Sarah Ruden on Romans 8:33

Rom 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Sarah Ruden comments on this verse:

In The Face of Water, I confronted the possibility that the momentous notion of “election”—which culminates in the Calvinist assertion that saved individuals are chosen unchangeably from the beginning of time—owes something to some joyous and lighthearted wordplay of Paul in Romans 8:33 (KJV: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth”). It looks to me, in this verse at least, not as if he’s naming a special category of people who are inherently “elect” or “chosen” but rather that he’s just pointing out the absurdity of the notion that any force in the universe could haul INTO court for a verdict of damnation those (that is, all of Jesus’ sincere followers) who are singled OUT for a friendly verdict by the ultimate judge, God, through his love. In other words, the divine fix is in. This is part of the courtroom conceit that dominates the passage. The critical words are the jingly enkahlesei (“INdict”) and eklektōn (“EXempted”). Paul’s language wasn’t just Greek; it was also rhetoric, the play of sounds and ideas. That’s how he made his points in detail, and with emotion, and with precision. Since we moderns don’t respect rhetoric, since we habitually condemn whatever’s “rhetorical,” we lose many heights and depths and angles of Paul.

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