To piggyback on Peter's post, I'm going to post some comments I found on another blog, which are worth reproducing:
A few points by way of response:
1. The Reformed position is *not* that God arbitrarily elects certain sinners to salvation, or that he even freely does so if by freely is meant a libertarian denotation. God's election is in accordance with his foreknowledge, which is grounded in his decree. That's the Reformed position, not your caricature/allegation of arbitrariness.
2. You mention that the nations of Israel and Edom are introduced in Romans 9 as the apostle discusses the lineage of the Messiah. How does this teaching about the Messiah's lineage advance Paul argument in Romans 9.6b ("For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel")?
3. You say, "It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation since the context is the messiah’s lineage." Yet the context is very clearly about individual salvation. For starters, there is mention of the cursing and cutting off from Christ in Romans 9.3. There is also the intra-national distinction in Romans 9.6b (already quoted). Further, in Romans 9.8 we come across the terms "children of God" and "children of promise". Can you point to a place in the Pauline corpus where these two phrases refer to anything other than individual believers? And what of the calling both from Jews and Gentiles in Romans 9.24? And then, of course, there's the reference in Romans 11.14 where Paul wishes that some of his fellow Jews would be saved. But you say individual salvation is an exegetical stretch here?
4. Your understanding of Hebrews 12.16 amounts to little more than an argument from silence unless I'm reading you wrong. Further, your affirmation of a foreknown choice that is free in a libertarian sense is contradictory. (As you'll recall, I've proved the contradictory nature of libertarian free will elsewhere -http://reasontostand.org/archives/2010/01/25/is-l...
Grace and peace,
Thanks for the response.
1. You say that I have not absolved the Reformed position of arbitrariness. First of all, the point is that no Reformed Christian worth his salt would agree with your description of the doctrine of unconditional election. Secondly, define an arbitrary act for me. Show me why an act (election) that has a ground (foreknowledge and decree) that is logically prior to it is arbitrary. Further, what makes an elective act based on middle knowledge less "arbitrary" (whatever that means) than an elective act based on foreknowledge/decree?
I will again point out that God's knowledge of "future-free creatures" is a logical contradiction, if by free you mean libertarian free will, which I think you do.
2. Your explanation of how Jacob/Esau fits into the argument found in Romans 9.6b contradicts what you said in your original post. There you said that Jacob/Esau have nothing to do with individual salvation since the context is the Messiah's lineage (a non-sequitur I might add). Now you're saying that Jacob/Esau are introduced to show the Jews that they're not automatically saved unless they repent. So are Jacob/Esau about individual salvation or not? Right now, you're both affirming and denying that it is.
3. You say that it's poor exegesis to import a concept into Romans 9 that isn't found anywhere else in the book. Importing a foreign concept into the text is poor exegesis (eisegesis), but whether the concept is found elsewhere in the book is quite irrelevant. Further, originally you said that it was an exegetical leap to find individual salvation in Romans 9, but you've just admitted that the point of Esau/Jacob has to do with salvation and repentance. You appear to be contradicting yourself.
As for Romans 9.3 being parenthetical, based on what? As for Paul talking about the nation in general, based on what? Contrary to your statement, it's not at all turning the passage on its head to think Paul is addressing individual salvation. Romans 9 is saturated with individualism (e.g., cursed from Christ for the sake of my brothers, not all descended from Israel belong to Israel, children of God, children of promise).
Further, the problem in Romans 9 is a very individualistic problem, to wit, why are some Israelites accursed from Christ if they *currently* have the theocratic blessings (Romans 9.4-5)?
The point with Romans 9.8 is that "children of God" and "children of promise" are used in Paul's writings to refer to believers - not nations. In other words, the group of people in view is not a nation, which is against your position.
Wes, it's as plain as day that Romans 9.24 and Romans 11.14 have to do with individuals ("us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles"; "save some of them") and salvation. I find it amazing that you can't see that.
Wes says: Well sure, because if they did then they wouldn't be Reformed any longer.
Joel says: Or, more importantly, because it's a caricature and bald assertion of the Reformed view. As I've already pointed out, Reformed folks teach that God's elective acts are grounded in something logically prior to election.
Wes says: I think this is really a quite spurious complaint since an affirmation of my description being accurate would quite logically lead one to not being reformed any longer.
Joel says: The complaint is legitimate in that you are caricaturing the Reformed position. Of course, I welcome (and have asked you already) your definition of arbitrary and your demonstration of the arbitrary nature of unconditional election. Thus far, you have merely asserted it.
Wes says: This is a bare assertion without evidence. I do mean God's knowledge of future free actions (and creatures), how is any of that a logical contradiction?
Joel says: Do you agree that God's knowledge of future free actions entails that God knowing a future contingent action? Do you agree that God knows that a future contingent action will occur while knowing that it might not occur? If so, you have affirmed a contradiction. If I haven't accurately represented your position, tell me your understanding of God's middle knowledge and I will then show you how it is a contradiction.
Wes says: In an indirect way (through the group), yes. But not in a direct way (as in, "Pikachu I choose YOU!").
Joel: Ah, the goal posts are moving. You're making qualifications as you go along to try and avoid the bind you're in. When you said, "they are not automatically saved by any of these unless they repent," that's individual salvation in view. Now you're positing some sort of through-the-group view of salvation. Despite moving the goal posts, you're still not out of the woods because, in your original post, you made no concession for salvation at all in this context, whether direct or "indirect." Remember?
Wes says: This is only true in cases like Proverbs or Psalms where you have a collection of writings likely by different authors at different times and/or on different subjects. I would submit that neither Romans nor Hebrews fit this bill and are therefore best read as a whole unit.
Joel says: No that's not true at all. If a letter is occasional - as most of Paul's epistles are - then, by definition, issues and concepts will be introduced later that have no precedent earlier on. This also applies to systematic letters like Romans where Paul is dealing with (anticipated or real)
objections and interlocutors as in Romans 9.
Wes says: "As for Romans 9.3 being parenthetical, based on what?" The rest of the book.
Joel says: Insufficient justification. Imagine that I were to make the argument that John 3.16 is parenthetical and you asked me to justify that assertion. Well, Wes, the rest of the book. Period. Clearly, this would be an insufficient justification for my assertion. And so with your assertion. You have yet to adequately justify it.
Wes says: "As for Paul talking about the nation in general, based on what?" The rest of the book.
Joel says: Still insufficient, particularly given the several examples of individualism in Romans 9 that I have already offered.
Wes says: "Contrary to your statement, it's not at all turning the passage on its head to think Paul is addressing individual salvation." Bare assertion that contradicts the textual evidence.
Joel says: Not at all on either count. You conveniently snipped out what immediately followed my assertion, to wit, the justification of the assertion: "Romans 9 is saturated with individualism (e.g., cursed from Christ for the sake of my brothers, not all descended from Israel belong to Israel, children of God, children of promise). Further, the problem in Romans 9 is a very individualistic problem, to wit, why are some Israelites accursed from Christ if they *currently* have the theocratic blessings (Romans 9.4-5)?"
Wes says: "Romans 9 is saturated with individualism" Only if you presuppose it is based on a imported theological system as opposed to the context of the chapter in relationship with the rest of the book. It is true that Romans 9 ultimately contains salvific implications at the individual level, however to start at the individual level at the outset is not only to miss the overarching context of Romans but also to turn Paul's message inside-out.
Joel says: This is not true. I've given you very clear markers of individualism in Romans 9, which you are not addressing at all. You're merely making allegations of eisegesis. And, again, you've contradicted your original remarks by admitting that there are "salvific implications" here.
Wes says: Paul's message is that we are saved by being "in Christ", by being a part of the "elect". How does one become part of the elect? The answer given in Romans is not that we need to have won the cosmic lottery but that we need to surrender to Christ through repentance and place our faith/trust in Him and His work on the cross.
Joel says: Since you can't gain the upperhand in Romans 9, you're now resorting to caricature about "cosmic lottery," etc. Paul is not dealing with how we become a part of the elect in Romans 9. He's dealing with the problem of how Jews can have the theocratic blessings and yet be accursed from Christ at the same time. The problem is resolved when Paul points out that God's purpose in election is intra-national and unconditional.
Wes says: "why are some Israelites accursed from Christ if they *currently* have the theocratic blessings" I don't see how maintaining that the Israelites have all the blessings mentioned in Romans 9:4-5 and yet some are still cut off from "the true vine" on account of their disbelief and rejection of Jesus.
Joel says: I don't know what you mean here.
Wes says: It actually goes further to refuting the Calvinistic view of election irregardless of the faith of men since only a few verses later (6) we are told that "not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel" and, more to the point of Romans 9 being focused on the messianic lineage, we are reminded in verse 7 that "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
Joel says: I think you need to study Romans 9, Wes. How *exactly* does Romans 9.6b refute unconditional election. Is there something there that is contrary to unconditional election? If so, let's hear it.
Wes says: "In other words, the group of people in view is not a nation, which is against your position." True, but the fact remains that a group is in view and that the composition of that group is characterized by their reaction to the revelation they have been given and not by some cosmic roll of the dice. Otherwise, all of Abraham's descendants would, in fact, be members of the remnant and thus children of the promise.
Joel says: So you admit that you've contradicted yourself? In your original post, you said the first thing to notice is that Romans 9 is about nations. Now you're giving up that foundational point and admitting that it's not about nations. Wes, you're all over the map, brother. You need to study
this passage and find out what you actually believe before debating it with me. It's very frustrating to debate someone who is changing their position on the fly.
Wes says: "Wes, it's as plain as day that Romans 9.24 and Romans 11.14 have to do with individuals ("us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles"; "save some of them") and salvation. I find it amazing that you can't see that." I find it amazing, too, that you are able to import a concept foreign to the whole context of Romans, claim it is the central focus (individual salvation/particular election), and then berate the vast majority of your brethren like myself...
Joel says: You can't continue to argue with the individualism I've pointed out so, instead, you shift to a different topic and say that I'm asserting that this is the "central focus" and that I'm berating you. Wes, once again, I exhort you to get out of the debating business. You don't represent people properly, you're a moving target, and I don't even think you know what you actually believe half the time.
Wes says: who also find the Reformed insistence of such a narcissistic view of election to, quite frankly, be a bit disturbing.
Joel says: This is about all your left with. You can't defend your (constantly changing) position, so you resort to demagogy, likening unconditional election onto to something pejorative (narcisstic). I come back here thinking I'll be able to have a reasonable debate with you, but that will likely never happen.
Wes says: I have stated it and given evidence several times and I'll not do so again. However I want to point out that this tactic is at the same time both passive aggressive and intellectually dishonest.
Joel says: You're dishonest, Wes, not me. You have nowhere defined what an arbitrary act is. Nowhere. You have simply asserted it. That same old MO that I identified several months ago is back in the forefront, namely, bald assertion after bald assertion.
Wes says: I'm not sure you understand what a counter-factual is. Go back and read up on it as your question is along the lines of "are you still beating your wife?"
Joel says: As in past discussions, it hasn't gone well for you when you've tried to play teacher and tell others what they need to read up on. I'm quite familiar with what a counterfactual of creaturely freedom is and I know why you're hesitant to answer: Because were you to come out of your hole and actually define your position, the contradictions would quickly appear (talk about counterfactuals!). But I don't expect you to show your cards anytime soon. You never do. Ambiguity allows you to move the goal posts whenever you're confronted with a logical bind.
Wes says: Sure, it's in view. That's not the question. The question is whether their individual salvation is the primary focus of the passage. I would contend that since Paul continually uses group phraseology, a myopic view of individual salvation as being the primary focus is not warranted here.
Joel says: LOL. Wes, you're moving the goal posts. In your original post you said, "It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation..." Now you're saying of individual salvation, "Sure, it's in view." You're position is a bundle of contradictions, not to mention an evolutionary process.
Wes says: Asked and answered. You choose not to see what I've written so I'll forgo reiterating it yet again.
Joel says: You haven't answered anything. All you've done in this entire exchange is change your position when put in a corner out of which you can't get.
Wes says: No, I'm carefully showing where eisigesis is taking place by the willful ignoring of the rest of the book and it's context.
Joel says: What have I ignored in the rest of the book? And what particular parts of the rest of the book are we referring to?
Wes says: Not really. But then again, you'll see what you want to I suppose.
Joel says: Yes, really. Check out these two contradictory statements: "It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation..." vs. "Sure, it's in view." You're confused, Wes.
4. You're using an argument from silence in regard to Hebrews 12.16 because the text does not address the things that you want it to address, to wit, the basis of God's hatred of Esau. You say, "I don't see how you can ignore the evidence that Esau's rejection of his birth right (which ties nicely to Paul's argument against the Israelites in Romans) has no bearing." Wes, this doesn't tie in nicely *at all* with Paul's argument. Read Romans 9.11 again, "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". The election Paul is talking about is clearly not anchored in any way to the works of Jacob or Esau.
Wes, I would be open to your theological view if you were using a verse that was relevant to the discussion. Hebrews 12.16 just is not addressing what you are trying to make it address.
You say: "I believe this is actually one of the reasons Jews in general have rejected the whole Calvinistic teaching of particular election because it would mean that God chose Israel as his people and then subsequently rejected them as a people and not due to anything they had chosen, because, again, the view of sovereignty expressed in Reformed thought entails a causally deterministic view of events. That is, God decreed Israel to be his people, to follow him and then to reject him later on."
This indicates that you're missing what's going on in Romans 9, Wes. The whole point is that ethnic Israel does not equal true Israel. "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel..." (Romans 9.6b). The whole point is that God did not decree all ethnic Israel as his people. Therefore, the apparent contradiction of Jews receiving theocratic blessings and yet being accursed from Christ is resolved. John the Baptist himself said as much in Matthew 3.9 when he said, "And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham." Ethnic Jews are not tantamount to true/spiritual Jews.
Wes says: You say it doesn't, I say it does. The fact remains that the author of Hebrews found it to be an important details to add. Since it is in the context of sinful practices, I think it stands to reason that Esau was seen as unholy _because_ of his rejection of his birthright (or rather, he despised his birthright because he found it less important than a bowl of soup).
Joel says: Wes, I know you're better than this. I know you know that Hebrews 12.16 is not saying anything about the basis of God's election. Further, Romans 9.11 couldn't be clearer that God's purpose in election is *not* grounded in anything Jacob or Esau did. Either way, you lose.
Wes says: Further, you parrot the common Reformed refrain that God's rejection of Esau before his sin was actualized is tacit proof that God rejected Esau irregardless of any action on Esau's part whatsoever (ie. God rejected Esau just because he arbitrarily felt like it).
Joel says: This isn't a Reformed refrain. It's the Word of God from Romans 9.11 that I quoted to you.
Wes says: However, we know that God is omniscient, that all facts are known to God, how is it a stretch (especially given the existence of counter-factual statements throughout Scripture) to say that God foreknew what Esau would freely do and that therefore (because we also know God is not arbitrary or unjust) God's rejection of Esau before time began (or, more to the point, before Jacob and Esau were even born) was based on his foreknowledge?
Joel says: It's a stretch, Wes, simply because none of what you suggest (middle knowledge, foresight election) is stated by Paul in Romans 9.11. In fact, just the opposite is stated, to wit, that God's purpose in election is not based on the actions of Jacob or Esau. It really is that simple.
Wes says: You see, if you base God's hatred of Esau on "His sovereign decree" then you are tacitly endorsing an arbitrary view of God. The very thing the author of Hebrews, through his citing Esau's despising of his birthright, is not the case.
Joel says: Not at all. And, again, I ask you to define arbitrary and show me how God electing in accordance with his decree is arbitrary.
Wes says: I highly doubt that since, as I've shown with the Reformed treatment of Romans 9, the common pattern here seems to be to reject anything that causes the presupposed reformed position any difficulties (and this is done a-priori).
Joel says: Wes, the common pattern is for me to dismantle your arguments and then have you whine about a-priori assumptions and intellectual fortresses. Hebrews 12.16 is not dealing with the matter at hand and its patently obvious that this is so. Further, I'm not rejecting your view in an a-priori manner. I'm interacting with your view and I'm also giving you textual reasons for why I interpret Romans 9 as I do.
Wes says: So to say that "if you were using a verse that was relevant to the discussion" is to say that you have now assumed the role of judge and jury of what is and is not relevant to this discussion.
Joel says: Actually, I've assumed the role of debater throughout this exchange and am pointing out to you that Hebrews 12.16 is not talking about the basis of God's reprobation. Or are you going to provide any evidence to support your view that that is what the Hebrew writer is talking about? If so, let's hear it.
Wes says: You may not feel it is relevant, but to claim the high ground at the outset and then argue backwards from that position (by deeming things you disagree with to be "not relevant") you have effectively encased your doctrine in an impenetrable intellectual fortress (which is not a compliment).
Joel says: This is really ridiculous, Wes. I'm calling it irrelevant because there's nothing in the text that makes it relevant. I'm not arguing backwards.
Wes says: "The whole point is that God did not decree all ethnic Israel as his people." You would have a very hard time showing this to be true from the OT. They are still "his people" even though they reject and rebel against him.
Joel says: Wes, I've given you a very clear reason for believing that not all ethnic Israel belong to the people of God - Romans 9.6b. And now you're going to say that I'm going to have a hard time showing this from the OT?!
Wes says: "Ethnic Jews are not tantamount to true/spiritual Jews." True, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. However what separates the two is not that some of them managed to win a cosmic roll of the dice. Throughout the Bible we are told that what separates the remnant from the whole is that the remnant remains faithful to the promises of God and the teaching of His law.
Joel says: Ah, so you've abandoned Romans 9 and are now looking for greener fields with which to substantiate your case.