Friday, January 27, 2012

Romans 9: No Satisfaction

I like to think that I’m now a more nuanced reader of the Bible. I understand that it’s historical roots and the different genres. I know that it isn’t a guidebook, but 66 separate books, united in Spirit, yet separated by time, place, audience, and author. I recognize that it’s not an answer book for my problems and questions.

Nevertheless, I like it when the Bible makes sense. Often it doesn’t. I don’t know why the characters act the way they do. I’m baffled by God’s response and the actions of His people. Usually that’s fine, because all this confusion happens in the Old Testaments, really really long ago. Sure, I’m going to understand the reasoning of a pastoral people surrounded by enemies. Yes, Elisha is a bit odd, but he’s a prophet and prophets don’t need to make sense. Plus it happened before the Romulus and Remus built Rome, so just read it and move on. This befuddlement, however, does not stay in the Old Testament. In Romans, chapter 9, I’m frustrated by Paul.

In this chapter Paul is answering a charge against his understanding of faith in Jesus. Namely, what do you do about God’s covenant relationship with Israel? Do the Israelites still belong to God?

Paul’s answer is, in a nutshell, God is God and God can do what God wants. This does not satisfy. I appreciate Paul’s insistence on faith for salvation, rather than work for salvation, and his emphasis that Gentiles can belong to God. Still, even though I don’t know what response I want, this definitely was not it. Yes, God is God and I cannot fathom his ways, but that cannot be a go to answer.

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