Calvinists offer up Romans 9:16 as a linchpin verse, demonstrating the truth of Calvinism. But, if interpreted contextually, the verse demonstrates that Calvinism misconstrues Paul’s words. Premise 1 - not necessarily a view held by all Calvinists, but certainly a view offered up by some Calvinist, is that God controls every thought and deed, and our reactions and responses to the circumstances presented in our lives are all predetermined by God, we make no choices, and our decisions and actions are an illusion - sort of a Sci-Fi Matrix theology. In such a world folks destined for destruction would not need to have their hearts hardened in order to bring forth to fruition God's plan of salvation for those that believe (Romans 11). Calvinists actually teach that everyone is "totally" depraved with "totally" meaning spiritual inability; no one is willing to receive the gospel or seek the righteousness of God at any time. But the fact is when our minds are set on the flesh, we are not seeking God, when we are sinning, and we all sin, we are not seeking God, and by extrapolating these truths, Calvinists insist no one who is unregenerate seeks God at anytime, contrary to Romans 9:31. Now lets consider Romans 9:16 in context. Romans 9:18 says two things: God has mercy upon whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires. Now to have mercy is to accept the person just as he is, a sinner, and save him in light of his condition. On the other hand, verse 18 says God alters some others - He hardens their hearts - such that they reject God and act adversely toward God’s message in order to implement God's glorious purpose and plan. In summary, Calvinists say everybody is unable to seek God, until God alters some folks by irresistible grace, with everybody initially hardened from the beginning of their lives such that none are willing to seek the righteousness of God. But Scripture actually says the opposite – first God has mercy upon us without mention of prior enablement by irresistible grace, and second, God must intervene in the thoughts and motivations of some folks in order to bring about his purpose and plan such as Pharaoh and Esau, for He hardened their hearts. Therefore their actions, had they not been hardened, may not have been according to God’s purpose and plan – teaching independent thoughts and actions on the part of men. Premise 2 – Calvinists teach that none are willing to seek God, yet Romans 9:16 says it does not depend “upon the man that wills” teaching that some men do seek God. Paul concludes chapter 9 of Romans by saying the Gentiles attained righteousness by faith but the Jews did not pursue righteousness by faith. Both groups were willing to pursue righteousness, with one group (Jews) trusting in the Law of Moses and the other group trusting in God and His Christ. The Jews pursuing the righteousness of God stumbled over the stumbling stone. The man that runs in verse 16 is the Jew who stubs his toe on the stumbling stone, he trusts in works of the Law. Paul says rather than trusting in the Law of Moses, by which no man is justified, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9). Note the “if you” indicating action by the individual seeking the righteousness of God through faith in God and His Christ. Premise 3 – Calvinists teach unconditional election, God chose specific foreseen individuals before the foundation of the world, before we were conceived in iniquity, and before we demonstrated our depravity by thinking wicked thoughts and doing wicked deeds. In other words, before we were unjust sinners, needing mercy because we were facing the wrath of God due to His just punishment. Therefore this choice did not include mercy, the passing over of our sins, and having mercy upon us. Just the opposite of what Romans 9:18 teaches - for God has mercy upon whom He desires. Choosing folks who are sinners is merciful and compassionate and is consistent with scripture, picking folks as foreseen individuals without regard for their wretched condition is neither merciful nor compassionate. Therefore individual election occurs during our lifetime according to Romans 9:16, because the choice results in God having mercy upon us. In summary, Romans 9:16 contextually considered, is a linchpin verse, demonstrating that Calvinism is a mistaken doctrine.