Saturday, December 04, 2004

Who is the Clay?

Paul taught the Roman Jews about the predestination of the descendants of Abraham to be the vehicle for the salvation of mankind. He used a visual device, the Potter and the clay, to recall to scattered Israel who had called their nation. For any Jew reading Paul's letter, there is no question the clay is the nation or vehicle chosen by God to bring salvation to the world.

Sadly this understanding is lost on much of modern Christianity. Specifically it is lost on those professors of Calvinism. Because study of the Old Testament is usually quite abbreviated for most Christians, they cannot see the direct parallels in Paul's teaching, and even his citations from the Old Testament are forgotten. For example, Romans 9:20

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?

This is a citation from Isaiah 45:9

Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Moreover, the passage is a very specific reference to God's use of Israel to save and bless all humankind: Is 45:15-17

15 Verily thou [art] a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. 16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together [that are] makers of idols. 17 [But] Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

What's more, Paul's citation of this Passage in Isaiah parallels Isaiah referencing the downtrodden condition of the nation of Egypt:

14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, [saying], Surely God [is] in thee; and [there is] none else, [there is] no God. Isaiah 45:14

Since few people reading the Bible these days do the kind of scripture study to find out the context of these verses, many are confused, thinking God has chosen specific people for salvation, condemning others out of his unknowable wisdom. The context of these passages is clearly not about individual salvation.

In verse 21 he makes clear allusion to Jeremiah 18:6. Here are the two passages for comparison:

Romans 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Jeremiah 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

The Greek New Testament by Nestle Aland cites this passage as the source of Paul's words/thoughts here. Adam Clarke in his commentary makes the same point, that Paul's discussion is about the Nation of Israel, not individuals. Reading the commentaries by the Calvinists, however, we find they very often do not offer any analysis of the underlying passages to which Paul is referring (see JFB and Matthew Henry and Calvin, for example).

While Paul refers to God hardening the heart of Pharoah, he also notes that Pharoah hardened his heart. In much the same way rain can make a field grow, corrupt seed can grow weeds of the same act. Thus God's demonstration of signs hardened Pharoah's heart, but could have converted another person. Personal Choice came into effect. While the clay is addressed as "O man" in questioning God, it is clear that Paul is talking about the nation of Israel and its long term salvation and blessing in this passage from his comments in Romans 9:23- 10:1, which 10:1 summarizes:

1 ¶ BRETHREN, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

The vessels are nations. The Gentiles and the Jews. Verse 25 talks about the passage in Hosea 2:23: "I will call them my people who were not my people." Individuals are saved, but the vehicle for that salvation is Israel, and the adoption into that Vessel by all peoples who act by faith.

We are the clay by adoption and birth.

I hope citing the scriptures and reasoning from them is helpful to understanding the Biblical doctrine of Predestination. Peace.


Todd Leroy said...

Hey Bob, long time no visit. I see you enjoy the Arminian take on election... did you know that you and 'the brain at the morg' agree on that doctrine?

Do you still believe all men are justified or has your kind of scripture study led you to believe otherwise?

Did you know Adam Clarke and any Christian Bible commentator you reference would totally disagree that all men are justified?

Talk about contradictions...

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Hey Leroy,
Nice to see your comments. I know that Morg actually has not presented a consistent discussion about his views of predestination. His article on methods of preaching at theology web is heavily criticized by the calvinistic participants at the board for its inconsistent theology.

Still, I enjoy discussing the subject, but I provided scriptures to provide a basis of getting beyond the style of argument used by the Morg and most trinitarians and calvinists. They cite verses, but not the words. The verse annotations are not scripture, they are just a referencing system. So I am not going to simply say that John 3:16 thoroughly refutes Calvinism. I am going to quote John, and write: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Or Paul: " [God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1Tim 2:4). So if you tell me I am wrong, then you must really mean you disagree with these teachings by the mouth of Christ and Paul. Or demonstrate that the words don't mean what the words say. Either way it moves the argument beyond simple proof texting, removing the labels of Calvinism or Arminianism or even Mormonism, and makes us discuss God's words. So if Paul did not mean :" 18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life." What did he mean?

I specifically described how we are the Clay (Romans 9) by adoption, not individually but as groups, and personal salvation is not described. I believe this is the primary support and mis-interpreted passage for Calvinist trust that God capriciously saves whom he will. I provided a pretty detailed and scripturally based discussion of the passage, and note it is an interpretation not unique to Mormons.

As to whether anyone would agree with me that we are all justified or not, I don't really care. Paul clearly and repeatedly says we are. End of argument as far as I am concerned. That is why I prefer to actually layout the word, and then decide if we are abusing intent or forcing an interpretation in violation of the text. I think I am consistent with Paul's teaching. I invite you to respond however you like, but I think if you could quote some scriptures I could maybe respond to your specific support. Let us reason together.

Todd Leroy said...

Hi again, Bob. You know, to be honest, I actually wasn't sure if you believed that all men were justified after our meeting outside temple square last April. I thought you may have been citing that verse as an example of scripture that Christians (who believe in the inerrancy, immutability, and infallibility of hte Bible) don't take literally on its own but read it in a larger context that says it can't mean what it plainly seems to say but must mean something else. So, now, with that said, I would definitely like to discuss, specifically the meaning of that verse, and also the concept of justification itself. I realized as I was thinking about your comment that I am making too many assumptions about your definition of justification. All I know is that you believe all men are justified and then I assume you have a very wrong definition of justification, and attack it. According to what I believe is the correct definition of Biblical justification, to say all men are justified is to say you are a universalist. I assume that because you agree with the LDS theology that you are not a universalist, but then maybe there is some aspect of LDS theology that does agree with universalism. I know LDS believe in different types or levels of heaven and universalism would only be about the same heaven for everyone. So, I'd definitely like to reason this out more from the scriptures, but can you first share with me your definition of justification, as it is used in the Bible?

Todd Leroy said...

Bob, just a reminder... don't know if you've forgotten about this...