I found this clearly articulated Arminian argument that Romans 9 needs to be understood in the wider context of the entire book. In this chapter Paul begins answering the Jewish charge that the new Christian sect was changing the conditions of inclusion in God’s covenant with Israel, which in their view depended on descent from Abraham and keeping the Law. Paul of course made the case in the first 8 chapters of Romans that the children of Abraham are those who walk by faith, and that keeping the Law can never result in justification “for all have sinned…” In Chapter 9 Paul explains that ‘No, it is not through Abraham, but through the child of promise, his son Isaac, that his descendants would be reckoned’, and from there further unravels their misunderstandings and presents the actual basis of God’s election.
Please read the article, I’m sure it will help you see this passage in an entirely new, but biblical, light.
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Romans 9 is often cited as one of the clearest examples in Scripture of the Reformed doctrine of individual election: It discusses God’s sovereign choice of Isaac in preference to Ishmael and Jacob rather than Esau, without regard to any merit of the chosen or demerit of those who were not chosen. It counters what would later be the Arminian objection that unconditional election appears unjust to our human sense of justice, and uses Pharaoh as an example of someone whom God ‘raised up’ for the express purpose of becoming a demonstration of God’s power. God bears with great patience these ‘objects of wrath,’ in order to glorify himself before the ‘objects of his mercy,’ that is, the elect (see Augustine, “To Prosper and Hilary” 14; Calvin, Institutes 3.22.4-6).
I would contend that this interpretation ignores the larger context of Romans 9-11, whose main theme is struggling with the implications of the Gospel for the nation of Israel. It also ignores the Old Testament contexts of Paul’s quotations, which when viewed in proper perspective shed a distinctly different light on Paul’s argument. Paul is struggling with the fact that God had made certain promises in the scriptures concerning Israel, many of which he sees as fulfilled in and through Christ. Yet Israel as a whole has not come to Christ. What does this mean for Israel, for the veracity of the Scriptures, and for Paul’s gospel? These questions dominate Paul’s mind in Romans 9-11, and his statements about election in Romans 9 must be evaluated in terms of them. Continue reading here
The Society of Evangelical Arminians website is a great resource if you are wondering about predestination vs. free will, particularly if you have a Reform/Calvinism background and are questioning the “party line”.