Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Help me out -a hunch about Romans 8:29

This weekend I am preaching on Romans 8:28-38, it’s context is freedom from condemnation and the reality of suffering.

In my preparation I always ask; What in the text may be difficult for a non -believer or a new Christian to accept? Then if I was to address this what would I need to acknowledge and what angle would I take to deal with this 'defeater belief''? My aim is to help Christians think through the issue and address the concerns of others.

My hunch with Romans 8:29 is that the more affluent and western you are the more you believe you are in control and the more sceptical you are of ultimate claims/authority. The idea that God is in control and will direct the world to His purposes is extremely confronting and is a 'defeater belief'.

So acknowledge the power that affluence gives you but point out that in regards to ultimate questions of control we are all in the same boat and that it is a delusion to suggest otherwise.

Then consider the other option: What if the God didn’t “horizon beforehand” (foreknow) the people he wanted to call people to himself and it was totally our choice? That would make some people better than others more intelligent more gifted/educated at hearing God ETC (also a temptation of the affluent)–the risk -loss of Grace alone.

I think it comes down to a matter of reasonable trust-is their evidence that God cares for this world and loves it –yes in the death of his son 8:31-37 do we trust God?


Geoff Folland said...


The question of who is in control (if anyone) is such a fundamental question... it is good to address it.

I like to think of the proliferation of conspiracy theories to demonstrate the drive we have to believe that this world's chaos is actually controlled by someone/thing.

The option the Bible presents is obviously a personal God who desires good for those he foreknew.

What are the other options?
Ourselves? We cannot control ourselves, let alone our destinies!
In a secular humanist mindset, we are the products of genetics and culture. Does someone have a choice to follow Christ if they are born in the Middle East? Not according to the humanists. But God is bigger than the limitations of genes and culture, accidents of history and chance.

And if it is just genes and culture, then what confidence can we have that things will "turn out ok"? None. There is no personal, good-willing God in charge.

Does that fit with your thinking?

Nessa said...

Having studied this passage in our homegroup last night, I have to say that it is not just non-believers or new Christians, but indeed all of us, who struggle to understand these concepts.

And you are right: to acknowledge that we played a part in our own salvation is clearly rejecting "Grace alone". But I think the difficulty in understanding this part of Romans is not due to a lack of belief in Grace alone, but rather a distinct feeling of "why me?", and a concern for the fate of the rest of humanity. To accept that God foreknew and called some while he hardened others is something I still struggle to understand.

So good luck preaching on Sunday - I'm looking forward to what God has to say to us through you.

I'm struggling with Romans 9:1-29 at the moment - Lisa and I are leading our homegroup study next week!

Roger said...

Thanks for the comments- Geoff spot on that's helps clarify things further and helps with the apologetic edge.

Nessa (to use your blogging persona) the "why me question is beyond me too. Do you think the idea that God is merciful, kind, generous and acts in the death of his Son and as that God foreknew -can bring some comfort?

At a more rational level J. I Packer argues that this is a antinomy -a pair of truths which have the appearance of contradiction but in fact do not contradict each other-still thinking this one through. In other words we as knowers are limited-

Nessa said...

Thanks for directing me to the J.I Packer article - it thoroughly rationalises the idea that "Grace Alone" and the sovereignty of God can and do co-exist with the need to evangelise and the concept of predestination.

You are right: the fact that God has called any of us is the only thing that prevents evangelism being futile - the character of God is a great comfort.

At the end of the day, who are we to question God's plan?

-Vanessa (uncloaked from blogging persona!)

GeoffF said...

Thanks Roger. Do your sermons gets posted anywhere?

Roger said...

geoff-at the moment we don't post sermons but hope to in the future