The attempts to justify God’s treatment of human beings play an important role in the Bible. This issue is explored in the Epistle to the Romans, in which Apostle Paul discusses God’s relations with the people of Israel. To some degree, his rhetoric can be regarded as the theodicy aimed at showing that the divine promises given to the Jews were never broken. This paper will discuss Brendan Byrne’s (2017) commentary titled “The Elective Pattern of God’s Working,” in which the author explores Paul’s theodicy. Overall, this scholar accurately identifies the conflicting nature of Paul’s arguments that emphasize the complete unaccountability of God to human beings and his faithfulness to the assurances given to the Israelites.
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At first, Brendan Byrne briefly summarizes the main ideas that Paul wants to convey. It should be noted that Paul wants to explain why Gentiles are included in “the community of salvation” while Jews appear to be excluded from this group (Byrne, 2017, p. 289). In particular, he intends to show how this situation can be reconciled with the past promises that God gave to the people of Israel (Byrne, 2017). To support this argument, Paul refers to the passages from the Book of Genesis indicating that people chosen by God should not be ethnically defined (Byrne, 2017).
In this way, the author intends to prove that the divine promises were not broken.
At the same time, Brendan Byrne (2017) examines the idea according to which God is not accountable to human beings. In particular, he focuses on Paul’s claims implying that God can freely exercise his creative power irrespective of what people expect (Byrne, 2017). For example, Paul refers to the relations between Jacob and Esau (Byrne, 2017). One should note that Esau was the elder brother; therefore, he had a right to become the head of the family (Bar, 2016).
Nevertheless, God did not accept this situation and gave preference to Jacob. By focusing on this issue, Paul wants to show that people are not expected to understand the logic underlying divine actions (Byrne, 2017). Later, Paul compares God to a potter who can shape the clay in the way that best suits his needs (Byrne, 2017). Brendan Byrne points out that Paul’s theodicy is not likely to convince readers of God’s fairness. The author notes that human beings cannot be compared to “lifeless, passive clay” (Byrne, 2017, p. 297). He also adds that Paul’s claims are likely to raise potential objections.
The interpretation and arguments advanced by Brendan Byrne can be accepted. This author accurately analyzes Paul’s theodicy and describes the line of reasoning on which this rhetoric is based. Additionally, the scholar shows that the responses given by Paul are rather conflicting. On the one hand, he strives to provide textual evidence from the Old Testament to show that God’s actions adhere to the past assurances given to Israelites. However, at the same time, Paul pays much attention to the idea that God cannot be held accountable by human beings. It seems that one of these arguments is just unnecessary.
Overall, Brendan Byrne highlights an important problem affecting the attempts to offer the theodicy or the justification of God’s actions. In some cases, such discussions are premised on the idea that the divine entity is not accountable to human beings. However, this assumption only gives rise to new questions about God’s fairness and benevolence.
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Bar, S. (2016). A nation is born: The Jacob story. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Byrne, B. (2017). The elective pattern of God’s working. In T. Humphries (Ed.), Many are called, but who is chosen (pp. 289-300)? Winona, WM: Professor’s Choice.