Does Romans 9-11 teach Calvinist predestination?
In these few chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Ben Witherington explains that Paul’s aim is to refute certain assumptions that the Gentiles in Rome appear to have believed. Namely, Roman Christians assumed that God now favored the Romans, or Gentiles, rather than the Jews (read more about the church at Rome here). The argument as a whole in Rom. 9-11 then is about corporate election, not individual election.
What about the issues of predestination and salvation, and how do they relate to election? Ben Witherington reminds us that these terms should not be conflated—they each have different meanings. First, you can be part of an elect group and not be saved. That’s because election is about God calling a specific people for specific tasks on earth. For example, Cyrus was God’s anointed servant to release Israel from captivity, but he was a pagan and not saved (Isa. 45:1). Also, although God foreknew Israel corporately, not all were necessarily saved. Only two among God’s elect from Egypt made it to Canaan after wandering the desert.
So does Romans 9-11 teach Calvinist predestination? The point seems to be a different one. It is about not boasting in your status before God, because ultimately, your behavior will affect your standing before God. As Ben Witherington likes to say, “You’re not eternally secure until your securely in eternity.” Indeed, if God has grafted in the Gentiles because of Israel’s failure, should the Gentiles fail, they too can be broken off (Rom. 11:11-24).