The Curmudgeon


Sunday, March 07, 2021

Bad Theology

Text for today: Romans 9 xviii-xxiv

St Paul asserts that God has mercy on whomever He wills, and hardens whomever He wills. Paul quotes God's boast that He hardened Pharaoh's heart in order to kill more Egyptians and thereby ensure the proclamation of His power. Since he is addressing Gentile converts as well as Jews, Paul alters the story, making Pharaoh rather than Moses the recipient of the Father's wisdom. Paul then attacks the argument that God should not fault His creatures for acting as He created them to act.

A few verses after asserting that he is not lying, as befits one secure in the truth, Paul admits the crippling flaw in any argument for justification by faith or by works: namely that human beings are helpless before the omnipotent Will and, regardless of their nature or behaviour, predestined by the whim of that Will for salvation or damnation. A true apostle of Christ, Paul responds with the argument from brute force: the clay has no right to rebuke the potter for knowingly manufacturing vessels for evil use as a demonstration of personal power.

As an artisan in the tent-maker's trade and a sometime leader of lynch mobs, Paul would have been struck by the benign indifference of the awning as to whether it provides shelter from the sun or concealment for the murderer. Nevertheless, since we have it on Biblical authority that Paul was not lying to the community of saints in Rome, he was evidently unacquainted with Genesis 2 vii, where the difference between potter's clay and human beings is clearly set forth.


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