Romans 9:14-24 (ESV):

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

How do Christians who believe in the existence of libertarian free will interpret this passage? (Btw, related.)

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    I'm not sure if this question fits within Christianity. "Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics." Are there any Christians who advocate the existence of libertarian free will? – Lesley Jan 12 at 15:10
  • @Lesley - open theism appears to be one example. – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 12 at 15:13
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    @Lesley I agree. The whole 'free-will/not free-will' discussion is, to me, a hypothetical (and thus a philosophical) matter. It is nothing to do with the Christian Gospel, as it was communicated by the apostles of Jesus Christ. – Nigel J Jan 12 at 15:19
  • Related, though not a duplicate: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/75122/… – nathan.j.mcdougall Jan 13 at 2:46

Here is Aquinas' commentary on Romans:

But if willing does not depend on the man willing or exertion on the man exerting himself, but on God moving man to this, it seems that man is not master of his own action, which pertains to freedom of will. But the answer is that God moves all things, but in diverse ways, inasmuch as each is moved in a manner befitting its nature. And so man is moved by God to will and to perform outwardly in a manner consistent with free will. Therefore, willing and performing depends on man as freely acting; but on God and not on man, as initial mover.


But two difficulties seem to exist in regard to hardening: first, hardening of heart seems allied to sin, as it says in Sir (3:27): "A hard heart shall fear evil at the last." Consequently, if God hardens the heart, He is the author of a sin—contrary to what is said in Jas (1:13): "God is no tempter to evil." The answer is that God is not said to harden anyone directly, as though He causes their malice, but indirectly, inasmuch as man makes an occasion of sin out of things God does within or outside the man; and this God Himself permits. Hence, he is not said to harden as though by inserting malice, but by not affording grace. The second difficulty is that this hardening does not seem ascribable to the divine will, since it is written: "This is the will of God, your sanctification" (I Th 4:3) and "He desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4). The answer is that both mercy and justice imply a disposition of the will. Hence, just as mercy is attributed to the divine will, so also that which is just. Therefore, the interpretation is that he has mercy upon whomever he wills through His mercy and he hardens whomever he wills through His justice, because those whom He hardens deserve to be hardened by Him, as was stated above in chapter 1.

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    Especially since it is stated that Pharaoh first hardened his own heart several times. God will give us over to hardeneing if we persist. – Mike Borden Jan 23 at 0:16

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