Question: I think it is stunning that...the most influential Christians of the past 2,000 years have been Augustinians. Which Arminian writers can you name of the stature of Augustine, Aquinas, Edwards, Calvin, Luther, Warfield, MacArthur, Sproul, Spurgeon, John Piper, John Murray, Hodge, Whitefield, Tyndale, the Puritans, J. I. Packer, Zwingli, Knox, almost every single missionary from the modern missions movement, etc.? I can think of precious few Arminians who come anywhere near the theological insight of these people. [Furthermore] however you understand Romans 9, why does Paul insert the following phrase right after he says that "God has mercy on whom He wills and He hardens whom He wills": "You will say to me then, Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" (Romans:9:19). Could this be any more clear, brothers? Explain why Paul would say this if he weren't responding to the Arminian idea that God should give everyone a chance?
Response: Your statement that "the most influential Christians of the past 2,000 years have been Augustinians" does injustice to history. "Almost every single missionary"? The Moravians, under the leadership of Nicholas Von Zinzendorf, are viewed as the founders of modern missions. The Moravians were under suspicion because they were not Calvinists. It was the saintly behavior of Moravian missionaries that impressed John Wesley by their peace (which he lacked) during the ferocious storm that threatened to sink the ship in which they traveled. It was from John and Charles Wesley, who were so "methodical" in their service to God, that "Methodist" became the name of those congregations that sprang from their ministry.
Dwight L. Moody served the Lord faithfully, and his ministry was instrumental in the salvation of many. It was Moody whose preaching was the catalyst for the conversion of the father of C. T. Studd and subsequently his sons. C. T. Studd founded Heart of Africa Mission, now known as Worldwide Evangelization for Christ.
A. B. Simpson was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Paul Rader influenced Paul Fleming to eventually found New Tribes Mission, which is now sending forth multitudes of native missionaries who show promise of surpassing the tally of Western missionaries who preceded them. What about Jack Wyrtzen and Harry Bollback, who founded Word of Life, which has planted hundreds of churches, has sent many missionaries, and has established Bible training centers in many nations? There were quite a few Puritan writers who wrote of their disagreements with Augustine, particularly concerning prophecy.
Regarding Romans:9:19, we know that it is not wise to single out one verse apart from full context. The issue of Jacob and Esau and their being loved or hated by God before their birth has occupied more than one discussion throughout history. If one confines the argument to portions of Romans 9, it does sound like God arbitrarily selects some for salvation and others for damnation, but Romans 9 does not occur in a vacuum, and the rest of Scripture furnishes the balance. God's foreknowledge enters into the equation at this point. Some theologians have stated that it would be accurate to translate the passage, "Jacob have I chosen, but Esau have I rejected." Specifically, in the case of Esau, the implication of "rejected" is a judgment based upon knowledge of his actions. God, who declares "the end from the beginning," (Isaiah:46:10) knew, before they were born, the course each child would take.
The example is also given of Israelis, who are currently "blinded" (Romans:11:7). Yet they, too, have the possibility of repenting and returning to God "if they abide not still in unbelief" (11:23). It doesn't sound as though God arbitrarily relegates individuals to perform a role no matter what. Otherwise, there would be no "if." As we have pointed out before, if there were no moral response possible on man's part, "choose you this day" (Joshua:24:15) would be impossible.
Romans:9:19 in context gives the example of Pharaoh. Verses 32-33 furnish more information. Within the confines of Romans 9 we clearly see both the sovereignty of God and the accountability of man: "Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but...by the works of the law....They stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed" (Romans:9:32-33). We see that the promise is to "whosoever" believes on him. We see a "seeking" but also a rejection of that seeking because "they sought it not by faith."
Look also at John:3:14-15. The Lord Jesus utters this amazing promise with the historical example of Moses lifting "up the serpent in the wilderness...." In Numbers:21:4-9 we find that anyone bitten by the serpent was simply to look at the serpent on the pole to save his life. Nothing a person could do, no antivenom he could concoct, no tourniquet he could apply, would otherwise save him. Yet, all could look. The Lord Jesus identifies Himself with the serpent on the pole and says, "whosoever" believes will be saved. The natural, logical, and biblical conclusion is that the invitation is open to all.