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Toe to toe, omnisciently

I would never suppose I could stand toe to toe with John Piper and debate theology. No, I’m not supposing that.  But recently he posted a teaching regarding Romans 9 in defense of predetermination. Those who defend predetermination will always run to Romans 9 for support. After all, it is there that they find the most comforting verses to support their position.

Take a look at Piper’s notes on Romans 9:11-14.

  1. There is no unrighteousness with God. (Romans 9:14)
  2. Paul feels the need to defend God’s righteousness because he has just said God chose Jacob over Esau before they were even born or had done anything good or bad. (Romans 9:11–13)
  3. Some might interpret this kind of election — not based on anything in the person — as an unjust way for God to save or not save people. (Romans 9:14)

Here are the verses:

11 even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) – 12 it was said to her, ” The older will serve the younger ,” 13 just as it is written: ” Jacob I loved , but Esau I hated .” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!
Rom 9:11-14 (NET)

So, let’s look at point #1. There is no unrighteousness with God. This is true. In fact, verse 14, as Piper points out, says just as much.

Skipping for a moment to point #3. Again, as pointed out verse 14 tells us God is not unjust. But what’s this talk of election? Piper states “not based on anything in the person;” scripture says “not by works.” There is a little difference here between those two thoughts.

So, Piper’s #2 point seems to stress God’s choice “before they were even born” which, granted, are the words in scripture. It’s the meaning we gleam from it that really matters.

God chose Jacob over Esau, before they were born. But Piper’s point, yes the Calvinist’s point, is that God made election BEFORE these two existed. The implication here is that the decision was made before God knew who these two would be (before birth, before they did anything good or bad).

But that reading seems to forget the elephant in the room: omniscience.

God knows everything. He knows the past. He knows all that is going on now. And He certainly knows the future.  This takes away the principle of uncertainty, or the stressed point by Piper about this happening before birth. By remembering the omniscience of God the truth that this choice extends before the boys birth becomes obvious and takes the unjustness out of it. For God already knew their  sins, their repentance, their “goodness and badness.”

Look down to verses 25-26 —

25 As he also says in Hosea: ” I will call those who were not my people , ‘ My people , ‘ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘ My beloved . ‘” 26 ” And in the very place where it was said to them , ‘ You are not my people , ‘ there they will be called ‘ sons of the living God . ‘”
Rom 9:25-26 (NET)

In the Old Testament God references the Gentiles. How? A guess? Or does God have foreknowledge? Has He already seen the future?  That’s what omniscience means.

God has already seen Jacob and Esau’s life. And He was pleased with Jacob.   Not so for Esau.

If we see this, and yes all of Romans 9, in the light of God’s omniscience it takes us away from God capriciously choosing Jacob and places this decision squarely and decidedly on Jacob’s life choices — a life not yet lived, but one that God fully and completely sees and knows.

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