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Do all Christians believe in predestination? If not, for those who don't, how do they explain Romans 9:14 - 9:24?

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

The passage says some are "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction," and others are "vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory..." Also when it says "He hardens whom he desires," the implication is that when a person's heart becomes hardened, it is hardened by God in which case they did not do so of their free will. Both of these support the idea of predestination (the former more than the latter) and I want to know how a Christian who doesn't believe in predestination (or one who somehow harmonizes predestination and free will) would interpret this passage, particularly the things I mentioned.

  • "All Christians" is a wide shot pattern. The term has been watered down, exaggerated, misunderstood, misapplied, and misused by most if not all of us. It will be interesting indeed to hear what a Christian who denies 'predestination' altogether has to say about this passage. – Mike Borden Jan 17 at 18:43
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    This is very badly researched and presented. How do they explain . . . . what, exactly ? – Nigel J Jan 17 at 20:52
  • The simple answer to your first sentence is "No." and as to If not, for those who don't, how do they explain Romans 9:14 - 9:24 an easy reply is "Well, they read the rest of the Bible and didn't cherry pick a single passage* But that kind of answer won't help you, I don't think. I make that point and will further observe that your question comes off more as an argument or a mini rant than a question. Have you read through the other questions and answers with the predestination tag here at Christianity.SE? – KorvinStarmast Jan 18 at 2:49
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    You have not demonstrated that this passage supports predestination, free will, or the lack of either. Maybe you ought to do that as part of your question. Not sure why you assume that the passage supports your opinion, but it would be interesting to see how you believe it all fits together, or perhaps how a theological position in that genre. – KorvinStarmast Jan 19 at 13:36
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    Thanks for adding a bit of clarity to your question. Next time you ask a question, please remember to be more thorough; complete the process. You never offended me. My comments to you were intended to get you to ask a complete question. – KorvinStarmast Jan 20 at 5:35
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Do all Christians believe in predestination? No.

Do all Christians believe in free-will? No.

Does the Bible teach predestination? Yes

Does the Bible teach Free-Will? Yes

Romans informs us that salvation is about God's choice. Romans 10 informs of of man's responsibility to believe or man's choice. Is Jesus God? Yes. Is Jesus Man? Yes. Coincidence that God operates in this way?

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  • Could you substantiate the use of the wording 'free will' in scripture, please. – Nigel J Jan 18 at 8:44
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    Thank you. What verses in the Bible support the doctrine of free will? – MATTHEW Jan 19 at 3:39
  • @MATTHEW What about the verses which say God wanted people to repent and they refuse to, or that they resist the Holy Spirit? – Sola Gratia Jan 19 at 14:33
  • I don't see how the Bible can teach both predestination and free will, because they are essentially mutually exclusive: predestination is a setting of another individual's course, while free will means that each individual can set their own course without being forced into one that has been determined for them by someone else. – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 15:31
  • @MATTHEW Have a look at Philemon 14, for instance, for a reference to "free will" – Mr. Donutz Jan 20 at 15:52
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The answer to your first question: No.

As with many things denominational/soteriological, definitions come heavily into play here. Some people, for example, would interpret 'predestine' and 'predestination' to require total divine determinism, ie God sovereignly and directly controlling every thought and action a man does until he arrives at the destination God has unchangeably, irrevocably determined he will arrive at.

I'm a Christian who, as you put it "Somehow harmonizes predestination and free will" - specifically, a Molinist. I do not hold to such an extreme definition as above, and believe God predestines by placing us in situations in which He knows we will freely behave as He desires.

Consider, for example, that on a given day, God knows that if it rains, Bob will accept his friend's invitation to church (and accept Christ into his heart) instead of going to that football match he was planning on attending. If God then makes it rain that day, He has effectively brought about Bob's salvation. Alternatively, He could choose to not bring rain, and bring about Bob's damnation in a similar way. In each instance, Bob has complete free will - God simply knows how he will act depending on what He brings about. I've given heavily simplified examples here, but these give the gist.

To apply this to your chosen verses: Even if these were taken to refer to individual predestination (which, although I affirm predestination, I do not believe - rather, I think this verse speaks to God's raising up of the Israelites as His chosen people), one could say God hardens, prepares and molds by placing said individuals in circumstances he knows will shape them by their own free responses. After all, Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart multiple times before God hardened it further.

Open Theists and Traditionalists/Provisionalists (potentially some or all Arminians) are the denominations I know off the top of my head who deny individual predestination altogether, and would most likely be the people you would be directing this question at - I just thought I'd put in my Molinist 2 cents.

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This chapter covers Romans 9:18-21, the similitude of the Potter which is used by some to bolster predestination.

  • Romans 9:18-21 KJV Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay 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? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

In this passage, the potter is a similitude comparing God as the creator of man to the potter as the creator of his vessels. As the potter can choose to make one vessel honorable and another dishonorable so God can create a man thus. The question is does this likeness teach that salvation is predestinated?

The similitude of the potter is first used in the Old Testament, so we must look at it in its original context and entirety in order to properly decipher God’s use of it and its biblical meaning.

  • Jeremiah 18:1-10 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6O 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. 7At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

In the similitude of a potter presented in the above passage, it can be easily seen that it is not an attempt to teach predestination in any form, but rather just the opposite. God’s decisions are based on the choices made by man, whether to seek and obey God or to do evil. Paul did not, and neither can we, take a passage of Scripture out of its context, but must rightly divide the word of truth. The context, in Jeremiah as in Romans, is the sovereignty of God over his creation, to judge and deal with it according to his will. If we take the passage in Romans and keep it within its proper context we see that the similitude is given in answer to three particular questions.

  • Is there unrighteousness with God?
  • Why does he yet find fault?
  • Who can resist his will?

If we will look closely we find that three questions are being asked by those who are complaining about God not accepting their self-righteousness, that is in keeping the law they have not obtained or earned the grace of God and the assurance of salvation. By their way of thinking, if salvation is solely based on the predetermination and/or caprice of God and not on a person’s works, how can he find fault? For who can resist his will? How is he just in this? Paul’s answer is simply to point out that God is our creator and he could just as easily have created us for damnation as not, therefore, there is no unrighteousness in God’s judgments, which is the question in verse 14 of Romans 9.

  • Romans 9:14 KJV What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with
    God
    ? God forbid.

If we refuse to accept his salvation it is the same to God as if he had created us unto damnation; your predestinated end in such a case is the same, eternal wrath. The similitude is not a description of God’s plan of salvation, but rather an example of our relationship to him and his sovereignty. He made us and he can do as he pleases with us; there is no unrighteousness in whatever he does. It is for us to fear him and seek that which is pleasing unto him. It is not a picture of God’s plan, but of his prerogative as the creator to choose his own plan of salvation, one that pleases him and our duty to conform. The actual plan God has elected to institute is not mentioned until the last verse of the chapter, “whosoever believeth.”

  • Romans 9:33 KJV As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

This also answers the proverbial question that lost sinners ask in their attempt to make themselves more just than God; you mean that God would condemn a heathen in the jungle who has never heard of Jesus Christ? The answer is if God chooses to do so there is no unrighteousness with God, it is his prerogative, he made us, he can do whatever he wants to with us. What we, as those who have trusted in God’s word, have to worry about is the other side of the coin; God is going to hold us responsible for that heathen not hearing about Jesus Christ, whether he lives in a jungle or is our neighbor. We ought to be thankful that he is “not willing that any should perish,” but always remember God is our maker and as such is to be feared.

  • 2 Peter 3:9 KJV The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

  • Hebrews 11:5 KJV By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Faith in God is the prerequisite for salvation, “he that cometh to God must believe that he is,” but saved or lost God judges our works in this life. He is our creator, and as such can do what he wants with anyone of us. He used Sodom as an example to us without giving them a chance to repent he condemned the whole city.

  • Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

God is under no obligation to save anyone even though Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Until a point is reached where God decides to institute a final condemnation on an individual or until the final judgment, salvation is open to all men, to “whosoever believeth.”

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