Thursday, September 08, 2016

Responding to Steve Tassi on Romans 9

In his recent live interaction with Dr. James White, Steve Tassi argued that while Romans 9 is referring to election, it is not discussing salvation when it refers to mercy.

First, he argues that we must consider the audiences spoken to.  He does not clearly elaborate on this point, but his implication seems to be that the audience spoken to is Jewish readers.

The audience, however, are gentile Roman believers.  We see this in the first chapter:
Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
So, the audience is not the nation of Israel, but rather is believing Gentiles.

Glorious Salvation Terms
Second, he argues that we must consider the references made are to Pharaoh, Moses, Isaac, and Rebekah, rather than to the typical terms that Paul uses when referencing salvation, such as "the blood of Jesus," "the cross," and other references to blood sacrifice and grace.

Dr. White countered this point by observing that the chapter and verse divisions are somewhat artificial, and that he demonstrated a continual flow from Romans 8.

To elaborate on that point more fully, Christ's death is explicitly mentioned in Romans 8:34.  Moreover, Romans 9:32-33 specifically mention faith in Christ.  Tassi surely cannot deny that both Romans 8 and Romans 10 are about salvation, so his assertion that Romans 9 is not about salvation because of the usage of terms, seems weak.

Context of Cited Texts
Third, he argues the Old Testament material cited or referred to by Paul never refers to salvation in its original context.

Dr. White countered this by pointing out that it's more important to note how Paul uses them, then how they were originally used.

To provide an example, in Galatians 4, Paul points to Hagar and Ishmael in contrast to Sarah and Isaac. Moreover, Paul explicitly interprets those figures as an allegory, rather than relying on their original context.

Furthermore, it is Pauline to shift between Old Testament images and analogous New Testament ideas.  For example, 1 Corinthians 10 is full of this kind of transition.

Tassi essentially concludes that the references in Romans 9 are references to election and mercy with respect to national Israel vis-a-vis the destruction of the nation, rather than to the church and salvation from hell.

This conclusion is unjustified.  To the extent it is premised on the arguments presented in its support, those arguments have been shown above to be incorrect.  Moreover, it is a conclusion that runs directly contrary to the text of Romans 9.  For example:
Romans 9:23-24 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
How can that be mercy on the nation of Israel if it includes not only Jews but also Gentiles?  It cannot.  Which is one of numerous reasons that Tassi's presentation on Romans 9 should be rejected.


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