God hardened Pharaoh's heart

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  • mousethief wrote: »
    I remain unconvinced that that is a reasonable interpretation of "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." The text has God doing something, not not doing something.

    I don’t see why not, but it’s OK if you’re not convinced. I’m pretty much thinking aloud here myself.

    So do you think that the text has God do something evil in hardening Pharoah’s heart?
  • Pretty much, yeah. Then again I take the scriptures to be the record of people's interactions with God and beliefs about God. Their beliefs were not always true. You also get God repenting/changing her mind in several places. Which makes no sense on the face of it.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    Presumably you’re not saying the writer was OK with the idea of God doing something evil - just that at the time Exodus was written people didn’t generally think that God hardening Pharoah’s heart was an evil act.

    If so, at what point do you think God’s people started thinking it would be wrong for God to have done that? It must be some after the Apostle Paul wrote Romans; so when do you think?
  • I think it must have been there already or Paul wouldn't have addressed it. It's also in the epistles of John. Also somewhere it says God is light and in him is no darkness at all. I think the concept of the vengeful tribal god and the concept of the loving, forgiving god existed side by side, and do so to this day. And people tie all sorts of bizarre knots trying to make them into the same god.
  • I’m not convinced that God’s love and God’s sovereignty are as irreconcilable as you suggest. You do have an interesting perspective on things though.
  • Well, if Nick Tamen's example from Maimonides and other midrashic glosses cited upthread are any indication it would seem that God's people had long been capable of thinking 'around' these stories and riffing with them.

    Which is what Paul is doing in Romans 9 in order to make a rather different point.

    Would Paul have thought it was fine for God to harden Pharoah's heart, whether that's understood in the way you've suggested or in some other way? Probably. I see no reason why he wouldn't.

    We don't know enough to state for certain though, do we? Paul mines the Exodus story of Pharoah to support a particular thesis, as he does the story of Jacob and Esau and the quotes from Hosea and Isaiah. He's riffing with passages to support his thesis.

    The issue of God's justice or otherwise in Pharoah's case is a secondary one to the main point he's making - but by no means tangential. Besides, we've only got one version of that Exodus story to go on, problems and all.

    I'm not convinced that we can build a whole nailed down systematic soteriological superstructure on these particular verses, beyond the general point that God's ways are inscrutable and he can do what he likes - although there are tricky aspects to this particular story of course.

    It sounds a cop out but it's one of those areas where I fall back on the, 'It's a Mystery, gov'' thing.



  • Because figures of speech and fables (or myths and tropes) are our collective stock in trade.

    Whether we take the Exodus story as myth or literal history it purports to tell us something about God. As most of us here have signed up to theist belief in the Judeo-Christian tradition, then it follows that we are are going to be exercised about apparent problems around justice, injustice, theodicy and so forth that these stories throw up as we try to wrestle with them and understand them.

    That applies to all of us however liberal or conservative we might be theologically or whatever our ecclesial allegiance happens to be.

    Not me. Deist but for the Incarnation. I certainly don't believe in the Judeo-Christian tradition as anything more than that. I have no warrant even in the light of the Incarnation for otherwise do I? So there are no problems. Just points on the trajectory. These myths and fables tell us almost bugger all about God as He is. You can see His silver lining in the moonless nocturnal cloud yeah. We yearn back to His yearning sure.

    What anywhere in the Bible shows God as He is? And shows the need for the justification of God and His justice, whatever that is?
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    magnilo:: I’m not convinced that God’s love and God’s sovereignty are as irreconcilable as you suggest.

    They are reconcilable provided that his sovereign will is an expression of his loving or gracious essence i.e. because his nature is unalloyed love he only wills what is loving. If he hardens Pharaoh's heart it has to be seen as a loving act.
  • An excellent point, well made.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    I’m not convinced that God’s love and God’s sovereignty are as irreconcilable as you suggest. You do have an interesting perspective on things though.
    Who mentioned sovereignty? We were talking about hardening hearts. I don't recall sovereignty even coming up until just now. In other words, non sequitur.
  • The problem is not that hardening Pharaoh's heart was a sovereign thing, it's that it's an asshole thing. If Pharaoh was about to relent, then it was doubly assholic. Jesus tells a parable that suggests that if you bang on against injustice long enough, even an unrighteous judge will give in. In that parable, if God had stepped in and hardened the judge's heart, we'd all cry foul. Why not with Pharaoh?
  • magnilo wrote: »
    An excellent point, well made.

    A completely deranged one putting the cart of nastiness before the horse of Love.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    I’m not convinced that God’s love and God’s sovereignty are as irreconcilable as you suggest. You do have an interesting perspective on things though.
    Who mentioned sovereignty? We were talking about hardening hearts. I don't recall sovereignty even coming up until just now. In other words, non sequitur.
    Actually, the idea of God's sovereignty was introduced by magnilo on page one.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Kwesi: If he hardens Pharaoh's heart it has to be seen as a loving act.

    Just to clarify my own position: You should note that I qualified the sentiment of the above sentence with an IF, which was concerned with whether or not God's nature and sovereignty could be held together. I was not arguing that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was, indeed, a loving act. That conclusion would need to be demonstrated with, I suspect, some difficulty from a Christian perspective.
  • It seems to me that confronting someone about their moral failings and exposing the flaws in their rationalizations can often "cause" them to harden their heart. One could say that that's what happened when Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders of his time. It's possible that God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" by making it clear that Pharaoh needed to change his ways (and his heart).
  • W Hyatt wrote: »
    It seems to me that confronting someone about their moral failings and exposing the flaws in their rationalizations can often "cause" them to harden their heart. One could say that that's what happened when Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders of his time. It's possible that God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" by making it clear that Pharaoh needed to change his ways (and his heart).

    Here you conflate someone hardening their heart, and God hardening that person's heart. I maintain that they are not the same. Me doing something and God doing something are not identical.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    The problem is not that hardening Pharaoh's heart was a sovereign thing, it's that it's an asshole thing. If Pharaoh was about to relent, then it was doubly assholic. Jesus tells a parable that suggests that if you bang on against injustice long enough, even an unrighteous judge will give in. In that parable, if God had stepped in and hardened the judge's heart, we'd all cry foul. Why not with Pharaoh?

    I suppose the thing might be the difference between an Act of God and God acting.

    Which, I know sounds semantic - but this is what I mean;

    I can't think of the chapter and verse off-hand, but we are told that God has the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike (actually I remembered that from a Peanuts cartoon involving an umbrella). It's Matt 5:45, i just looked it up.

    Anyway - I don't think many of us would imagine that the deity specifically plans rain to fall on individuals.

    It's an "act of God" but not one he is doing to be an arse, as you put it.

    Thousands of migrants are dying trying to reach Europe - of course this isn't news to anyone here. For some their plight has a strong emotional response pushing them to do something about it. For others the same information is causing the opposite response. Learning about this seems to make them even more vociferous about borders and migrants.

    Could not the first person in this example be said to have his heart softened and the second hers hardened? If we can say that rainfall comes as an "Act of God" can we not also say that this hardening/softening - which might not feel like something deliberately chosen - is also an "Act of God"?

    I dunno, it works for me.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    magnilo: I believe that God purposed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart and effected it by not granting him the mercy of repentance, as is God’s right.

    It may be his right, but is it his nature so to exercise it? If it is his nature, then what is that nature, magnilo?

    Well God’s rights, and ours if we have any, must flow from his nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    He has no right to be wrong.

    I agree. And we have no right to accuse him of wrong.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    I remain unconvinced that that is a reasonable interpretation of "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." The text has God doing something, not not doing something.

    Take sin as an example. Human beings can sin by omission and commission; by what we don’t do and by what we do. Similarly, our behaviour can be righteous by commission and by omission; by what we do and by what we do not do.

    The principle here is that our actions and our inactions have a very real impact. We are responsible for the results of what we do and what we choose not to do.

    Perhaps it is the same for God. He is responsible for what he does, and he is responsible for what he chooses not to do. There genuine agency at work in what God does and in what God does not do.

    I’m suggesting that God can be said to have hardened Pharoah’s heart by choosing not to do something which was in his power to do, which was to have mercy on him rather than abandoning him to his sin.
  • So when Pharaoh was hardening his own heart, according to your programme, God was doing something to Pharaoh, and when God hardened Pharaoh's heart, God was not doing something to Pharaoh? That's counterintuitive to say the least.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    magnilo: I believe that God purposed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart and effected it by not granting him the mercy of repentance, as is God’s right.

    It may be his right, but is it his nature so to exercise it? If it is his nature, then what is that nature, magnilo?
    Well God’s rights, and ours if we have any, must flow from his nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    He has no right to be wrong.
    I agree. And we have no right to accuse him of wrong.
    Which means if our interpretation has him doing something wrong, it's our interpretation that needs to change. Which is why I am working to hammer out an interpretation that works. Because so far the explanations put forward for the difference between Pharaoh hardening his own heart, and God hardening Pharaoh's heart, don't work. They fail to distinguish (or in some instance even try to distinguish) in a meaningful and plausible way what the difference is between the two cases.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    W Hyatt wrote: »
    It seems to me that confronting someone about their moral failings and exposing the flaws in their rationalizations can often "cause" them to harden their heart. One could say that that's what happened when Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders of his time. It's possible that God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" by making it clear that Pharaoh needed to change his ways (and his heart).

    Here you conflate someone hardening their heart, and God hardening that person's heart. I maintain that they are not the same. Me doing something and God doing something are not identical.

    No, I'm not conflating them. If Pharaoh's heart hardened the first time without any external stimulus, and it hardened the second time as a backlash to God communicating something to him, that would be consistent with referring to the first time as Pharaoh hardening his heart and to the second time as God hardening his heart.

    Also, part of my point is that just because Pharaoh's heart hardened in response to something God did, that doesn't mean God necessarily wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    magnilo: I believe that God purposed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart and effected it by not granting him the mercy of repentance, as is God’s right.

    It may be his right, but is it his nature so to exercise it? If it is his nature, then what is that nature, magnilo?
    Well God’s rights, and ours if we have any, must flow from his nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    He has no right to be wrong.
    I agree. And we have no right to accuse him of wrong.
    Which means if our interpretation has him doing something wrong, it's our interpretation that needs to change.
    Definitely. But I’m unwilling to agree that the author of Exodus has an inferior understanding of God than I, or that he has God do something evil in the way he “interprets” Pharoah’s hardness of heart. Quite the opposite in fact. I would be more inclined to assume that my understanding is inadequate, not theirs.
    Which is why I am working to hammer out an interpretation that works.
    I honestly thought that your interpretation was that the writer of Exodus is simply wrong on this occasion because we now think that hardening Pharoah’s heart would be evil and God doesn’t do evil things. Is that not the case?
    Because so far the explanations put forward for the difference between Pharaoh hardening his own heart, and God hardening Pharaoh's heart, don't work. They fail to distinguish (or in some instance even try to distinguish) in a meaningful and plausible way what the difference is between the two cases.
    The difference between Pharoah hardening his own heart and God hardening Pharoah’s heart is a difference in agency. On this I’m sure we agree.

    I’m not disputing that God is said, by the writer of Exodus, to be the agent of Pharoah’s hardness of heart. I’m interested in how God effects the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. Does God do it by commiting a simple act of coercion, or does he do it by omitting to grant Pharoah the blessing of repentance?

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    magnilo wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    magnilo: I believe that God purposed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart and effected it by not granting him the mercy of repentance, as is God’s right.

    It may be his right, but is it his nature so to exercise it? If it is his nature, then what is that nature, magnilo?

    Well God’s rights, and ours if we have any, must flow from his nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    He has no right to be wrong.

    I agree. And we have no right to accuse him of wrong.

    We'd have every right - much good it would do us - if He were Chthulu, us on steroids. But He's not. He's impassible love. And love, and we all know what that is, what it looks and sounds and feels like, doesn't do virtually any of the things ascribed to God in the OT. Does a bit more in the NT. But not all by a country mile. If He were like the hypnotizing Bronze Age monster of the OT, a bit like the spider in Perdido Street Station, then we'd be best off finding a way to annihilate ourselves in oblivion. But the bastard would bring us back regardless for his sick purposes wouldn't he?
  • What the fuck are you on about?
  • Said everyone who ever tried communicating with Martin.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    magnilo wrote: »
    What the fuck are you on about?

    Spiegel im spiegel.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    God didn't harden Pharaoh's heart. Love in any recognisable form doesn't do that. And no He therefore doesn't soften hearts either. Look around. Because the love that He is is... patient.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    I’m not disputing that God is said, by the writer of Exodus, to be the agent of Pharoah’s hardness of heart. I’m interested in how God effects the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. Does God do it by commiting a simple act of coercion, or does he do it by omitting to grant Pharoah the blessing of repentance?
    But isn't that what he does when Pharaoh hardens his own heart too?
  • I may very well be doing you a literal minded, Aspyesque disservice magnilo. You're just arguing about the meaning of the text in the minds of its creators and their culture? You aren't imputing any of it to God? I mean, you can't be right?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    But I'm not. Doing you a disservice that is. Not I can't be right. Because I am. You're imputing the Bronze Age all the way through Paul to God with a closed, literal minded historical-grammatical hermeneutic. Go on, tell me I'm wrong. I'd love to be wrong and have to grovelingly apologize. You really, really are using historical-critical method.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Kwesi: arguing that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was, indeed, a loving act. That conclusion would need to be demonstrated with, I suspect, some difficulty from a Christian perspective.

    I guess that this comes down to the belief as to whether God needs to use his omnipotence to change someone’s negative mindset and if he doesn’t then he is not being loving?

    On that reasoning, God could not ever be loving as you could lay every evil act that ever happened at his door. He could have stopped the two world wars.

    But then the big question of free will comes into play. Any interference with free will opens up an accusation of being a cosmic manipulator of individuals and ultimately of history.

    This discussion is not going to solve the problem of free will vs determinism but arguing from Biblical analogy, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God requires choices of us that it makes no sense to expect if he interferes constantly with them.

    If we postulate that people can make genuine choices because they are Imago dei, ie, in his image and consequently, capable of moral choice, then it follows that God cannot be defined as unloving simply by non interference in letting the game play out.

    It is pretty consistent from our perspective then, to assume that God was not unloving to manipulate a ruler’s life for the ultimate good of humanity after he had already refused divine grace as an individual.
  • Not it doesn't.
  • W Hyatt wrote: »
    Also, part of my point is that just because Pharaoh's heart hardened in response to something God did, that doesn't mean God necessarily wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened.

    Exodus 7:3-4: "But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.".

    God definitely wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened.

    The plain reading of this part of scripture is basically that God wanted to show off His power through signs and wonders (the plagues), and He had a whole series of them planned. The first few weren't bad enough for Pharaoh to change his mind about letting the Israelites go, but later he sees that the only way to stop them is to do so. But that's not God's plan - He's got more in store for them - so God hardens Pharaoh's heart in order that He can show off His full repertoire. Only when He has gone as far as killing all the firstborn of Egypt does God allow Pharaoh to do what he would have done several plagues previously and release the Israelites.

    How are we to understand this? At the time it was written that would be an easy question to answer - God is for the Israelites and will seriously fuck up anyone who stands against them. This is a position that is maintained through the following books of the OT, with God making charnel houses of the dwellings of those who were already occupying the Promised Land in order to free it up for His Chosen People. This is emphatically not a God of all humanity.

    As Christians we have to deal with this contradiction between the tribal God of the early OT and the universal God of later OT books and the NT. Maybe God changed. Maybe He didn't change and is still a God who blesses Christians and smites heathens - there are many who believe just that. Maybe whoever wrote the early OT was just plain wrong. But I don't think we can redefine terms or create convoluted explanations that try to pretend that preventing someone from doing the right thing so that you can murder their children in retribution for them doing the wrong thing is a loving act.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Marvin the Martian: I don't think we can redefine terms or create convoluted explanations that try to pretend that preventing someone from doing the right thing so that you can murder their children in retribution for them doing the wrong thing is a loving act
    In Gen 18:25, Abraham states: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right.”
    The issue here is not God’s love but his right to judge. However, in the very telling scripture in the promise to Abraham that it would be 400 years to the promised inheritance because “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full,” we see both God’s justice and his love. The Amorites, dwellers of Canaan, had 400 years to get their act together. This is an act of love. God creates opportunities for us to repent prior to judgement.

    To question God’s love on the basis of judgement decreed is to confuse issues. If you want to disregard context I suppose you can do it. Pharaoh, because he hardened his own heart, made a choice which impacted his land. We are never told the precise point at which he became obdurate and suffered the judgement of a permanently hardened heart but it was probably after the first 9 plagues. What you cannot presume to do is judge God’s actions here without the full facts. Nor can you argue that judgement is necessarily unloving. You do not know what consequences would have accrued had judgement not fallen. God in his omniscience would have known this.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    Kwesi: arguing that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was, indeed, a loving act. That conclusion would need to be demonstrated with, I suspect, some difficulty from a Christian perspective.

    I guess that this comes down to the belief as to whether God needs to use his omnipotence to change someone’s negative mindset and if he doesn’t then he is not being loving?

    On that reasoning, God could not ever be loving as you could lay every evil act that ever happened at his door. He could have stopped the two world wars.

    But then the big question of free will comes into play. Any interference with free will opens up an accusation of being a cosmic manipulator of individuals and ultimately of history.

    This discussion is not going to solve the problem of free will vs determinism but arguing from Biblical analogy, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God requires choices of us that it makes no sense to expect if he interferes constantly with them.

    If we postulate that people can make genuine choices because they are Imago dei, ie, in his image and consequently, capable of moral choice, then it follows that God cannot be defined as unloving simply by non interference in letting the game play out.

    It is pretty consistent from our perspective then, to assume that God was not unloving to manipulate a ruler’s life for the ultimate good of humanity after he had already refused divine grace as an individual.

    Can you join up the dots for me? How do we get from Love hardens hearts to Love not un-hardening hearts is not Love?
  • Superb MtM. Who grew up? God or us?
  • W HyattW Hyatt Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    W Hyatt wrote: »
    Also, part of my point is that just because Pharaoh's heart hardened in response to something God did, that doesn't mean God necessarily wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened.

    Exodus 7:3-4: "But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.".

    God definitely wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened.

    The plain reading of this part of scripture is basically that God wanted to show off His power through signs and wonders (the plagues), and He had a whole series of them planned. The first few weren't bad enough for Pharaoh to change his mind about letting the Israelites go, but later he sees that the only way to stop them is to do so. But that's not God's plan - He's got more in store for them - so God hardens Pharaoh's heart in order that He can show off His full repertoire. Only when He has gone as far as killing all the firstborn of Egypt does God allow Pharaoh to do what he would have done several plagues previously and release the Israelites.

    How are we to understand this? At the time it was written that would be an easy question to answer - God is for the Israelites and will seriously fuck up anyone who stands against them. This is a position that is maintained through the following books of the OT, with God making charnel houses of the dwellings of those who were already occupying the Promised Land in order to free it up for His Chosen People. This is emphatically not a God of all humanity.

    As Christians we have to deal with this contradiction between the tribal God of the early OT and the universal God of later OT books and the NT. Maybe God changed. Maybe He didn't change and is still a God who blesses Christians and smites heathens - there are many who believe just that. Maybe whoever wrote the early OT was just plain wrong. But I don't think we can redefine terms or create convoluted explanations that try to pretend that preventing someone from doing the right thing so that you can murder their children in retribution for them doing the wrong thing is a loving act.

    I basically agree that the plain reading is that God intentionally did something that we, in the modern world, now understand to be intrinsically bad.

    However, it seems to me that the problem involves three assumptions that do not sit well together:

    (1) God is always and completely good, and everything he does is always good.

    (2) The Old and New Testament constitute some form of special revelation from God to us, or at least some sort of inspired communication about God, and are therefore authoritative in some way. This includes the fact that Jesus himself seemed to treat the Old Testament as authoritative and declared that part of his purpose was to fulfill them.

    (3) The message of the Old and New Testaments is to be found in a careful, but straight-forward reading of the text.

    As far as I can tell, almost every discussion of this topic boils down to an argument about (3) in order to support (1) or repudiate (2). Maybe the argument is that God's goodness is inscrutable to us, or maybe it's that Scripture is nothing more than the thoughts of people from ancient times, but something needs to be explained counter-intuitively to allow all three assumptions to hold. All I am doing is offering an alternative to assumption (3) that sits much more easily with (1) and (2).

    My own belief is that (1) God is good and in a way that does not conflict with what we normally think of as being good and (2) the Old and New Testaments are the primary form of revelation from God. But instead of (3) above, I believe that God's message was given to those who wrote the texts as inspired, but abstract ideas, and that the authors then translated those ideas into concrete words and stories in a way that described how the ideas from God appeared to them. The result was that the text was written according to how the authors understood things to be.

    To me, stories in Scripture are best understood as a kind of morality play where abstract ideas are personified as people or as nations/kingdoms. The people and nations may have been real, but in Scripture, they are assigned to represent various abstractions based on the nature of their relationships with each other and on how the author thought of them. I believe that this way of representing abstract ideas given by God to the authors is what makes the result Divine Revelation, and that a straight-forward reading of the text does not always reflect God's message to us. Instead, one must combine three things to reconstruct that abstract message: (a) the plain reading of the text, (b) an understanding of the author's point of view, and (c) an understanding of how the elements of the text correspond to the abstract ideas that God cares about.

    In the story being discussed here, I take Pharaoh and the Egyptians to represent the parts of us that take spiritual pride in what we know and what we can do. And I take the Israelites to represent the parts of us that God can use to lead us out of our slavery to our own natural inclination to be proud. And I take the miracles/plagues to represent the ways that God convinces us to let go of our pride.

    So when I read about God hardening Pharaoh's heart, I am satisfied as long as I can see how the actions of a good God could have had a result that was interpreted by the author to have been an intended part of God's plan to deal with the enemy. I think the author believed that God wanted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened, but that God only foresaw that result and worked around it, rather than actually wanting it.

    It's not mainstream, but I thought it was a good time in the discussion to suggest an alternative approach. Of course, everyone's mileage varies to at least some extent.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    I’m not disputing that God is said, by the writer of Exodus, to be the agent of Pharoah’s hardness of heart. I’m interested in how God effects the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. Does God do it by commiting a simple act of coercion, or does he do it by omitting to grant Pharoah the blessing of repentance?
    But isn't that what he does when Pharaoh hardens his own heart too?

    I’m not sure, but
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    I’m not disputing that God is said, by the writer of Exodus, to be the agent of Pharoah’s hardness of heart. I’m interested in how God effects the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. Does God do it by commiting a simple act of coercion, or does he do it by omitting to grant Pharoah the blessing of repentance?
    But isn't that what he does when Pharaoh hardens his own heart too?

    I suppose it’s a way of looking at the same event from different perspectives. Pharoah decides to oppress the Israelites (he hardens his heart); God permits Pharoah to oppress the Israelites (he chooses the judgement route, rather than the mercy route). In other words, he hardens Pharoah’s heart. Why?

    Because God knows that Pharoah will not let the Israelites go unless compelled to do so (Ex 3:19); God then uses signs and wonders of increasing magnitude which do eventually compel Pharoah to let Israel go (Ex 3:20).



  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    Sorry to bang on with my toffee analogy, but I find it helpful (YMMV).

    There’s a saucepan of soft molten toffee on the stove (Pharoah’s heart).

    Pharoah takes the pan off the heat and places it on the worktop (he chooses to harden his heart).

    God has a choice.

    He could place the pan back on the stove (he could soften Pharoah’s heart).

    Or, he could leave the pan where Pharoah placed it (he could harden Pharoah’s heart).

    The first option would require an act of mercy which involves a violation of Pharoah’s freedom of choice.

    The second option would require act of judgement which involves a respecting of Pharoah’s freedom of choice.

    Both are actions of a sovereign God which can be rightly attributed to his will. But they are different types of action.

    The first would require a direct act reversing Pharoah’s choice. This would be coercive but ultimately merciful.

    The second would require an indirect act of permitting evil. This would be respectful but ultimately costly.

    Which should God have chosen? Merciful coercion or respectful but costly judgement?

    Which should he choose today with regard to hardened human hearts?
  • magnilo wrote: »
    Sorry to bang on with my toffee analogy, but I find it helpful (YMMV).

    There’s a saucepan of soft molten toffee on the stove (Pharoah’s heart).

    Pharoah takes the pan off the heat and places it on the worktop (he chooses to harden his heart).

    God has a choice.

    He could place the pan back on the stove (he could soften Pharoah’s heart).

    Or, he could leave the pan where Pharoah placed it (he could harden Pharoah’s heart).

    The issue is that God prevented Pharaoh from putting the pan back onto the heat.

    It's one thing to allow someone to make mistakes, but it's quite another to stop him from correcting those mistakes so that you can continue to punish him for them.
  • What MtM said.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    Sorry to bang on with my toffee analogy, but I find it helpful (YMMV).

    There’s a saucepan of soft molten toffee on the stove (Pharoah’s heart).

    Pharoah takes the pan off the heat and places it on the worktop (he chooses to harden his heart).

    God has a choice.

    He could place the pan back on the stove (he could soften Pharoah’s heart).

    Or, he could leave the pan where Pharoah placed it (he could harden Pharoah’s heart).

    The issue is that God prevented Pharaoh from putting the pan back onto the heat.

    It's one thing to allow someone to make mistakes, but it's quite another to stop him from correcting those mistakes so that you can continue to punish him for them.
    I’m not sure Exodus 3:19 allows for that interpretation of events.
    But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. - Exodus 3:19

    This strongly suggests that God knew that Pharoah would not relent without divine assistance, nay coercion. Divine coercion which he is not obliged to give, and which some people insist he would be wrong to give.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    The upshot of this narrative seems to be stark: Pharoah will have to be compelled to release the Israelites either by means of God’s mercy or by means of God’s judgement. God is not obliged to be merciful to sinners and on this occasion he wasn’t, as is his right. I think this is the Apostle Paul’s reading of the situation which he outlined in Romans, particularly in chapter 9. God can compel sin hardened sinners by grace or he can compel them by judgement, but compel them he must.
  • 'Must'?

    This is the issue I have with some Reformed flavoured theology. It makes God subject to something other than Himself. He is forced by external pressures to respond in a particular way.

    As a body of doctrine that is supposed to defend God's freedom and sovereignty, it can sometimes seem to ensnare him within the confines of his own holiness or own justice as it were. It paints God into a corner.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that God would act in ways that are not commensurate with his love, his justice, his holiness and his mercy. But the way these things are often pitched by those towards the more Reformed end of the spectrum it can sound as if he's 'forced' to act in certain ways for reasons beyond his own control.

  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Magnilo: God is not obliged to be merciful to sinners and on this occasion he wasn’t, as is his right
    I think the issue for many is the extent that this is consistent with his love. Would a ‘loving’ divine entity do such a thing. The fact that Pharoah hardened his own heart previously is no defence as an all powerful God could have overidden this. The issue becomes one of how to define define love in the face of the narrative or the dismissal of the narrative as flawed, Bronze Age myth now superseded by our current wisdom and insights.
  • But the way these things are often pitched by those towards the more Reformed end of the spectrum it can sound as if he's 'forced' to act in certain ways for reasons beyond his own control.
    How about "by some of those toward the more Reformed end of the spectrum"? I'm with you in thinking that "must" is at odds with much in the Reformed Tradition. See my side comments on Barth above.

  • That 'some' has to be a huge majority Nick. Huge.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    That 'some' has to be a huge majority Nick. Huge.
    Really? I've been in a Reformed church all my life, and I've encountered that viewpoint mainly on the fringes. So no, I don't think it's a huge majority.

    I do think you may be using "Reformed" fairly loosely again, though.

  • Yes, I should have written 'some'. I have a lot of time for Nick Tamen's moderate and considered approach to Reformed theology.

    The older I get, though, the less Augustinian I become. The Orthodox here and elsewhere have influenced me in that respect.

    Whatever our tradition or theology, it seems to me, we all have to jump through hermeneutical hoops to try and square some circles and reconcile some of the more problematic passages and viewpoints.

    The best we can do is balance and juggle the irreconcilable.
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