Unanswered Questions – Responsibility

From Roger Olson to Calvinists in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God:

If free will is consistent with determinism (as compatibilism says), how is the person who does what he or she cannot avoid doing responsible?


  1. Romans 9 deals with this directly: 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    (Romans 9:19-24 ESV)

    1. Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
      Rom 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
      Rom 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
      Rom 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
      Rom 9:23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
      Rom 9:24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

      The very interesting thing about Paul’s answer to “Why does He still find fault?” is that Paul doesnt answer the question. Instead, Paul attacks the assumptions in the question that is being asked. The Jews would say this to Paul, their point being: “Why on Earth does God have an entire history with Israel if it was to accumulate in mixing Gentiles and Jews (dissolving the special people)? If the reason includes God fostering us as an example, how is that fair to us? God wanted us to fail.”

      The context is a potter and clay parable. If you remember Jeremiah 18, God is trying to shape something into a good vessel, the clay is marred, God then cannot finish His original plan but shapes it into a lesser vessel. So Paul’s point here is that the clay is marred, God has to endure this (because God did not want or cause this), but God makes it into something useful. So Paul’s counter point is that “you guys were evil, and God was just using you.” This is why God is not at fault, even if evil people are in His plan. God didn’t want of cause the evil.

      The overall context is God’s national people group. See verse 9:24. The vessels of wrath is Israel (although Paul admits that this does not include the remnant of Israel who is righteous (Rom 11:1)). The vessels of mercy are the Gentiles (although this does not extend to Gentiles who die in rebellion).

      It seems to me that Romans 9 refutes your answer to Roger Olson’s question, confirming the legitimacy of the question.

      1. No, Paul’s answer is who are we to question God and His decisions. That was Paul’s answer.

        1. What is the answer to the question? That isn’t an answer. That is just like the Supreme Court saying that someone doesn’t have legal standing to bring a lawsuit. By no means does that mean the question has no answer.

          Plus, I have already shown that the issue was not God causing sin but God using sinners for a plan. Do you understand the difference?

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