Luther, Calvin, Arminius and I: Universality and Particularity of Atonement

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Mini

The shed blood of Christ Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” wrote the author the first epistle of John (1 John 2:2 NIV). This article presents a universality and particularity of atonement and showed that Martin Luther, John Calvin and Jacob Arminius held a similar understanding of the nature and extent of atonement.

I have studied and reflected 1 John 2:2 for the last 5 months. I have come to a conclusion that Christ shed his blood for all, post-Christ’s death and resurrection, without exception. This is the universality of the atoning work of Christ Jesus. The story, nonetheless, does not end here. The shed blood of Christ is, however, not extended to all without exception but to all without distinction. This is the particularity of the atoning work of Christ Jesus.

The shed blood of Christ extends or is applied particularly to believers, the elected or the called, whom in God’s proper time are also given the gift of regeneration that spring forth faith to receive it (Acts 13:48). Through the shedding of His blood, Christ’s righteousness is thus given to all without distinction.  Christ’s righteousness is given to whomever believe (Rom. 3:22) in the person and work of Christ Jesus. Continue reading

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Lutheran Challenge to Calvinist’s Assurance

Luther im Kreise von Reformatoren

What can a Calvinist say to a person who struggles with his assurance of salvation (this also applies to evangelism)?  From reading and pondering some Lutheran blogs’ posts for some time now,  I could not help but wonder what one as a Calvinist could say to this question. The objection goes to the application of limited atonement to assurance of salvation (all though one’s view on whether the means of grace confers salvific grace also have a say in this question).

What can Calvinist respond to this? A Calvinist can’t say consistently that a person struggling with assurance of salvation should look to Christ and his vicarious dearth because his dearth only paid for the sins of the elect. This is the same kind of objection as the ”free offer of the gospel”: If salvation ultimately is only meant for and provided for the elect, is it then really genuine?

A Calvinist may want to say to a person struggling with assurance that he should believe in the gospel. But this is in my opinion a non-starter because as said above he would have to know in advance that this atonement was ”for me”, which he only knows if he already knows he is elect.

Another answer a Calvinist could provide is that one should look for assurance in inner transformation by looking for the fruits of the spirit and the ”tests of faith” in 1.john. And certainly there is verses that make very strong connections between faith and works (like James 2, Matt 7:16 etc.). But it is also true that as long as we live, we are still sinners, although progressing in holiness. Jesus says that “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23 ESV). Out of the heart of the sinner flows deceit which means that a unregenerate can cheat people into thinking that he is not a believer (1.john 2:19) and a true believer can be genuinely saved even though he struggles with sin. On top of that, out of the heart of a sinner also flows pride so if he is encouraged to look to inner transformation, then this easily ends up comparing works between brothers which again causes envy. (maybe I am painting with a very broad brush here, sorry).

A Lutheran answer would be that inwards, there is no assurance but only condemnation. This is the law’s work, to drive us to despair and wanting of any hope of salvation in ourselves. Then thereafter to give us the gospel. That is the universal declaration that Christ lived the perfect life and fulfilled thereby the law, died and atoned for the sins of the whole world and rose there days later for our justification. And this gospel is objectively and sincerely given in word and sacrament*. So grace is certainly offered (opposite the reformed view where God only offers his special grace to the elect) but still this has to be received in order to lead to salvation.

One could then ask if this gives any better assurance if salvation ultimately can be lost as Lutherans and Arminians teach. That is for another blog post maybe.

* I’m not completely a Lutheran but I am considering it.

Links to Lutheran blogs: Jason Harris’ From Geneva to Wittenberg & Jordan Cooper’s Just & Sinner

About Guest Contributor

SorenSøren D. Øhrstrøm is 24 years, lives in Aalborg, Denmark. He hold B.A. in Social Sciences from Aalborg University with Study of Religion as a supplementary subject from Aarhus University. He is currently  enjoying life at a Bible school in Israel with his wonderful girlfriend Miriam.

With All I Am: Against Scorns

Think“Philosophy is hard.” wrote Peter van Inwagen, “Thinking clearly for an extended period is hard. It is easier to pour scorn on those who disagree with you than actually to address their arguments.”(van Inwagen 2006, 61-2)

It is easier to lump opposing views together and dismissed them even without carefully examining the arguments offered. It is also easier to circle the wagons and shout slogans. It is equally easier to discredit an opposing view by attack the character (ad hominem) or the group an individual is associated with (guilt by association) of a person offering it. It is easier to offer ridicules and scorns.

Van Inwagen put it better:

And of all the kinds of scorn that can be poured on someone’s views, moral scorn is the safest and most pleasant (most pleasant to the one doing the pouring). It is the safest kind because, if you want to pour moral scorn on someone’s views, you can be sure that everyone who is predisposed to agree with you will believe that you have made an unanswerable point. And you can be sure that any attempt your opponent in debate makes at an answer will be dismissed by a significant proportion of your audience as a ‘‘rationalization’’ — that great contribution of modern depth psychology to intellectual complacency and laziness. Moral scorn is the most pleasant kind of scorn to deploy against those who disagree with you because a display of self-righteousness—moral posturing—is a pleasant action whatever the circumstances, and it’s nice to have an excuse for it. (ibid, 62)

With All I Am blog believes that ideas matter. Though committed to classical reformed Christian theism, I (Prayson Daniel) believe different views should be fairly presented and discussed out in an open marketplace of other competing ideas with gentleness and civility. I believe atheists and theists, reformed and non-reformed Christians, Protestants and Catholics can be open and tolerate each other, even when we strongly disagree.

With All I Am blog believes we can restore the capacity to dialogue with those holding different and opposing views, by addressing each other’s difficulty but honest critiques in a respectable manner.

With All I Am blog believes you (readers) can present more than your mere personal opinions by concisely comment where you think the authors are uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete.

With All I Am blog believes it is possible to hold strong views on a particular subject yet be open and committed to honestly listening and critically evaluating opposing views.

It is time we listen. It is time we reason together. Think. Reason. Follow

Van Iwagen, Peter (2006) The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Elizabeth’s Poetic Case Against Transubstantiation

Queen Elizabeth I

Is the communion bread and the wine a physical or spiritual, or only symbolical body and blood of Christ Jesus? Ludwig Ott correctly presented Roman Catholicism answer to our question, viz.,

“The Eucharist is that Sacrament, in which Christ, under the forms of bread and wine, is truly present, with His Body and Blood, in order to offer Himself in an unbloody manner to the Heavenly Father, and to give Himself to the faithful as nourishment for their souls.” (Ott 1954 370.)

From this view, Christ Jesus is truly, really, and substantially present in forms of bread and wine. The communion bread and wine transubstantiate to actual body and blood of Christ. Thus as pope Paul VI concluded that “they are holy of themselves, and owing to the virtue of Christ they confer grace to the soul as they touch the body”(Paul VI 1965: 38)

Martin Luther rejected this view and contended for consubstantiation. He argued that “[i]t is not that the bread and wine have become Christ’s body and blood, but that we now have the body and blood in addition to the bread and wine.”(Erickson 1986: 1117). Lady Elizabeth rejected both the Roman Catholicism and Germany Reformed views in favor of the French/Geneva reformed understanding.

Elizabeth’s Calvinistic Theology + Case Against Transubstantiation

At twelve years old, Elizabeth had access to the first French copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Geneva, 1541), to which she later translated the first chapter for Queen Katherine. (Elizabeth I 2009: 204-207)

Following John Calvin’s reformed theology, Lady Elizabeth, imprisoned on suspicion of her pro-Protestant stance during the reign of Queen Mary, gave a profound poetic case denying the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

Lady Elizabeth, in prison, wrote:

Twas God the Word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it:
And what that Word did make it,
That I believe and take it.

The depth of Elizabeth’s theology is expounded in her poem, A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, that embodied Calvin’s theology.

Calvin rejected both transubstantiation and consubstantiation. He pointed out that even some of the Catholic father opposed others. He cited Gelasisus Papa expound: “That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Gelasius Papa in Conc. Rom. Gelasius I, 492-96. cited by Calvin) as an example.

For Calvin, Eucharist is a spiritual feast to which “souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine”. He contended,

Thus when bread is given as a symbol of the body of Christ, we must immediately think of this similitude. As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul

When we behold wine set forth as a symbol of blood, we must think that such use as wine serves to the body, the same is spiritually bestowed by the blood of Christ; and the use is to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate.(Calvin 2007: n.p)

In A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, Lady Elizabeth wondered how men, who are not able to make with their own fingers wheat that makes the bread, can make God of wafers. She poetically reductio ad absurdum the  notion that the bread and wine were real body and blood of Christ Jesus since if:

He gave his Flesh, and Blood in Bread and Wine:
For if his Body he did then divide,
He must have eat himself before he dyd.

She expounded, what I believe is correct, what happens when we take bread and wine:

We must believe the Words of him, who said,
This is my Body; when he gave the Bread:
And sure that Blood which curdld in each Vein,
Did in his Sacred Body still remain,
Till he was Crucifyd and Slain.
However, theres great Influence therein,
Which expiates and cleanseth us from Sin:
We are made One with him in Holy Union,
When we in Faith receive the Blest Communion.
In Commemoration of his bitter Passion,
Who shed his Blood to purchase our Salvation;
We on his Merits must depend alone,
Sufficient tis that Merit we have none:
Nor can there any other Name be given
To save us, but by him who sits in Heaven.
His Body here on Earth need not appear,

She offered compelling reasons not to take the bread and wine literally as true body and blood of Christ Jesus when she poetically expounded,

He calld himself a Vine, and yet we see,
He was a perfect Man, and not a Tree.
He calld himself a Door; tis understood,
We enter Heaven through Him, and not thro Wood.
He calld himself a Way, the which doth lead
Our Steps to Heaven, yet none doth on him tread.(Elizabeth I 1688: n.p)

If, indeed, this is Queen Elizabeth I work, I solute her brilliancy since she did not only captured French reformed position but transformed it in a poetic way. Even though, Elizabeth does not comprehensively capture the whole of  Calvin case  in his Institute of the Christian Religion but does, I believe, she successively  presented Calvin’s opinion concerning the Eucharist.

Question: Do you agree with lady Elizabeth’s theology? Give reasons.

Bibliography:

Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Elizabeth I   (1688) Queen Elizabeth ‘s Opinion concerning Transubstantiation: London: Printed for F.E.  English Broadside Ballad Archive

________  (2009) Elizabeth I: Translations, 1544-1589. University of Chicago Press

Erickson, Millard J.(1986) Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Bake.

Paul IV (1965) Mysterium Fidei: Encyclical Pope Paul VI On The Holy Eucharist. Vatican.

Ott, Ludwig (1954) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. from Germany: Patrick Lynch. Roman Catholic Books. Fort Collins.

Particular Atonement: Strengths And Weaknesses

Dexter

Classical Reformed theologians hold that:

“[I]t was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.”( Second Head Of Doctrine, Article 9) [1]

This Reformed view of the extent of the atoning work of Christ Jesus reverberates with Christ Jesus’ proclamation that “[a]ll that the Father gives [him] will come to [him], and whoever comes to [him He] will never cast out”(John 6:37) and that He will “lose nothing of all that [the Father] has given Him, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Holding a Reformed position, J. I. Packer correctly summarized Reformed doctrine of particular atonement, when he defined definite redemption as the finished work of Christ that “ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve.”(Packer 1995: n.p)

Strengths of Particular Atonement

Particular atonement makes sense of Christ Jesus’ exclusively John 17’s prayer, namely He prayed not for the world, but for those whom God the Father gave Him, for they belong to the Father.

Charles Hodge noted that “[t]he high-priest interceded for all those for whom he offered sacrifice. The one service did not extend beyond the other.”(Hodge 1997: 553). He argued as high-priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his breast when representing them as he offered sacrifices for their sins on the day of atonement, Christ Jesus bore the names of those whom God the Father gave Him.

Moreover, particular atonement is the only view that would lead, I believe, to Romans 9:14 reaction, namely “Is there injustice on God’s part?” and that of Romans 9:16b: “Why does he[God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” position. God showing mercy on whom He shows mercy and our inability to come to Christ Jesus unless the Father particularly show us mercy by drawing us to his Son and the Son will raise all whom the Father gave up on the last day (John 6:44 cf Roman 9:16) does prima facie sound injustice on God’s part.

Particular atonement explains why the cross of Christ is still a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, as Paul explained to the Corinthians, but to those whom the Father particularly called and draw to His Son, “both Jews and Greeks, Christ [crucified is] the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor. 1:24) On the Soul, 1, Tertullian awesomely observed: “For, who can know truth without the help of God? Who can know God without Christ? Who has ever discovered Christ without the Holy Spirit? And who has ever received the Holy Spirit without the gift of faith?” It is those whom faith is given as a gift who see the power of God and the wisdom of God displayed at the Cross.

Reflecting on this view, William G. T. Shedd brilliantly resolve that “[t]he tenet of limited redemption rests upon the tenet of election, and the tenet of election rests upon the tenet of the sinner’s bondage and inability.”(Shedd 2003: 744)

Concurring with Shedd, Wayne Grudem concluded that all whom the Father had, according to the purpose of his will and praise of his glorious grace, already destined before the creation of the world, to become the children of God “are the same people for whom Christ also came to die, and to those same people the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, even awakening their faith (John 1:12; Phil. 1:29; cf. Eph. 2:2) and calling them to trust in him.”(Grudem 1994: 595)

Weakness of Particular atonement

One of the weaknesses of the doctrine of Particular atonement is that it stands or fall by the truthfulness of the doctrine of Radical depravity viz., fallen creatures are spiritually dead, hostile to God and have no ability to come to Christ Jesus because the things of Spirit are foolish to them, the doctrine Unconditional election viz., those whom the Father gave to His Son, Effectual grace viz., the awaking of a spiritual dead person by the saving work of the Holy Spirit to see the power and beauty of cross, and Eternal assurance viz., those whom the Father gave to His Son are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of [their] inheritance until [they] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”(Eph. 1:13-14)

Particular atonement necessarily requires a particular assembly of people from all nations, all tribes, all tongues, who were hostile to God, drawn by the Father to His Son with a power that awakes unquenchable delight and joy to the things of Spirit and are forever kept, never to perish because “no one can snatch them out of [Christ Jesus] hand”(John 10:28).

Question To Reformed Theologians: Am I correct in viewing particular atonement as solely dependent on the truthfulness of radical depravity, effectual call, unconditional election and assurance of salvation to the elect?


[1] Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997 (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.


Bibliography:
Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House

Packer, J. I. (1995). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

Shedd, W. G. T., & Gomes, A. W. (2003). Dogmatic theology (3rd ed.). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub.

Universal Atonement: Strengths And Weaknesses

Atonement

Classical Dutch Arminians understand the work of Christ Jesus as a penalty for the sin of every mankind. God’s love and desire to save everyone made salvation possible to any one who will call upon and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savor.

James Arminius1 (1560–1609) accepted that humans are born dead in sins but God in his fairness and justice has restored to every mankind “without any difference of the elect and the reprobate2(Arminius 1853: 497) the power to believe in Christ Jesus.

Following Arminian position, Donald G. Bloesch argued, “Christ has reconciled and justified the whole human race but in principle (de jure), not in fact (de facto) except for those who believe.”(Bloesch 1997: 169)  He pointed that every single person is an heir to the kingdom of God but only those who accept Christ Jesus becomes the members of the church.

Bloesch3 concluded that”[t]he atonement of Christ is universal in its intention and outreach but conditional in the way its efficacy is realized in the lives of God’s people. (ibid 169). Bloesch as all orthodox Christians hold to some form of limited atonement. The dispute is over whether it’s God or human that limits it. Reformed argued that atonement is limited in intention namely God limits it to his chosen, while Arminian, as Bloesch, limits atonement in its efficacy namely Christ’s atoning work is a potential atonement that man has to actualize.

Strengths of Universal Atonement

The strongest verses, I believe, that support universal atonement could be established along Paul’s reasoning that God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (1 Tim. 4:10) and John’s maintaining that Christ Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) 4

Paul’s reasoning entails that God is the Savior of both nonbelievers and believers but specifically believers, while John’s leads to Christ’ universal atoning work.

Passages that stressed that Christ died for his sheep, viz., his bride, the Church (e.g. John 10:11-18) does not necessary negate 1 Timothy 4:10 and 1 John 2:2 because they do not assert that He died only for his sheep.

Weakness of Universal Atonement

Universal atonement necessarily leads to universal salvation, namely universalism5. If we consider that Christ’s atoning work propitiated the wrath of God for the sins of every single person, then it follows logically that every single person is saved from the coming wrath of God (Col. 3:6) .

John Owen correctly argued:

If […] we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world… then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? Yon will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins.(Owen 1862: 173-4)

Using Bloesch’s claim, viz., “[t]he gates of the prison in which we find ourselves are now open, but only those who rise up and walk through these gates to freedom are truly free.” (Bloesch 1997, 169), Owen’s reasoning would lead us to a position that if a prisoner is free, she is free indeed even though she chooses to remain in her prison’s cell. The warden cannot limit her freedom of staying or leaving.  She is not either falsely free or truly free but free or not free.

Wayne Grudem properly pointed out that if “Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of every person who ever lived, then there is no penalty left for anyone to pay, and it necessarily follows that all people will be saved, without exception.”(Grudem 1994: 594) It would be unjust and unloving for God to demand payment for a debt that was already paid by the work of Christ Jesus, regardless of the debtor knowledge that her debt is paid or accepts that her debt is paid.

Bloesch does not explain how “[u]niversal atonement does not necessarily mean universal salvation, but it does imply that all people are the beneficiaries of God’s grace in some way or to some degree”(ibid 168) because, as Robert L. Reymond explained, that Bloesch’s position “requires that we conclude that Christ did not savingly die for everyone—since neither Scripture, history, nor Christian experience will tolerate the conclusion that everyone has been, is being, or shall be saved—but for some people only, even those whom the Father had given to him.”(Reymond 1998: 681)

How universal atonement does not lead to universal salvation, I believe, is a fatal problem in this understanding of atoning work of Christ Jesus.

Question To Arminian Theologians: How do you answer John Owen logical case against universal atonement?



[1] Arminius, the father of Arminianism, reacted to Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza, teaching that was described as of less of grace and goes beyond Calvin’s own teachings, namely  “[t]he decrees of election and reprobation are said to be logically prior to the decrees of creation, fall and redemption.”(Culver 2005: 547)
[2] Emphasis original

[3] Bloesch goes even further to claim that ” [e]ven though incorrigible sinners may find themselves in hell, outside the holy city, they are not outside the compass of God’s love and protection.”(ibid 169)

[4] I did not include Christ’s died for ”all” passages (e.g. John 12:32; Rom. 3:22–24; 5:18; 8:32; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Tim. 2:5–6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9, Rom. 11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) nor ”the world”(e.g. John 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:19) because the term ”all” and ”world” are not used in strict sense (see Matt. 10:22 and John 17:16)

[5] a view that all humans either may or will be saved through atoning work of Christ Jesus.


Bibliography:

Arminius, James (1853). The Works of Arminius ii, trans. James Nichols (Auburn & Buffalo: Derby, Miller & Orion, recently repr. 1853), art. xvii.

Bloesch, D. G. (1997). Jesus Christ : Savior & Lord. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Reymond, R. L. (1998). A new systematic theology of the Christian faith. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Owen, J. Vol. 10: The works of John Owen(1862). (W. H. Goold, Ed.). Edinburg: T&T Clark.

Wright’s New Perspective Approach to Romans 9:14-25

NT Wright

N. T. Wright believes that both Reformed and Wesleyan-Arminianism approaches misses the flow of Paul’s case in Romans 9 because they import Augustine-Pelagic controversy into the text. Wright’s New Perspective1 approaches Romans 9:14-252 as a demonstration of covenant faithfulness of God and the identity of the “member of his people”3.

Romans 9:14-25, according to Wright, displays God faithfully accomplishing His purposes “even within that human rebellion and arrogance to bring about an even more glorious work of rescue, revealing his power, and gaining a worldwide reputation for performing extraordinary acts of judgment and mercy.”(Wright 2004: 14-5). Wright argued,

It is this ongoing purpose, despite the fact of Israel’s rebellion, that causes God to declare to Moses that he will proceed with his plan for the Exodus even though the people have made the golden calf, amounting to a declaration of independence from the true God. That is the setting for the passage in Exodus 33 which Paul quotes in verse 15. It then appears (verse 17) that God is doing with Israel itself what he did with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt who withstood God’s purposes to bring Israel out of slavery.(ibid)

“[Romans 9] does not necessarily relate to salvation.” wrote Thomas R. Schreiner, “Rather, Paul is describing the historical destiny of nations.”(Schreiner 1993: 26). Agreeing with Schreiner, Wright maintained that Paul’s case “[i]n standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church”(Wright 1997: 119)4.

Paul invoking “the image of potter” in verses 20-21, was not designed to show a the final election5, contended Wright, but “was designed to speak very specifically about God’s purpose in choosing and calling Israel, and about what would happen if Israel, like a lump of clay, failed to respond to the gentle moulding of his hands.”(ibid 13) He added, “ ‘vessel of mercy’ doesn’t mean so much a vessel which receives mercy, but a vessel through which God brings mercy to others.”(ibid 16)

If Wright is right, then why would Paul’s anticipated “Why does God still find fault?” For who can resist his will?”(in verse 19b ESV) as a protest of his response toward an earlier objection, viz., “is God unjust”(verse 14)? I think Craig Keener’s observation, namely God’s purpose for forming vessels for glory is “conformity with his Son’s image (8:29) […] but endures those that are objects of his wrath for the sake of the others (9:22–23)”(Keener 2009: loc.4047), as more correct than Wright’s because from Keener’s reasoning, verse 19 objection logically follows.

Echoing Keener and contrary to Wright, David Brown argued that election, viz., God’s “right to choose whom He will [and in Rom. 9:17, He] punishes whom He will”(Brown 1997: n.p) is final. Brown contended,

If God chooses and rejects, pardons and punishes, whom He pleases, why are those blamed who, if rejected by Him, cannot help sinning and perishing? This objection shows quite as conclusively as the former the real nature of the doctrine objected to—that it is Election and Non-election to eternal salvation prior to any difference of personal character; this is the only doctrine that could suggest the objection here stated, and to this doctrine the objection is plausible.(ibid )

Representing one of Reformed commentators’ critic of Wright’s view of God’s election, Sam Storms believed that the objections in verses 14 and 19 would not have “been raised and dealt with by Paul at such great length had the issue in view been the historical or earthly status of individuals […]”. He wrote “[t]he objection, Paul’s vehement denial of unrighteousness in God, and his lengthy (vv. 14-23) explanation are intelligible only if eternal salvation and condemnation are at stake.”(Storms 2007: 126)

I am open for comments, positive critics and edification from my brothers and sisters holding New Perspective view because my reformed bias might have clouded my judgement of Wright’s approach.

What Say You: How right is Wright? Did Wright get Paul’s case in Romans 9 correct?


[1] There are many New Perspectives, but I focused solely on N. T. Wright’s
[2] Specifically Romans 9-11
[3] Which Paul  “now sees the torch being passed from a group consisting only of Jews (a selection from within Abraham’s physical family) to a group consisting of Jews and Gentiles together.”(ibid 15)
[4] Schreiner and Wright are correct in viewing Romans 9-11 as dealing with Israel as a nation but I think it’s both soteriological and ecclesiological.
[5]  Wright noted that in “the Old Testament, Israel goes into exile in order to be reshaped by God; where, in other words, the potter remoulds the clay.”(ibid 15)

Bibliography:

Brown, D. (1997) Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ro 9:17-19). Ed. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Keener, Craig S. (2009) Romans. A New Covenant Commentary. Cascade Books – Eugene, Oregon. Amazon Kindle Edition.

Schreiner, Thomas R. (1993) “Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical And Theological Reflections.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 36.1: 25-40.

Storms, Sam (2007) Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election, revised ed. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Wright, N. T. (1997)What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

_________ (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8. Both volumes include glossaries. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.