By ThereforeGodExists.com Contributor
Do you believe in compatibilism when Satan is tempting man?
• Yes. Compatibilism entails that all created beings (which would include Satan) are under the sovereign hand of God. The devil is a responsible, evil, moral agent. But the fact that Satan is an agent with such characteristics does not mean that he ever makes God absolutely contingent. The mistake that people often make is by envisioning two hermetically sealed off competing players—God and the devil. People tend to reason in this way, “The weather is nice—God did that. A tsunami hit Florida—the devil did that. I won the lottery—God did that. I was tempted and sinned—the devil did that.” This is false. God is the sovereign ruler. I submit that, like is taught in the story of Job, God has Satan on a very tight leash. God uses Satan, his deceit, his lies, his temptations (all of it), to accomplish His purposes.
Is the parable of the great banquet a problem for the doctrine of unconditional election?
• No. As Compatibilism would assert, the Jews (the ones who made excuses about coming to the banquet that they were originally invited to) were not acting apart from God’s sovereign plan. The Great Banquet points to the future messianic banquet, to which the people of Jesus’ day would have understood that only “godly Jews” would be invited. Jesus, however, uses the parable to teach his listeners, contrary to their expectations, that the guests invited originally will miss the banquet (v. 24) and will be replaced instead “the poor and crippled and blind and lame” and the outsiders (who are the Gentiles) found in the “highways and hedges” (vv. 21, 23). Paul, who himself was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, addresses the tremendous theological difficulties that come with the realization that God’s people, His chosen nation, has corporately rejected Him. In verse 6 of Romans 9, Paul argues that “it is not as though the Word of God has failed.” Indeed, this seems to be a severe problem. However, it is not. In reality, God is sovereign over Israel’s rebellion and rejection. Paul says that “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). But why did the Jews reject the Messiah? Because “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day” (v. 7). Is this fact inconsistent with God’s unconditional election? Not in the eyes of Paul. Paul seems to be a proponent of Compatibilism, because in his same argument, he states that God continually cries, “all day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21). The rebellion is real, and man is therefore held responsible for it; God’s electing purposes are real. Both are true.
In Romans 9, Paul refers to Sarah and the Pharoah. Is he talking about salvation in regard to those two example?
• In Romans 9, I do not think that Sarah and Pharaoh are being spoken of in the terms of salvation. However, both of these historical figures are of significant importance when it comes to the logical flow of Paul’s argument in this passage. We shall start with Sarah. Paul has just introduced the idea that “it is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but the children of promise who are counted as offspring [that is, true descendants of Abraham who receive God’s covenant promises]” (9:8, emphasis mine). “The promise” (Gen. 18:10, 14) was not given to Hagar (Gen. 16) but was specifically given to Sarah and her offspring. This underscores the selective choice of who God uses in His redemptive plan. Now, Pharaoh is brought into the discussion as Paul begins to address his first rhetorical objection. The question, in light of the jaw-dropping statement “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” is whether or not God is just! For, after all, how could He be good if He elected Jacob to be a chosen child of promise, and reprobated Esau, excluding him from His covenant promises before these persons were born! Paul argues that God “will have mercy on whom [He] has mercy, and [He] will have compassion on whom [He] has compassion” (Rom. 9:15). The assumption, of course, is that God is working with sinful, undeserving people; for the terms “mercy” and “compassion” imply that these people are in need of it! Furthermore, God says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up…” What purpose?—“that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Paul then asserts this incredible statement, “So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills” (v. 18). In the flow of Paul’s argument, he asserts this to show that God is sovereign over evil. Even the wrath of man praises God (Ps. 76:10), for God indeed installed Pharaoh as ruler and hardened his heart so that His own saving power and glorious name would be spread throughout the whole world! This underscores God’s sovereign right to do what He will with what He has created.
But this immediately raises another objection! “Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” (v. 19). Boy, oh boy! Don’t ever complain that Paul failed to ask the tough questions! Of course, no one in their right mind would dare to argue that God Paul even considered the silly idea that God was contingent upon Pharaoh! Paul’s questions wouldn’t make sense unless he was arguing that God is sovereign over human choices!