Definition of love in light of vessels for destruction

(Marnie) #1

I am troubled by vessels for destruction mentioned in Romans 9.

God is love. How it is loving to create people that God knows beforehand will reject Him? Even Jesus notes that it would be better for some people if they had never been born. Therefore, it seems more loving (by conventional definitions of love) to NOT create them in the first place, and surely not create so many. In other words, I know God can do whatever He wants and I accept that, but it does mess with ones definitions. How do you incorporate this into defining God as love or do you simply ignore it?

To save time, I’ll just tell you straight up that I’m a believer, I get that I am dust and I have read The Great Divorce. I’m not asking about God’s justice or power. I’m asking about God’s character.



(SeanO) #2

@Marnie Thanks for that question. In my opinion, I do not think Romans 9 is talking about individual predestination (please see resources below). Regarding your question - why would God create us in the first place? That is quite complex. Consider this quote about love:

“tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” - Alfred Lord Tennyson

In the end we lose our loved ones to death - should we then not love? Love has value. In the same way, life is an opportunity to choose God and serve Him. Does that have inherent value? What assumptions are we making if we say it would have been better if God had not created us at all?

What do you think? How much information would we need to have to know for sure that simply because a person rejects God it was not worth their having the chance to choose Him and to experience the wonder of creation? Is giving people free will not also an act of love?

The Lord Jesus bless you with a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him. Hope that was helpful. Look forward to continuing the discussion.

Interpreting Romans 9

In short, Romans 9 is talking about how God chose nations - not individuals. Jacob represents Israel and the children of the covenant. God chose Jacob to be Israel - the forefather of His chosen people. That does not mean Esau is automatically consigned to damnation. Like Ruth or Cornelius - just because a person is not a member of the covenant community by birth does not mean that they cannot choose to follow God.

(Marnie) #3

Hey Sean, Thanks for this. I really appreciate your thoughts and I loved the video.

Regarding Tennyson, Yes, love has value, but I fear there are thousands, even millions of people who never have the chance to love… I have six adopted children. My oldest son was raped, repeatedly by his father and ignored by his mother until finally a neighbor took action. Then he was moved through THREE abusive orphanages until he finally hit a safe place at six years old and then he was mine. But we left other orphans there. I also adopted two handicapped boys from Ukraine. They were taken from their parents at birth and put in baby houses. They came to us severely malnourished and endured unimaginable neglect/abuse, mostly kept in a white room with six beds and a portable potty. No toys, no books, no TV, no radio, no touch, no stimulation, no nurturing, no love. They were headed to an institution where they would have been tied to their beds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of their lives, kept naked on a vinyl mattress with a cup of slop poured down their throats three times a day. Mine escaped, but we left other orphans there. Two of my sisters children were severely burned, as infants, by their families (BBC did a story about children considered “witches” who are hated/abused by entire villages). My daughter, adopted at four years old, had a 4th degree facial cleft and you would not believe the vitriol placed on her by the entire country. People scowled at her everywhere we went. We left other orphans there as well. Ours are the “lucky ones” and even so, I’m not certain that all the ones that escape are capable of love, having endured so much at such young ages and thus PTSD and attachment disordered. Of those left behind, most post-soviet handicapped orphans die before they turn 17 and there are thousands, if not millions in their orphanages, kept literally in cages/cribs, row upon row, babies and toddlers in constant spiritual and physical starvation. Sorry for the gruesome reality check, truly, but I’m not sure that everyone gets the chance to love or be loved, at least by other humans.

Regarding Romans 9, I had not considered that “clay” could be referring to nations. However, I’m not sure it matters—as in, it doesn’t seem any more or less loving to create vessels for destruction as individuals vs create vessels for destruction as individuals grouped into nations. Regarding Romans 9 as an affirmation to free will in Greg Boyd’s video, I get what he is saying and I like it, but he pre-supposes the existence of the “clay,” in the same way that we pre-suppose the existence of people. So, I was debating predestination/free will one day when I realized it doesn’t matter, because God chooses to create. What does it matter if God predestines someone to hell vs. creates them with free will while fully knowing they will choose hell? In either case, we have God purposefully creating a person that He knows will end up in hell and we are back to the beginning of Greg Boyd’s video. I know this is where faith comes in, and I can accept if that is the only answer. But, it is heartbreaking. To create and then condemn a large majority, however justly, in order to “make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy,” (who only require a narrow path) does not seem loving to me. Is faith in the midst of bewildering majority/minority metaphors our only answer?

Which brings us to the final question: How much information would we need to have to know for sure that simply because a person rejects God it was not worth their having the chance to choose Him and to experience the wonder of creation?

The point that it would be better if one had never been born actually came from Jesus (Mt 26, Mk 14). Fortunately, the verses are specifically about Judas, (which I had missed earlier, so that is huge progress, thank you). But, from other passages the idea that the benefit of enjoying creation/free will on earth is not “worth” the price of eternity in hell probably comes from 1. The idea of eternity in hell vs temporal earthly life. And 2. Our call to preach the gospel, which seems a little less compelling if hell is anything less than hell-ish (weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire etc.). I could be wrong, but I think it’s a Biblical truth that the imagined benefits of sin are not worth the cost of eternal damnation. Not being sarcastic but truly asking, is that not the reason we preach the gospel in the first place?

Thanks again for your thoughts/teaching. It was actually very helpful. I hope you will respond again.



(SeanO) #4

@Marnie Thank you for that thorough response. I am deeply sorry to hear about the suffering that your adopted children have undergone in their lives. There are a few points that I believe it is helpful to keep in mind:

  • we do not know the eternal destiny of those who have never heard of Jesus (see below section on God will judge justly)
  • not all Christians believe that ‘Hell’ is eternal suffering - I personally am annihilationist and believe that those who choose to reject God will cease to exist
  • those little children who suffer may very well live with Christ forever
  • God is with the broken in spirit
  • simply because we think someone’s life was not worth living does not mean that it was not - that is a subjective judgment - only eternity will tell

Are those thoughts helpful? The Lord Jesus grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him. Please check out the following threads as well to learn more.

God will Judge Justly

I think one of the major concerns your friend may have is that these people who have never heard of Jesus will be punished for what they never had a chance to believe. I simply do not believe this is the case!

Abraham was upset with God over this very issue when he found out Sodom was going to be destroyed. Abraham challenged God - “Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) And of course the answer is yes, God saved the righteous from destruction.

If we examine Scripture, we see that God’s judgment will in the end be based upon the secrets of men’s hearts. Romans points out that Gentiles are a law to themselves and many passages point out that God will judge men based upon their inner thoughts - their hearts.

Romans 2:14-16 - (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 - For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Luke 8:17 - For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Also consider the Old Testament saints before Moses and the law - Enoch - how was he saved? He did not know about Jesus - neither did Abraham. They were saved by faith in God - in the Creator.

Someone may make the objection at this point that there is no need for Jesus, but that is simply false! Jesus made it clear that if you know God the Father you know Him, because He and the Father are one. To reject Jesus is to reject God and to accept God is to accept Jesus.

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. -John 14:7

In John 15, Jesus specifically says the Jews would not have been guilty of sin for rejecting Him if they had not seen Him and His works.

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

(Marnie) #5

Hey Sean,

Thanks for this. I definitely was not expecting #2 and as you point out, there is much we don’t know.

I loved the links/videos and I will definitely order the books.

Thanks for your time and thoughts.


(SeanO) #6

@Marnie Glad it was helpful as you think through this issue. Feel free to ask more questions. The Lord Jesus guide your studies and grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him!