Question: Excellent job on your tape about Reformed theology and the critique of John Calvin. But on the concept of predestination and God choosing some for heaven and others for hell, which you vigorously oppose, could you please explain your view in the context of Romans:9:11-23: “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated....For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion....So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy....Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?...Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” If this doesn’t mean that God predestines some individuals to heaven and others to hell, what does it mean?
Response: Leading Calvinists such as R. C. Sproul and John Piper consider this to be an absolutely conclusive scripture proving predestination to heaven or hell. Clearly, however, neither salvation nor damnation is the subject, but God’s use of individuals and nations in His service. Paul says, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated...” (Rom:9:13). Where is that written? God did not say that to Rebecca. It is written only in Malachi:1:1-4; 3:6, which Paul is quoting. Nor is Malachi referring to Jacob and Esau, much less to their individual salvation or damnation, but to the nations, Israel and Edom, descended from them. Were that not the case it would be a false prophecy, since Esau never served Jacob during their lifetimes.
It is also clear from what God told Rebecca that her two sons are not the subject: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people...and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gn 25:23). This prophecy was perfectly fulfilled in the nations descended from Esau and Jacob. In their “proofs” (such as those given by James White or Piper) that this is a prophecy concerning the salvation and reprobation of the two individuals born to Isaac and Rebecca, Calvinists ignore Genesis:25:23; it would refute their theory. The entire story and subsequent developments in Genesis make it very clear that the salvation or damnation of Jacob and Esau is not foretold but rather God’s election of Jacob’s descendants to a preferred place of blessing and usefulness. It does not say that the younger shall be saved and the elder lost but that the elder shall serve the younger.
Other than the two references in Malachi and Romans, we are only told once that God loved Jacob (Ps:47:4) and no comparison is made to Esau, nor are we told in the entire account of his birth and life that God hated the latter. Moreover, “loved” and “hated” are comparative terms in Hebrew and have nothing to do with salvation. The fact that the choosing of Israel for God’s service is by grace is certainly reinforced by the rebellion of that nation throughout her history. Yet God’s blessing still rests upon her and will come to full fruition in her final restoration at the Second Coming when Christ returns to destroy Antichrist and rescue Israel in the midst of Armageddon and reigns over Israel and the world from the throne of David.
In all of the biblical references it is consistently more than clear that the election of Jacob and rejection of Esau had nothing to do with the salvation or damnation of either individual or of their descendants. For the Calvinist to use these passages to that end is simply faulty exegesis.