The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Romans 9 and its implications

We were discussing Romans 9 in another thread.

Romans 9
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

What are the implications for theodicy and soteriology if God has, at least in the past, hardened people’s hearts?

Who are the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

The ‘vessels of wrath prepared for destruction’ were those of OC Israel, i.e., those… “hardened in part” who either died or were deported in the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem — these were those whom Jesus had previously announced would… “die in your sins.” It was these ones fit for destruction with whom Jesus was also… “numbered with the transgressors”, i.e., himself dying on behalf of his brethren, i.e., OC Israel (Isa 53:12).

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The OT in general and here had nothing to say about the afterlife or about salvation in the Christian understanding. Choosing people for tasks for limited and specific reasons has no connection to predestination for salvation in the Calvinistic sense. A Calvinist may use this as evidence because they already have a presupposition.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because the Israelites had to leave and get to Israel & I guess God decided this was necessary. Also Pharaoh had resisted and probably intended to continue so perhaps this speeded things up.

This may be true. However, the fact that God would ever harden people’s hearts raises some
difficult questions. If God has hardened people’s hearts, then the free will theodicy becomes hard to maintain. If it’s both metaphysically possible and morally permissible for God to determine a rational creature’s will, why doesn’t God ‘soften’ everyone’s hearts to ensure that no one commits evil?

Did God harden their hearts to make salvation of the gentiles possible? According to Romans 11, Israel’s rejection of Christ made possible the reconciliation of “the world”. Why was it necessary for the Jews to reject Jesus for gentiles to be saved?

Only God knows that, I reckon.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I heard it said that God hardened their hearts only after they hardened their own hearts. Supposedly it “crystallized” what they already were anyway.

This is said by folks who will not accept that God would be so mean as to harden someone’s heart for God’s own purposes.

Perhaps if the Jews accepted Christ then it would have been looked at as “Judaism” which was for the Jews only & not for gentiles.

Because we wouldn’t learn much & we may be more like robots instead of humans. In Genesis it says “knowing good and evil the man has become like us” which may be a prophecy.

The point is that God has chosen Jesus just as he has chosen Jacob. God is showing mercy to those who have accepted his chosen one. Paul is using Old Testament rhetoric so that his Jewish opponents will have to agree that God can choose Jesus just as he chose people (covenant leaders) in the past. Looking through the rest of Romans 9-11 we find that people are not permanently hardened. They have stumbled over Jesus, that is why they are hardened. As the end of Romans 9 says 31, "but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:

“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Then in Romans 10 Paul says that God sent them people to proclaim the good news to them.

"16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message? 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Because of this God is using the gentiles to make them jealous:

20 And Isaiah boldly says,

“I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But concerning Israel he says,

“All day long I have held out my hands
to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

In Romans 11 we have the really good universalist news!

“25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved.”

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So they have been hardened, so that THEY ALL MAY BE SAVED.
God’s wisdom far surpasses ours, apparently. What a shock! :slight_smile:

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Again I don’t think you’re reading Paul correctly… and thus your sometimes wrong assumptions. The primary rejection OR more properly… “casting away” of Rom 11 was relative to ISRAEL and that was… BY GOD — and yet this wasn’t permanent (11:1; Jer 46:28) though it (Israel’s rejection / redemption) was in fact the very thing that secured the world’s reconciliation, i.e., job done!

Does Paul’s statement about people merely being “clay” to God mean it would be morally permissible for God to do anything to a person? If so, that would obviously include eternal torment.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (TLB)
8 This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than yours.

It would seem to me, Qaz, that there is nothing to be gained by agonizing over whether or not what we consider to be moral or immoral should be adopted by our Creator. It is sufficient for me to judge Him by His actions as a loving Father to His creatures.

I can’t imagine that being like “clay” to God has any implication to the afterlife. I prefer to hang on to Jesus description of God.

The contrast between the more ‘reformed’ branch, which bases its theology on sovereignty (God can do whatever He wants even if it offends us morally) and the approach of love (God’s love is sovereign, even in some acts that we cannot fully understand, but they are always moral) - is a profound one. I think this guy (guess who?) has put his finger on a major point in that discussion.

“We are presumptuous, we are told, in
judging of our Creator. But He himself has made this our duty, in giving us a
moral faculty; and to decline it, is to violate the primary law of our nature.
Conscience, the sense of right, the power of perceiving moral distinctions, the
power of discerning between justice and injustice, excellence and baseness, is
the highest faculty given us by God, the whole foundation of our
responsibility, and our sole capacity for religion. Now we are forbidden by
this faculty to love a being, who wants, or who fails to discover, moral
excellence. God, in giving us conscience, has implanted a principle within us,
which forbids us to prostrate ourselves before mere power, or to offer praise
where we do not discover worth; a principle, which challenges our supreme
homage for supreme goodness, and which absolves us from guilt, when we abhor a
severe and unjust administration. Our Creator has consequently waived his own
claims on our veneration and obedience, any farther than he discovers himself
to us in characters of benevolence, equity, and righteousness. He rests his
authority on the perfect coincidence of his will and government with those
great and fundamental principles of morality written on our souls. He desires
no worship, but that which springs from the exercise of our moral faculties
upon his character, from our discernment and persuasion of his rectitude and
goodness. He asks, he accepts, no love or admiration but from those, who can
understand the nature and the proofs of moral excellence.”
Channing, “The moral argument against Calvinism”

@DaveB2.0 I agree wholeheartedly with Channing. The Calvinist of course would say that because of “the fall” the conscience is worthless.

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IF that is what Paul meant can you point me to ONE NT text where Paul obviously includes eternal torment in such statements?

qaz at some point you have to either figure out If God wants the best for you today here and now? If so, maybe the verbiage in the text was indeed talking to people there and then not to us so to speak, though we can defiantly glean a bunch from said text.