Navigating Romans 9 Exegetically and Theologically: Part 2

In part one, I laid out my methodology and analyzed the argument that 9:30-33 is discontinuous with the first 29 verses of chapter 9.  I looked at the usages of the phrase “What shall we say then” and concluded that it does not in fact signal a major shift in perspective but rather a smooth transition that readily connects with what comes before.  I think this preliminary analysis tips the scales towards a non-Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9 because 9:30-33 clearly emphasizes faith, so Calvinists like Thomas Schreiner are not justified in trying to make a big point that Paul neglects to mention faith before this.

We now get to the meat of chapter 9.  Again, to prevent this from being even longer than it is, I will not address every single issue in absolute detail, but I do hope to give a textually-driven interpretation of this chapter that shows that a non-Calvinistic view is not only plausible and responsible, such that Christians who hold to some similar interpretation are not obviously flouting good interpretive principles, but may also be superior to the Reformed case.  This is also a good time to reiterate that I respect my Calvinist brothers and have read several of their commentaries and listened to a few of their sermons on this (I’ll repeat that Schreiner’s work is especially very good).  This is just disagreement within the body of Christ.

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Navigating Romans 9 Exegetically and Theologically: Part 1

I and a partner are currently teaching through a series on Romans for our church’s Sunday School, and we have recently gone through Romans 9-11.  All of these chapters can be challenging, but Romans 9 in particular is notorious for being one of the most difficult and debated chapters in the Bible.  It is also one of the most, if not the most, important prooftexts for the Calvinist position, and that makes it a hotbed for a lot of disagreement (some Arminians, in turn, claim that Romans 9 proves their position).  I hope to address the chapter here succinctly, carefully, yet civilly, though it will not be possible to address every single issue fully without making these posts absurdly long.

Tackling a chapter like this in an efficient manner is challenging, but I’ll try to lay out my methodology:

-It is widely accepted that 9-11 is one unit, but for space considerations my focus will be on chapter 9.  The other two chapters will be mentioned in passing when helpful.  This will no doubt be a deficiency in these posts, but it is practical.

-Paul uses several Old Testament references that cause a lot of interpretive issues.  My working assumption will be that the original contexts of those references will be helpful to look at because while NT writers may do some new things with OT texts, I don’t think we can say that they changed what they meant to their original audience without seriously jeopardizing the trustworthiness of God’s Word.

-I will focus on what Paul wants to answer and largely assume that he avoids wild tangents.  To see his argument, I think it will be particularly helpful to first focus on both his introduction and his conclusion, similar to how one might get the gist of an academic paper by reading its introduction, scanning its body, and then reading its conclusion.  This helps one see where the author starts and where he plans to end up.  Granted, not all academic papers are written well and coherently, but in this case, I think it is fair to expect the inspired writer Paul to make sense.

-This post will focus on issues regarding the introduction and conclusion, and the next will address the body.

With these things in mind, I’ll begin.

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Girl Apparently Breaks Up With Jesus to Date Guy She Actually Likes

AUSTIN, TX:  A local Christian college student has seemingly ended her longstanding relationship with Jesus to start dating a guy she finds attractive.

Miranda Cho, a junior at the University of Texas, has been part of a Christian fellowship for her entire time at school.  During this time, she has received numerous requests from male peers to go out to coffee, to have lunch, and to generally be their girlfriend.  In all cases, she has turned them down because she claimed that Jesus was her true love.

“Miranda would always say, ‘Sorry, but I’m dating Jesus, and there’s no room for another guy,'” says Ashley Lee, her friend.  “That would often confuse Christian guys, but it would also make them like her more for being so spiritual.”  Ashley then started to pout.  “Frankly, I don’t understand why so many guys go for her.”  When asked if she felt forgotten due to the attention her friend received, Ashley abruptly turned defensive and walked off.

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