and this one:
_________
11:1 Therefore, I say, has God abandoned His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, from the seed of Abraham, [from] the tribe of Benjamin. God has not abandoned His people whom He foreknew...
The mention of foreknowledge hearkens back to the predestination discussion of chapters 8 and 9. Not all from Israel are Israel (9:6). The verses that follow draw on the image of a remnant in the middle of a broader Israel not following Him. This remnant exists "according to the election of grace" (11:5).

The verses from here through 11:10 are similar to Romans 9, hard verses. Election has gone into effect and the rest were hardened, even though Israel was seeking (11:7). The individual implications of election in this passage are logically hard to escape, even if they are not the focus of Paul's comment, for he is distinguishing between those in Israel who are the elect remnant and those in Israel whom God has hardened.

Like I said in a previous post, however, Paul's theology of predeterminism here does not connect to his ethics or missiology. The language functions as after the fact language--we know these are elect and these aren't because, look, these believe and these don't. Further, predeterminism is perhaps a better word than predestination, for Paul goes on to see hope for the future salvation of the hardened. Indeed, they seem predestined if anything for eventual salvation.

11:11-12 Therefore, I say, have they stumbled so that they fall? God forbid! But by their transgression, salvation [has come] to the Gentiles so that they become jealous. And if their transgression is wealth for the world and their loss is wealth for the Gentiles, how much more will their fullness [be]!
The logic here is so strange that it makes us wonder if there is some cultural element to the progress of Paul's thought or if the words just don't quite mean what they seem to be saying. The superficial sense seems to be that God has hardened Israel for the Gentiles to come in. Then Israel will become jealous and will accept Jesus as Messiah. This is scarcely predestination in the Calvinist sense. It does seem to be after-the-fact predeterminism. Whatever happens is God's will and this has happened.

11:13-14 And I speak to you Gentiles. Since I myself am apostle of the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry if somehow I might make my flesh jealous and might save some of them.
This verse makes that point quite clear. If it is all a matter of God's election, then why does Paul seem to put such a high urgency on his efforts and on the possibility that some might become jealous as a result of his ministry? He does not operate as if it is all a matter of God's choosing without any human choice involved.

Of course then we remember the Oedipus cycle from Greek mythology. Perhaps it helps us catch a better glimpse of fate in the ancient world. All the key players of this story fight their fate in the story. King Laius and Oedipus both fight their fate, Laius to be killed by his son and Oedipus to kill his father and marry his mother. Yet precisely in their attempt to avoid their fates, they both find themselves fulfilling it.

So ancient fate did allow for significant wiggle room on the way to its fulfillment. Even the Stoics believed one could resist one's fate, although it was pointless. Whether or not this background is of relevance for understanding Paul's language of predestination, I am not sure.

By the way, I see Romans predominantly written to Gentiles, especially since I am currently inclined to see Romans 16 as a letter recommendation meant for Ephesus. I strongly suspect that the current majority position, which sees Romans written to a mixed Jewish and Gentile audience, draws the Jewish part primarily from the data of Romans 16. The earlier chapters do not, in my opinion, point in that direction (Rom. 2:17 does not address the audience but Paul's imaginary interlocutor).

11:17-24
These verses emphasize my points above that Paul's predeterminism language simply does not function in a Calvinistic way. So 11:20 tells the audience not to boast because they are in--they should rather be afraid, lest God remove them, thus in consequence of their action. Similarly, in 11:23 Paul says that if Israel does not persist in its unbelief, "God is able to graft them in again." This is not predestination. This is God responding to human action.

11:25 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you are not arrogant in yourselves. A hardness has come from part of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in and, therefore, all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

"The rescuer will come out of Zion. He will turn ungodliness from Israel. And this [is the] covenant from me when I take away their sins."

According to the gospel, [they are] enemies because of you, but according to election, [they are] beloved because of the fathers, for the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance... God has imprisoned all people for disobedience that He might have mercy on all.
So Paul seems to say that all Israel will accept Jesus as Messiah around the time that the Messiah returns. God's calling of Israel as His people is not something He can abandon.

These words sound a great deal like universalism, that everyone will be saved in the end. But this idea hardly seems to fit with the bulk of Paul's writing and mission. We should thus be careful about basing any of our theology on 11:32. To do so inevitably results in taking a very unclear verse and using it to skew countless clear ones.

11:33-36
This is a lovely doxology to end the first half of Romans. Interestingly, Paul uses Isaiah 40 here to speak of the unknowability of God, while in 1 Cor. 2:16 he used it to speak of how Christians know the mind of God. It highlights the situational nature of Paul's argumentation.

If we were to ask which use more centrally represents Paul's thought, we should probably pick Romans 11's use. In 1 Cor. 2, Paul is dealing with people who think they are hot stuff in the knowledge department. Paul points out that truly spiritual people (which did not include them) do have the mind of Christ.

78 comments:

Amber Rae said...

Oh hey, guess what, I'm the first one again. Does that mean I have no life, probably.

So I have a question in general, what are ethics in general? Are they a way to act or work or what? Anyway, moving on. When it comes to predestination again, and God responding to human actions, they seem at times in conflict with one another. Yet, when you think about it, it all starts with God, God initiates it all. And we, as human beings have the choice on how we respond to what he has done. Do we ignore what he has done, or do we accept it? How we respond to that determines how God responds to our actions. But God knows how we will respond, but still gives us a chance to respond. I guess that's what's being said here. Not too sure though. I got lost in my own train of thought.

Sharon said...

This term "predeterminism" does seem to make more sense in the context of what Paul is saying here. I never noticed how often Paul mentions in some way or another this idea that future salvation is still very much a possibility for those who did not originally believe. Just because some were hardened for a time does not necessarily mean they are forever hardened. I also see that very fine line between this and universalism.
In regards to verse 32, I wonder if Paul uses the term "all" to specifically mean "Jews and Gentiles". Is that obvious in the text or is it something we really can't know for sure and is not worth speculating about too much?

TeeJ said...

The debate over elect and otherwise is one that seemingly will just continue going on. Yet there is something interesting about this part because Paul says he is trying to save the gentiles as well. And now this can be taken to either side I feel that the big purpose gets lost in the argumentation. The point is that we are all called to speak to the lost and try and guide them to Christ. For if we dont then our lives were a waste and we are nothing more than pounds of flesh gratifying ourselves. Without G-d what do we have?

Michael said...

Predestination is a hard subject to deal with especially coming from an Armenian point of view my whole life. It does seem in this passage there is some kind of predestination. What that really in tells is hard to determine. I do not think it means that God picks and chooses where each person’s final destination in death will be. Yet I do wonder if there are some that God does predestine in a good way to follow Him for the furthering of His kingdom. Like some may have a special calling or job God has for them. Nevertheless I still lean heavily toward an Armenian point of few. I feel if we take the Bible as the whole and along with the characteristics of God, I feel it is very hard to try and say that called predestines us in a Calvinist way.

Michael said...

Hey Amber,
I think you’re right that when it comes to predestination and God responding to us there seems to be a conflict, yet I really do not think there is. When we begin to think about God and the very fact He knows all and He knows all because to Him everything has happen. Like the saying, God knows because it happens, can help us grasp the very fact that when God speaks it will sound like He has predestined something yet really it is what happens it just has not happened for us.

Michael said...

Hey Sharon,
I think when a persons heart is harden it really comes down to the fact that God knows at this very moment we would not be willing to except Him so in the same instance God is not giving us light therefore with no light are hearts are harden. Or it could be explain like this yet it is a little difference in thinking on how some hearts are harden and others are not. It is like the sun when it beats down on two different objects. One being mud the other butter. When the sun beats down on mud it hardens but on the other hand when it beats down on butter it softens. Same light just two different objects. Same light from God just different hearts.

John Miller said...

On the Jews being Jealous and then accepting Christ, would this be an example of Paul giving a reason for works? It seems as if Paul, who has preached justification by faith, is saying that Israel would see the Gentiles' faith in action and become envious. Then Paul goes on to say that he hopes his ministry causes some to be saved. I know that Paul does not discount the necessity for living righteously (Rom 6) but it is kind of funny to think of it as if the unbelieving Jews are lead to salvation through our works, the same works that are just a result of our salvation.

jeff said...

There is no way to resolve this in a 100 word post!
Anyway, this chapter does seem to get a bit quirky, but I believe we must view it as a larger part of the whole. I do acknowledge there is the 'predeterminism' type of language here, but there is also response or 'free will' language here (i.e. verse 4 with God reserving these guys - guys who do not bend knee to baal, etc). The question I would ask is 'why is that language there? or why is it written that way?' If there were no predeterminism language, then eventually man would usurp God's sovereignty is his mind. Man would be the one making the rules and not God. The predeterminism language goes a long way toward not only establishing Sovereignty, but also putting man in his place in revealing 'a lot more is going on than what you see.'
However, remove the free will or response language in Scripture and you are left with God as the author of evil and a terrible uncertainty of your status as 'elect.'

John Miller said...

Sharon,

"Just because some were hardened for a time does not necessarily mean they are forever hardened."

This belief helped me through the Exodus story and Pharaoh's hardening. I got mad about this, thinking that God made it so that he could not be saved when i thought God wanted to save all (so all should have an opportunity).

"In regards to verse 32, I wonder if Paul uses the term "all" to specifically mean "Jews and Gentiles". Is that obvious in the text or is it something we really can't know for sure and is not worth speculating about too much?"

It looks to me like your right that "all" means Jews and Gentiles. He is talking about Jews before this verse, but then it seems like he switches (maybe i should check out the Greek). It does seem very universalistic, so I'm going to heed Dr. Schenck's advice and not base my theology off of that

jeff said...

TIM!!!!!!!!! AWESOME!!!!!!!!
For all the pontificating upon this point, Tim drives home the point that we are to speak to the lost. Period, end of story. In many ways, it is all right to say, "God will do His job and I am responsible for mine." [I do this whenever I think too hard about this:)]. Anyway, I do feel the knowledge revealed to us in this whole election/free will/ foreknowledge issue is meant to be a blessing and not to be divisive.

John Miller said...

Jeff,

"However, remove the free will or response language in Scripture and you are left with God as the author of evil and a terrible uncertainty of your status as 'elect.'"

That is why I am so glad there is free will language. I cannot agree that God is the author of evil, but sometimes it seems hard to avoid it. I am often drawn in to this idea because it would fit well with my theological structure, but it would at the same time completely screw up my perception of God.

Does anyone here believe that God created sin? Does this change your beliefs about God's goodness?

Sharon said...

Jeff, you have a lot of good stuff to say. Good thoughts about why the predeterminism language is there...I can see how both of these ideas of predeterminism and free will are essential in helping us recognize that God is God, and at the same time we can have hope and assurance of salvation.

jeff said...

As for 11:32...
On the surface it seems universalistic, but it does say "God has imprisoned all people for disobedience that He might have mercy on all." The purpose is to have mercy on all, but remember salvation is a gift, and some people just do not accept the gift. It is given out of grace (patronage language denoting that while there are no strings attatched, there are natural expectations; these being repentance and good works cf.Ephesians 2:1-10). Some people do not want the gift. All may be saved, but some turn it down. Even Pharoah hardened his own heart in the contest at times(Exodus 5, 7:13 et. al).
I think too often we look at things from our own perspective which includes but a tiny span of time magnified in our minds in what we call the present. Time means nothing to God - He created it! He is 'outside' of time and from His 'God's-eye' point of view, He knows those who will choose Him. The thing is that we are all slaves to sin and cannot choose Him. But God in His grace, God, the Divine Sovereign, reaches down to man and gives all men a choice.

Sharon said...

Tim, thanks for bringing that point about the lost out into the open and making it clear. It really is all too easy to get lost in these arguments that will be going on forever and lose sight of what's important.

Shea Prisk said...

The first twelve verses of this chapter are very interesting to me. I always picture Paul in a football locker room sort of an environment, right before a big game, shouting at the players to get them pumped up. He proposes a rather obvious question, then shouts a rather obvious answer. But this is often how Christianity works. It seems that we are brain-dead at times and that we do not know the answers to some of the most obvious questions. Has God abandoned us? Will he ever abandon us? ABSOLUTELY NOT! However, there are certainly times when we act as if we do serve a God who occasionally abandons his followers. Every once in a while we need to hear a sermon or a talk that seems obvious, but wakes us up and gets us ready for the real world.

Joel Liechty said...

There are lies, there are the damnest of lies and there are statistics. I once heard a quote something along those lines. Perhaps we could add in, "There are lies, there are the damnest of lies and then there are the things we tell ourselves when trying to work out our theology in light of the confusing things Paul says." Sometimes I wonder if the Holy Spirit messed up when he chose Paul's writings for the canon. Maybe he could have done a little better. But lucky for all of you, I'm not the Holy Spirit. In short, it is interesting how we often will ignore passages or meanings through many different methods: A focus on a phrase, a historical insight, a focus on action in response to a text rather than the main meaning of the text. It's a fun game to play!

Joel Liechty said...

Shea, what an excellent point. Sometimes we so easily lose track of the obvious answers to some of the questions I have. However, I sometimes wonder if we ask those obvious questions because we don't believe the obvious answers. For example, it seems legit to believe that perhaps the Jew dying in a concentration death camp gas chamber wasn't justified in asking, "Has God abondoned us?" Maybe this would have changed Paul's theology. Good point Shea.

TeeJ said...

john, the problematic confusion that sets in with that debate over works and faith on both sides can create quite the head ache. the thing that we can find encouragement in however is the loving G-d that we do follow. we may choose to be intellectual and pick everything apart, but in the end, we still is dying (or died) to be with us.

TeeJ said...

Joel, i believe i may have heard that quote once, twice, or in several different occasions, ha. i completely agree with you though. too often do we spend time deciding what a word means instead of feeding a homeless man. Christ is not in words, He is in us.

Amber Rae said...

Shea - You know what, you're right. God will never abandon us. Though there will be times when we feel like God has abandoned us. We especially feel this when we are going through a rough time, we feel like God has left us to deal with the problems that we are facing by ourselves. However, we can look at his promises he has made his people and claim them as our own and realize that what he says is true, and when our entire world is falling apart that we can trust in God to remain unchanged and be our anchor and safe harbor in times of need.

Amber Rae said...

There is a part in either Romans or in one of the Prison Epistles books (I can't remember) where Paul is saddened because he knows and realizes that not all Jews would be saved. That if he could save all the Jews by being damned, he would gladly do it. I think, in my opinion, speaks volumes of his passion for ministry and his passion to see his people come to know Jesus as the Messiah he came to be. Sometimes it seems that Jews are about works and not faith-based belief, but that's just what I see. I could be wrong, I probably am. But my brain has already shut down for the night, pretty bad, huh?

Anonymous said...

the section of 11:17-24 is interesting to me in regards to Schenck's comment that predestination is not operating in a Calvinistic way. If God is responding to human actions does this mean that God can change his mind in the sense that he had intended to do one thing, but he chose to do something different because of human action. i guess my main argument is in reference to open theism and could we say that God does not know the future unless he has predestined it...but his will is in directly impacted by human actions.

Anonymous said...

jeff,

i think you present a good argument in how we are to understand predeterminism and free will. We really have to have both in the sense that it is God who saves us, but we need to freely respond to it.

Anonymous said...

Amber,

i think you present a good wesleyan argument in the sense that it is God who initially gives us the grace to respond to him. I guess i have a question whether God knows how we would respond...this is the open theism argument that God does not know what we are going to choose but knows all the things we could choose...idk i guess that's just a question i've had lately

Lakeview Student Ministries said...

Thoughts on Dr. Schenck’s post;
I thin that this section (chapter11) is indeed at times hard to understand or accept with all of the predestination stuff. It seems to make sense though within the context of the writings that Paul is referring to those that are the true Israel. Thus they are the Gentiles that have been grafted in and the Jews who have come to believe in the messiah as Jesus Christ. It does not seem to me that Paul is being a universalist at all when he talks about all of Israel being saved when Christ returns due to this fact. In fact, if one wanted to take the argument out even further, you could say that on the day of judgment, (when Christ returns) that people will be given a final chance to accept or reject Him. But one does not even have to go that far to see that this does not seem to be predestination talk as many of us may think when first reading the passage.

Lakeview Student Ministries said...

To TimJim,
Great application of the text. It is one thing to talk about what Paul means and how others accept or reject the various points, but I believe that you have made a very strong statement of how this can be applied that many would have a difficult time trying to reject. I too believe that we are called to talk to the lost, and seek to help them no matter if we side with the Calvinistic or Armenian side of the spectrum. And when it comes down to it, both sides strong affirm this truth that we must evangelize anyways. Great insight and truth that we can all learn from!

Lakeview Student Ministries said...

To Sharon,
I agree with you that more light is shed on Paul’s view and use of the word predestination the more I learn and study these tough passages. I agree that there is a fine line between what Paul seems to be saying and universalism, but I do not think that he crosses it, or at least I do not think that he is trying to lead us to cross that line ourselves. I think that he may be referring to by the word “all” is both the Gentiles and the Jews as you have suggested. I do believe that God’s mercy is extended to all, even if they blatantly reject Him. Thus the all is referring to a wide spectrum of people throughout time possibly. Anyways, great thoughts and comments.

Bobby Wrigley said...

TeeJ

I really like what you said, "Christ is not in words. He is in us." It is important to understand what the bible is saying, but in the process we cannot neglect the simple commands such as, love your neighbor as yourself.

Bobby Wrigley said...

TimJim

Thanks for bringing the focus back around to our loving maker who died to be with us. I definitely see (sometimes in myself) how being intellectual can hold one back from fully experiencing God. These two sides (spirituality and intellectuality) must be in a healthy balance that work together.

Bobby Wrigley said...

A thought I have on the infamous verse 32.

If you take this verse to form a universalistic theology then one may see no purpose in evangelism to save the lost. I would counter this argument however assuming that universalism is the case. If God is going to have mercy on everyone, I believe there is still benefit in proclaiming the gospel. I believe that the gospel leads people into a more right way of living – with God and with one another that in a mysterious way becomes desirable (even though it is so counter to the way the world operates). Jesus lived pointing us towards a fuller way of life. A way of life that is lived in freedom and liberation.

I guess this really brings into question whether you think the gospel is for the present and the future, or just simply for the future when we go to heaven according to our belief in Jesus.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I love that fact that Paul ends this section of Romans with this doxology. After all of these difficult thoughts and issues (both for the audience of the day and for us), he reminds us that God's ways are so much higher than our ways. He says, "How unsearchable are his judgements and unfathomable his ways." I think it is important to wrestle with these hard issues, but it is very easy to get caught up in all of the thick theology and actually lose sight of who God is. Remember that we are not always going to understand all of His ways, but even so He is still soveriegn and good.

Anonymous said...

Shea - I like your thought of Paul in a locker room pumping the players up. I've never really thought about it like this before. He gets them all pumped up and then lays out some practical things for them to do starting in Chapter 12.

Shea Prisk said...

Joel, it is very interesting that we, as theologians, sometimes ignore very obvious ideas only to prove what we may be talking about at a particular moment. Perhaps all of this intense interpretation only really takes away from the real purpose of scripture. Maybe we should relax and simply read the Bible for what it is and allow the Lord to speak to us in unique ways. As for Paul being somewhat confusing at times, I'm gonna give him some slack, he took upon a task I would never want placed in my hands.

Shea Prisk said...

John, I absolutely do not believe that God created sin. If this was the case, then it would completely change what Christianity is all about. Why would we so faithfully serve a God who created sin and evil? God created a free will and the ability for humans to choose. We screwed that up and thus created sin. Perhaps I do not really know what i'm talking about, but this seems to make the most sense in light of what Christianity is all about.

Joel Stone said...

I am really glad that Paul added verse 1 within this chapter. I think that this reinforces our discussion earlier with the affirmation of the Jews being God’s chosen people. Paul seems to be proud of the fact that he is a Jew and is proud of his heritage. I think that this is an important reminder to the American church today, that is; the Israelites and now the Jews are God’s chosen people. We can’t completely disassociate ourselves from our Jewish roots. Our faith came from the Jewish faith; in fact, our faith wouldn’t exist without it. We should respect and have a desire to know more about our religious heritage.

Joel Stone said...

Shae,
I agree. I think we need to have this understanding that we are preaching to a world that is "asleep" to the things of God.

Anonymous said...

Although I still feel tension when trying to resolve predestination vs. free will, I feel like I have a better understanding of how passages of Scripture that seem to contradict one another actually fit together in some way. Viewing predestination as predeterminism has been helpful to me in interpreting verses that seem to support Calvinistic views of predestination. It is encouraging to read that there is hope for salvation in those who were hardened. I believe we each have a choice to make, on our own freewill, that will determine whether or not we are saved. We are saved through confessing and believing, but where do our beliefs originate?

Anonymous said...

Jeff,
I appreciate what you said about the implications of one not beliving in free will or human response. It doesn't make sense for God to be the author of both good and evil. If we eliminate free will, we are ultimately blaming God for all the evil in the world.

Anonymous said...

Shea,
I like your analogy of the locker room. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics. Satan lies to us and sometimes we believe him. Sometimes I forget that God will show me grace, and I think I have to earn my forgiveness. Sometimes I forget that God loves me unconditionally, and I think I have to earn His love. I am so thankful that God is patient enough to keep reminding me of who He truly is. It is so refreshing to be reminded of the small things when you seem to have forgotten them.

MT McGuire said...

In all honesty, I don’t know how to approach 11:10. My lack of an answer does not make me uncomfortable. I appreciate the idea that predestination language might be praise language. “It makes us feel good to be called elect.” Once again, my mission is the same as militantly Calvinist as Piper.
However, I suppose that our thoughts towards election might determine how much pressure we place on ourselves to lead others in discipleship. I believe that someone’s will has a lot to do with whether or not they will accept the teaching of Christ. But even our will must be liberated by God.

MT McGuire said...

Good question Kate. It often doesn't seem plausible to reduce them to only a cause of the will.

MT McGuire said...

I agree with Shea. God being the author of sin gives us more problems than solutions.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of God not casting away his people is really helpful to our current situation. I mean, as people in general we are pretty nasty towards one another, sometimes not even knowing it or only doing it in our minds, not outwardly. But in verse three, it says that the Israelites have killed all the other prophets. Isreal hasn't had the most glorious history, and yet it is so prevalent that God has not abandoned his people... even though they desecrated what God has given to them as sacred, and killed his messengers. We have hope, if Israel did all these things... hope to still be accepted by God.

Anonymous said...

Shea,

Yeah, like thinking about Paul in a locker room before a big game. The picture is just funny... what position would Paul play?

anyway, in regards to your statements of obviousness, it is true. It's so funny how people can talk about theological quandaries and make huge fusses over interpretation and such, but they miss the point. Maybe the point isn't that God saves people in any specific way, maybe it's that God offers this gift, and you should probably take it. duh.

Anonymous said...

Kate C,

John Wesley has a view of predestination which I adopt... and Bounds has supported as well *choir of angels*.

J-dub has the idea that God does predestinate certain people to go to heaven, or to come to Him. This argument can be used in the conversion of Saul. However, just because God may predestinate some does not mean that he damns others. There is still the opportunity for grace to have its work in them.

At least, this is something I have been told =)

steve.hands said...

Verses 11 and 12 make me wonder about what the fullness of the Israelites would bring. Their transgression resulted in my ability to be saved.
I also wonder about what exactly would make Israel jealous. Is it the freedom from ceremonial law that the Gentiles can have? Is it the assurance of salvation? Is it the relationship with God that they can enjoy? I don't know. It seems that Christians undergo an awful lot of hardships that Jews get to escape once Christianity split from Judaism and the Roman Empire started persecuting them. Maybe a classmate has an answer. We'll see.

steve.hands said...

Anthony L,

God's great patience with the people of Israel is one of the most wonderful messages of the Old Testament. It has been helpful to me in my own struggles with temptation and sin to know that God does not abandon us. At the same time, we see God's justice and wrath against evil in His relationship with Israel. This made for a dark time for them in exile, but we can take comfort that our God does not take evil lightly. He deals with it in a way that hopefully brings redemption to the evil doer, since Israel wanted to return to God after they got out of exile.

steve.hands said...

Kate C,

I thought I'd jot down my thoughts in relation to the question you posed at the end of your post: "but where do our beliefs come from?" None of this is probably new knowledge, but I'm gonna give it a go anyway. A lot of our beliefs are conglomerations of outside influences. The agenda of the media, our family's beliefs, the church we attend's beliefs, our educational background, and maybe some actual philosophical thought on our part over what we believe. The specific salvific beliefs I think are directly influenced by the Holy Spirit through prevenient grace. We become predisposed to accept belief in Christ because of the Spirit's influence in our hearts. The ideas of Christ's life, death, and resurrection come usually from a church's or a Christian's influence in our lives. I know I would not believe what I do without my parents and my sunday school teachers.

Justin Warner said...

I just left my comments on Romans 11:11-12 and it did not post so this is my second try. I never thought of Israel becoming jealous and accepting Jesus as the Messiah, but i guess i am missing how that is predestination is it because God was the one who hardened them, therefore he predestined it to happen? I also wonder if it is one of those games Paul likes to play with my head where the words don't actually mean what they are saying. I often love to try and figure those passages out....NOT! Just tell me what you mean right? Oh well just wondering your comments are welcomed.

Justin Warner said...

I just left my comments on Romans 11:11-12 and it did not post so this is my second try. I never thought of Israel becoming jealous and accepting Jesus as the Messiah, but i guess i am missing how that is predestination is it because God was the one who hardened them, therefore he predestined it to happen? I also wonder if it is one of those games Paul likes to play with my head where the words don't actually mean what they are saying. I often love to try and figure those passages out....NOT! Just tell me what you mean right? Oh well just wondering your comments are welcomed.

Justin Warner said...

Shea, i like your ideas and i agree with you God will never abandon us. But i also agree that we do need wake up calls at times, and as obvious as it may seem we need those easy question times. Although i don't picture Paul as a football couch, i picture him more as a jockey before a horse race, a small man with a high voice yelling from a soap box.

Justin Warner said...

Joel I agree even though you aren’t saying this I feel that sometimes, we take a scripture passage and we cater it to our own needs at that time. Instead of just opening a Bible and sticking our finger in and saying this is the passage for me, we take a verse and pick out a word or phrase and apply it to our situation and say yes that is perfect, even if it is out of context.

iwuadambomb321 said...

You say that Paul uses both Calvinistic language and Arminian language. We should live like Arminians no matter what we believe about predestination. Do you think Paul lived this way? Did Paul have a paradox in his mind when he wrote passages like Romans 9-11? How did he fit his own writings together? My thought is that he did not likely have a paradox in mind when he wrote his various letters. Did his views change over time and are all somehow still inspired, or did he really have a paradox in mind?

iwuadambomb321 said...

Michael,
On your reply to Amber…you say that, when God speaks, it only sounds like He predestines us because, in fact, He knows beforehand. He has foreknowledge. But this is written from Paul’s point of view, not God’s. I am not saying that this is not inspired by God, but election and predestination language is written from Paul’s human point of view. If this was a direct, word by word, revelation from God it would be different. I just can’t get around verses like 11:7 that seem to be pointing to individual election of some while others are hardened.
I like how Shenck has pointed out that those individuals who were hardened are later given opportunity to come to the faith (or something to that effect).

iwuadambomb321 said...

After reading many of these posts, I would like to see how many people believe that there is a standing paradox between predeterminism and free will. It sounds like most people hold to this view.

JBrehm said...

I think it is amazing that Paul can shut down the Jewish way of thinking so easily. He is obviously slapping the Jews in the face with the comments about arrogance in 11:25. Paul had a lot of courage to right the comments that He did. He wrote them knowing that the Jewish leaders would be reading them and slander his name for his views. Paul also shuts down the Jewish arrogance by stating that the Gentiles are Israel as well. As for the idea his comment about being saved sounds like universalism, we can't ignore his views earlier that no matter what Jews and Gentiles have a choice.

-Derek Trout- said...

I wonder if Schenck considers verse 32 to be a “naughty verse?” In the post Schenck makes the argument that we should be careful about basing any of our theology on this verse. I don’t know how one could make that argument for this verse, but then take another verse and base a whole doctrine over it. Is one verse more “important” than another? Is one “more” inspired than another? There are some verses that are clearer in their meaning that others (but that is really relative because someone might see a verse crystal clear whole others see it as clear as mud). I don’t think that we can ignore this verse or merely blow it off as being ambiguous. So that question that I have is: What do we do with verse 32? Which says: 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Some of you have suggested that it is only about Jews or gentiles and that it really doesn’t have to do with universalism.
Bobby Wright - You suggested that even if it is universalistic there is still a benefit in preaching the gospel, which is correct. The question that I have from this is view is whether or not the word “mercy” in 32 also means “salvation.” If not what is this mercy? Is it a saving mercy, or is it God being merciful by not reigning down fire from heaven (hence giving them more opportunities for salvation)? What exactly is this mercy?
Jeff – I don’t think (and I may be wrong) that this verse is talking about mercy as a gift. It is something that this said God has given to all, and you are making the argument that this mercy is salvation, I’m not sure that it is (refer to Bobby Wright response) but would like to find out. And you made the argument about Pharaoh hardening his own heart…what do you do with Exodus 9:12 then? Which says:
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.??

Anonymous said...

Even going further on 11:33-36 and the discussion about 1 Cor. 2, maybe this is Paul using the same language that he uses else where. What i mean is that he is speaking too these two different sets of people, to the Romans about the unknowability of God and then to the people in Corinth who thought they knew everything. That is simply pride at it's best. Maybe thats why a passage like Philippians 2 is focused almost completely on humility then it has a line about having the same mind as Christ. Maybe the verse in Philippians is more of a rewording of the old Isaiah text. This is more of a question than a comment, because i just wonder if there is any connection between the three texts.

Anonymous said...

adambomb,
I know that i would have to agree with this tension between predeterminism and free will, and i question if anyone can really go to one side or the other without completely ignoring parts of scripture. I think that maybe the bible is purposefully vague and even contradictory on these two different axis of theological thought.

Anonymous said...

Joel,
I like what you said about damned lies, and how we tell ourselves certain things when we are trying to figure out our theology. I think, as Michael said, growing up in the american context it is easy to read into things and take things out of it that really arent there; to read passages of the bible and never stop to wonder what the original meaning was. God have mercy on us, heck, maybe when we talk to God someday he will just be like "man, you guys had some messed up ideas of me." Though, i guess the holy spirit would have been guiding these thoughts and traditions.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Paul is thinking “I am writing to Gentiles so I will talk about fate” but I do think it completely resonates with them. I also think it resonates with a Jewish understanding of God that I see in the Old Testament. I don't know the theology of 1st Century-ish Jews but much Old Testament literature, think of Job or many places in Exodus, has God being the cause of EVERYTHING. So Paul's deterministic language, in my opinion, resonates with everyone.
Per the final part of Schenck's comments and the chapter, I see some stuff that reminds me of Eastern Orthodoxy. This mystery stuff that the Eastern Fathers were so big on. It is obviously tied to Old Testament writings and a lot of the somewhat “mystical” theology of early Jews. This type of theme has surely carried on through the centuries.

Anonymous said...

Amber, your brain has not shut down too much! I agree Paul's passion comes out in places like this. It is so easy to dislodge ourselves from the reality of the situation.

Have you ever wanted someone in your family or someone you love to be saved?

I've felt that pain and it drives you to minister to others. It can also be draining. Paul was a real man dealing with these real issues. You reminded me of that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

John Miller, I was trying to think through what Paul may have meant by those good works...

I mean, are they different than Jewish Mitzvot (carrying out Torah commands etc)?

I'm thinking, with no basis, that the works that are produced by the Spirit supersede Mitzvot in their love.

The normative works of the Christian manifest themselves in a self-sacrificial giving that is unlike any other. Perhaps it is some sort of evidence that a vibrant relationship with God is established that causes the Old Covenant's relationship with them to pale in comparison.

Just thoughts...

Michael Badenhop said...

While I see what Schenck is trying to say about verses 25-32, I find a little bit of an issue with his interpretation, for the text really doesn’t seem to say that all Israel will “accept Jesus as Messiah.” It really doesn’t say that at all, it merely says that Israel will be saved, and it is placed entirely in terms of the choosing and election of God. I’m not trying to argue for Calvinism from this passage, because I really don’t believe that it is God’s nature to choose some people for heaven and some for hell. However, it does seem apparent here that God is doing the electing, and it is on the basis of “the fathers,” not on the basis of Israel accepting Jesus as Messiah. So what exactly this passage is trying to say I do not really know; it just seems certain to me that to say the Israelites will come to the point of accepting Jesus as Messiah is quite a stretch from what the passage seems to say.

Michael Badenhop said...

Anders-
The question you ask seems to come down to the debate of will vs. nature... While I think God certainly may respond to human actions, I don’t think I would go so far as to say that God has to have predestined everything to know that it happens. This is a very deterministic view of God which means that everything that happens must be His will… and that’s a scary thought. To think that death, war, disease, hurt, pain, and even evil itself are the will of God is quite troubling. I like to stick with the Bounds answer on this one: God knows because it happens, and He knows everything that will happen. I guess I can’t explain how that works, but I’m thinking God understands, and I guess that will just have to do.

Michael Badenhop said...

Other Michael-
I think you’ve hit on something here; we’ve come to the realization that the Bible does explicitly mention predestination, but you’re right, what do we do with it? Maybe it helps to see different types of predestination. There is what is known as double predestination, which is the idea that God chooses some people for salvation and then He also explicitly chooses others for damnation… I don’t know what you think, but that doesn’t sound very just of God. There is also an understanding of predestination in which God chooses who is to be saved, and this act of saving some displays His mercy. Those who are sent to hell are sent not because He chooses them to that fate, but because they have violated His law and they deserve it. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with either of these views, but maybe it just helps to see that there is a spectrum when it comes to predestination… it’s not just all or nothing like we sometimes tend to see it.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I like what you had to say about fate and the fact that it would most likely resonate with both a Jewish and a Gentile audience.

Anonymous said...

It is impossible not to wrestle with predestination with the sheer amount of predestination language used in these 3 chapters. It was an interesting point for me to understand that predestination language does not have to be understood as systematic theology but that it could be understood as 1. praise language to God for choosing the author and giving him a mission to play a part in God's great story of redemption and reconciliation 2. The author might not even be considering the universal logical implications of his argument and might be trying to bring understanding about reconciliation between Jew and Gentile in a local church in Rome.

It is difficult for me to read fullblown Calvinism or free-will doctrines into this text because there seems to be naughty verses for both.

Anonymous said...

Michael B. I think you are dead on with the thought of different types of predestination. I don't think predestination should be pigeonholed as John Piper's puppet, but maybe we can all learn from predestination. Predestination teaches me that God does not forsake His promises and living in that orthopraxy is much more important to me than understanding Determinism.

Anonymous said...

Anybody else love the fact that after Paul goes on a deep theological discourse of predestination and combining the Old and New Covenants he ends with a Doxology that stands in wonder and awe of God's knowledge and will.

Anonymous said...

I dream of a day where we are post-election/free will debates. I truly am starting to believe that it does nothing for the church to continue to debate it after 1500+ years when it truly doesn't change the orthopraxy of how the church operates...or does it?

Unknown said...

Karl Barth has several intriguing perspectives on some issues raised in this chapter that can be found in his theological commentary on Romans. Schenck's emphasis on God's election being "election of grace" I find important. The Armenian perspective too quickly presumes God's election as being twofold: the saved and the damned. However, in an extremely simplified attempt to explain this, Barth views God's "yes" (salvation-election) as spoken to all of humanity and His "no" (damnation-election) as spoken to only one man: Jesus. Thus, the only man in history to be the recipient of both God's "yes" AND "no" of election is Christ Himself.

In regards to Paul's universalist-sounding claims in 11:25, I agree with Barth on this point as well. While his discussion of universalism may not be explicitly dealing with the salvation of Israel, He profoundly states that to assert that God will save all or any specific number less than all is to rob God of His deity. In His complete love and freedom God may choose as He pleases and thus we cannot say for certain whether or not all or how much less than all will or will not be saved. In doing so, we limit God.

Unknown said...

Joel L.,

The predestination-freewill discussion seems pointless at times but I believe that is more a result of our less-than-perfect approach to the discussion. Is it possible that we have been looking at two sides of the same coin this whole time? Perhaps rather than trying to rationalize the relationship between heads and tails we ought to acknowledge the incomprehensibility of the contradiction that has both sides based biblically.

Unknown said...

Jeff,

Indeed I believe the predestination/freewill discussion is an aspect of God's blessing of revelation to us and not meant to be divisive!

However, while I agree with you and Tim that regardless of our stance on this point we are to speak to the "lost", it can become extremely dangerous if we do not recognize God's sovereignty in every situation - in this case, His sovereignty in salvation. It is the Spirit that works not us. And it is God's election of grace that allows us to preach at all.

Without this discussion I think we miss important aspects of evangelism.

Andy said...

When I look at the verses that show all of Israel being saved one of the first things that comes back into mind it "true Israel." I believe that Paul has been setting this up the whole time. All of true Israel will be saved. This means that the Jews and Gentiles that have faith in Jesus will be saved. I just do not see an all encompassing Jewish conversion in mind. And beyond that I am reminded of the Parable of the Marriage feast. When the first guests are thrown outside they are not all let in later after they have learned their lesson. Those who rejected the feast were rejected and those who accepted were accepted. i can see where some believe that all of Israel will be saved meaning all Jews, but when we look at this through the lens of the rest of the book it looks like only "true Israel" is in view here. I hope in some ways that I am wrong and all (ethnic or maybe even religious) Israel is saved, but I just don't see it.

Andy said...

Shea I like the visual of the Locker room. There are a lot of times in scripture where we see this kind of "pep talk." It's encouraging because it is not condescending but it merely shows us how elementary it is to believe that God will never forsake us. Go Team!

Andy said...

Larison that's the beauty of true Theology. It's a bit open ended. I love it because it's not about figuring all the little detail out (though some have tried to make it this) but it is merely a seeking out of God;s character. When we look at theology it should bring us into a deeper sense of wonder for the incredible God that we have.

Ray3 said...

In the doxology, this plan came from God. It wasn't man's idea. We didn't say, "I've offended God and have to find a way back to Him. Let's work on a plan to come back to God." In our spiritual indifference and death we didn't care about a plan, and even if we did care we aren't smart enough or wise enough to make one. It is all of Him. It is all through Him: Even if we had the plan, we couldn't make it happen. We couldn't free ourselves from this prison of sin and self. It could only happen through Him, and the great work of Jesus on our behalf is the through Him that brings salvation. The fact that Paul can't figure out God makes him glorify God all the more. When we understand some of the greatness of God, we worship Him all the more passionately.