you should read ben worthington's book, problem with evangelical theology. The original recipients of the new testament did not read it the same way as you. Much of the new testament can be unlocked by considering the people and the culture to whom it was written. If god has predestined people for salvation in the manner Calvin suggests, then why did Jesus die to cover the sins of the whole world and not just those that are predestined. It seems to me that Jesus covered the sins of the whole world so that the "who so ever's" of the world could receive grace. One more point, Paul was often dealing with Jewish Christians who still believed that Israel was "god's people". Paul felt with that by revealing that god has offered salvation to all people and anyone can become part of god's people.There are several points here. First, Ben Worthington. If I've found the correct blog, he seems a pretty smart guy - as are many of my friends who are "Arminian", i.e. "Faith before Regeneration" (FbR). But this is not a battle of IQs; it's about how we see God. Our salvation is not affected, but, like the church who doesn't accept the Revelation of St. John as scripture, our view of God can be impoverished or enriched.
"The original recipients of the new testament did not read it the same way as you. Much of the new testament can be unlocked by considering the people and the culture to whom it was written." True, but what does this considering actually tell us? Let's take a look.
In Romans, Paul was writing to a predominantly Gentile church, and had to explain the Jewish point of view. He did this by expounding Jewish Scripture.
What did the Jewish scriptures have to say about this subject? The most obvious passages regarding predestination that the Jews had to struggle with are all mentioned in Romans 9. The first is about Esau and Jacob (Rom. 9:11-16):
before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,"... before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand" tells us that God's election does not depend on our actions, or, by implication, our choices (which lead to our actions). Although in our temporal experience God interacts in response to our choices and actions, His purposes and election were already decided from eternity without any reference whatsoever to those choices and actions.
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
"Anything good or bad." That includes our choice to receive salvation.
That's a hard pill to swallow. But that's the clear meaning of Scripture.
Our natural reaction is anticipated - "this seems unfair!" But it is also answered - to complain about this is really to accuse God of being unjust. So we can choose: we can insist that our judgment is superior to that of Scripture, and even of God, or we can trust in God's goodness and justice that somehow his election is perfectly just and loving.
Not convinced? Let's continue: "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." God's election does not depend on our desire - even our desire to be saved, or to accept Christ - or our effort, including our efforts to attain righteousness or salvation, or our efforts to humble ourselves in order to receive his grace. Not much wriggle room there.
Note, though, that God's purpose came to pass in concert with human choices, freely made - Esau's choices, Jacob's choices. This is a great mystery.
But is this really the Jewish understanding of election? Well, Paul gives us the gold standard, the mother of all texts on the topic:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.The Jews certainly had to come to terms with this text, not just a throwaway phrase but one that was repeated over and over: God "hardened Pharaoh's heart."
What does this mean? Did God override Pharaoh's desire to be good? No, that would be out of character both for God and for Pharaoh. Exodus uses three phrases to describe the same thing - Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Since no one would suggest that a just God would force someone to choose evil, this seems to be a way of saying that everything was completely under God's control: Pharaoh's wicked choice was allowed by God, that is, although Pharaoh determined to do evil, God allowed it for His own purposes. God allowed Pharaoh to continue to harden his own heart.
But it's interesting that the third phrase was used at all.
Today, we see the same thing happening when people reject God. They do so of their own free will, and often against all reason and evidence. God does not need to encourage them; they choose to subject their reason to their desire for self-determination.
This suggests an interesting picture: our hearts would continue to harden into some final state, where the good gift of reason is trampled underfoot by rebel will, a state which we should understand as Hell, unless God intervenes to stop the hardening.
(Sorry, I just saw this today in Draft state. I don't remember what I would have written had I continued. But I hope this is helpful, or at least worthy of consideration.)