Commenting on Romans 9:16-18, James White writes:
“God desired to display His power so that His name would be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore, Paul asserts, God will have mercy on whom He desires to have mercy, and He will harden whom He desires to harden.
We stop right here and say, ‘wait a minute — I simply will not accept such a concept. My God is fair, and this God of whom you speak is most definitely not.’ But let’s think closely about our feelings. First, we look at Pharaoh and say, ‘Poor fellow. God really mistreated him.’ But such is hardly the case. We feel like siding with Pharaoh because we share something in common with him — we are sinners, just as he. We do our best to dismiss the fact that sinners have no claim on God’s mercy. We forget that if God allows a sinner to exist for one instant after each and every act of sin, He is being gracious and merciful to them.”
It is true that sinners have no claim on God’s mercy. But White misses Paul’s presentation that not only does God withhold mercy from the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, He unconditionally and actively hardens them in order to display His power and wrath. Please note how White shoehorns into the biblical text the damnable notion that God’s maintenance of Pharaoh’s existence “after each and every act of sin” is an act of grace and mercy towards Pharaoh. On the contrary:
“But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction” (Romans 9:22).
WHY does God endure “in much long-suffering vessels of wrath” such as Esau and Pharaoh, to continue existing for even “one instant after each and every act of sin”? Is it to show “common grace” and “common mercy” to them. NO. Rather, the long-suffering of God is in order to display His wrath and to make His power known in them.
In contrast to White’s assertions it is NOT a display of mercy and grace, but a display of power and wrath in order that the vessels of mercy may know what true mercy is (cf. Romans 9:22-24). If one has an heretical view of God’s dealings with the vessels of wrath he will necessarily have an heretical view of God’s dealings with the vessels of mercy.
Jame White and all orthodox Calvinists (note that I said, orthodox Calvinists, not orthodox Christians) reject active reprobation and replace it with a “passive reprobation” where God “decrees” to allow pots to fit themselves — and thus, does not “mistreat” them or handle them “unjustly.” When orthodox Calvinists understand Paul’s teaching aright, they find themselves to be Paul’s God-hating critic.
“And, on an even more basic level, we hate the fact that God can do with us as He pleases, sinner or not. We are creatures — His creatures, and He can dispose of us as He pleases. If He wants Pharaoh to perform a certain function in bringing about a display of God’s power, we have absolutely, positively no grounds upon which to complain. God is God, and we are not” (James White, God’s Sovereign Grace, p. 63; emphasis White’s).
James White and all orthodox Calvinists HATE the fact that God can do with us as He pleases. If White would correctly and consistently exegete the passage, he would claim as his grounds of complaint that since God made him like this (cf. Romans 9:20) and actively hardens and causes him to do the things he does, then God cannot find fault. James White and all orthodox Calvinists hate the truth that God is God and they are NOT.
For more information regarding this topic, and how it relates to the gospel, see the article, Unconditional Reprobation and Active Hardening: A Study on Romans 9:11-22: