"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Breshears and Romans 9 - Intro

If you subscribe to the Resurgence podcast, then you may have listened to a message by Gerry Breshears from the 2004 Reformission Conference on Romans Chapter 9. If you have not, it may be worth listening to before you read this, though hopefully not absolutely required. The blurb for the message on the Resurgence site says this:
The following audio is from a breakout session with Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor at Western Seminary, at the Reformission Conference in Seattle, WA 2004. Dr. Breshears demonstrates that Romans 9 shows the persistence of God to bless his people (Israel) despite their hardness of heart. What we see is that no one is messed up too much where God can not redeem them and God can do what he wants. What is uncovered in Romans 9 is that everyone resists God's will and the Lord is the persistent one that extends mercy to his people. In this mp3 Dr. Breshears really uses this seminar to encourage folks to read their Bibles more as they get to difficult passage instead of just resorting to commentaries. Helpful advice from a seasoned theologian and practitioner.
I have to admit it is an interesting listen. I have to admit that I do see in Scripture that God is persistent in blessing people and people are resisting God's call. Dr. Breshears is also correct in a concluding warning that if we come to Scripture with a preconceived framework that we have not acknowledged, we will work to fit the passage into that framework. Instead we should acknowledge our preconceptions and allow the passage to modify the framework if the passage does not fit the framework.

In his analysis of Romans 9, Dr. Breshears argues, per the blurb above, that the historic Reformed understanding of Romans 9 is incorrect. Instead, he proposed an alternative understanding. A more recent statement of that understanding is available in a paper on the Western Seminary website (if this hyperlink does not work, see link at the end of this post). In it, he puts the difference this way:
The Big Picture of Romans 9: "God is persistent to bless His sinful people," rather than "God sovereignly shapes anyone He wants any way He wants any time He wants."
While I appreciate much of what Dr. Breshears has to say about our need to read Scripture so as to let Scripture inform our theology instead of imposing our theology on Scripture, I think his interpretation of this passage is incorrect. To demonstrate this I will spend a few posts looking at the "big picture" statement and the five statements about Romans 9 from the paper above. These are summary statements, and to get a better understanding of them you might want to listen to the audio from the Resurgence.

Let me emphasize that I think Dr. Breshears is a Christian brother. I am not calling him unfaithful, a heretic, or anything else along those lines. I think he is mistaken in his interpretation of Romans 9, and I think it will be good for me to work through the details. But I have no doubt about who (and its not me) is making a bigger impact for the kingdom of God.

So if you care to join me, put on some waders because the water (and hopefully only the water) might get deep.

Addendum: apparently the hyperlink to Dr. Breshears paper is not working because blogger recognizes the %20 as a space and substitutes them for spaces, which messes up the link. If anyone knows a solution, I'd love to know. In the meantime, the actual link is:

www.westernseminary.edu/papers/Faculty/ETS%2006%20Breshears%20Cal.doc

(cut and paste this into your browsers address bar)

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