Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not Everything Trent Says about Justification is Wrong

Before I get into the bad parts of what Trent says about Justification, it is worth noting that not everything Trent says in its canons on Justification is bad:

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
This canon correctly rejects salvation by works alone without grace. Its unnecessary qualification of "without the grace of God" is part of the reason we would not use this formulation ourselves, but in itself it is not wrong.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
The thrust of this canon is similar to that of canon 1. This one emphasizes that grace doesn't simply make it easier for a man to justify himself through works. Again, we would tend not to formulate things this way, because we would deny that man's works have any role in justification. Nevertheless, this canon is not wrong in itself.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
This canon rightly rejects the idea that without God's aid man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought or obtain justification. We would never word the canon this way, because it suggests that man obtains justification on account of works that are simply encouraged by prevenient grace. Nevertheless, in itself this canon is not wrong.

CANON VI.-If any one saith, that it is not in man's power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God worketh as well as those that are good, not permissively only, but properly, and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.
As with a number of the canons of Trent, this one seems to be aimed in the general direction of the Reformed churches, but does not actually direct itself to what the Reformed churches teach. As such, what it condemns is error, and it s right to condemn it. It condemns the idea that God is directly active in sin or that man is inactive in sin.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.
This one is only half right. The first half that affirms the necessity of the justice (righteousness) of Christ for justification. That part is correct, while the second part is not (we will deal with that in another post).

CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.
This is another one of those canons that appears to be aimed at the Reformed churches, but which misses. There is no requirement that one be absolutely free from wavering, although (of course) such wavering bad.

CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.
This is another one of those canons that appears to be aimed at the Reformed churches, but which misses. Justification is by faith in Christ, not in justification by faith in justification.

CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
This is another one of those canons that appears to be aimed at the Reformed churches, but which misses. The key phrase here is that phrase "bound of faith" which describes the matter as being a necessary thing to be believed. Those who are born again and justiifed should be assured of their place among the predestinate. Nevertheless, that is not an essential doctrine.

CANON XIX.-If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians; let him be anathema.
This canon properly condemns antinomianism.

CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
Aside from the explanation "as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments," this canon simply similarly condemns antinomianism. That additional explanation suggests that Trent mistakenly viewed the Reformed position as antinomianism by mistakenly creating a dichotomy between the Gospel promise being absolute and unconditioned on works, and antinomianism. The Reformed position lies in the middle. The error of conditioning the Gospel on works will be addressed in another post.

CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.
Again, this is a proper condemnation of antinomianism.

CANON XXII.-If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema.
This canon properly condemns the ideas either that perseverance is possible without God's aid or impossible with God's aid.

So, as you can see, just because Trent said it doesn't make it bad. I'm following a rather abbreviated format here, because I'm agreeing with Trent on these issues (with various qualifications). Nevertheless, we do not simply use an ad hominem standard that because Trent was a bad council, therefore everything it says was wrong. No, Trent sometimes anathematized errors, such as the errors of Pelagianism (denying the necessity of grace) and Antinomianism (denying any continued value to the law).

- TurretinFan

Guilty Consciences at Trent?

I'm about to embark on a short series of posts on the topic Trent's canons and decrees regarding justification. It's worth noting that my series will be bringing me under the anathema of that council. I'll come under its anathema because I'll be taking the position that the the Roman Catholic doctrine on Justification derogates from the glory of God and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I find it interesting that saying this about Trent's doctrine is itself under Trent's anathema. Here's the actual text (translated into English, of course, from the original Latin).

Trent, Sixth Session:
CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.
Perhaps it is only me, but it seems to me that the folks at Trent realized that what they were doing was dishonoring to God and to the glory of the merits of Christ. Canon 33 is the sort of canon that does not help to define dogma but is instead a sort of "shut up and don't criticize us." It is totally superfluous to the other canons. After all, one could not very well both accept Trent's teaching and simultaneously claim that the glory of God or the merits of Jesus Christ are derogated from by them.

In short, I think one would have to strain to find any positive value to this sort of canon. Instead, it seems that the denial of sola fide found in Trent was sufficiently plainly derogatory to the glory of God and the merits of Christ that they realized folks would criticize them along these lines. Accordingly, they have provided this canon as the final canon of the set to attempt to silence criticism. It does not address a heresy


Friday, October 09, 2009

Baking Clay Pots - Subtracting Water or Adding Hardness?

Louis Ruggiero (aka LouRugg) asked my friend Dr. White:
Oh and by the way, when Turretinfan said that God hardened Pharaoh's heart by taking away his common sense, I almost fell off my chair. Did he get that stuff from you, or did he make that one up on his own?
I answer:

One of the problems with the debate is that it does seem that LouRugg, despite apparently working on a book on Calvinism, has some significant gaps in his understanding of Reformed theology. That's why he was apparently shocked that I didn't argue that God zapped Pharaoh with hardening rather than withdrawing his blessing from him.

Where did I get the idea from? Well, I got it from Scripture. I got it from the fact that Paul contrasts hardening with mercy just as we might contrast light and darkness. Thus, I drew the inference that God's hardening of a man is God's act of not showing him some mercy. In the debate I called this God withholding from Pharaoh "common sense" though others might like the term "common grace."

The passage in Romans 9 gave me further confirmation of this approach through the analogy of the potter and the clay. As I was thinking about the hardening and the potter, I thought: how does a potter harden a pot? The answer is, at least in part, by baking the pot - removing the water from the clay. The water that provides the softness is removed rather than some additional chemical that causes hardness being added. Now, I know that there are other things that go into the hardening of earthenware vessels, but that aspect is a significant one.

And it is not as though this is just a conclusion to which I arrived, but upon which I am at odds with the Reformed churches. Quite to the contrary, it is the widely held Reformed position. To wit,

John Gill:
God may be said to harden and blind, by denying them that grace which can only cure them of their hardness and blindness, and which he, of his free favour, gives to his chosen ones, (Ezek. 36:26, 27) but is not obliged to give it to any; and because he gives it not, he is said to hide, as he determined to hide, the things of his grace from the wise and prudent, even because it so seemed good in his sight, (Matthew 11:25, 26).
- John Gill, Of the Decree of Rejection

A.W. Pink:
Thus it was with each of us whilst in a state of nature. Sin blinds and hardens, and naught but Divine grace can illumine and soften. Nothing short of the power of the Almighty can pierce the calloused conscience or break the sin-petrified heart.
- A.W. Pink, The Restoration of David

R.L. Dabney:
Again: it is said, Scriptures teach, that the sin of the non–elect was not the ground of their preterition. "In John 10:26, continued unbelief is the consequence, and therefore not the ground of the Pharisees preterition" (Matt. 11:25; Rom. 9:11 18). "God’s will," they say, "and not the non-sin, is the ground of His purpose to harden." And "Esau was rejected as much without regard to his evil, as Jacob was elected without regard to his good deeds." To the first of these points I reply, that the withholding of God’s grace is but the negative occasion of a sinner’s unbelief, just as the absence of the physician from a sick man is the occasion, and not the cause, of His death.
- R.L. Dabney, Predestination

Edward Payson:
The inspired writers teach us, very explicitly, that after a time, God ceases to strive with sinners, and to afford them the assistance of his grace. He gives them up to a blinded mind, a seared conscience, and a hard heart.
- Edward Payson, Sermon 18

John Calvin (who, you will note, suggests that in the case of Pharaoh God not only removed grace but also sent Satan):
3. Ancient writers sometimes manifest a superstitious dread of making a simple confession of the truth in this matter, from a fear of furnishing impiety with a handle for speaking irreverently of the works of God. While I embrace such soberness with all my heart, I cannot see the least danger in simply holding what Scripture delivers. when Augustine was not always free from this superstition, as when he says, that blinding and hardening have respect not to the operation of God, but to prescience (Lib. de Predestina. et Gratia). But this subtilty is repudiated by many passages of Scriptures which clearly show that the divine interference amounts to something more than prescience. And Augustine himself, in his book against Julian, [The French adds, “se retractant de l’autre sentence;” retracting the other sentiment.] contends at length that sins are manifestations not merely of divine permission or patience, but also of divine power, that thus former sins may be punished. In like manner, what is said of permission is too weak to stand. God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate, to turn their hearts, to incline and impel them, as I have elsewhere fully explained (Book 1 c. 18). The extent of this agency can never be explained by having recourse to prescience or permission. We, therefore, hold that there are two methods in which God may so act. When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing. The second method, which comes much nearer to the exact meaning of the words, is when executing his judgments by Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs men’s counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases. Thus when Moses relates that Simon, king of the Amorites, did not give the Israelites a passage, because the Lord 268“had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” he immediately adds the purpose which God had in view—viz. that he might deliver him into their hand (Deut. 2:30). As God had resolved to destroy him, the hardening of his heart was the divine preparation for his ruin.

4. In accordance with the former methods it seems to be said,174174 Ezek. 7:26; Psalm 107:40; Job 12:20, 24; Isiah 63:17; Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 10:1; 3:19. “The law shall perish from the priests and counsel from the ancients.” “He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.” Again “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?” These passages rather indicate what men become when God deserts them, than what the nature of his agency is when he works in them. But there are other passages which go farther, such as those concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” The same thing is afterwards repeated in stronger terms. Did he harden his heart by not softening it? This is, indeed, true; but he did something more: he gave it in charge to Satan to confirm him in his obstinacy. Hence he had previously said, “I am sure he will not let you go.” The people come out of Egypt, and the inhabitants of a hostile region come forth against them. How were they instigated? Moses certainly declares of Sihon, that it was the Lord who “had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” (Deut. 2:30). The Psalmists relating the same history says, “He turned their hearts to hate his people,” (Psalm 105:25). You cannot now say that they stumbled merely because they were deprived of divine counsel. For if they are hardened and turned, they are purposely bent to the very end in view. Moreover, whenever God saw it meet to punish the people for their transgression, in what way did he accomplish his purpose by the reprobate? In such a way as shows that the efficacy of the action was in him, and that they were only ministers. At one time he declares, “that he will lift an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth;” at another, that he will take a net to ensnare them; and at another, that he will be like a hammer to strike them. But he specially declared that he was not inactive among theme when he called Sennacherib an axe, which was formed and destined to be wielded by his own hand.175175 Isa. 5:26; 7:18; Ezek. 12:13; 17:20; Jer. 2:.23; Isa. 10:15. Augustine is not far from the mark when he states the matter thus, That men sin, is attributable to themselves: that in sinning they produce this or that result, is owing to the mighty power of God, who divides the darkness as he pleases (August. de Prædest. Sanct).

5. Moreover, that the ministry of Satan is employed to instigate the reprobate, whenever the Lord, in the course of his providence, has any purpose to accomplish in them, will sufficiently appear from 269a single passage. It is repeatedly said in the First Book of Samuel, that an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, and troubled him (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10; 19:9). It were impious to apply this to the Holy Spirit. An impure spirit must therefore be called a spirit from the Lord, because completely subservient to his purpose, being more an instrument in acting than a proper agent. We should also add what Paul says, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,” (2 Thess. 2:11, 12). But in the same transaction there is always a wide difference between what the Lord does, and what Satan and the ungodly design to do. The wicked instruments which he has under his hand and can turn as he pleases, he makes subservient to his own justice. They, as they are wicked, give effect to the iniquity conceived in their wicked minds. Every thing necessary to vindicate the majesty of God from calumny, and cut off any subterfuge on the part of the ungodly, has already been expounded in the Chapters on Providence (Book 1 Chapter 16–18). Here I only meant to show, in a few words, how Satan reigns in the reprobate, and how God works in both.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 4

The bottom line, though is that LouRugg should at least have read the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) which states the general Reformed position (the London Baptist Confession saying essentially the same thing):
VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.
- Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5, Section 6

While God can send Satan to render us even more obstinate, it is sufficient for God to remove his grace from us. Like the earth that God softens with his showers (Psalm 65:10) or hearts can become instead hard and parched simply by his removal of the water of grace. And he can turn that parched ground into a pool if He wishes as well (Isaiah 35:7), showing mercy on whom he will show mercy and hardening whomsoever he wishes (Exodus 33:19 and Romans 9:15&18).


Thursday, October 08, 2009

John Knox on Free Will (Old Spellings)

Before I answer to the absurdities which of our doctrine ye collect, I must, in few wordes, put you in minde, that very foolishely ye joyn the free will of Adame with the free will of Christe Jesus, and with the libertie of God. For Adam's will was never so free but that it might (as that it did) come to thraldom; which weaknes you be never able to prove at any tyme to have bene in Christes will. Further, the will of Adam was alwaies under the impire and threatning of a law; to which subjection I think ye will not bring God. But now to your absurdities.

"If (say you) I shall grante that all thinges of mere Necessitio must come to passe, according to the prescience and foreknowledge of God, then had Adam afore his transgression no Free will." Your illation or consequence is fals, for the foreknowledge and prescience of God did neither take away free will from Adam, neither yet did compell it by any violence, but did use it as an ordinarie mean, by the which His eternall counsell and purpose should take effect. But for the better understanding hereof, we must adverte and note that which before we have touched, and promised after more largely to entreat the same; to witt, That God's prescience and foreknowledge is not to be seperated from his Will and decree. For none otherwise doeth God foresee things to come to passe, but according as He himself hath in his eternall counsell decreed the same. For as it apperteineth to His wisdom to foreknow and foresee all things that are to come, so doeth it appertein to his power to moderate and reule all things according to his own will. Neither yet therefor doeth it folow that His foreknowledge, prescience, will, or power, doeth take away the free will of his creatures. but in all wisdom and justice (however the contrarie appere to our corrupted judgements,) he useth them as best it pleaseth his wisdom to bring to passe in time that which before all tyme he had decreed. To the which purpose and end, they (I mean the creatures and their willes), whatsoever they purpose to the contrarie, or how ignorantly that ever they worke it, nevertheles do voluntarely, and as it were of a naturall motion, incline and bow to that end to the which they are created.

To make the mater more plain, let us take the creation and fall of Adam, with the creatures that served in the same, for example. For what cheif end did God create all things (of Salomon and Paule we have before declared), to witt, for his own glorie to be shewed; the glorie, I say, of the riches of his mercie towardes the vessels of mercie, and the glorie of his justice and most just judgements towards the vessels of wrath. And that this eternall counsell of God should take effect, as he had purposed, man was created righteous, wise, just, and good, having free will; neither subject to the thraldom of sinne nor of Sathan, at the first creation. But sodanly cometh Sathan, ennemie to God and to man his good creature, and first poured in vennom into the heart of the woman, which afterward she poured into the heart of Adam; to the which bothe the one and the other, without all violence used of God's part, dothe willingly consent; and so conspiring with the serpent, do accuse God of a lie; do fully consent to vendicat or challenge to themselves the power of the Godhead, of minde and purpose (so far as in them lay) to thrust downe and depose Him from his eternall throne. Here we see how the creatures and their willes, without compulsion, do serve God's purpose and counsell. For Sathan was neither sent nor commanded of God to tempt man, but of malice and hatred did most willingly and gredely runne to the same: The will of man being free before, was not by God violently compelled to obey Sathan; but man of free will did consent to Sathan, and conspire against God. And yet was the fall of man not only foresene and foreknowen of God, but also before decreed, for the manifestation of his glorie.

Let us yet take an other exemple, that the mater may be more evident. The death of Christ Jesus for man's redemption, was decreed in the eternall counsell of God before the foundations of the world were laid, as we were elected in him, and as he was the Lamb killed from the beginning; which death also was decreed in the same counsell of God to be in a certein time appointed; and that so certenly, that neither could the malice of any creature prevent the houre appointed of God thereto, neither yet could any policie or chance impede or transferre the same to any other tyme. For how oft Christ was afore assaulted, the Evangclistes do witnes; but alwaies his answere was, "My houre is not yet come." And what impedimentes did oucure immediatly before his death, is also evident. The feast of Easter was instant, the fame of Christ was great, the favor of the people with publick voices was declared, and the counsels of the Hie Priestes and Seniors had decreed, that, to avoid sedition, his death should be delayed till after that feast. But all these were shortly overthrowen, and Christ did suffer in the verey tyme appointed, as he before had forespoken.

But now to the instrumentes which serve in this mater, and whether they were compelled by God or not. Judas, we know, was not one of the least; and what moved him the Holie Ghost doeth witnes, to witt, his avariciousnes. The Scribes, Pharisies, Priestes anil Seniors, and people, led, some of malice and envie, some to gratifie their rulers, and altogether of set purpose to crucifie Christ, do consent with Judas. Pilate, albeit he long refused, and by divers nieancs studied to delyver Christ, yet in the end, for fear of displeasure, aswell of the priestes and people, as of the Emperor, he willingly, without all compulsion of God's part, pronounced an unjust sentence of deathe against Christ Jesus; which his soldiours also most willingly did execute. Thus, I say, we see that the creatures and their willes, without all compulsion, do serve God's counsell and purpose.

Here I know, that ye think that either I write against myself, or els that I conclude a great absurditic: For, if I say that God did nothing but foresee these thinges, and so permitted them (as after you speak) to folow their own train; that he worketh no more but as a simple beholder of a tragedie; then do I agree with you. And if I do say (as in verey dede I do understand and afiirme,) that the eternall counsell and purpose of God did so reule in all these thinges, that rather they did serve to God's purpose and most just will, then fulfill their most wicked willes; then will you cry, Blasphemie, and say that I deliver the Devill, Adam, and all the wicked, frome sinne, of the which I make God to be author. To the first I have answered before, that as I seperate not God's foreknowledge from his counsell, so do I affirme that He worketh all in all thinges, according to the purpose of the same his good will; and yet that he useth no violence, neither in compelling his creatures, neither constreining their willes by any externall force, neither yet taking their willes from them, but in all wisdom and justice using them as he knoweth most expedient for the manifestation of his glorie, without any violence, I say, done to their willes. For violence is done to the will of a creature, when it willoth one thing, and yet by force, by tyranny, or by a greater power, it is compelled to do the thinges which it wold not; as if a pudique and honest matron, or chaste virgine, should be deprehended alono by a wicked and filthie man, who with violence and force (thoghe the will of the woman did plainely repine) did deflowre and corrupte her. This is violence done to the will, and she of necessitie was compelled to suffer that ignominie and shame, which nevertheles she most abhorred.

Do we say that God did (or doeth) any such violence to his creatures? Did he compell Sathan to tempt the woman, when his will was contrarie thereto? Did the will of Adame resist the temptation of the woman, and did he so hate and abhorre to eate of that fruite, that it behoved God to compell his will repugning thereto to eat of it, and so to break his commandements? or, did he not rather willingly hear and obey the voice of his wyfe? Consider, I beseech you, how plainely we put a difference betwixt vidlence, which you call mere Necessitie, and God's secrete counsell and eternall purpose. But yet ye crie, "Wherein then did man offend? Who can resist the will of God ? Why doth he complein, seing that his counsell and purpose, by such meanes, is broght to passe?" Do ye not understand that these were the furious cries of those to whom Saint Paul imposeth silence, with this sentence, " 0 man, what art thou that darest reason against God ?" &c.

But lest that ye complein (as your common custom is) of our obscuritie and darke speaking, I will even in one or two wordes declare, Why the creatures offend even when they serve most effectually to God's purpose; to witt, becaus that they neither have the glorie of God in their actions before their eies, neither yet mynd they to serve nor obey God's purpose and will. Sathan, in tempting man, studied nothing to promote God's glorie; man, in obeying the temptation, looked not to the counsell of God; Judas, Ananias, Pilate, the soldiours, and the rest, had nothing less in mind then mannes redemption to be performed by their counsells and wicked workes. And therefor, of God's justice, were they everio one reputed sinners; yea, and some of them reprobated for ever. If these reasons do not satisfic you, yet shall they be a testimonie what is our doctrine; and, as I trust, shall also be a reasonable contentation to the godlie and simple reader. More would I have spoken in the same matter, and so to have put end unto it at once; but becaus that after, by the reason of your most unjust accusations, I wilbe compelled to have to do with you againe, I abyde opportunitie.

Now to your reasons: Mannes will, I say, in the self remained free, notwithstanding that God in his eternall counsell had decreed his fall; and that becaus no violence, as before is declared, was done unto it. The will of our Master and Saviour Christ Jesus, notwithstanding the immutable decree of his death, appointed to be at a certein time, was so free, that albeit the power of nature might have given unto him mo yeares of life; and also that the humaine nature did abhorre the crueil and ignominious death; yet did he subject bothe his will and the power of nature unto the will of his heavenlie Father; as he doeth witnes, saying, "Not that I will, Father, but let that be done which thou willest."

Wonder it is, that ye can not see how God's will can remaine in hbertie, except that he abyde m suspence or dowte, and so daily and hourely change his purpose and counsell, as occasion is offered unto him by men and by their actions. If this be to make God bounde, and to take frome him libertie, to affirme that lie is infinite in wisdom, infinite in goodnes, infinite in justice, and infinite in power, so doeth he most constantly, most freely, most justlie, and most wisely, bring that to passe which in his eternall counsell he hath determined; if this, I say, be to take from God freedom, wisdome, and libortie, as ye do rayle, I must confess myself a transgressor. But if your cogitations and foolishe conclusions of his eternal Godhead, be, as, alas! too manifestly ye declare yourselves, so prophane, so carnal, and so wicked, that long, you abiding in the same, can not escaip God's just vengeance; repent, before that in his anger he arrest, and declare that your justice, wherof so much ye bragge, is manifest blasphemie against his dear Sonne Christ Jesus! God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve his small flock from your vennom and most dangerous heresies, and stoppe your blasphemous mouthes, that thus dare jeast upon God, as if he were one of your companions, saying, " Then is he a goodly wvse God; Then is God bounde himself," &c.

(John Knox, "On Predestination," 19th Section, as presented in the Works of John Knox, Volume 5 (1856), pp. 140-46) (I've presented here the old spellings which ought to be readable to the average reader. God willing, I will provide a modernized version at a later date.)(The work is a response, written in 1560, to an response to an Anabaptist.)

Debate with LouRugg on Hardening the Heart of Pharaoh

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:

Ephesians 5:8-10
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)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hardened Hearts - A Brief Biblical Survey - Part 3

(continued from part 2) (see also part 1)

6. The Hardenings of the Old Testament Israelites

a) During the Wilderness Journey

i) Old Testament Discussion

2 Kings 17:13-14
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

In this passage, the hardening is attributed to the people and it is connected with them not believing in the LORD.

Nehemiah 9:16-17
But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the rebellion of Israel.

Psalm 95:7-11
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, "It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest."

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel angering God.

Jeremiah 7:25-27
Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearkening to God.

ii) New Testament Discussion

Hebrews 3:5-19
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, 'They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.' So I sware in my wrath, 'They shall not enter into my rest.'") take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; while it is said, "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

Hebrews 4:4-9
For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, "And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." And in this place again, "If they shall enter into my rest." Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, "To day," after so long a time; as it is said, "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, again, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

b) At other times (besides the Exodus itself)

2 Kings 17:13-14
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, again, the hardness is connected with the unbelief of the children of Israel.

Nehemiah 9:28-30
But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the rebellion of Israel. You will recognize that I had also included this passage in the immediately previous section, since it deals with the fact that Israel is repeating its rebellion.

Jeremiah 7:25-27
Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearkening to God. This too is a repeated passage from the previous section to show that Israel's lack of hearkening continued from the Exodus onward.

Jeremiah 19:14-15
Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people, "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; 'Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.'"

Again, the hardening is attributed to the people. In this case, the hardness is connected with the children of Israel not hearing (in the sense of obeying) God.

Isaiah 63:17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.

Finally, in this instance the hardening is attributed to God. This should not be seen as inconsistent with the previous examples but rather as compatible with them. God takes credit for hardening the hearts of the wicked and it is also true that the wicked harden their hearts.

c) Lesser Hardenings

Matthew 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Mark 10:5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

Both of these passages refer to the lesser hardening that Jesus mentions with respect to the Mosaic permission of divorce. He refers to divorce as being a provision for the hardness of the hearts of the Jews, but he does not specifically tie that hardness to anything.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

This passage relates to a hardness of heart specifically with respect to selfishness. The Israelites are commanded not to be selfish with their goods but to give to their brethren enough to satisfy the needs of their brethren. The same rule applies to Christians today.

7. The Hardenings of the New Testament Jews

a) The Pharisees and others

John 12:37-43
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, "Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Here God takes the credit for the blinding and hardening of the Pharisees. Furthermore, God also ascribes purpose to the blinding and hardening, namely so that the people would not believe.

Acts 19:8-10
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here the actor of the hardening is not stated, though the hardening is connected with unbelief. It is also connected with antipathy for the gospel.

Mark 3:1-5
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, "Stand forth." And he saith unto them, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Here the actor of the hardening is not stated, though the hardening is connected with opposition to Christ and - it would seem - a general stubbornness.

b) The disciples

Mark 6:49-52
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: for they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

Notice that the hardening hear is connected with a lack of recognition of Jesus' divinity. The effect of the miracles was not to prove his divinity to them, because their heart was hardened. The actor of the hardening is not stated.

Mark 8:15-17
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have no bread."
And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, "Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?"

In this case the hardness of heart relates to not understanding Jesus' teaching. The actor of the hardening is not stated.

Mark 16:9-14
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

The hardness of heart here again relates to their unbelief, though not directly of Jesus, their unbelief of the testimony regarding Jesus.

c) The Jews until the Fullness of the Gentiles

Romans 11:25-27
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."

The actor of the blinding (which is the same concept as blinding, as we saw above in John 12:40) is not stated, though it should be clear from the context in Romans 11 that the actor is God:

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.

And similarly:

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

We see the same general concept:

2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

And likewise:

1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

8) Men in General

Job 9:4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Proverbs 21:29 A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

The point here is that hardening of the face of the wicked is the opposite of the righteous "directing his way," namely obeying the commandments of God.

Proverbs 28:14 Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Proverbs 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

The point here is that man hardening himself against God always results in the destruction of the man.

Romans 2:2-11
But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God.

The same point is here, namely that hardness of heart will lead to destruction.

9. Miscellaneous Hardenings in Job

Job mentions a few other hardenings. I include them simply for the interest of the reader.

Job 6:10 Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

Job 39:13-18
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
Job 39:16 She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.

(of Leviathan) Job 41:24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.

(to be continued, perhaps)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hardened Hearts - A Brief Biblical Survey - Part 2

(continued from Part 1) In this section, we address the hardenings of several other kings and nations than Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

2. The Hardening of Sihon's Heart

Deuteronomy 2:30-32
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the LORD said unto me, "Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land." Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz.

As you can see, this is a similar situation to that of Pharaoh. There is a king, and the reason he does not cooperate with the people of Israel is that God has a different plan for him. God's plan for Sihon is his people's destruction and the dispossession of his land for the people of Israel.

Here, hardening is connected with making Sihon obstinate. This is a similar concept to the "not hearkening" that Pharaoh was engaged in.

3. The Hardening of the Canaanites

Joshua 11:15-20
As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same; even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is something similar to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart as well, particularly at the end. Recall how God hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he chased after the Israelites? Now, God hardened the hearts of the Canaanites (except for the Gibeonites) so that they came against Israel in battle and were destroyed. They each surely knew of the fate of the other Canaanites who had tried to fight Israel, yet they continued to fight rather than suing for peace or fleeing to another land. Notice as well that the reason is given as being "that they might have no favour" and that God would destroy them.

4. The Hardening of Zedekiah

2 Chronicles 36:11-13
Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

We are simply told that Zedekiah did these things. Nevertheless, this was the means by which judgment was brought against the nation of Judah. For Scripture tells us, speaking of his brother Jehoiakim:

2 Kings 24:1-4
In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.

And more specifically about Zedekiah:

2 Kings 24:18-20
Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Thus, it is not a stretch for us to say that although Zedekiah hardened his heart, the Lord took credit for this, by saying that it was "through the anger of the LORD" that "it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah ... that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon."

5. The Hardening of Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel 5:18-21
O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: and for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: and he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

Here Nebuchadnezzar is described has having his mind "hardened in pride" and his "heart ... lifted up" (which is symbolic of pride). The specific actor is not specified, though it seems to be suggesting that those are things that Nebuchadnezzar did to himself. Nevertheless, the overarching purpose of the events was to show God's complete and ultimate sovereignty: "till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will."

(to be continued)

Bad to Quote Lactantius?

Roman Catholic reader Mike Burgess commented on yesterday's post (link), which quoted from Lactanatius, thus:
St. Jerome, whom you enjoy quoting when the occasion suits, said of Lactantius, "If only Lactantius, almost a river of Ciceronian eloquence, had been able to uphold our cause with the same facility with which he overturns that of our adversaries!" Lactantius was not a good theologian; indeed, he was, in the words of those who know his works best, a fine Latin rhetorician but woefully ignorant of the Scriptures and Christian doctrine. When one reads his writings, especially the Divine Institutes, this becomes quickly apparent. A fine theologian does not relate the story of Heracles/Hercules as though it were true. A fine theologian well studied and well versed in doctrine and systematic theology does not say "But let us leave the testimony of prophets, lest a proof derived from those who are universally disbelieved should appear insufficient. Let us come to authors, and for the demonstration of the truth let us cite as witnesses those very persons whom they are accustomed to make use of against us—I mean poets and philosophers. From these we cannot fail in proving the unity of God; not that they had ascertained the truth, but that the force of the truth itself is so great, that no one can be so blind as not to see the divine brightness presenting itself to his eyes. The poets, therefore, however much they adorned the gods in their poems, and amplified their exploits with the highest praises, yet very frequently confess that all things are held together and governed by one spirit or mind. Orpheus, who is the most ancient of the poets, and coeval with the gods themselves—since it is reported that he sailed among the Argonauts together with the sons of Tyndarus and Hercules,— speaks of the true and great God as the first-born, because nothing was produced before Him, but all things sprung from Him."

Perhaps you and Pastor King ought to rethink the citation. And rethink the other Fathers, ones not eventually considered heretical as Lactantius was, as concerns their views on prayers through the faithful departed, starting with, say, Augustine.
Before we get to the heart of matter, namely whether it is appropriate to quote from Lactantius in general or whether it was appropriate to quote from Lactantius in particular, let us dispose of a few tangential stones that Mr. Burgess throws:

1) "St. Jerome, whom you enjoy quoting when the occasion suits"

Mr. Burgess' comment here seems to be an insinuation that somehow the quotations of Jerome at this blog are unduly selective. If that's what he thinks, he ought to man up and say so. The problem is, for Mr. Burgess to make such a criticism, he would have to employ a double standard. How so? He would have take the position that if one is ever to quote from Jerome, one must agree with all Jerome has to say. Yet Mr. Burgess himself does not agree with all that Jerome has to say, particularly on issues such as natural family planning (link) and the apocrypha (link).

Perhaps Mr. Burgess is simply confused about why we quote from Jerome. We do not quote from Jerome as though he were our rule of faith, accepting teachings because Jerome gives them. Instead, we use Jerome in two ways (1) for his teachings to the extent that they are persuasive, having been founded upon Scripture and (2) for historical reference. Oftentimes, the latter category is more significant than the former category, especially when discussing the issue of tradition with those who claim to follow tradition.

2)"Perhaps you and Pastor King ought to rethink the citation. And rethink the other Fathers, ones not eventually considered heretical as Lactantius was, as concerns their views on prayers through the faithful departed, starting with, say, Augustine."

Mr. Burgess seems to remain confused about the difference between prayers, to, through, and for the dead. We have clarified that distinction previously and will not repeat it now (here is the link to that clarification). On this general topic, Augustine is sometimes brought to bear as though his word should be accepted in favor of such necromancy, as Mr. Burgess has attempted to do, through allusion.

This again raises the question as to whether Mr. Burgess even understands the argument being presented. There is no question that eventually many professing Christians came to think that there was value in making prayers to, through, or for the dead. The question is whether this was an apostolic teaching or a later innovation. The historical testimony of Lactantius helps to demonstrate that it was a later innovation.

3) "A fine theologian well studied and well versed in doctrine and systematic theology does not say"

The combination of hubris and ignorance in this comment are startling. As even the so-called Catholic Encyclopedia points out, Lactantius' Divine Institutes "was the first attempt at a systematic exposition of Christian theology in Latin." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, p. 736) Lactantius was, in essence, the pioneer in systematic theology among the Latin-speakers.

What's worse, though, is that Mr. Burgess then goes on to provide a quotation from Lactantius that is completely untroubling. In fact, it sounds rather like Paul the apostle who quotes from a pagan poet to make a Christian point. Undoubtedly there were problems in Lactantius' theology, but who is free from error? That's rather the point about the early church fathers - they did not transmit an oral apostolic tradition to us, rather they were our predecessors in trying to search out the meaning of Scripture. Where they do a good job they are to be commended, and where they err they are to be corrected.

4) "A fine theologian does not relate the story of Heracles/Hercules as though it were true."

Again, this is a most ignorant remark. Mr. Burgess is referring to an apologetic that Lactantius used to demonstrate that the very myths about Hercules (by Hercules' supporters) show Hercules to be subject to human authority (link). But whether Lactantius himself thought that Hercules was a man who had been magnified in legend or whether he thought Hercules to be a myth, is less clear. Nor does it particularly matter. Should it be surprising that a very strong man would become the subject of myths in later days. Is Mr. Burgess not aware that Athanasius (link) and Athenagoras (link) similarly treat of Hercules as though he were a mere man, not only as though he were a fable (though perhaps Mr. Burgess would rush to condemn them as well).

5) "Lactantius was not a good theologian; indeed, he was, in the words of those who know his works best, a fine Latin rhetorician but woefully ignorant of the Scriptures and Christian doctrine."

One wonders from whence Mr. Burgess arrived at this conclusion. Perhaps he read it in the "Catholic Encyclopedia," which asserts: "The beauty of the style, the choice and aptness of the terminology, cannot hide the author's lack of grasp on Christian principles and his almost utter ignorance of Scripture." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, p. 736)

The translator of Lactantius has a somewhat different take:
The style of Lactantius has been deservedly praised for the dignity, elegance, and clearness 7of expression by which it is characterized, and which have gained for him the appellation of the Christian Cicero. His writings everywhere give evidence of his varied and extensive erudition, and contain much valuable information respecting the systems of the ancient philosophers. But his claims as a theologian are open to question; for he holds peculiar opinions on many points, and he appears more successful as an opponent of error than as a maintainer of the truth. Lactantius has been charged with a leaning to Manicheism, [footnote: This question is fully discussed by Dr. Lardner in his Credibility of the Gospel History, Works, vol. iii. [p. 516. The whole chapter (lxv.) on Lactantius deserves study].] but the charge appears to be unfounded.

But the same translator reminds us that: "Lactantius has always held a very high place among the Christian Fathers, not only on account of the subject-matter of his writings, but also on account of the varied erudition, the sweetness of expression, and the grace and elegance of style, by which they are characterized." (Ibid.)

4) Quoting Jerome as "If only Lactantius, almost a river of Ciceronian eloquence, had been able to uphold our cause with the same facility with which he overturns that of our adversaries!"

a) First of all, let's read Jerome in context:
Tertullian is packed with meaning but his style is rugged and uncouth. The blessed Cyprian like a fountain of pure water flows softly and sweetly but, as he is taken up with exhortations to virtue and with the troubles consequent on persecution, he has nowhere discussed the divine scriptures. Victorinus, although he has the glory of a martyr’s crown, yet cannot express what he knows. Lactantius has a flow of eloquence worthy of Tully: would that he had been as ready to teach our doctrines as he was to pull down those of others! Arnobius is lengthy and unequal, and often confused from not making a proper division of his subject. That reverend man Hilary gains in height from his Gallic buskin; yet, adorned as he is with the flowers of Greek rhetoric, he sometimes entangles himself in long periods and offers by no means easy reading to the less learned brethren. I say nothing of other writers whether dead or living; others will hereafter judge them both for good and for evil.
- Jerome, Letter 58 (A.D. 395), Section 10

Notice that Jerome groups Lactantius in with Arnobius, Victorinus, Hilary, Cyprian, and Tertullian. If some Romanist wishes to suggest that Jerome's comment about Lactantius is negative, let him consider the impact on the others whom Jerome identifies! Shall we also imagine that Jerome condemns each of these others, simply because he finds some minor imperfection in them?

But in case some ignorant person might still have a question about Jerome's view of Lactantius, let him consider Jerome again in a letter that he wrote two years later:
I will pass on to Latin writers. Can anything be more learned or more pointed than the style of Tertullian? [An African writer who in his last days became a Montanist. Flor. a.d. 175–225.] His Apology and his books Against the Gentiles contain all the wisdom of the world. Minucius Felix [A Roman lawyer of the second century. His Apology—a Dialogue entitled Octavius—is extant.] a pleader in the Roman courts has ransacked all heathen literature to adorn the pages of his Octavius and of his treatise Against the astrologers (unless indeed this latter is falsely ascribed to him). Arnobius [Fl. a.d. 300. A professor of rhetoric at Sicca in Africa and a heathen. He composed his apology to prove the reality of his conversion.] has published seven books against the Gentiles, and his pupil Lactantius [An African rhetorician and apologist of the fourth century. His works are extant.] as many, besides two volumes, one on Anger and the other on the creative activity of God. If you read any of these you will find in them an epitome of Cicero’s dialogues. The Martyr Victorinus [A celebrated man of letters at Rome in the middle of the fourth century, the story of whose conversion is told in Augustine’s Confessions (viii. 2–5).] though as a writer deficient in learning is not deficient in the wish to use what learning he has. Then there is Cyprian. [Bishop of Carthage. He suffered martyrdom a.d. 358. His works are extant.] With what terseness, with what knowledge of all history, with what splendid rhetoric and argument has he touched the theme that idols are no Gods! Hilary [Bishop of Poitiers (died a.d. 368). A champion of the orthodox faith against Arianism.] too, a confessor and bishop of my own day, has imitated Quintilian’s twelve books both in number and in style, and has also shewn his ability as a writer in his short treatise against Dioscorus the physician. In the reign of Constantine the presbyter Juvencus [A Spanish Christian of the fourth century. His “Story of the Gospels,” a life of Christ in hexameter verse, still exists.] set forth in verse the story of our Lord and Saviour, and did not shrink from forcing into metre the majestic phrases of the Gospel. Of other writers dead and living I say nothing. Their aim and their ability are evident to all who read them.
- Jerome, Letter 70 (A.D. 397), Section 5 (editor's footnotes bracketed, final incestuous footnote omitted)

Or likewise consider the comments of Augustine (to whom we are commended by Mr. Burgess himself):
And what else have many good and faithful men among our brethren done? Do we not see with what a quantity of gold and silver and garments Cyprian, that most persuasive teacher and most blessed martyr, was loaded when he came out of Egypt? How much Lactantius brought with him? And Victorious, and Optatus, and Hilary, not to speak of living men! How much Greeks out of number have borrowed! And prior to all these, that most faithful servant of God, Moses, had done the same thing; for of him it is written that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. And to none of all these would heathen superstition (especially in those times when, kicking against the yoke of Christ, it was persecuting the Christians) have ever furnished branches of knowledge it held useful, if it had suspected they were about to turn them to the use of worshipping the One God, and thereby overturning the vain worship of idols. But they gave their gold and their silver and their garments to the people of God as they were going out of Egypt, not knowing how the things they gave would be turned to the service of Christ. For what was done at the time of the exodus was no doubt a type prefiguring what happens now. And this I say without prejudice to any other interpretation that may be as good, or better.
- Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book 2, Chapter 40, Section 61

And, of course, we might further note how Jurgens relies on Lactantius in his Romanist quote book "Faith of the Early Fathers," (pp. 264-72) to whom so many lay apologists for Rome are indebted. One even finds Lactantius quoted on the Vatican web site (here - Italian). But perhaps Mr. Burgess thinks himself advanced to the point of letting Jurgens and the Vatican know whom they should be quoting.

What's more, even if we are only to consider the fact that Lactantius is good at pointing out error (as per his translator and Jerome) that's really good enough for us, since we are noting that Lactantius was pointing out an error that is part of Roman Catholic practice today.

So, while we appreciate Mr. Burgess attempt (whatever his intentions may have been) to help us remember why we find Lactantius of interest, we will respectfully continue to quote from this church father where his comments are either persuasive from Scripture or of historical interest.


UPDATE: I see that Mr. Burgess has not only left his comment on my original post but provided his comment on his own web page as well - so important he thinks his correction to be (link).

Commodianus, while he was engaged in secular literature read also our writings and, finding opportunity, accepted the faith. Having become a Christian thus and wishing to offer the fruit of his studies to Christ the author of his salvation, he wrote, in barely tolerable semi-versified language, Against the pagans, and because he was very little acquainted with our literature he was better able to overthrow their [doctrine] than to establish ours. Whence also, contending against them concerning the divine counterpromises, he discoursed in a sufficiently wretched and so to speak, gross fashion, to their stupefaction and our despair. Following Tertullian, Lactantius and Papias as authorities he adopted and inculcated in his students good ethical principles and especially a voluntary love of poverty.
- Gennadius of Marseilles (died about A.D. 496), Supplement to De Viris Illustribis

But as well, Jerome himself include Lactantius in his Lives of Illustrious Men:
Firmianus, [Died 325.] known also as Lactantius, a disciple of Arnobius, during the reign of Diocletian summoned to Nicomedia with Flavius the Grammarian whose poem On medicine is still extant, taught rhetoric there and on account of his lack of pupils (since it was a Greek city) he betook himself to writing. We have a Banquet of his which he wrote as a young man in Africa and an Itinerary of a journey from Africa to Nicomedia written in hexameters, and another book which is called The Grammarian and a most beautiful one On the wrath of God, and Divine institutes against the nations, seven books, and an Epitome of the same work in one volume, without a title, [without a title “that is a compendium of the last three books only” as Cave explains it. Ffoulkes in Smith and W. But no.] also two books To Asclepiades, one book On persecution, four books of Epistles to Probus, two books of Epistles to Severus, two books of Epistles to his pupil Demetrius [two books…Severus…Demetrius e a H 10 21 Val.; omit T 25 30 31 Her.] and one book to the same On the work of God or the creation of man. In his extreme old age he was tutor to Crispus Cæsar a son of Constantine in Gaul, the same one who was afterwards put to death by his father.
- Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men (De Viris Illustribis), Chapter 80 (editors' footnotes bracketed)

So, Jerome puts him in his "Of Illustrious Men" and Gennadius views Lactantius as having good ethical principles. But Mr. Burgess is not so fond of Lactantius. We report, you decide.

Monday, October 05, 2009

What did the Early Church think of Prayer for the Dead?

Doubtless there were a variety of thoughts, but here is one (courtesy of Pastor David King):

Lactantius (260-330): But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, or venerate the earth, or make over their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law. (ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book II, Chapter 18.)

I think that in the full context, it is even more powerful:
I have shown that the religious rites of the gods are vain in a threefold manner: In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead, who can neither give life nor light to any one, for they are themselves without it: and that there is no other God but one, to whose judgment and power every soul is subject. In the second place, that the sacred images themselves, to which most senseless men do service, are destitute of all perception, since they are earth. But who cannot understand that it is unlawful for an upright animal to bend itself that it may adore the earth? which is placed beneath our feet for this purpose, that it may be trodden upon, and not adored by us, who have been raised from it, and have received an elevated position beyond the other living creatures, that we may not turn ourselves again downward, nor cast this heavenly countenance to the earth, but may direct our eyes to that quarter to which the condition of their nature has directed, and that we may adore and worship nothing except the single deity of our only Creator and Father, who made man of an erect figure, that we may know that we are called forth to high and heavenly things. In the third place, because the spirits which preside over the religious rites themselves, being condemned and cast off by God, wallow [Roll themselves.] over the earth, who not only are unable to afford any advantage to their worshippers, since the power of all things is in the hands of one alone, but even destroy them with deadly attractions and errors; since this is their daily business, to involve men in darkness, that the true God may not be sought by them. Therefore they are not to be worshipped, because they lie under the sentence of God. For it is a very great crime to devote [Addico, “to adjudge,” is the legal term, expressing the sentence by which the prætor gave effect to the right which he had declared to exist.] one’s self to the power of those whom, if you follow righteousness, you are able to excel in power, and to drive out and put to flight by adjuration of the divine name. But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, [[Let this be noted.]] or venerate the earth, or make over [Mancipo. The word implies the making over or transferring by a formal act of sale. Debtors, who were unable to satisfy the demands of their creditors, were made over to them, and regarded as their slaves. They were termed addicti. Our Lord said (John viii. 34), “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” Thus also St. Paul, Rom. vi. 16, 17.] their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law.
- Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 18 (editors' footnotes placed in brackets)

Hardened Hearts - A Brief Biblical Survey - Part 1

Lord willing, I will be engaging in a debate on the PalTalk chat program this Wednesday at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The topic of the debate is the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and my debate opponent is a non-Calvinist named Louis Ruggiero (aka LouRugg), who is actively promoting his new work against Calvinism entitled, "The God of Calvinism: a Rebuttal of Reformed Theology." In fact, my understanding is that Mr. Ruggiero spends a significant percentage time on this particular task of trying to address Calvinism. He feels that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is the "Achilles' heel" of Calvinism, and he hopes to show that during the debate.

In preparation for that debate, I hope to provide a few blog articles on the subject, this being the first. I don't know whether Mr. Ruggiero reads my blog, and I have no problem with folks alerting him to these articles and letting him know what he will be facing during the debate.

There are a significant number of verses that relate to the hardening of men in Scripture. The biggest segment of those relate to Pharaoh.

1. The Hardenings of Pharaoh's Heart

You will note that I have pluralized the gerund "hardening" with respect to Pharaoh, because his heart was not hardened just once and then left hard, but was hardened several times.

A. Before the Fact

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

God gave Moses advance warning that He would, not just that He might harden Pharaoh's heart. God also explained why he would harden Pharaoh's heart: so that Pharaoh would not let the people go.

Exodus 7:3-4
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Again, more shortly before the fact, God again told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh's heart. This time, God connected the hardening with God's plan to show many signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. More specifically, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is paralleled with Pharaoh not hearkening unto Moses. In a comment that is truly devastating for proponents of Libertarian Free Will (LFW), God not only takes credit for Pharaoh not hearkening, but even ascribes a divine purpose to it: namely the judgment that is coming upon Egypt, and the spectacular deliverance of the armies of the children of Israel.

B. During the Fact

i) First Hardening

Exodus 7:13-14
And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

This hardening was after the sign of Aaron's serpent (which was his staff) swallowing the serpents of the Egyptian magicians. Here, the KJV gives God the credit for hardening Pharaoh's heart. Many modern translations simply say that Pharaoh's heart was hardened. The KJV does not explain its translation here, and we are left speculating why the KJV translated the verse as it did. Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that even if the underlying Hebrew does not literally say that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, we understand that it was the Lord from the phrase, "as the LORD had said." The phrase "as the LORD had said," may refer us back either to Exodus 4:21 or, more probably, to Exodus 7:3-4.

Notice that, again, the hardening is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening and, as well, with Pharaoh refusing to let the people go.

2) Second Hardening

Exodus 7:22-23
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.

Again, notice that this hardening is expressed passively (the KJV providing a literal translation of the text). Notice, however, that the phrase "as the LORD had said" is present again, which shows us that this is the Lord's work, even though the precise actor of the hardening is not stated in this verse.

The expression "did not set his heart to this also," may be a bit hard to immediately grasp. It essentially means, I think, that Pharaoh was not significantly influenced by this judgment. He remained hard and did not soften in response to the judgment of the water turning to blood.

As in previous examples, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening to Moses.

3) Third Hardening

Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Again, as in the previous cases, the hardening is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening to Moses and Aaron. In this instance again we see that the hardening/not hearkening is "as the LORD had said." This time, the text (particularly in the KJV) seems to ascribe the hardening to Pharaoh. If that is the case, it simply strengthens the case for compatibilism and against LFW, since God claimed credit in advance for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, even when Pharaoh himself is the means by which this hardening happens.

This hardening comes after the plague of frogs.

4) Fourth Hardening

Exodus 8:18-19 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

This hardening comes immediately after the plague of lice. Again, the literal expression is passive, in that the actor is not explicitly stated. Nevertheless, the passage reiterates that this is "as the LORD had said," which reminds us that this hardening was from God. Notice how here even Pharaoh's own magicians, who had previously opposed Moses and Aaron, are now enlisted in support of God's true divinity, yet Pharaoh refuses to listen.

5) Fifth Hardening

Exodus 8:28-32

And Pharaoh said, "I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me."
And Moses said, "Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD."
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

In this example, we see some softening of Pharaoh's heart. He relents, at least outwardly, to the force of the judgment against him. However, once the plague is removed, Pharaoh hardens his heart. This is the first instance where Pharaoh is the clear subject of the verb, and the first time we do not see it added, "as the LORD had said." In view of the previous discussion, I don't necessarily think that this is significant.

6) Sixth Hardening

Exodus 9:5-7
And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, "To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land."
And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

Like the fifth hardening, this hardening does not mention "as the LORD had said." However, like several of the previous hardenings, this hardening is expressed in passive terms, without explicitly saying who does the hardening. This hardening was responsive to the plague of the murrain of the cattle of the Egyptians.

7) Seventh Hardening

Exodus 9:12-17
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses. And the LORD said unto Moses, "Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, 'Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, "Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?"'"

This hardening comes after the plague of boils, which affected not only the commoners but even Pharaoh's magicians. Again, we see God referring back to his prior revelation to Moses ("as the LORD had spoken unto Moses") and this time it is made explicit that the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, with the result being that Pharaoh did not hearken unto Moses and Aaron (and, perhaps, the magicians as well, who had already testified to the divinity of the LORD).

Notice as well that God, through Moses, tells Pharaoh what he is going to do. Furthermore, God says that this is the reason why he raised Pharaoh up, namely to bring him down in judgment. It is interesting to note that Pharaoh's "heart" is listed among the targets of the plague. Whether this should be understood as meaning that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was itself a plague (which seems highly unlikely), or whether it should simply mean that Pharaoh himself will be affected by the plagues (which seems more likely) is not particularly germane to our present discussion.

8) Eighth Hardening

Exodus 9:34-35 & 10:1-2
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
And the LORD said unto Moses, "Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: and that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD."

This hardening comes after the plague of hail and thunder. What is particularly interesting here, from the standpoint of the discussion of compatibilism and LFW, is that this hardening of Pharaoh's heart is described as being sin for Pharaoh, and yet it is described as being "as the LORD had spoken by Moses." In other words, recalling that God before hand had taken credit for hardening Pharaoh's heart, it was both the case that God determined this, and that Pharaoh was held morally responsible for it. Furthermore, while in the portion in chapter 9 the actor of the hardening is not specified, in the portion in chapter 10, God takes credit for this.

Also, note that God ascribes purpose to the hardening, namely to show his signs - signs that will be famous - and to show forth God's divinity to the people of Israel.

Those who are opposed to Sola Scriptura will be disappointed to note that although God makes reference to what might at first seem like an oral tradition, it is plain that God intended this to be written down in Scripture. Thus, what is written in Scripture is what is to be told to the ears of one's sons.

9) Ninth Hardening

Exodus 10:16-20
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, "I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only."
And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

The plague of the locust seems to have softened Pharaoh's heart and he confesses his sin, and begs for forgiveness. He receives relief and then God hardens Pharaoh's heart. The result of this hardening is that Pharaoh refuses to let the children of Israel go (yet again!).

10) Tenth Hardening

Exodus 10:24-29 and 11:8b-10
And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, "Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you."
And Moses said, "Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither."
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, "Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die."
And Moses said, "Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more."
And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger. And the LORD said unto Moses, "Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt." And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

This shows the softening and then hardening of Pharaoh's heart after the plague of darkness. It was a darkness so dark that it could be felt. It's hard to imagine such a thing, and it plainly terrified Pharaoh, who tried to bargain with Moses.

Again, in this instance, God says that he hardened Pharaoh's heart so that Pharaoh would not let the people of Israel go.

I note in passing that this was not just a blacking out of the sun, but a darkness that was complete. There was not defeating this darkness by candle and torch. Furthermore, while the Egyptians were in complete darkness, the Israelites had some light, namely "in their dwellings."

Another interesting fact to note about this hardening is Moses' comment that Pharaoh had spoken "well." Moses' point seems to be that Pharaoh's comment is prophetic. Moses is not coming back to Pharaoh any more, and consequently through Pharaoh's hardhearted command, Pharaoh is cutting himself off from seeking Moses' face for forgiveness of his sin and mercy on Egypt.

It seems that Exodus 11:1-8a is a parenthetical passage including, from verses 4-8a, a speech to Pharaoh, but perhaps addressed with Moses' back turned to Pharaoh, so that Moses could not see Pharaoh's face. Furthermore, God takes credit, both in chapter 10 with respect to this specific hardening, and in chapter 11, with respect to all the preceding hardenings. God links the hardening and the not hearkening and ascribes a purpose to each, namely that Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go, and that the wonders of God would be multiplied in Egypt.

11) Eleventh Hardening

Exodus 14:1-9
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.' And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD."
And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.

How great is the LORD! Notice here that the ten plagues have already been brought down upon Egypt and yet God is not through with Pharaoh. He sends Israel into an indefensible location, trapped on a peninsula, where it is possible for Pharaoh seemingly to trap Israel by placing troops on the one side where there is no sea.

God makes his people appear vulnerable to the Pharaoh and then, as he had planned, hardens Pharaoh's heart so that Pharaoh and his people will regret their choice of letting the Israelites go, and will pursue after the children of Israel.

God sets the trap by telling the Israelites where to go, hardens Pharaoh's heart to take the bait, and Pharaoh takes the bait and pursues after the Israelites with his armies and chariots. In this instance again we see God prophesying that he will harden Pharaoh's heart, and then doing it, just as with the ten plagues. But, God is not through with hardening Pharaoh's heart.

12) Twelfth Hardening

Exodus 14:15-18
And the LORD said unto Moses, "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen."

The following verses relate that this happened, just as God said. It should be noted, however, that the actual hardening of the hearts is not specifically mentioned in the later verses, though their pursuit into the Red Sea and their subsequent death there is immortalized in the song found in Exodus 15.

C. After the Fact

After the fact of God hardening the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Scripture refers back to the fact.

1) Philistine Priests and Diviners

1 Samuel 6:2-9
And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, "What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place."
And they said, "If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you."
Then said they, "What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him?"
They answered, "Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: and take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us."

This event took place about four hundred years after the Exodus (compare Judges 11:26 (300 years in Canaan by that time) and 1 Kings 6:1 (480 years in Canaan by that time)). Nevertheless, the fame of the destruction of the Egyptians was still known to the priests and diviners of the Philistines. Whether that was directly from contact with the Israelites or whether that was from an independent source, we are not told. Indeed, it is possible that the priests and diviners found a copy of the book of Exodus in the Ark itself and read it from there.

Regardless, they learned at least part of the lesson that was provided there, for they said: "Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?" So now, they let the ark go, even as the Egyptians had let the people of Israel go. They also lade the ark with treasures, just as the Israelites had been given the treasures of Egypt on their departure.

2) Apostle Paul

Romans 9:14-24
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." [Exodus 33:19] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." [Exodus 9:16] Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?"
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Notice that Paul uses the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in part of an argument about the justice of God. In Paul's argument, God is within his rights to show mercy on whomever God wishes and God is within his rights to harden whomever God wishes. Paul even gives us the reason for the mercy (so that it can be seen to be of God not man) and the hardening (so that the name of the LORD will be declared throughout all the Earth). God made Pharaoh for the purposes of casting him down. It's a sobering reality, but it is Paul's argument. The Potter, Paul argues, has the right to do with his clay as he pleases.

(To be continued in Part 2, with other Biblical accounts of hardening)