Romans 9 And The Calvinist Doctrine Of Reprobation -- By: Eric Hankins
JBTM 15:1 (Spring 2018) p. 62
Romans 9 And The Calvinist Doctrine Of Reprobation
Eric Hankins is pastor of First Baptist Fairhope in Fairhope, Alabama. [email protected]
Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem defines reprobation as “the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice.”1 The doctrine of reprobation, which is essential to Calvinism as the necessary corollary to the doctrine of unconditional election,2 asserts that there is a certain group of persons who have never been and will never be the objects of God’s redeeming love regardless of whether or not they hear the gospel. God has determined not to give this certain group of individuals the grace and faith necessary for salvation. He does not base this determination to withhold grace and faith on anything having to do with the reprobate persons themselves. He withholds grace and faith from them simply because it brings him the most glory. The jolting but unavoidable reality is that Calvinism teaches that the one and only reason that the lost are not saved is that “God does not want them saved.”3 Indeed, Grudem’s definition is quite clear on this point: reprobation is God’s “sovereign decision . . . before creation . . . not to
JBTM 15:1 (Spring 2018) p. 63
save them.”4 Critically engaging this particular doctrine of Calvinism is important because reprobation lies at the very core of Calvinist soteriology and because it suffers from acute exegetical, philosophical, and theological problems. If the dubious doctrine of reprobation falls, Calvinism will need a significant revision.
In calling reprobation into question, I will focus on the very particular task of demonstrating that Romans 9 does not demand such a doctrine. This may seem rather inconsequential at first glance, but it is actually quite significant because of the role Romans 9 plays in Calvinist constructions of the doctrine. Calvinists themselves acknowledge that reprobation is enormously problematic and that the problem is compounded by a lack of biblical support.5 Grudem notes, “ . . . the doctrine of reprobation is the most difficult of all the teachings of Scripture for us to think about and accept because it deals with such horrible and eternal consequences for human...
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