Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Ultimate Question

Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"

20 ὦ ἄνθρωπε, μενοῦνγε σὺ τίς εἶ ὁ ἀνταποκρινόμενος τῷ θεῷ; μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα τῷ πλάσαντι· τί με ἐποίησας οὕτως;

This is one of my favorite verses for a lot of reasons.  One is that it is part of Paul's defense of divine election.  It is normal to ask the question of how it can be fair that God would choose some for glory and some He does not.  This is Paul's response.  The passage continues with a metaphor about pottery.  A potter can do whatever he wants with a lump of clay.  One lump can become a beautiful vase and another can become a chamber pot.  The clay does not get any say in the matter.

I also think that the phrase τίς εἶ ὁ ἀνταποκρινόμενος τῷ θεῷ goes even deeper.  This word ἀνταποκρινόμενος is something of a mouthful.  It's a present middle participle.  The middle voice is difficult to pin down, but the lexicons I have in BibleWorks tell me that this translation is accurate.  It has the idea of contradicting or speaking against.  I think of interactions we have with our 6 year-old daughter.  It's not very pretty when she talks back and we are not beyond the "because I said so" argument.  Why?  Because we're her parents and we have authority over her.

We would do well to remember this when we are ready to shake our fists at God.  We see something like a Katrina, a tsunami, or even the oil spill in the Gulf and wonder why He lets things like that happen.  The easy answer is to take someone to Genesis 3 and point to the fall.  But that raises the deeper question of why God gave Adam and Eve free will to fall.  He had to have known that they were going to fall, right?  Why did He let that happen?

Google John Piper and you will get some very satisfactory answers on this.  It all comes back to God's glory. He is more glorified in Christ than He would have been with Adam and Eve as automatons with no choice.  And if that is still confusing (rightly so!) then we get back to this verse.  Things happen in this world and it operates in ways that confuse us.  Who are we to answer back to God?

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