Predestination and the Jews in Romans 9


Romans 9 may be the most troublesome chapter in the New Testament. Misunderstandings of this chapter have led to a caricature of the doctrine of predestination that teaches that God in his sovereignty has already decided who will and will not be saved and, as a result, nothing mere humans do will. They have also led to centuries of Christian teaching that God rejected the Jews. Popular commentator William Barclay even declared that Paul got the whole thing wrong!

What is the place of Romans 9 within the entire book? Notice that it is possible to finish reading chapter 8 and continue immediately with chapter 12 without any sense of having missed anything.… Read the rest

Isaiah 40: one prophecy, three fulfillments

Isaiah 40 may be one of the best-known passage among all the Old Testament prophets. Anyone who knows Handel’s Messiah will immediately recognize the text for the first tenor recitative and aria, the first chorus, the first alto aria (with chorus), and the second alto aria among the first eleven verses of the chapter: “Comfort ye my people,” “Every valley shall be exalted,” “And the glory of the Lord,” “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,” and “He shall feed his flock.”

We associate these verses with the Christmas story at least because John the Baptist claimed to be the “voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,” words quoted in the tenor recitative.… Read the rest

Wickedness: our questions and God’s answers

Today, fanatical Muslims blow themselves up in crowded market places in the name of their god. They didn’t invent terrorism and are not alone in dishonoring their own religion by their actions.  Christians, too, have been guilty. What else can serial murders of abortionists be called?

Many historians describe the tactics of radical abolitionist John Brown an injection of terrorism into American politics, and he though he was acting for God. The religious policies of Spanish King Philip II and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II amount to state-sponsored terrorism in the name of God.

Not all wickedness is violent. Those who devise Internet scams, those who choose profits over human lives in board rooms, and any others who steal at long distance do not sin violently.… Read the rest

God’s presence in the storms of life

Clouds get so thick they obscure the sun. The air becomes heavy with humidity. The wind picks up. Rumbles of thunder come closer and closer. Soon it’s raining hard. Forget your plans and run for safety, as lightning flashes and all manner of debris flies through the air.

Does that sound like a description of what the weather outside can be like? Or does it sometime sound like a metaphor for our lives? The loss of a job, the breakup of an important relationship, the death of a loved one, health issues–don’t these things often seem like a storm, with the ensuing flooding or loss of power or damage from falling trees?… Read the rest

The flood: grace and judgment on display

Here’s the quickie narrative of the flood that almost everyone knows: God made people and got mad at them, so he decided to wipe them out. He liked one fellow, though, so he made him build an ark and collect pairs of animals. Everyone else drowned, but when the floodwaters subsided, the few people and animals on the ark repopulated the earth.

On the surface, that sound like overkill. I mean, surely there must have been some nice folks that died along with the bad guys, right?  To many people who understand only that much of the story, God must be some kind of angry, capricious monster–at least until gentle Jesus meek and mild came along.… Read the rest