I’m not sure what references you have already consulted but I figured I would share this nonetheless on the off chance it will be of use
I would direct your attention to the exegetical work of Frank Yon-Chao Lin, in this excerpt from pages 296-297. The Thesis is obviously much longer and Lin constructs his arguments in a greater context. However this portion may be of interest to you.
Based on the discussion above, the interpretation of Rom 8:28 must be provided in the light of Rom 8:18-27 semantically, though lexically it is more closely related to Rom 8:29-30. As Cranfield observes, “the purpose of vv. 28-30 was to underline the certainty of that hope of which vv. 17-27 had spoken. This certainty is indicated by the first part of v. 28.”795 Put otherwise, Rom 8:28b (πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν) functions as a hinge, connecting Rom 8:18-27 with 8:28-30; the phrase (τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν, “those who love God,” in Rom 8:28a) is a summarized designation of God’s children, who are the beneficiary of Rom 8:28b (“all things work together for good,” NRSV); Rom 8:28c (τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν, “to those who are called according to His purpose”) is a further clarification of Rom 8:28a. Finally, the unit Rom 8:29-30 extends the interpretation of Rom 8:28 (especially v. 28c) and makes a conclusion of the whole passage of Rom 8:18-30 (cf. Diagram 4-9 Text analysis of Romans 8:28-30).
Like Rom 2:2 and 3:19, Rom 8:28 begins with οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι (“now we know that”), not only does the combination of οἴδαμεν and ὅτι imply that a widely familiar reality is acknowledged as true,796 but also the coordinating conjunction δέ indicates a close reasoning linkage of the following statements to the preceding texts.797 In particular, the well-known and accepted fact starts with τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεόν (“for those who love God”); the forward position of this phrase displays its prominence in Paul’s mind. Paul uses the verb ἀγαπάω, which expresses most fully the relationship between family members, to describe the relationship between the believers and God. Such a loving relation not only summarizes the God-pleasing response of the believers to God, but also reveals the reason why the believers become the recipient of πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν. Besides, owing to the believers’ love to God, which man- ifests the earlier love of God (cf. Rom 5:5), Paul is paving the way for his final con- clusion of the first eight chapters of Romans, in which God’s all-surpassing love is the focus (cf. Rom 8:31-39).
Cranfield lists and compares eight possibilities of the interpretation of πάντα συνεργεῖ.798 Other scholars mostly divide all alternatives into three main catego- ries.799 The first category is to see πάντα as the subject, then Rom 8:28b can be translated as “all things work together for good” (e.g., ASV, NKJV, NRSV, KJV, Bar- rett,800 Cranfield,801 and Moo802). The second category is to adopt the long reading803 or view God as the real subject behind the action of συνεργεῖ. Under these circumstances, there are two options: one is to read συνεργεῖ as transitive, thereby Rom 8:28b can be rendered as “God causes all things to work together for good” (e.g., NASB); the other is to take Rom 8:28a as an associative dative, συνεργεῖ as transitive, πάντα as an accusative of respect, resulting in the following rendering of Rom 28b: “in all things God works for good with those who love him” (e.g., JB, NJB, NIV, TEV, RSV, Dodd,804 Gieniusz805).
And obviously given the references provided in the footnotes you may want to follow those leads.
An Exegetical Study of Romans 8:12-30
Hopefully there is something that will help clarify the subject being God, personally I still think it’s unclear in the immediate verse but there are compelling arguments to be made.
When I read this verse, the emphasis doesn’t fall where you placed the emphasis, namely, is God doing the causing or do things work together “as a consequence”.
I personally don’t think using only this verse you can difinitely attribute God to be the subject of συνεργεῖ. You are correct to point this out. It’s not obvious in the Greek at all. As for why it was translated to make God the subject, it’s a Christian author to a Christian audience and the translators have an obligation toward their own audience to make the text clear without causing more confusion for the non Greek speaking reader. Translators sometimes use transliteration because they can’t find a more appropriate word but if the whole text were transliterated then it would serve no purpose. Take God out as the subject in the English and you have the NRSV as the closest translation. But translators also have the obligation of interpretation. Interpreting the text doesn’t only draw from the immediate passage in question as you well know.
(As a general rule when there is an obscure text I look for clear text elsewhere in Scripture so that the context is strictly from Scripture and not outside in the realm of abstract philosophical thought and probability. That way Scripture can speak for itself without external input. It helps against heresy.)
The emphasis in my mind falls on what qualifies someone for all things to work together for good.
Firstly it’s not open to every human, it’s only open to those who love God. That immediately cancels out the obvious,
- those who live in sin
- have not accepted His imputed righteousness
- and therefore have not been born again.
It also further qualifies amount those born again (those who love God)
“If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
1 John 4:20 ESV
So Romans 8:28 is not even for all Christians, to use modern phrasing
But there is a further qualifier
Those that are in His will. You can be called but if you are not in His will, it doesn’t matter how much you love all your brothers and sisters, all things will not work together for your good, (whether that be caused by God or it takes place by some “natural law”).
In a sense the ambiguity in the Greek in my eyes is less relevant as the conditions that are necessary to qualify for the promise in the first portion of the verse.
- a) loves God
- b) is called
- c) is in God’s will
Then it’s hard to divorce God’s will from God’s actions.
Consider the passage in Matthew 6.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these (good) things will be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33 ESV
Who does the adding?
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Matthew 6:30 ESV
This chapter in Matthew also addresses the issue of loving God as does Romans 8:28 as well as servitude and being in His will (or purpose).
“"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:24 ESV
Also there is a priority and a condition for God’s will (purpose)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”
Matthew 6:33 ESV
In light of a greater context, including the Matthew 6 illustrated above I would reason that Romans 8:28 should read God causes all things to work together for good,
...limited to those who love Him, are therefore born again, live in obedience, love their brethren and are in the will of God for which they were called.
God has no obligation to work anything for good to those who do not qualify. He may do it but He has not placed Himself under the obligation.