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?
 There are many New Perspectives, but I focused solely on N. T. Wright’s
 Specifically Romans 9-11
 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)
 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.
 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)
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.
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