Responding to Kevin Jackson’s “Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9.”

Arminians blow my mind. They are a group of Christians who believe strongly in free will, and they believe God does not control their will. They believe that God has not chosen who will be a Christian, and that people make the choice themselves whether they will follow God or not. The people on the other side of the aisle of this argument are often called Calvinists. Even if they do not believe in all the teachings of John Calvin, they believe that he was correct in interpreting the Bible about election. Calvinists often use Romans 9 as proof that God choose who will be saved, and causes them to become Christian. Kevin Jackson, an Arminian, wrote an article called “Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9”. Today, I will respond to his response to the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9. He makes three points in his article, and I will respond to each point separately.

Point 1: To understand Romans 9, read all of Romans 9 along with Romans 10 and 11. I did. Jackson’s point in this paragraph is the point out that the context of Romans 9 is that Israel should not rely on their heritage to be saved, not that God chooses people for salvation. He is correct, that is the context of Romans 9. However, even within these chapters, there are verses pointing to election. Romans 11:4-5 says of Elijah, “But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” (Underline mine.) Romans 11:7 “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,”.

Point 2: When reading the portion of Romans 9 that sounds Calvinistic, refer to the Old Testament passages that Paul uses for his argumentation. Jackson is hammering the idea that Paul is referring to nations, not God choosing people, during Romans 9, citing verses like Genesis 25:23, “The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’” (Bold his.) The Bible does sometimes refer to nations by their founders. I can understand why he thinks it might be the case for Romans 9:10-12, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’” I think it is a fairly large stretch, but conceivable. That is, until we get to verse 19, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” This verse indicates that Paul expected his readers to take what he was saying personally in regards to their salvation and free will. Why is it still my fault when I sin, even though God controls my will? Paul’s answer to the presupposed question is not that they are misinterpreting what he said, and they still have free will, and are responsible for their actions, which is what the Arminians would say. It is that God is God, and they are not.

Point 3: Whatever Romans 9 means, it can’t mean that God is a liar, and it can’t contradict the plain meaning of other scripture passages. You know what? I agree. God is not a liar, and it cannot contradict the meaning of other passages. Jackson goes on to say “If God is love (1 John 4:8 ), we can’t use Romans 9 to prove that God is hate. This was a point made by John Wesley. Of course, Calvinists don’t claim that God hates or lies, but their line of reasoning in our view leads to this. Typically when you question a Calvinist about the goodness of God in Romans 9, they either equivocate or they equate a rejection of their interpretation of Romans 9 as ‘talking back to God’ (Romans 9:20).” Calvinists do not believe that God is hate. They adamantly do not believe that. Do not say people believe something they do not. If you are in fact correct (which I disagree with,) and their line of reasoning does indeed lead to this, then their logic does not line up with what they believe, and they are faulty in that way, but they do not believe that God is hate. The reason they bring up “talking back to God”, is because that is the answer Paul gave when he was questioned on God’s goodness. Romans 9:19-20 says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ 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?’.” Calvinists give the same response the Bible gives.

Calvinists do not believe what they believe what they do for fun, or to relieve themselves responsibility. They do it because they believe that this is what the Bible teaches, and even if they don’t understand how it all fits together, they are going to go with the Bible. Armenians interpret the Bible differently than Calvinists do, and Kevin Jackson interpreted it differently than  I do. Ultimately, I think the Calvinist interpretation is closer to what God meant.

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