hate Esau before he was born?
Are Paul's words the infallible word of God?
From Calvinist to Arminian... to all who hold the Bible infallible from Genesis to Revelation
Within Christianity today there rages a debate over the issue of the sovereignty of God. The question is, does God know the future in exhaustive detain, or doesn't He? This debate is far from new, but it has taken on some new labels. In the past, it was more commonly known as Calvinism versus Arminianism. Now it is being called the openness theology debate. Every argument that is being presented by both sides is quite old and worn out. They are only new to those who have not wrestled with this subject before.
Both sides have attempted to establish cordial ground rules for the debate. Among the premises from which both agree to never swerve is the assumption that the Bible is the finally authority on the subject and the infallible word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
I see this premise as the source of the irreconcilable differences. The Bible clearly teaches both sides of the issue. It is only those with the die-hard intellectual fortitude... knowing that God cannot both know and not know what a person will do, who are compelled to continue in the debate. The others have thrown their hands up in the air and committed intellectual suicide by calling it all a mystery hidden in--and understood, only by God. For them, to even attempt to understand the issue is the height of arrogance and deserving of only contempt.
Whenever the debate begins, those of the Calvinistic position who believe that God knows everything a man will choose to do, cite passages from Scripture that appear to indicate the same. They are few in number, and a sharp opponent can handily show the error of the Calvinist's exegesis. It has also been my observation that Calvinists do virtually nothing to answer the many passages that clearly demonstrate that God does not know everything, and He has limited His knowledge of the future. But eventually the Calvinists pull out their trump card and refer to Paul's words in Romans chapter 9. This passage is the only truly hard evidence Calvinists have for their doctrine. Though the expositors of the openness doctrine may be quite capable of dealing with every other passage that appears to support Calvinistic doctrine, this one they cannot adequately deal with. None have dealt adequately with it, and their attempts to do so have been far more lacking in logical integrity than that of the Calvinist's apologetics for their pet doctrines.
But there is the other possibility that is never considered by either position. This possibility is the basis for my challenge to those of both sides of the issue. Consider the possibility that Paul was WRONG, and his words are NOT the infallible word of God. To substantiate this premise, here is my challenge.
You must be able to do at least one of the following.
that Paul did NOT want us to
believe Esau was hated by God BEFORE
he was born… as recorded in Romans 9:11-14.
from anywhere in the Tanach that God DID
in fact hate Esau BEFORE he was born.
Neither can be done!
Paul's words from Romans.
“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 have I loved, but Esau I have hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Romans 9: 11-14
The very fact that Paul anticipates the revulsion of his readers to this picture, of someone being hated by God before they are born and had a chance to prove what kind of people they are, and then goes on to ask the obvious question himself proves that this is exactly what he wants us to believe. The remaining text goes on to build on this premise. If it were not what he intended for us to believe, the rest of the text becomes perfectly meaningless.
It is safe to say that the vast majority of Christians (if not all) agree this picture is correct and what Paul would have us to believe... that God actually hated Esau before he was born! It simply can’t be argued with! It is in fact what Paul wants us to believe.
Now try to prove this picture from Scripture. Paul supposedly proved this picture from Scripture himself, and for nearly all of Christianity this is good enough. But, please take note that Paul does not just pontificate this doctrine as ‘that’s just the way it is’. Even he feels it is necessary to prove his doctrine from Scripture. So let’s look at Paul’s proof-quotes from Scripture. He quotes...
“The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated.”
Paul’s context, the second of the two phrases appears to have been
spoken by God in the very next—if not the same—breath, at a time before
Jacob and Esau were born. If this were not the case, his argument is
meaningless. The first phrase was indeed spoken before they were
born. So it would make sense that if God did hate Esau before he was born
as Paul wants us to believe, God probably
spoke the next phrase at that same time. Guess what? The first quote comes from
the first book of the Bible, Genesis 25:23, and the second comes from the
very last book of the Tanach, Malachi 1:1-4, and was spoken
over a thousand years after Esau had died! And, it is obvious from the context in which it
is found that God is speaking of Esau’s descendants the NATION
of Edom and not Esau himself. And this is long AFTER Esau's descendants
had the opportunity to do "any good or evil”. God spoke this AFTER Edom had proven to
be evil and deserving of God’s hatred.
Nowhere in the Genesis passage is there any indication whatsoever that God hated Esau before he was born!
The fact is, God said He would make a great nation of Esau. Just because God promised to make an even greater nation of his brother is in no way a curse on Esau or evidence that God hated him. If this is the way God expresses hatred toward someone, I hope He hates me likewise and makes a great nation of my descendants! And being a servant of Israel would be a great honor, not a curse. Only jealousy and envy can turn such a blessing into a curse.
Those who might desperately reach for the argument that the word “hated” doesn’t really mean hate, but means Esau was blessed less by comparison, must answer the question of why Paul anticipated the revulsion to his picture, and why he anticipates and asks the question himself. In doing so, he has admitted that there is an apparent great injustice in it! If Paul had the presence of mind to anticipate a simple misunderstanding, why didn’t he have the presence of mind to answer that question with a simple answer? All he would have had to say is, " Don't misunderstand, God still loved Esau." Also bear in mind the fact that the Hebrew word from Malachi which Paul quotes means nothing less that "hate". And the fact that Paul continues to build on the unjust-appearing premise that God can actually hate some individuals before they are even born proves that this is the picture he wants us to accept. The Calvinist's exegesis of Paul's words in Romans 9 is quite accurate.
So what we really have here is Paul abusing Scripture and using it to convince his readers of a picture that simply does not exist. If you believe that Paul's words are "God breathed" and infallible, what are you going to do? Do you seriously believe the Holy Spirit would ever abuse Scripture in such a fashion? Can you sense the implications of Paul being wrong even once? And you should know that this is far from being the only time Paul engages in this type of abuse of Scripture! But for this article, you are simply challenged to accomplish one of the two choices listed above. You must prove one of the two statements above, or face the fact that Paul is very capable of abusing Scripture, being wrong, and his words are not the infallible word of God.
Paul’s abuse of Scripture was for the most part shooting from the hip of his memory. He did not have the luxury of consulting his computer by punching in key words to see if the passage he wanted to use was being recollected accurately. It is extremely doubtful he even had his own written copy of the Torah. The only copies available at that time were generally found in the synagogues. And it was a great inconvenience to have to go there, obtain permission, then scroll through the entire text to try to find what he thought he remembered hearing read in synagogue one Sabbath. Instead, he did as many Jews throughout history have done. If you have seen the movie Fiddler on the Roof, there is a classic example of this. You’ll remember where the main character as well as others would say, “the good book says…” and then go on to quote something that obviously wasn’t there or was terribly misquoted. Paul was just another everyday person who made many mistakes. He was in no way infallible.
Paul's usage of Scripture in Romans 9:11-13 can be compared by analogy to say a biologist exclaiming something like... “We know that captive birds will not eat vegetable matter because of the indisputable and well-known proverb which states, ‘ A bird in the hand... gathers no moss“. The original proverbs of, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", and "A rolling stone gathers no moss", have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The way Paul uses passages from Genesis and Malachi as proof for his doctrine of destiny is no-less absurd! Read both texts (Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:1-4) and then try telling me they have anything to do with each other!
Until Christianity can come to grips with fact that Paul's letters contain doctrinal errors, the arguments concerning God's foreknowledge will continue indefinitely. Each side will continue to cling to their pet passages and ignore the existence of the others.
To observe some more of Paul's blatant abuses of Scripture, see chapter 13 The Law stands and other errors of Paul.