Romans 9

Bible opened to Romans 9 with Chocolove coffee crunch and dark chocolate

Today’s Passage: Romans 9

I fell into a trap. Instead of sharing my thoughts on the daily passage, as I originally intended, I started summarizing it. I begin each post by linking to the entire passage specifically so that you can read it without relying on me to summarize it! So, I apologize for falling into the trap. I am climbing out of the trap now.

It seems to me that Paul is grappling emotionally with his Judaism in Romans 9, but intellectually he’s quite convinced that God is right to have mercy on whomever he pleases, and to spend his wrath on whomever he pleases. But then I have to grapple intellectually with Paul! Because his pottery analogy doesn’t appear to leave room for free will, and a God who creates evil beings just so he can demonstrate his justice by punishing them hardly seems just at all.

Let me put it this way. If a king created the laws delineating good and evil for his kingdom, created robots programmed to break those laws, then stood as judge in the courtroom and sentenced the robots to be dismantled for their lawlessness, shouldn’t the king be made to stand trial for creating the evil robots? What kind of a king refuses to play by his own rules? A king who is above the law, I suppose. But the scenario doesn’t sit well with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a good God. But I also believe in free will, and sometimes I wonder if I, in believing in free will, am disagreeing with Paul.

I haven’t really touched on the 1st-century-Jewishness of this passage, but this is a very 1st-century-Jewish passage. I feel that I should mention that, even if I don’t really comment on it. The passage is dense with Old-Testament quotations, and Paul digs in depth into Isaac’s status as the child promised to Abraham, and then into Jacob and Esau as a contrast. He also develops his idea of there being a Judaism of ancestry and a kind of “spiritual” Judaism. There’s a lot going on in here.

Today’s chocolate is the last of the Chocolove coffee crunch. Well, was the last of the Chocolove coffee crunch.

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2 thoughts on “Romans 9

  1. Now that I have read all your posts to date and have caught up, I decided to read along with you. Sadly though, I did not simultaneously eat chocolate.

    I am glad this passage bothers you because it bothers me too. (Specifically vv 10-24) Paul’s quoting of Exodus in verse 14 seems to contradict what we know of Grace. It’s like he’s saying, “It’s not Grace for any who accept Christ, but only for whomever God decides to have mercy on”. I wonder if all this refers more to Israel and people through OT history– maybe they were the means to Christ and grace coming Earth? This still feels like the doomed robots analogy to me. Hmph.

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    1. It’s good to allow the Bible to bother you sometimes, and it’s good to be honest about it when parts of the Bible bother you. In the past several years, I’ve found that directly confronting the questions that bother me has helped me grow. Sometimes things don’t make sense; I will always have questions, and there’s no point in pretending I don’t.

      Fortunately, though, I found a look at the deterministic interpretation of Romans 9, with some counter-arguments based on both the character of God as revealed in Christ, and the chapter’s context and connections to Old-Testament passages. It proved to be a very useful resource in clearing up much of my disquiet!

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