Paul and Romans 9
Attributes of Deity
Paul and Romans 9
In the two previous chapters we have examined Scriptures that appear to support Calvinist doctrine as well as Scriptures that completely disprove it. For all practical purposes, I have dealt with all of the passages that appear to support Calvinist doctrine... with the exception of one author. Now we come to the center piece of Calvinistic doctrine and run head long into problems with the person Christianity typically considers its greatest apostle. Of the passages in the Bible that appear to support the concept of an ultra-sovereign God who predestines the wills and the eternal fates of every individual from before they were born, there is none that come close to Paul's words in the infamous passages of Romans chapter 9. This passage is the heart-and-soul of Calvinist doctrine.
"And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger.." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then, it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'Even for this same purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be declared in all the earth.' Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Romans 9:10-24
There it is! It could hardly be stated, or expanded upon any more than this. This can't possibly be an issue of misunderstanding or taking something out of context this time. This is the context! Paul has let us know in no uncertain terms that no one has any say in the matter. He says it's "not of works", "not of him who wills, nor of him who runs...". And their status as either "loved" or "hated" by God, and subsequent eternal fate of "destruction" or "glory", is all a matter of God's sovereign "purpose" and "election" based on Him having " mercy" and "compassion" on "whomever" He so desires. And for good measure, he makes sure that you and I know full well we have no right to question it! But one can't help but notice in this, that even Paul expects people with half a mind to protest the unrighteousness of this picture!
First, I'd like to defuse the argument that Paul might have been speaking of exceptions to the rule as I have previously outlined. Some might say that Paul was not referring to everyone as though this were God's standard method of operation with every individual. This simply isn't possible. The very fact that Paul anticipates the objection and asks the obvious questions himself proves otherwise. These are the objections and questions that any person on the street would immediately ask after recoiling at the injustice of his picture. Yet, it is the answers he gives to the anticipated questions that tell the full story. The first time Paul anticipates an objection is right after stating that God loved Jacob and hated Esau before either one of them were born or had any chance to do good or evil. He asks, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?" The second time he anticipates an objection is after stating that God has mercy on whomever He will, and hardens whom He will, and it has nothing to do with man's efforts. Then he says the insightful words, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' Both of these questions which he anticipates and asks himself, prove that he knows he is painting an objectionable, unrighteous-appearing picture of God! If he were speaking of the exception to the rule, he could have, and certainly would have said so in answer to the questions. But he didn't. He continued to try and drive home this notorious picture of God with more proof texts from Moses, Pharaoh, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, as well as issuing intimidating statements like, "Who are you to reply against God?" We will look at Paul's proof examples from Scripture in a moment.
There are those who would defend Paul with the argument that he was speaking of nations as opposed to individuals. This they base on the general context and flow of the book of Romans. It is true that in Romans 9, Paul begins to speak of Israel as a nation. But this is only briefly before typically rambling off on a tangent, and turning the matter into an obvious issue of individuals. It should be apparent that Paul's assertions concerning Israel in God's supposed plan are possible on a national level because of the presupposition that God works out His plan on the individual level. The premise is, if God works this way with every individual, He can do whatever He wills with entire Nations comprised of individuals. Add to this the fact that nowhere after asking the anticipated and obvious questions does he answer with anything remotely resembling... "I speak of nations as opposed to individuals." How can someone with enough presence of mind to anticipate the objections and ask the obvious questions himself, not also have the presence of mind to answer the questions with something as simple as "I speak of nations" if that is all it would take to end the confusion? It simply is not possible that this is what Paul is trying to communicate to his readers. He seriously wants us to believe his picture of an all-controlling, predestinating God Who gives man no say in the matter. Paul was without question digging in his heels on this picture.
The truth is, Calvinists finally have in Paul the
Biblical proof they need for their doctrine. There is no more need to twist or
take anything out of context. In fact, now they are far more honest in their exegesis of this passage than those who
recoil at its implications and have engaged in bend-over-backwards apologetics
for Paul! The problem now is a perfect split between Calvinists and those of a more Arminian persuasion, all of whom continue to
radically embrace the presupposition that the
Bible is infallible from cover to cover. The Calvinists refuse to deal with the passages that clearly
indicate God has limited His knowledge, and Arminians have to be terribly
dishonest in interpreting Paul's words if they are going to deal with him at
all. And never the twain shall meet. Indeed, both sides tend to throw their hands up in the air... and
in false humility commit intellectual
suicide by claiming it is all a mystery beyond mere humans to comprehend.
A closer look at Paul's proof texts
Most Christians never question Paul and the way he attempts to prove his case with Scripture. Indeed, his words are considered Scripture themselves. Scripture supporting Scripture... what could be more infallible? But what if Paul misused, or even abused Moses and the Prophets? This is something that is never even considered to be a possibility, so no one bothers to check! Paul's intimidating words, "Who are you to reply against God?" have had their effect, and for many, to question him is to question God Himself.
Paul never does try to logically explain how God can
righteously hold someone accountable for their actions when they have no choice
in the matter. He only says in so many words
that it's just the way it is. Then he attempts to prove it from Scripture. It's
time to take a close look at the Scriptures Paul gives as proof for his
Jacob and Esau/loved and hated before birth
The first of Paul's examples is his reference to Jacob and Esau.
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger.." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." Romans 9:10-13
Is it not plainly evident that Paul wants us to believe
God hated Esau before he was even born? This would naturally be the part that
people would object to. No one has any difficulty with
the picture of God loving someone and blessing them before they were born. Most
of us don't even have a problem with the picture of God choosing to bless one
person more than another. It is the hating of an individual before
they have any say in the matter that
screams of injustice. It is to this picture that Paul anticipates an objection and
asks the obvious question, "...Is there unrighteousness with God?" Read it
again if necessary so it is well established that Paul is in fact claiming God
hated Esau before he was born. Take special notice of the words, "not yet being born, nor having
done any good or evil".
Now let's look at the two passages Paul quotes, where they are found, and the context in which they were originally spoken. If a person never looked them up, one is compelled to believe these two statements were probably spoken in the same scene if not the same breath. But that is about as far from the truth as it can be. The first statement is found in the first book of the Bible, and the last statement is found in the very last book of the Hebrew Bible. As you read them, please notice here that both passages speak in terms of nations as opposed to the individuals Jacob and Esau.
"Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:23
The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. "I have loved you," says the Lord. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the Lord. "Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness." Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places." Thus says the Lord of hosts; "They may build, but I will throw down They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever." Malachi 1:1-4
Even in the Genesis passage, when God is speaking to pregnant Rebecca, neither Jacob nor Esau as individuals are called by name but are referred to as "nations" and "peoples". Also, please notice that the older one who was also to be the father of a nation is blessed and not cursed in that he would still be the father of an entire nation! In the Malachi passage, God is again referring to nations, and it was spoken over a thousand years after the individuals Jacob and Esau had lived and died! The nation of Edom, which are the descendants of Esau, was despised by God after the fact of their own evil behavior and rebellion against Him. But before this all happened, God loved, blessed, and cared for Esau and his descendants for several hundred years. At a period of time between the recording of these two passages, when Israel was in the wilderness heading toward the promised land, God told Moses...
"You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward, and command the people saying, 'You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. Do not meddle with them for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession." Deuteronomy 2:4,5
Here again, Edom the nation is referred to as "Esau"... in the same manner that Israel is often referred to as "Jacob". What's more, both Esau and his descendants were obviously still loved and blessed for Abraham and Isaac's sake for some time. Esau certainly was not "hated" before he was "born" or had a chance to do "any good or evil" as Paul would have us believe. For Paul to rip these passages out of their context from opposite ends of the Hebrew Bible, spoken over a thousand years apart, and paste them together in this fashion as proof that God predestines and even hates some individuals before they are even born is the most deplorable kind of exegesis imaginable. Any Bible college student would get thrown out of school for such sloppy logic! They'd belong working for some tabloid somewhere. I challenge anyone to find anywhere in the Hebrew Bible that God actually hated Esau before he was born.
When I first noticed
this misuse of Scripture was when I considered the possibility that Paul was
capable of error. In my research since, I have come to find that this
particular error wasn't even the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Paul's proof from Moses
From this picture of a God who predestines individuals, Paul anticipates the objection and asks the question himself; "Is there unrighteousness with God?" He does not answer with a logical explanation of how God can righteously condemn a man before he is born. Nor does he simply explain it as God dealing with nations as a whole or as exceptions to the rule. He simply states that God is not unrighteous... avoids dealing with logistical problems altogether... and continues to promote his assertions with more quotes from Scripture. Now he tries to convince us from Moses.
For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Romans 9:15,16
This presumed quote is extracted from Exodus 33 where Moses has asked God if he could see His glory. Paul is clearly portraying a God who chooses to show favor on whomever he so desires completely apart from any endeavor of an individual to achieve His favor. Paul's use of the word "whomever" as supposedly used in Exodus is critical here. In his picture, he is using an indefinite word here. He is claiming that God's choosing to have, or not to have, mercy on an individual is true of anybody and everybody, as opposed to anyone specific. This is evident in both the Greek word translated "whomever", and the context in which he uses it. It is a picture that is very misleading as well. Here is the accurate quote from Exodus in its greater context.
Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name." Then he said, "Please , show me Your glory." Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Exodus 33:17-19
Notice that God is talking specifically to and about Moses as opposed to everybody. The Hebrew word for "whom" is a very definitive word. It is the word "et" #853 in Strong's code. The Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says this word is a "primarily strongly demonstrative" pronoun, which means, "self", or "this same". Even the Hebrew syntax of this phrase is literally rendered as...
"I will favor whom I favor, and I will have mercy on whom I have mercy."
There isn't the slightest ambiguity as to whom God is choosing to favor in the Hebrew text. It is Moses and Moses only! He alone is about to receive a double... or second portion of God's favor and mercy! And this, because he had done that which pleased God and had subsequently "found" the favor which he had sought. And God, speaking in this way of granting a double-portion blessing to someone who has merited it, has a precedence in Abraham!
Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham an second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, in blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which s on the seashore..." Genesis 22:15-17a
Read the passage in Exodus 33 starting at verse 12
and notice how Moses had found favor with God. The thought of actually meriting God's favor is an
abomination to a Calvinist. Remember TULIP in chapter 3? They believe there is nothing
anyone can do on their own behalf to move up in favor with God no matter how
hard they try. But God says much to the
contrary. What Paul wants us to get from
this misquoted passage is so far from the truth that it is the real abomination
in the eyes of heaven. He wants us to believe, "it is not of him who
wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."
Hardening Pharaoh's heart
The next proof from Scripture that Paul cites is the subject of God hardening Pharaoh's heart.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be declared in all the earth." Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. Romans 9:17-18
This quote from Scripture comes from Exodus 9:16, and is the closest Paul comes to actually finding some Scriptural support for his doctrine... but he still misses it. The big mistake he makes about this example from Scripture is in assuming that God's dealing with Pharaoh is His way of dealing with every individual. As mentioned in the previous chapter, God most certainly can override a person's will if He so desires or deems it necessary. But this is by far the exception and a defeat of the very purpose for which God created a free-will man in the first place. Here is the simple truth concerning Pharaoh that even a child can easily grasp. To the extent that Pharaoh hardened his own heart without the intervention of God will be the same extant to which he will be held accountable and judged for his actions. If God desires to be known as "righteous", which He obviously does, He cannot hold anyone accountable for actions in which they had no choice. Period.
God had previously told Moses what He intended to accomplish in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. It was to make a name for Himself in all the world as Israel's deliverer. And at the burning bush He told Moses that He expected Pharaoh to harden his own heart, Exodus 3:19. But if he didn't, God would have to harden it for him for the purpose of carrying out His plan to establish His name.
One other point of interest is Paul's usage of
the phrase, "raised you up". In Paul's context of God hating Esau before
he was born, and predestining some to evil, he is obviously trying to convey that God
Pharaoh into existence for evil and destruction as well. In Paul's world, it was
all planned out before Pharaoh was even born. But even here it appears that Paul is stretching his translation of the
Hebrew text by saying "raised you up" in the same manner he misused
the term "whomever". The Hebrew words literally mean, "I have
held you up" or "I
have preserved you" or, "kept you alive". In the
context of the preceding sentence, Pharaoh being preserved from an
earlier destruction is the
only possible interpretation of this verse. (see Exodus 9:15&16) Pharaoh
had long before passed the point of deserving God's judgment. The picture
of Pharaoh having his evil fate determined before his birth the way Esau supposedly
did, is one which Paul desires to drive home and takes great liberties
when quoting Scripture to support it. The fact is, the picture of God hating
someone before they are born just isn't in
Scripture! Paul has again been less
than honest in his usage of Scripture to promote his doctrines.
Paul anticipates objection a second time
Now after using Moses and Pharaoh as examples in an attempt to prove that God predestines and controls the lives of every individual as a God who "has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens", Paul again anticipates the objection to the injustice of this picture.
You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
This says it all. It is the million dollar question. Just in asking it, Paul has admitted his doctrine smacks of an unrighteous God. Again, he does not answer the question with a simple answer that this is the exception to the rule, or concerning nations as a whole. The question Paul anticipates is... "who", as in... what-single-individual has ever resisted God's will? Again, Paul does not offer anything that even remotely resembles logic with which to reconcile it all. He figures he's proved his case and goes on to say...
"But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?"
Whoa! Now we're talking authority!
Apparently in Paul's world, to challenge his doctrine is to challenge
God Himself! This tactic is nothing short of condescending
designed to intimidate the would-be plaintiff into silence. I would love to have
lived back then and been able to get in Paul's face at this point and say, "My
argument is not with God... but
you Paul. I will ascribe righteousness to my maker. It's your
pagan-twisted concepts about God's character, and abuse of Scripture
that accuse Him of unrighteousness and make a mockery of Him."
The potter and the clay comparison
We've barely begun dealing with all of Paul's abuses of Scripture. Let's look at what Paul goes on to say in this same text. Up to this point, Paul has simply pontificated his doctrine with the attitude that this is simply just the way it is whether we like it or not and in spite of the fact that it doesn't add up. Now Paul finally makes his first feeble attempt at logic. Again, he does so by borrowing from Scripture.
Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? Romans 9:21
The metaphor of the potter molding clay is borrowed from both Isaiah and Jeremiah. Two separate references glued together again! Let's look at the Isaiah passage first. This is from where Paul echoes the question, "Why have you made me like this?"
Shall the clay say to him who forms it, "What are you making?" Isaiah 45:9
This quote comes from the section of Scripture mentioned before where it is prophesied that Cyrus would let the exiles of Israel go free to rebuild Jerusalem. This passage is referring to Cyrus and Cyrus alone. As mentioned earlier, this is a classic example of the exception to the rule when it comes to God overriding a man's will. Isaiah 45 begins by addressing Cyrus, and ends at verse 13 where it is stated that Cyrus will have no reward for doing this great good. And why? Because it would not be Cyrus doing it! It would be God forcefully bringing about what He had planned and Cyrus would be as putty in His hands to accomplish His will. The point again is that this is referring specifically to Cyrus, not everyone, and the exception to the rule.
Paul also borrows from Jeremiah the picture of the potter having "power over the clay".
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter' so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying; "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the Lord. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!" Jeremiah 18:1-6
At first, this sounds like great support for Paul's doctrine. It sounds like the potter is in total control of determining what is made of the clay and the clay has nothing to say about it. But let's continue with the passage and context from Jeremiah and see how God wants this metaphor of the potter molding the clay to be interpreted.
"The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it." Jeremiah 18:7-10
Paul wants us to believe that there is nothing the clay can do
or say to determine what the potter makes of it. But here, it couldn't be more obvious that
just the opposite is true. God is clearly communicating to the children of
Israel that they are totally responsible for what
the potter does with the clay! It is simply a matter of obeying God and doing
what is good in His sight that will cause Him to make something good of them!
What is done with them is not predetermined, but determined in time, in reaction
to the actions of the clay
Origins of Paul's concept of Deity
Believe it or not, it gets worse! Paul continues with the following unbelievable picture.
"What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,..." Romans 9:22,23
Are we really to believe that God creates individuals solely for the purpose of destruction, and puts up with them until He can use them for His original purpose of showing-off His wrath and power?! Even if we could get past this sickening picture, the question remains; how or why would this have anything to do with God's ability to display His goodness? Must God display some terrible side before He can show His good side? What is this concept of balancing good with evil and where did it come from? It most certainly did not come from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! This is Greek philosophy of pagan origins akin to the Taoist concept of the Yin/Yang balance of good and evil.
Paul's statement could hardly be more customized to fit the hearing of Gentiles in the pagan culture of Rome. Their gods were known to be capricious wrathful beings who played with men and their destinies as though they were toys. It is also well documented that many first century Jews had succumbed to numerous Greek philosophical concepts of the attributes of deity. This was especially true of (but not exclusive to) the Greek speaking Jews of the Diaspora. This is born out in the writings of Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E. Philo was believed to have been of the sect of Pharisees as was Paul. This is not to say that all Pharisees would have been in agreement with Philo, but Philo demonstrates that Greek philosophy had in fact made significant inroads in the thinking of many leading Jews... Pharisees and otherwise. As I will show in a moment, even the disciples of Yeshua asked questions that could only have stemmed from Hellenistic concepts of God.
In the preface to the original edition of the book, 'The Works of Philo' translated by C.D. Yonge, (Hendrickson publishers) are the following assertions of Yonge. Speaking of Philo's notoriety as a student of Plato, he says;
"..., and it is in consequence of this tendency that he (Philo) is spoken of as the first of the Neo-Platonists, that is to say, of that school which attempted to reconcile the doctrines of the Greek, and more especially of the Academic philosophy with the revelation contained in the sacred scriptures,..."
"The attempt to reconcile the heathen philosophy with the Bible was not altogether new. ... it was not unnatural that, being also formerly convinced of the divine origin of their own scriptures, they should endeavor to reconcile two systems,..."
Philo himself makes the following statements in which can be seen the effect of Greek philosophy upon his thinking, and more specifically, that concepts of timelessness and destiny are at least as old as Plato.
Moses says also; "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth:" taking the beginning to be, not as some men think, that which is according to time; for before the world time has no existence, but was created either simultaneously with it, or after it; for since time is the interval of the motion of the heavens, there could not have been any such thing as motion before there was anything which could be moved; but it follows of necessity that it received existence subsequently or simultaneously. It therefore follows also of necessity, that time was created either at the same moment with the world, or later than it--and to venture to assert that it is older than the world is absolutely inconsistent with philosophy. (Philo, On the Creation VII.)
...for what can be a greater act of wickedness than to think that the unchangeable God can be changed? ...there is nothing uncertain nor even future to God. ...therefore, this younger son, (time) perceptible by the external senses being set in motion, has caused the nature of time to shine forth, and to become conspicuous, so that there is nothing future to God, who has the very boundaries of time subject to him; for their life is not time, but the beautiful model of time, eternity; and in eternity nothing is past and nothing is future, but everything is present only. (Philo, On the Unchangeableness of God V, VI)
Without addressing the fallacies
of logic contained in this philosophy again, it should suffice at this point to
note the existence of the concepts of timeless destiny in Jewish thinking in
this early first century period. In short, Einstein didn't start it. See also Was Einstein right?
Yeshua's disciples even assumed timeless destiny
This type of thinking was found everywhere. Many simply embraced it without question as the intelligent thinking of the day, much the way the theory of evolution is accepted today. Even Yeshua's disciples asked a question that could only have come from a timeless/destiny presupposition.
Now as Yeshua passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:1,2
Question: How can someone possibly sin before
they were born and so deserve to be born blind? The only way of course is if one believes
that time is an irrelevant factor in the equation. The disciples obviously
thought that a man could be held accountable before he was born for sins
he would commit later in life... or they wouldn't have asked the silly question.
When and Why did this type of thinking come about?
After the return of the exiles from Babylon
to the land of Israel, the Israelites did not want to repeat the sins of
their forefathers that had precipitated the judgment and exile of Israel. One of the
biggest sins of their forefathers was the worship of many gods. This they
remedied by going to great lengths to establish the doctrine of one and only
one God... the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But as the pagan Greek gods
began to compete with the God of Israel for viability in society, the picture began to
change. I imagine it being much like two young boys bragging about what their
fathers could do. The Greeks claimed and used philosophy to prove that their
gods were outside of time and could thereby know the future and do
whatsoever they willed with the lives and destinies of men. Not
wanting to be outdone by pagan gods, or appear unenlightened in philosophy, many Jews incorporated similar attributes
to their God. A God who limits Himself, at
least on the surface, sounds like a weaker God. They went to great lengths to
find support in the Scriptures of this new picture of the God of Israel
with which they could compete in the arena of philosophy with the Hellenists. By
the first century, many took this ultra-sovereign picture of the God of Israel
as the best thinking of the day. But as I have shown, the support from
scripture just isn't there! Remember, Paul was an educated Jewish Pharisee, and
his support for his picture of deity as found in Romans chapter 9 was the
best that even he could do!
Paul went to great lengths to portray an ultra-sovereign
picture of the God of Israel to the Gentiles in an effort to compete with the
pagan concepts of deity. I do not doubt that this is what he believed to be the
truth... everyone naturally believes that their god is the biggest and the best.
I do not fault him for malicious deceit at least at this point, but I do call him on
severe error in his doctrine. This kind of error has its collateral damage as
well. It will effect not only the way one thinks about God, but how they
view themselves. Paul is a classic case example of this. If one believes in
destiny, and then has an encounter as Paul did on the road to Damascus, arrogance
can only ensue.
In the following chapters, I will show that this is exactly what happened. Paul went on to take for himself the coveted title of "apostle of Yeshua" when it was not given to him, nor was it his to take. But first, I would like to address the concept of an inerrant Bible in the next short chapter.
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