Romans 9:19

Romans 9:18-20 (see also Jeremiah 18:13)
So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer,writes: The clay has no right to question the potter.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.171, emphasis mine)

The problem is that Calvinists don’t ask who the clay represents, and who Paul anticipates that will ask that question. (Sometimes Calvinists will suggest that Paul is addressing proto-Arminians, but which only shows that Calvinists are not reading the text, but are instead just proof-texting.) Calvinists say that it is high time that the clay stops questioning the Potter, and I say that it is high time that Calvinists start listening to what the Potter actually says. Challenge Calvinists to see what the Potter says at Jeremiah 18:1-13, in terms of why and when the Potter hardens, and who He warned that He would harden.

Walls and Dongell writes: “...the chief objectors to Paul likely are Jews!” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.90, emphasis mine)

That’s correct, because Romans 9 is an evangelical appeal to the unconverted Jew. Calvinists need to read Romans 9:1-3, in which Paul pours his heart out for his lost fellow Jews. The rest of the chapter follows from that passion, but Calvinists ignore who Paul is in dialogue with, and that’s because Calvinists are head over heels in love with Calvinism.

The Jews were the ones hardened, as per Jeremiah 18:1-13 and Isaiah 6:9-10, and also stated at Romans 11:25-26: For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’” (Romans 11:25-26) Thus, it stands to reason that Paul  anticipates the reaction of the hardened, legalistic Jew, which is the subject of the chapter.







































































Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: If Arminianism were correct, we should expect Paul to answer ‘God finds fault because men have a free will and therefore could have chosen to be obedient.’ Here is the opportunity to set the record straight. But Paul said nothing about free will. Rather, he said, ‘On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? (v.20) The potter has power over the clay to make one vessel unto honor and another to dishonor. God’s purposes in salvation history are being fulfilled.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.214, emphasis mine)

Lutzer is technically making an “argument from silence.” Second, Lutzer is also not referencing the Potters dialogue with the clay, as per Jeremiah 18:1-13, as it specifically relates to the hardening, as this is a continuation of the dialogue between Israel and God at Jeremiah 18:12: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” Next see God’s reply: “Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Ask now among the nations, Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel Has done a most appalling thing.’” (Jeremiah 18:13) Just because God doesn’t specifically refute their argument on Total Inability, doesn’t mean that God is agreeing with it. But that’s what Lutzer’s logic would require, as per his argument from silence.” God merely complains that they would throw Total Inability at Him, while He offers pardon, in exchange for repentance. In fact, unrepentant Israel is really playing the part of Job, in questioning God, except that Job tried to retract his accusations, while Israel continues to press forward, as Paul anticipates.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:I have always thought that the Jeremiaic potter/clay metaphor is so thoroughly against the Calvinist worldview that the only way for Calvinists to justify their interpretation of Romans 9 is to distance Pauls view from Jeremiahs. (SEA)

Often Calvinists will insist that you cannot cite Jeremiah 18 because at Romans 9, the Holy Spirit is revealing a new truth. However, notice that Pauls argument is not based upon any alleged new truth, but based upon what is written.” (Romans 9:13)

This reminds me of John 21:21-23: So Peter seeing him [John] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’ Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’

It’s a mistake for Calvinists to think that because God can unilaterally harden someone, that He does. The context of Romans chapters 9 through 11 is of a Jewish hardening, and although a sovereign God the Potter could have unilaterally hardened Israel, the reality is that the hardening was explicitly conditional, as prophesied by Jeremiah: Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’”’” (Jeremiah 18:6-11)

So the hardening flows from their persistent state of unrepentance. Additionally, God had also said concerning Israel: I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts. (Isaiah 65:2) So God had reached out to them, throughout their entire history. So this is the basis of the Jewish hardening at Isaiah 6:9-10.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:In Jeremiah, he clearly presents the idea of clay as ‘going its own way.’ With a potter’s wheel, a potter doesn’t just simply make a pot exactly how he wants it. The clay spins, and the potter shapes it as the centripetal forces pull the pot apart. The potter then shapes the pot using these very forces which are attempting to rip them apart. However, often the air in the clay, or the lack/abundance  of moisture, or just the wrong shape, will make the pot form incorrectly, and the potter will collapse the clay back into a lump and start over again. A potter may do this three to four times per pot. In fact, it is this idea of restarting the clay that Jeremiah is using. Israel isn’t quite shaping the way God wants it to, so He is going to collapse it and start again with a remnant (note: it is not a different piece of clay, but restarting from the same clay). This makes no real sense in the Calvinist view, for if they were right, then why did the clay go astray to begin with? If we then take this to Romans, then we see God collapsing Judea down, and starting with another new remnant (the apostles), and will build His people back up. (SEA)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “The way I respond to Calvinists who say, ‘the clay cannot judge the potter,’ is this: I am not judging the potter. I am judging another lump of clay who presumes to believe it understands the potter better than the potters own self-revelation.”  (SEA)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:I agree with this idea that you are proposing of focusing on the doctrines of the goodness of God. One of the key things that I have constantly pushed in my discussions with Calvinists is that Arminians center their theological distinctives on the righteousness of God, whereas Calvinists center their distinctives on God’s sovereignty. It is not that one precludes the other, but that the center of discussion will ultimately be revealed as one or the other. I believe this is one of the reasons why Calvinists ultimately gravitate to Romans 9:20 when challenged about how their doctrine depicts Gods righteousness. Their interpretation of that verse has provided an escape for them by their implicit suggestion that we are not allowed to examine the righteousness of God in salvation. We must just accept it. Arminians (and other non-Calvinists) begin at the goodness/righteousness of God and move outward from there. (SEA, emphasis mine)






























Question:  Who does Paul suppose will object to Gods hardening? In other words, who is the you, O man that Paul anticipates will answer back to God?

Answer:  Unbelieving Jews. The you, O man” is the you” who “bear the name Jew.” (Romans 2:17) Romans chapter 9 is focused on Paul’s plea to Jewish unbelievers, which fits within the overall theme of the book of Romans which is Paul’s message on how to reach the Jew for Jesus. Romans 9:1-3 begins with a prayer for Jews, and continues with examples of historical Jews, which every Jew could identify with. The fact is that the Jews were hardened (Isaiah 6:9-10), which is what God warned that He would do (Jeremiah 18:1-13), but Paul clarifies that the Jewish hardening is both partial and temporary: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’” (Romans 11:25-26)
Question:  Where in Scripture do we similarly hear: “O man, who answers back to God?

Answer:  Job, who found fault with God: Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!’” (Job 38:1-3) Although recognizing God’s right over him (Job 9:33), Job had no idea that God had been defending him in Heaven. (Job 2:3) When God called Job to account, He deferred to His omniscience, and Job’s lack of it.
Calvinists can be hypocrites when it comes to Romans 9:20. For when Arminians object to the Moderate Calvinist doctrine of Preterition (which teaches that God passes by people, when dealing out grace), the Moderates employ Romans 9:20: Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” But when the same Moderate Calvinists object to the High Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Reprobation (which teaches that God decreed the Fall and rendered it certain), the High Calvinists rebuke the Moderate Calvinists by similarly employing Romans 9:20: “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” But when the Arminians object to the Moderate Calvinists, holding that although God is sovereign enough to deal with mankind in the exact manner described in Preterition, He will not do so on the basis that it contradicts God’s Word, the Moderate Calvinists show the Arminians the Grouper Face: “Nope, who are you O man?” And then these same Moderate Calvinists have the audacity to complain when they are rebuffed by the High Calvinists after using the same explanation given by the Arminians.
Question:  Why does God still find fault...with the hardened, unbelieving Jews?

Answer:  Because the Potter warned the clay to “turn back” (Jeremiah 18:1-13), and what He said that He was going to do if they refused.