Arminian Today

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Misreadings of Romans 9

I have told this story before but I once knew a Calvinist who admitted to me that he read Romans 9 nearly everyday.  To him, Romans 9 was the backbone of Calvinism.  It was his refuge when he doubted the sovereignty of God in salvation.  This Calvinist saw God’s sovereignty in individual salvation all in Romans 9.  He said that he also read John 6 and Ephesians 1 nearly as much as Romans 9 but Romans 9 was his refuge when in doubt.

Calvinists believe that Romans 9 is the go to chapter to tear down Arminianism.  They see Romans 9 as teaching that God elects some to salvation while electing others to damnation.  Well, not really.  Most see God electing some in Romans 9 but ignore Calvin’s comments on Romans 9:23 and his “horrible decree” of double predestination.  I have met a few Calvinists who have no problem with Calvin’s view on double predestination and some affirm that Romans 9 does teach this view.  R.C. Sproul, for example, acknowledges that Calvin taught this from Romans 9:23 but he can’t swallow the idea that God elects people to hell.

So how is it that Arminians can read Romans 9 and miss the clear evidence of that personal election?  As an Arminian, I love Romans 9.  I don’t have any trouble reading the text and dealing with the issues involved.  I have dealt with it here on my blog from time to time.  Arminians have never ignored the text nor is there not an Arminian reply.  I once heard a Calvinist teacher say, “Romans 9 shuts the mouths of Arminians and leaves them humbled at the sovereign grace of God in salvation.”  In reality, Arminians have dealt with the text since Arminius.  We have always understood that Romans 9 is a chapter that Arminians had to deal with and we have.

In short, when we read Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:4 is becomes clear what Paul is dealing with.  He is not dealing with individual persons here but cooperate groups.  Gentiles and Jews.  Paul is arguing against the Jews who would say that they are the elect of God because of their race.  Paul is arguing that people are saved by grace and that God has the sovereign right to save whoever He chooses.  If God so chooses to save Gentiles instead of Jews, that is His right as God.  Notice Paul’s use over and over again of Israel and the Gentiles.  He never once even mentions salvation in Romans 9.  The word salvation doesn’t appear until Romans 10:1 which is Paul praying for the Jews to be saved through Christ (which would be pointless if absolute monergism were true).  There is no doubt that God chose Israel in the Old Testament for the purpose of the Messiah (Romans 9:1-5) but not once is salvation mentioned in Romans 9:1-5.  The Jews were the chosen nation for the Messiah but this did not guarantee individual salvation.

So here is the premise.  Calvinists read Romans 9 with the presupposition that the point is God is sovereign in individual salvation and He has elected some to salvation and others to damnation but we are not question His absolute sovereignty in this issue (Romans 9:18, 20).  Calvinists see individual salvation in Romans 9.

The Arminian reads Romans 9 and sees the sovereignty of God in choosing to move past the chosen people of Israel to the Gentiles but He will save all who call upon Him in truth (Romans 10:13).  Romans 11:32 is clear: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”  The Israelites are now disobedient to Him by rejecting His Son but God will save both Jews and Gentiles through Christ Jesus (Romans 10:4).  Arminians see God choosing groups in Romans 9.

4 Responses

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  1. Good article!

    Bob Hunter

    07/13/2014 at 4:17 AM

  2. Great article!

    Bob Hunter

    07/13/2014 at 2:09 PM

  3. well said. Thank you.


    07/15/2014 at 8:30 AM

  4. Does Romans 9 teach that God unconditionally chooses who will believe? In other words, is Paul teaching that specific persons are divinely elected to believe in Christ and others passed over rendering belief and salvation in Christ an impossibility? If there is no clear indication that Paul is teaching election unto belief, there is no difficulty in maintaining the conditionality of salvation throughout Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Those who are united to Christ through faith are those reconciled to God, Jew or Gentile. The same Lord is Lord over all.

    That said, belief and unbelief are ultimately not determined by God. The call for all to trust in Jesus as Lord is indiscriminate in nature. If belief and unbelief are divinely predetermined, however, faith can no longer be considered a condition for salvation, but the outworking of a preexisting divine decree in time.

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