Well, a few minutes ago, I finished a debate with Louis Ruggiero (aka LouRugg) (link to mp3)(link to wma) The volume is a bit low, but if you turn up the volume you should be able to hear it ok. Thanks to Matthew Lankford for recording it. The following is an out-line of the first five minutes of my opening speech.
God hardens and shows mercy according to the good pleasure of his will. This clear Scriptural truth is taught explicitly in Romans 9. This truth is part of the greater truth of the Sovereignty of God. Scripture calls God the “Almighty” and declares
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. (Psalm 115:3 )
In Romans 9 the Apostle provides an argument regarding the justice and faithfulness of God. One of the points that the Apostle makes is that God shows mercy on whom he wills and hardens whom he wills. Paul supports this claim in two ways: one is a verbatim quotation from God to Moses, and the other is the example of Pharaoh.
Paul is not simply using Pharaoh in his original context, he’s applying the principle of Pharaoh to the situation of salvation. God hardens some in unbelief and shows mercy on others. There are, and this important, only two possibilities: hardening and mercy, obtaining salvation and being blinded, unbelief and faith, obedience and rebellion.
Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
There is no third path. There is light and darkness. Scripture says (speaking to believers):
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
And in another place:
1 Thessalonians 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
And this is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit – not the original condition of us fallen men:
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Thus, we are “children of light” because of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We become children of light by being born of God who is that light.
This supernatural act of God is compared to the creation account by the Apostle Paul:
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Recall the commission that Paul was given by God:
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Remember that the light of the world is Jesus:
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
So there is light and darkness, no twilight zone.
What then of the who, what, and when of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart?
Well, Pharaoh’s heart, as I said is used by Paul as an illustration. Pharaoh himself was hardened with respect to a particular command of God: “Let my people go.” God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not let the people go.
How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? The Scriptures don’t tell us exactly and that means we have to try to draw out the meaning from inferences in Scripture. There seem to be two main possibilities, by applying hardness to Pharaoh or withdraw softness from Pharaoh.
Now recall back to the light/darkness situation. God is the light, unbelievers are those in darkness. How is a person made dark? Is it by applying darkness too him? No, it is by removing light or better yet we could simply say not providing light. So it seems that it might be reasonable, and perhaps preferable to view the hardening of Pharaoh as the removal of God’s ordinary favor from him. He took away Pharaoh’s common sense, we might say. Or more to the point, since Pharaoh does not deserve common sense, we can simply say that God did not give Pharaoh common sense.
Thus, when Pharaoh was hardened 12 times as God had prophesied God takes the credit, though it is Pharaoh who acts wickedly in the absence of God’s giving him the gift of common sense.
This then is the whole thing in a nutshell. Pharaoh was harden because God did not make Pharaoh soft. Pharaoh was a fool because God did not make him wise. Pharaoh was in darkness because God did not give Pharaoh light.
Why? Because God wanted to destroy Pharaoh completely.
It wasn’t because Pharaoh was somehow too hard for God. No, let’s be clear, no matter how hard a man’s heart is it is not too hard for God:
Genesis 18:14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
Jeremiah 32:27 Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
See as well the three-part outline on hardening in the Scriptures (part 1, part 2, part 3)