Romans 9 – what’s it about?

I’ve been thinking and learning about Romans 9 recently. It’s been a while since I did this. Last time was while doing a year-long small-group study of Romans at St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, which included a weekend away on the topic of God’s sovereignty. That weekend preceded our Romans 9 studies, and when we read Romans 9 it seemed to be saying what we were taught, which was Calvinism.

In my recent readings on this chapter, I decided to read a bit about what non-Calvinists think about this chapter. I was quite surprised to find that the view of others isn’t that this chapter supports their non-Calvinist view instead, but that this chapter isn’t about Calvinism (and such things) at all.

I have to say I think they might be onto something (I’m thinking just about Romans 9 for the moment, rather than whether Calvinism is true or not – I’ll save that for another day).

The “it’s not even about Calvinist stuff” interpretation of Romans 9 is basically that it’s all about Jew/Gentile, faith/works stuff and doesn’t go into topics that would be involved in a discussion about Calvinism. This interpretation does seem to fit well with chapters 10 and 11, as well as with Romans as a whole. Rather than try to explain it myself, I’ll let people who know more than me about this sort of thing make the case:

I’ve just read a nice summary by William Lane Craig of how Romans 9 fits into the whole of the letter, which is here, and seems very reasonable (the last paragraph is beyond the scope of what I’m thinking about at the moment, though!).

Craig’s summary doesn’t go into the details of Romans 9, but for that I would point you towards a talk from All Souls, Langham Place, by Paul Blackham, who I’ve only recently discovered but am becoming a big fan of (he trained at Oak Hill, no less!). The talk on Romans 9 (including the end of 8) can (hopefully) be downloaded here, and the whole series can be found here, by searching for “Romansfest”. The Romans 9 talk is number 13. There’s some really great stuff in there that I hadn’t picked up on before. All quite exciting.

So, the questions I have for my knowledgeable readers are:

1. Are the people above right that Romans 9 isn’t about Calvinist stuff? If not why not?

2. If they are right, where does that leave Calvinism? Isn’t Romans 9 supposed to be its best text?