God hardened Pharaoh's heart

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  • Gee D wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Well, yes, and that's what comes out in the conclusion. You want "God did X" to mean "God didn't do anything to prevent X".

    Is that not what you're saying in your post at 8.56 am - God did not stop Pharaoh's heart hardening. The trouble with that is that the text says that God took positive action, he hardened Pharaoh's heart, and not that he did nothing to stop this. I have very little Greek and no Hebrew or Aramaic at all, but all posts so far have proceeded on God's being active and not passive.

    The point you make is my point. My "conclusion" was meant to mirror magnilo's conclusion. Magnilo is NOT saying God was active; he is positing that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" means "God gave Pharaoh over to his hard-heartedness." Which, as you point out, flies in the face of the Scriptures.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    Why would you want to avoid a God whose desire to be merciful triumphs over his right to judge?
    Aaaaand we're back to the schizophrenic God.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Well, yes, and that's what comes out in the conclusion. You want "God did X" to mean "God didn't do anything to prevent X".

    Is that not what you're saying in your post at 8.56 am - God did not stop Pharaoh's heart hardening. The trouble with that is that the text says that God took positive action, he hardened Pharaoh's heart, and not that he did nothing to stop this. I have very little Greek and no Hebrew or Aramaic at all, but all posts so far have proceeded on God's being active and not passive.

    The point you make is my point. My "conclusion" was meant to mirror magnilo's conclusion. Magnilo is NOT saying God was active; he is positing that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" means "God gave Pharaoh over to his hard-heartedness." Which, as you point out, flies in the face of the Scriptures.
    Does it? I’m trying to be careful to say that God is the agent of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, but that he does it by omission rather than commission. As I said upthread, I don’t see God being merciful and God hardening the heart as discrete and separate divine acts, as if mercy is a good act of commission and hardening is an evil act of commission.

    Is see the hardening as a divine act in which God is the agent, but I see it a result of God not being merciful, but instead choosing to act in judgement.

  • God's mercy and hardening of P's heart are the exact same act in your first paragraph, but in your second paragraph the hardening is NOT an act of mercy but one of judgment. Which is it?
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Why would you want to avoid a God whose desire to be merciful triumphs over his right to judge?
    Aaaaand we're back to the schizophrenic God.

    I don’t think we are. I think we’re presented with a God who has the right to judge and a right to merciful, and who prefers to be merciful as evidenced in and through the person and work of his Son.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Well, yes, and that's what comes out in the conclusion. You want "God did X" to mean "God didn't do anything to prevent X".

    Is that not what you're saying in your post at 8.56 am - God did not stop Pharaoh's heart hardening. The trouble with that is that the text says that God took positive action, he hardened Pharaoh's heart, and not that he did nothing to stop this. I have very little Greek and no Hebrew or Aramaic at all, but all posts so far have proceeded on God's being active and not passive.

    But here’s the thing; it’s a mistake to conceive of God’s agency as just a very big and very good version of human agency. We are passive and completely uninvolved in the vast, vast majority of events by dint of our human limitation.

    Not so with God; he is - in a sense - involved in every single event as it happens because he’s God and we live, move and have our being in him.

    I wonder, perhaps, if this is why our sinful conduct is such a very grave offence against him, even when he isn’t the direct object or victim of our conduct.

    God, by virtue of who he is and how he relates to time and creation, is implicated in the sinful conduct of humanity simply because humanity lives, moves and has its being in him. Human sin implicates God in all kinds of horrific evil, and for this he has every right to judge and punish us. However, mercy triumphs over judgement, which means that the ultimate solution to this problem is the mercy of God, not his wrath. But that doesn’t mean that God is in any obliged to be merciful; if there were any obligation in God’s mercy it wouldn’t be mercy, because it would be something that we can demand and presume upon.

    So, if Pharoah’s evil conduct towards the Israelites was implicating God in injustice, God is perfectly within his rights to be either wrathful or merciful to Pharoah. In this case God appears to have chosen not to have mercy on Pharoah, thereby hardening his heart and piggybacking his sin in order to bring about his will.

    Including the death of all the first born of Egypt. I suppose the evil of human sin means God has every right to take them out, the bastards.

    Hold your horses! We’re talking about the hardening of Pharoah’s heart; God’s direct dealings with an evil despot.

    The death of the firstborn is a separate but related issue, which is perhaps even more challenging. But we shouldn’t automatically conflate the two.
    magnilo wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Why would you want to avoid a God whose desire to be merciful triumphs over his right to judge?
    Aaaaand we're back to the schizophrenic God.

    I don’t think we are. I think we’re presented with a God who has the right to judge and a right to merciful, and who prefers to be merciful as evidenced in and through the person and work of his Son.

    Unless you happen to be David's baby son, or Amalekite, or indeed anyone other than Noah's immediate family at one point, when you get killed.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    magnilo wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Why would you want to avoid a God whose desire to be merciful triumphs over his right to judge?
    Aaaaand we're back to the schizophrenic God.

    I don’t think we are. I think we’re presented with a God who has the right to judge and a right to merciful, and who prefers to be merciful as evidenced in and through the person and work of his Son.

    If you're talking about attributes of God triumphing over other attributes of God, you're positing a God at war within himself. Pretty much by definition.
  • Job's family?
  • mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Why would you want to avoid a God whose desire to be merciful triumphs over his right to judge?
    Aaaaand we're back to the schizophrenic God.

    I don’t think we are. I think we’re presented with a God who has the right to judge and a right to merciful, and who prefers to be merciful as evidenced in and through the person and work of his Son.

    If you're talking about attributes of God triumphing over other attributes of God, you're positing a God at war within himself. Pretty much by definition.
    I’m taking about the God who both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    God's mercy and hardening of P's heart are the exact same act in your first paragraph, but in your second paragraph the hardening is NOT an act of mercy but one of judgment. Which is it?

    I’d say that judgement is the inevitable result of God not having mercy, just as darkness is not something in and of itself but is simply the absence of light. Something like that perhaps. If light is mercy, then darkness is judgement, and God is personally present in mercy but personally absent in judgement.

    But I must admit I’m struggling at this point.
  • agingjb wrote: »
    Job's family?

    Another challenging text with which to struggle!? Thank a bunch.😢
  • The challenging texts are there already, of course. Ageingjb hasn't magicked them out of thin air.

    It's great and very valiant that you are still trying to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable, but I'm not convinced that a neat, Calvinist-flavoured approach can deal adequately with these dilemmas.

    That's no disrespect to Calvin or Calvinists, they're grappling with and trying to understand these texts the same as everyone else. The question I have is whether it's the right model to use as it raises more questions than it answers.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    What questions?
  • Well, if we're talking Calvinism proper, a really good question would be "why do I want to worship a God who is going to send most of my friends and family to Hell because they're not on his entirely arbitrary list?"
  • Well, the subject seems to have moved back to the weaknesses of Calvinism as perhaps was destined. But I fully intend to exercise my free will by saying that as far as defending that particular theological system is concerned, “I’m out”.
  • Well, it's clearly not as robust a system as all that as you don't appear that concerned to defend it but only to take offence if someone pushes back against it, however gently.
  • Whatever particular strengths and weaknesses Calvinism has as a system - and all theological systems have both - I'd venture that certain forms of it muddy the waters when it comes to issues like this.

    Nick Tamen is Reformed and he doesn't appear to have the same difficulties. Whatever one thinks of Calvinism the Reformed tradition isn't monolithic.

    Upthread, Nick has stated his position in a way that seems to me to be compatible with the Reformed tradition and without flying into a flounce about it.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    You believe in God the Bastard?
    Thing is, Martin54, so do you; any God you can possibly conceive of is worse than the Biblical one.
    That is the best possible come back. Excellent. Them's fightin' words, enemy mine. Bin thinking of you and this all day. Sympathetically believe it or not. Most. We've found ourselves in the same foxhole from opposite trenches.

    And you're right.

    I was so much happier when I loved God the Bastard. Whereas the only God that there can be, if at all, is not lovable. Except in mythic Christ. I got hot eyed and couldn't breathe writing that.

    For God so loved the world. And all infinite worlds from eternity. He never intervenes otherwise. Ever. That's how He loves. His love is not our love. It is what it has to be. Which is not described in 99.999% of the Bible. How could it be? It is alluded to by us, in our slow realisation.

    God has to be immutably impassible. Infinitely patient. Infinitesimally omnipathically immanently 'accessible' yes. Everywhere. Whilst taking the long view.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Well, it's clearly not as robust a system as all that as you don't appear that concerned to defend it but only to take offence if someone pushes back against it, however gently.

    I’m not not asking you to be gentle with me Gamaliel; I’m saying that I shouln’t have to fight off your constant tangential advances. If my saying “no thanks” to that particular tango offends you, the problem could well be with you.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    magnilo wrote: »
    Does it? I’m trying to be careful to say that God is the agent of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, but that he does it by omission rather than commission. As I said upthread, I don’t see God being merciful and God hardening the heart as discrete and separate divine acts, as if mercy is a good act of commission and hardening is an evil act of commission.

    Is see the hardening as a divine act in which God is the agent, but I see it a result of God not being merciful, but instead choosing to act in judgement.

    In the first of these paragraphs, you have God standing by and allowing Pharaoh's heart to harden (quite how is something you haven't addressed). That's a passive course. In the second paragraph, you have yet more conflict. You start with God is the agent in a divine act (why the agent and for whom?) which continues the passive course. Then you immediately change to God being active in his choosing to act in judgment. Which is your argument?
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Gee D wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Does it? I’m trying to be careful to say that God is the agent of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, but that he does it by omission rather than commission. As I said upthread, I don’t see God being merciful and God hardening the heart as discrete and separate divine acts, as if mercy is a good act of commission and hardening is an evil act of commission.

    Is see the hardening as a divine act in which God is the agent, but I see it a result of God not being merciful, but instead choosing to act in judgement.

    In the first of these paragraphs, you have God standing by and allowing Pharaoh's heart to harden (quite how is something you haven't addressed). That's a passive course. In the second paragraph, you have yet more conflict. You start with God is the agent in a divine act (why the agent and for whom?) which continues the passive course. Then you immediately change to God being active in his choosing to act in judgment. Which is your argument?

    I’m saying that that God can be said to have hardened Pharoah’s heart simply by not being merciful to him. And I’m saying that God is under no obligation to be merciful, and so cannot therefore be accused of behaving unjustly by “causing” Pharoah’s heart to be hardened.


    If God’s mercy is the means by which Pharoah’s heart could have been softened, it’s also possible that it was the withholding of God’s mercy which effected the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. I’m still saying God did it, I’m just exploring how and, perhaps, why.

    It’s really not very complicated. Some contributors understand what I’m saying but simply do not agree that it’s legitimate to read the text that way (which is fine); other posters appear to be incapable of thinking the particular thought that I’m articulating (which is also fine, but slightly annoying).

    But that’s my problem, not theirs.
  • If that's a reference to me, magnilo, then sorry, it doesn't apply. I understand your point and can see why you're making it.

    It's just that I don't find it particularly convincing as an argument. Nice try but no cigar.

    I'll desist from mentioning Calvinism at all, if you think it's a tangent, but given that the God hardening Pharoah's heart incident is a key proof-text in the armoury of some neo-Calvinists (and not just hyper-Calvinist ones) I've come across then I think I can be excused for bringing it into the equation.

    I'm happy to leave it to one side if you prefer but it does seem like an elephant in your sitting room, if I may be so bold. If I'm wrong then fine, correct me.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    I’m still saying God did it

    Yes. The problem is that the consequence of God doing it was the death of all firstborn sons in Egypt. Therefore God did it knowing that doing so would directly lead to those deaths - or, in a less charitable interpretation, knowing that doing so would give Him licence to kill all those people.

    Against such considerations the exact mechanism by which God did it pales into insignificance.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    You’re right. And I’m not trying to exonerate God a priori. Really I’m not.

    Like you, I’m trying to understand how God relates to such events. Truth is, as you’ve already said, is that I’m heavily invested in a view of the clarity and trustworthiness of scripture which makes it doubly difficult.
  • Then the answer is obvious.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    If God’s mercy is the means by which Pharoah’s heart could have been softened, it’s also possible that it was the withholding of God’s mercy which effected the hardening of Pharoah’s heart
    I think this is an insightful and psychologically real comment. If one refuses understanding, it has the effect of hardening one. If you look at the progression in the narrative this is precisely what occurred. Pharaoh continually refused to listen to God’s commands through Moses until his power was threatened irrevocably and his land virtually destroyed by the plagues. It is a real study in human pride and intractability. Most of us have met little Pharoahs. You just cannot get anywhere with them.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    The objection to the concept of God 'hardening' Pharaoh's heart is a clash between scripture and systematic theology: is God's action compatible with what we understand to be the nature of God? Thus, while the text in question is compatible with a particular view of the nature of God it is incompatible with others presented in scripture. It's not a problem for me because I'm not a biblical inerrantist. My own particular take on the nature of God is based on that presented in the first epistle of John, so I reject those parts of scripture that present him as other than the quintessence of love. Personally, I find the notion of God hardening Pharaoh's heart as unconvincing, and have not been persuaded otherwise by any of the posts in this thread. I suspect I'm not alone in that.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    If God’s mercy is the means by which Pharoah’s heart could have been softened, it’s also possible that it was the withholding of God’s mercy which effected the hardening of Pharoah’s heart
    I think this is an insightful and psychologically real comment. If one refuses understanding, it has the effect of hardening one. If you look at the progression in the narrative this is precisely what occurred. Pharaoh continually refused to listen to God’s commands through Moses until his power was threatened irrevocably and his land virtually destroyed by the plagues. It is a real study in human pride and intractability. Most of us have met little Pharoahs. You just cannot get anywhere with them.
    For human read divine. The biggest Pharoah of all.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    You’re right. And I’m not trying to exonerate God a priori. Really I’m not.

    Like you, I’m trying to understand how God relates to such events. Truth is, as you’ve already said, is that I’m heavily invested in a view of the clarity and trustworthiness of scripture which makes it doubly difficult.

    Whoever said the scriptures were always clear?

    The writer of the second Petrine epistle observed that there were some things that the Apostle Paul wrote which were 'hard to understand' and that were capable of distortion by ignorant and unstable people, just like the other scriptures in general.*

    2 Peter 3:16 https://biblehub.com/2_peter/3-16.htm

    If your model of scripture isn't working then perhaps you need to change your model?

    * I'm not getting into a tangent as to what 'the scriptures' mean in this context. The Hebrew Bible? The Gospels? The epistles? Any Christian writings extant at that time including those that were later excluded from the canon ...
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I'm afraid that I'm one of the "other posters (who) appear to be incapable of thinking the particular thought that (you're) articulating". Perhaps you could help my poor and simple brain in setting out clearly how standing by and allowing something to happen is not passive. Then try my brain a bit harder by explaining why a passive stance is compatible with the activity of God contemplated by the use of the active voice in the text.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Gee D wrote: »
    I'm afraid that I'm one of the "other posters (who) appear to be incapable of thinking the particular thought that (you're) articulating". Perhaps you could help my poor and simple brain in setting out clearly how standing by and allowing something to happen is not passive. Then try my brain a bit harder by explaining why a passive stance is compatible with the activity of God contemplated by the use of the active voice in the text.

    And then explain why that activity is consistent with God's loving, compassionate nature, given how it played out, apparently by design.

    Then Google “Cognitive Dissonance". I gather religious types like to call it "holding the two ideas in tension" as if that makes it coherent.
  • Yeah, God's a bastard but at least He's OUR God. Now THAT'S coherent.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    @Gee D

    Heres’s something I said upthread;
    It’s a mistake to conceive of God’s agency as just a very big and very good version of human agency.

    We - by dint of our human limitation - are passive and completely uninvolved in the vast majority of events.

    Not so with God; he is - in a sense - involved in every single event as it happens because he’s God and we live, move and have our being in him..

    Divine passivity isn’t just a very big version of human passivity. Unlike us, God has no intrinsic limitations. He is ever-present, all-knowing and all-powerful; all things take place in him.

    To say that God was passive in the withholding of his mercy is not to say that God was uninvolved; God’s actions and inactions both have an agency the full ramifications of which are inscrutable to our finite minds.

    Everything that God does, and does not do, has significance and consequence. In the case of Pharoah, the Apostle Paul asserts the primacy of God’s mercy over human agency.

    By the same token, I believe the opposite to be equally true; the withholding of mercy by God (what the writer of Exodus describes as hardening) also has a causative effect.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    magnilo wrote: »
    You’re right. And I’m not trying to exonerate God a priori. Really I’m not.

    Like you, I’m trying to understand how God relates to such events. Truth is, as you’ve already said, is that I’m heavily invested in a view of the clarity and trustworthiness of scripture which makes it doubly difficult.

    Whoever said the scriptures were always clear?

    The writer of the second Petrine epistle observed that there were some things that the Apostle Paul wrote which were 'hard to understand' and that were capable of distortion by ignorant and unstable people, just like the other scriptures in general.*

    2 Peter 3:16 https://biblehub.com/2_peter/3-16.htm

    If your model of scripture isn't working then perhaps you need to change your model?

    * I'm not getting into a tangent as to what 'the scriptures' mean in this context. The Hebrew Bible? The Gospels? The epistles? Any Christian writings extant at that time including those that were later excluded from the canon ...

    The problem the writer identifies is with ignorant and unstable people, not with the essential understandability of Paul’s writing itself. The scripture is difficult to understand; it’s not a walk in the park; you need your head screwed on to get what it’s saying, but what it’s saying is trustworthy and true and not beyond our ken.

    I just wish I knew our Ken.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I don't see how that goes anywhere addressing the point Mousethief and I have been raising, let alone what KarlLB is saying.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Gee D wrote: »
    I don't see how that goes anywhere addressing the point Mousethief and I have been raising, let alone what KarlLB is saying.

    That’s because it isn’t an attempt at answering that question; it’s just me pointing you to something I’ve already said in answer to a question you might not have asked had you read the thread more carefully before posting.

    However, if you’d like to ask the question that you and Mousethief are asking I will try my best to give an answer, although I’m not promising that it’ll be a particularly good answer.

    As for Karl’s question; again, if I haven’t tried to give answer it’s probably down to two or three possible reasons. Firstly, it could be that I simply didn’t register the question. Secondly, it could be that I don’t actually know how to respond. Or thirdly, it could be that I’m preparing a response.

    Whatever the reason, please be assured that I’m enjoying the conversation despite the fact that I don’t have all the answers.
  • None of us have all the answers.

    Now, here's a question ...

    How do we know that we aren't 'ignorant and unstable'?
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    None of us have all the answers.

    Now, here's a question ...

    How do we know that we aren't 'ignorant and unstable'?

    Well, how does the writer of 2 Peter (who I believe is Peter the Apostle) describe them in his epistle? We could start there by asking ourselves:

    Are we greedy, do we teach sexual immorality, are we obsessed with spiritual warfare, do we boast about our spiritual experiences? And so on.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Gamma Gamaliel: None of us have all the answers.

    You mean we have some of the answers. Which are those? I'd really like to know.
  • 'We know in part and we prophesy in part ...'

    Ok, these are matters of faith, we can't 'know' them of a certainty and examine them in a petri dish.

    But you know what I mean ...

    We have something to go on, surely?

    The scriptures and testimony of the Church ...

    Ok, it's all a bit Pascale's Wager ultimately but if we didn't think it was possible to know anything about this stuff then we wouldn't be discussing it here would we?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    magnilo wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    I don't see how that goes anywhere addressing the point Mousethief and I have been raising, let alone what KarlLB is saying.

    That’s because it isn’t an attempt at answering that question; it’s just me pointing you to something I’ve already said in answer to a question you might not have asked had you read the thread more carefully before posting.

    With that sort of response, I'm bowing out.
  • None of us have all the answers.

    Now, here's a question ...

    How do we know that we aren't 'ignorant and unstable'?

    Who's we?
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Gamma Gamaliel: We have something to go on, surely?
    The scriptures and testimony of the Church
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Gamma Gamaliel: We have something to go on, surely?
    The scriptures and testimony of the Church

    But isn't the problem in this case that scripture has conflicting takes on the nature of God and exercise of his sovereignty, and that the testimony of the Church does not speak with a single voice?
  • Aye, we have one claim behind the myth. Is it true? All the rest are stories of ever and rapidly diminishing veracity either side of that. That's the highest view of all.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    Gamma Gamaliel: We have something to go on, surely?
    The scriptures and testimony of the Church

    But isn't the problem in this case that scripture has conflicting takes on the nature of God and exercise of his sovereignty, and that the testimony of the Church does not speak with a single voice?

    Yes, but that's still something to go on. We can attempt to reconcile what appear to be conflicting takes (magnilo and MPaul) or else we can come up with explanations for that (Mousethief, Nick Tamen, most posters) and we can certainly weigh up the various voices and takes that echo within the Christian and Jewish communities and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    That doesn't mean that we'll come up with a single, definitive answer - Ta-DAH!

    But neither does it mean there is nothing whatsoever to go on.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Gamma Gamaliel: We have something to go on, surely?
    The scriptures and testimony of the Church

    But isn't the problem in this case that scripture has conflicting takes on the nature of God and exercise of his sovereignty, and that the testimony of the Church does not speak with a single voice?

    People who try to make the church speak in a single voice usually end up harming her. I’m not sure that Christian unity has ever been purely doctrinal. It seems to be more complex and relational than that.

  • Can we have a meta-voice even?
  • Gee D wrote: »
    I'm afraid that I'm one of the "other posters (who) appear to be incapable of thinking the particular thought that (you're) articulating". Perhaps you could help my poor and simple brain in setting out clearly how standing by and allowing something to happen is not passive. Then try my brain a bit harder by explaining why a passive stance is compatible with the activity of God contemplated by the use of the active voice in the text.

    This is, of course, the question I have been asking for pages now.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    The problem the writer identifies is with ignorant and unstable people, not with the essential understandability of Paul’s writing itself.
    That's not what it says. It says Paul's writings are unclear. Full stop. Then it says ignorant and unstable people twist them. It doesn't say they're the ones who misunderstand. It says they twist. But the adjective 'unclear' (or whatever it is in your translation) is predicated of Paul's writings.
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