Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical And Theological Reflections -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 36:1 (Mar 1993)
Article: Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical And Theological Reflections
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner


Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical And Theological Reflections

Thomas R. Schreiner*

Calvinists typically appeal to Romans 9 to support their theology of divine election.1 In particular, they assert that Romans 9 teaches that God unconditionally elects individuals to be saved.2 By “unconditionally” they mean that God, in eternity past, freely chooses specific individuals whom he will save (Eph 1:4) and that his choice is not based on their foreseen faith or effort (Rom 9:16). God does not simply foresee, say Calvinists, that certain people will put their faith in him, for apart from his work of grace to overcome their resistance to him no one would or could desire to come. Rather, he foreordains and determines that those who have been chosen will exercise faith.

The Calvinist exegesis of Romans 9, however, is increasingly questioned today.3 Many scholars believe that the doctrine of individual election unto salvation is read into the text by Calvinists and cannot be defended by an examination of the entire context of Romans 9–11. What I want to do in this article is to explain two of the objections to the Calvinist reading of Romans 9, and then to examine whether the objections are compelling and persuasive.

The two most common objections to the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 are as follows: (1) Romans 9 is wrongly explained if one understands it to refer to salvation. Paul is not referring to salvation in this text. Instead, the historical destiny of different nations (especially Israel) is being narrated. (2) Even if Romans 9 does relate to salvation in some sense, it does not refer to the salvation of individuals. The section relates to the salvation of groups, of corporate entities, and not to individuals.

Each of the two objections will be explained and examined more closely.

* Thomas Schreiner is associate professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary, 3949 Bethel Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112.

I. Historical Destiny Or Salvation?

The first objection is that the text does not necessaril...

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