Nerd Alert! My Week in Romans

“So then what shall we say? Is there any unrighteousness with God? Not a chance! For God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I have compassion.” So then God’s mercy is not given to people because they want it, nor is it the result of running (as though hard work could accomplish God’s mercy), but God’s mercy is the result of God who is merciful. For the Scripture said to Pharaoh, “It is for this reason that I have raised you up, so that I might show through you my power and that I might declare my name to all the nations.” So then God shows mercy to whom he desires, and God hardens whom he desires.” Romans 9:14-18 (My Own Translation)

Every semester at DTS, students have two weeks off from class before the last few weeks of school. It’s called reading week. When I first heard about this, I was overjoyed and delighted by their graciousness. Then I learned the truth. Reading week is not a break, it is two weeks of hell in which all the professors conspire together to assign a perfect storm of papers, reading, charts, and any other such torture inflicted on the average seminary student.

Although it’s been a heavy week for writing (which is why its been a light week for blogging), one of the great things about being a seminary student is that I’m assigned to study the bible. The last few days, I’ve been neck deep writing an exegetical commentary on Rom 9:14-18. An exegetical commentary is a technical commentary focusing on the Greek grammar, syntax, historical setting, and textual problems of a particular passage to ascertain the true intentions of the author and the way it applies to life. In other words, it’s a party…

As much work as it is to write one of these monster papers, the devotional payoff has been astounding. It’s impossible, at least for me, to stare that intently at the mirror of Scripture and not be changed. I wanted to share with you all some of what I’ve taken away from these last few days in my paper.

Warning: Nerdy Theological Terminology to Follow

1. I don’t know how someone can read these verses and not be at least partly a Calvinist. For some of you who know me, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a Calvinist. I’m not militant about it. However, of all the possible options regarding how God’s grace works, Calvinism seems to be most true to the Scripture and most God-glorifying in its soteriology. Further, after studying this passage, I’m more specifically a double election Calvinist, a belief not necessarily held by Calvin himself, but developed later in the Reformed tradition. Double election is the belief that God predestined some people to receive mercy, and some to be hardened. It’s not an easy stance to take, but it is however that is unmistakable especial given what Paul argues in Romans 9.

2. There is a necessary correlation between God’s grace and his election. If grace is truly received without any merit on our own, unconditional election is the only way it could be dispensed.

3. There is also an intrinsic connection between God’s nature and his mercy, which is evident in the relationship between God’s name given in Ex 3:14 and his name further explicated in Ex 33:19 (A verse used as a proof text in Rom 9:15).

4. God’s election of both receivers of mercy and receivers of hardening, spring from his merciful nature and mission to share his mercy with the nations.

5. God is God, and he does what he wants.

I would love to discuss more with any of you about the above points. I know they probably need further explanations, but hopefully they are something to chew on.

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5 thoughts on “Nerd Alert! My Week in Romans

  1. Hard to believe from a human perspective yet true. We turn Romans chapter 8 on it’s head because it is so hard. Yet it is so easy for some and that is the beautiful thing about the Gospel. You don’t have to be a Theologian to be saved, yet not even the smartest among us can grasp the Gospel in all of it’s glory.

    In regard to double predestination I would say that there is a solid case to make that got does not predestine us to eternity without him, but the “hardened” are simply passed over since we are all hardened in our fallen state when he chooses to have mercy on us. Yet I agree with you on the notion that anyone who seriously reads Romans 8 must take the Reformed position at least to some extent.

    • Thanks so much for your comment and your absolutely right, this is a tough passage and theological position. I concede to you that we are coming from the point of being sinners. Since we are sinners, God is not unjust in withholding mercy to some. I do however have to disagree with you about double predestination. And here’s why:

      The verb used in 9:17, εξεγειρα, which means “to raise up,” or more literally “to cause to stand,” is not a passive action but rather expresses an intentional action of God to do what he did to Pharaoh. Further, the double use of θελει, meaning “he desires or wills,” also points not to a passing over or allowing, but rather an intentional will for some to be hardened against God’s mercy. I would rather believe differently, but I don’t believe the bible supports it. As long as we keep in mind that the election of both springs from his merciful will to share his mercy with all nations, the theology still fits within his love.

      I really do appreciate your feedback and ultimately admit that, when attempting to understand an infinite God and the mysteries of His gospel, no one truly has a handle. So these are more my humble opinions from what I observe in the text, than a certain and exclusive fact that all must conform to.

  2. Allow me to be more clear on my position and then maybe we can see if we actually agree on this. It is so hard to put predestination into a couple short paragraphs but let me give it more of a try.

    I did not say that I dismissed double predestination for it logically must be in true in some way. However I think the Bible supports a view where both the elect and non-elect are not predestined in the same way. It is very important to be clear on the fact that we are not to take the inverse of regeneration to describe the condition of the reprobate, otherwise we come close to a hyper Calvinistic view that borders on defining God as the author of evil which I don’t think you are alluding to.

    So if God begins a work through the Holy Spirit in the life of the regenerate person, how is the reprobate dealt with? Election is clearly “double” in a sense that some are elect and therefore regenerated, while others are not and therefore reprobate (worthless or castaway).

    The answer is to view predestination in light of the fall of man. Because of the fall every man is totally depraved. We don’t hold God accountable for man’s sin, only that God ordained for the potential of sin which man enacted. So God must perform a work in us to bring us out of our depraved condition, but there is nothing needed from God directly to condemn us. We have accomplished that already ourselves. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not coerced or forced into sin.

    So to try and sum this up I would contrast the regenerate person with that of Pharaoh. God actively and irresistibly through his Spirit brought me to salvation, but God did not actively and irresistibly bring Pharaoh to condemnation. Pharaoh was already there as a result of the fall and God in his sovereignty gave him up to a reprobate mind. Now God is definitely withholding light from Pharaoh, as is done with other sinners in the Bible, but preventing an already depraved condition from softening to the truth is not working in the same way God does in the believer. Withholding grace while giving it to others is much different then actively working in a person towards condemnation making God the author of sin.

    Maybe we are essentially saying the same thing in regard to double predestination just in different ways..:)

    • Larry, thank you for this clarification. I believe we are in essence saying the same thing, just stressing different aspects of it. I am definitely not claiming supralapsarianism, a view that reads things into Scripture that really aren’t there. Augustine, Calvin, and multiple other commentators made it a point (a point which I certainly agree with), that the double predestination of mankind is to be understood with the backdrop of man’s total depravity.

      It’s probably because of the amount of time I just spent in the specific verses of 9:14-18, that the role of God’s intentional will in double predestination is on my mind.

      I really do appreciate the discussion and I look forward to interacting with you more!

  3. I’m the type of Calvanist that believes God predestines everyone to their own opinions, including Paul. I think your translation is pretty also.

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