Calvinist soteriology is perhaps most widely known for the doctrine of unconditional election, a divine choice concerning mankind’s eternal destiny, where both “election and reprobation are individual, personal, specific, and particular” (Enns, 2008, p. 510). In the words of John Calvin himself:
God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. (Calvin, 2017, p. 407)
Chapters nine through eleven of the Epistle to the Romans are foundational to Calvinism. Palmer (2010) calls chapter nine the “finest statement of all” about election (p. 39); Boice & Ryken (2002) deem it “the most important passage” (p. 92); Moo (1996) says it “gives strong exegetical support to Calvinistic interpretation” (p. 587). However, the debate throughout history has been fierce at times (de Villiers, 1981), and many still think “the apostle says nothing about eternal life and death” (Sanday & Headlam, 1908, p. 258).
We shall begin with a more detailed analysis of Romans 9, to then overview chapters 10-11 briefly, and conclude with the purpose of these three chapters; since modern Calvinist interpretations are virtually the same as John Calvin’s, we shall refer primarily to his commentary on Romans. Finally, we shall attempt to account for the origin of both the Calvinist doctrine of election and the usage of Romans 9-11 as its prooftext.Continue reading