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Does God Damn People? (Matthew 12 and Romans 9)

In a recent post – On Clichés: “Sacrificed Himself To Himself”, “The Sin He Gave Us”, Etc. – I argued that God doesn’t “save us from himself” because we damn ourselves to hell by our sins. There’s a famous quote by C.S. Lewis in Chapter 9 his book titled The Great Divorce, where he said: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’“. I would agree with Lewis’ statement, but of course there are others who do not. Unsurprisingly, many skeptics and non-Christians object since they do not believe in God. But there are also many believers who object to this quote since (according to them) it is an unbiblical idea.

I would argue this sentiment is Biblical (in my post I had referenced Matthew 1.21, Ezekiel 37.23, Romans 7.15-19, and Mark 2.17), but objectors have scripture of their own to cite. A skeptical user with the screen name ‘clubschadenfreude’ had made a reply to my post where (among other things), he said:

Per Jesus and Paul (Mathew 12 and Romans 9 respectively), this god has already chosen who it will allow to accept it and then damns the rest for no fault of their own. It would be great if a Christian actually read their bible someday.

Since this user cited Matthew chapter 12 and Romans chapter 9 as arguments, I will use those as standard biblical citations used against the idea.

On Matthew 12

At first I was not sure which part of Matthew 12 was being referenced here, but I believe it was the passage on blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and on trees and their fruits.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 12.30-37 ESV

On the topic of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, that is a hotly-debated issue (UPDATE 30 Sept.: I have a post titled ‘Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: A Big Compilation of Different Thoughts’ on this topic). In short, I will say that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is a sin that requires an utter lack of wanting to be forgiven at all to even commit.

On the topic of Jesus saying “by your words you will be condemned” on the Day of Judgement, much the same can be said. The reason why Jesus says they will be condemned is because they wanted nothing to do with him and thus turned from him. Their condemnation is but the fruit of their rejection.

On Romans 9

Chapter 9 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the most commonly used prooftexts for the idea of God causing people to be damned. The whole chapter is relevant, but here is the most pertinent section of it:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ 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?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction …

Romans 9.14-22 ESV

Romans 9 is surely a contentious topic that many people debate. While I don’t think I’m well-read enough to give a full commentary on the dispute, I know enough to point out some things about this verse.

If you read Romans chapter 9 in it’s entirety, you will notice St. Paul is talking about entire nations rather than individual people. Not only is he talking about nations, but he is specifically talking about how God used the Israelite nation to bring forth the Messiah; as it was the “Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants” (Romans 9.4 KJV), yet also “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9.6 KJV). Paul starts by using the example of Jacob and Esau, where he quotes Genesis as saying “The elder shall serve the younger” (Romans 9.12 KJV) – if you check the verse he’s citing, you will notice that it says in full, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25.23 KJV).

Paul also cites the Biblical story of Pharaoh in the Exodus, where the Lord says “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9.17 KJV, c.f. Exodus 9.16). This is a good time to compare scripture to scripture yet again. See, many people are aware of the parts of Exodus where the Lord says “the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 10.20 KJV, c.f. 9.12, 11.10, et cetera). However, they may not be aware that there are other of passages that describe how “Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time” (Exodus 8.32 KJV, c.f. 8.15, 9.34). In other words, Pharaoh had by his own choice hardened his heart, and what the Lord did is push him down the road he chose. This little-known fact shows us that in scripture, God condemns people by sending them down the path they chose; in other words, by saying to them (as C.S. Lewis put it) “thy will be done“.

One last note: on St. Paul’s analogy of the potter and clay (Romans 9.21), while searching for related passages, I found two interesting ones. The first was said by St. Jeremiah in the Old Testament, the second was said by St, Paul in his letters to Timothy:

I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Jeremiah 18.3-6 ESV

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

II Timothy 2.21 ESV

More Biblical Points

Maybe you’ve heard the advice of ‘let scripture interpret scripture’ when reading the Bible. In other words, compare parts of scripture to each other in order to get a fuller picture. See, ‘What Many Misunderstand About The Bible’ for more details. So I will end off with some other passages that show how humans choose whether they will be saved or not.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

Matthew 23.37 KJV

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

II Peter 3.9 KJV

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I Timothy 2.3-4 ESV

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Isaiah 55.7 KJV

“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

Isaiah 59.1-2 KJV

“My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2.13 KJV

“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”

Ezekiel 18.26-28 ESV

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

Ezekiel 33.11 KJV, c.f. 18.23, 32

“I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ezekiel 37.23 ESV

“I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD …” “… Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”

Amos 4.6, 12 KJV

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.”

Psalm 104.29-30 ESV
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