The following is a transcript of a debate that took place in October 2009, between Louis Ruggiero and myself (TurretinFan) (link to WMA format recording of debate)(link to mp3 recording of debate). Mr. Ruggiero is a non-Calvinist, as is the moderator, kalmotzah (I'm not sure her real name). I took the Calvinist position.
Matthew Lankford provided the transcript below, to which I've made only slight edits. He has attempted to provide an accurate transcription of what was said, but if you detect any errors of any significance, please let me know by posting a comment in the comment box.
The debate took place in a PalTalk (R) room. I did not log the text in the room at the time. I don't know whether anyone did.
kalmotzah (moderator): Okay, you're both ready. Here we are in this debate "The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart." The rules will be -- there will be each Lou and Turretin[Fan] will each get ten minutes of an opening. Ten minutes to speak their opening and then they will each get ten minutes on a rebuttal and then they will each get twenty minutes on the cross exam and then there will be -- each will be giving a five minute closing. And Lou is going to be going first. So, go ahead Lou, you can go for your ten minute opening now.
Louis Ruggiero (aka LouRugg_777): Okay, first of all, I wanna welcome everybody to the debate. The debate is titled "The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart." Now, ‘why is this debate so important?’, you might ask, and the reason why it’s important, because I believe it places Reformed Theology on trial for three reasons. The first reason is as follows. Pharaoh had free will -- something that Calvinists reject. The freedom to choose between right and wrong -- he had it before God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he even had it after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He could have obeyed God’s command to release the Israelites form their slavery, but chose not to -- he refused to. The second point that I wanna make, in complete opposition to what Reformers believe about Total Depravity -- Pharaoh, just like everyone else, was not born with an utterly depraved heart. He could have obeyed God’s command to release the Israelites, but freely chose not to. And, third, Pharaoh was not, I repeat, Pharaoh was not God’s preordained vessel destined for destruction, as Calvinists allege when they cite Romans, Chapter 9. God foreknew that the king would be stubborn, but raised him up anyway, so that His power would be made known to the world -- just like Romans 9, verses 15 through 18 teaches.
Now, to begin, let’s go back to Genesis Chapter 15 and verse 13. I’ll post the verse.
“[God told] Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
We know what happened years later. Joseph’s brother’s betrayed him and sold him into slavery. Joseph wound up in Egypt. Israel, because Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream properly, -- seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine -- Pharaoh was blessed… Pharaoh blessed Joseph and Pharaoh invited Joseph’s family, the Israelites, to stay in the Land of Goshen, as his guests. Well, later on, the Pharaoh that loved Joseph died and Joseph also died. And Pharaoh’s descendants -- the future Pharaohs of Egypt -- grew to hate the Israelites. They despised the Israelites and they places them under Egyptian taskmasters. And the Israelites were made slaves. Four-hundred years later Moses comes into the picture. And in Exodus, Chapter 3, God appears to Moses in the midst of a burning bush, telling Moses that He was fully aware of the affliction bestowed upon the Israelites thanks to Pharaoh -- the current Pharaoh at that time. Now this is what God said -- this is what God said to Moses in Exodus, Chapter 3, verse 19. I’ll post the verse.
“[Now] I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.”
God is omniscient. God has foreknowledge. God was telling Moses what would happen when Moses would confront Pharaoh with God’s demand to release the children of Israel. At that same meeting, in the midst of a burning bush, this is what God said to Moses in 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.”
Now this is important. We need to ask ourselves: "What wonders did God place in Moses hand?" The answer is: the rod. God placed the rod in Moses’ hand and as a result of Moses or Aaron’s use of that rod -- that would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Now, in Exodus, Chapter 5, which records the first meeting between Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh -- this is what happened in verse 1. Exodus, Chapter 5, verse 1,
“And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.”
“[…] Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.”
Now think about this: Can you blame Pharaoh for responding this way? Who is Moses and Aaron that he should go in and tell the king of Egypt -- the most powerful man in the world, the king of a world empire -- ‘Thus saith the LORD, Let the [sic] people go’? Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron, ‘I don’t know the Lord, neither will I let Israel go’. You can’t blame Pharaoh for giving this response. But did God introduce His power to Pharaoh yet? Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart yet? The answer is: no. And proof of that is found in Exodus, Chapter 7, verse 3, which records the second meeting between Moses, Aaron, and the king. This is what God reminded Moses of in Exodus 7:3,
“And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.”
God's reminding Moses of what He told him back in Exodus, Chapter 4, verse 21. What does this verse tell us? This tells us that God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart yet, back in Exodus, Chapter 5. When Moses confronted Pharaoh in Exodus, Chapter 5, God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart yet. And proof of that is found in Exodus 7:13, though the use of the rod, when Moses’ rod turned into a serpent and Pharaoh commanded his magicians to place down their rods and Moses’ rod ate the magician’s rods... Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Exodus 7:13,
“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.”
Now this is important. He refused to let the people go. Not that he couldn’t let the people go. He refused to let the people go. What does this tell us so far? Back in Exodus, Chapter 5, verses 1 through 2, Pharaoh’s heart was not hardened. He freely chose to let the people go. He refused to let the people go. Even after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh refused to let the people go. He could have let the people go. All God did was challenge Pharaoh’s authority. In Exodus, Chapter 7, God was telling Pharaoh who he was dealing with. God didn’t do that in Exodus, Chapter 5. God was introducing His power to Pharaoh. Pharaoh, being the most powerful man in the world, resisted God’s power. He rebelled against it. He needed to humble himself, but refused to let the people go,
Exodus, Chapter 8, verse 2. This is what the Lord told Pharaoh in Exodus, Chapter 8, verse 2,
“And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:”
Once again, the word refused is used. If the word refused is used, that means Pharaoh could have let the people go. He refused not to let the people go. He refused to let the people go.
Exodus, Chapter 10, verse 3... And Mo… This is what it says,
“And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? […]”
God was telling Pharaoh, ‘Remove your pride, humble yourself before me, let my people go‘. God used the word refused. If Pharaoh was totally unable to let the people go, why is God asking Moses, in Exodus, Chapter 10, verse 3, “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?[…]”, if Pharaoh couldn’t have humbled himself before the Lord and let His people go?
These verses prove three things. First of all, was not born with totally depraved heart as Reformed theology would have us believe. Pharaoh was totally capable of letting the people go and harkening to God’s voice. But he chose, he freely chose, not to. In fact, God had to harden Pharaoh’s heart according to Reformed theology, so Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people go. If God had to harden Pharaoh’s heart, so he wouldn’t let the people go, that tells us that Pharaoh could have let the people go, if God didn’t harden his heart. The proof of that is found in Exodus Chapter 4, verse 21, where God tells Moses, ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so he shall not let the people go’. If God had to harden Pharaoh’s heart, so he would not let the people go, clearly God was concerned that if He didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, he could have let the people go. And if Pharaoh could have let the people go, he was not totally depraved and he had the ability, within himself, to let the people go.
My time is up. TurretinFan, it’s your mic.
kalmotzah (moderator): Turretin[Fan] are you there? You probably can do your own introduction and, you know, your own opening, you know.
TurretinFan: Thank you very much. This debate as has been announced, is on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. 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, 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 and 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 is applying the principle of Pharaoh to the situation of salvation. God hardens some in unbelief and shows mercy on others. There are, and this is important, only two possibilities: hardening and mercy. Obtaining salvation and being blinded. Unbelief and faith. Obedience and rebellion. Romans 11:7 tells us, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” Those are the two options: obtained it and blinded. There’s no third path. There’s 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 tells us, “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 the 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. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, the Apostle says, “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 that the commission that Paul was given, by God, included this: “To open their eyes” And I’m reading from 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.” That is to say, in God. Remember that the light of the world is Jesus. John 8:12 says, “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 how, what mechanism, and that means we must have to draw out the meaning from inferences in Scripture. There seems to be two main possibilities: either by apply the hardness to Pharaoh or withdrawing softness from Pharaoh. Now, recall back to that light/darkness situation. God is the light -- unbelievers are those in darkness. How is a person made dark? Is it by applying darkness to him? Do you shine a dark bulb on him, to make him dark? No. It’s by removing light or, better yet, we could simply say not providing light. So, it seems that it might be reasonable and perhaps it’s even 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 doesn’t deserve common sense, we can simply say that God did not give Pharaoh common sense. Thus, when Pharaoh was hardened, twelve times as God had prophesied, God takes the credit, though it is Pharaoh who acts wickedly in the absence of God giving him the gift of common sense.
This then is the whole thing in a nutshell: Pharaoh was hardened, 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’s not too hard for God. God has declared in Genesis 8:14 [Genesis 18:14], “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?[…]” And, again, in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” And, of course, the answer to those things is "no."
Before I get a little bit more into the detail of the text of Exodus, I just want to point out an important issue that’s not directly related to our topic. After all, Pharaoh, as I pointed out, is used as an illustration by Paul, but Pharaoh himself had a -- was simply hardened with respect to a particular command of God. This command to let the people go. But the clarification that might be valuable is to know what Total Depravity means, because some people hear that word -- they think that it means that Calvinists believe everyone is a Dahmer, a Jeffery Dahmer, or some other -- or Adolf Hitler -- or some other person who is horribly depraved. That’s not what the term means. What it means is that men are corrupt throughout -- that they love darkness rather than light. Their nature is essentially evil and apart from God’s grace -- and this is very important -- apart from God’s grace they can’t do anything right. So, they need favor from God in order to do what’s right. And, in the case of Pharaoh, with respect to this particular command, He withdrew His favor from Pharaoh and Pharaoh -- he didn’t even obey common sense.
Now, Pharaoh’s heart hardening was prophesied in advanced of the fact. There’s two passages where it was prophesied. First was 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 promised that He would do this -- and He would do it. There’s no possibility that it would be otherwise than what God said. And, again, in Exodus 7, God says, “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.” So, it was not possible that any other outcome would come out, but that God would harden and would multiply wonders and so forth. And it’s not just one sign, but signs and wonders and that He will lay His hand upon Egypt and bring forth His armies and His children, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments, plural.
Now, there were twelve hardenings of Pharaoh‘s heart. The first one, in Exodus 7:13-14, says, “And he hardened Pharaoh's heart,” in the King James Version, which suggests that it’s God who was doing the hardening. And the reason we think that is not because of the Hebrew grammar, but because it says at the end of the verse… well in the middle of the verse, but after the first sentence it says -- at the end of the first sentence it says, “as the LORD had said.” And, remember, what the Lord had said was that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. So, the grammar of the verse may say in a passive voice, but, nevertheless, we understand the sense. And we see that again, in the second hardening, in Exodus 7:22-23. It’s “as the Lord had said.” And the third hardening, in Exodus 8:15, it’s “as the Lord had said.” In the fourth hardening, in Exodus 8:18-19, it’s “as the Lord had said.” And it doesn’t say “as the Lord had said” each and every time, but again and again, twelve times, he wasn’t hardened just once. He wasn’t hardened just before Exodus 5 or before Exodus 8 or before Exodus 10. He was hardened over and over again, as the judgments crashed down on Egypt; and any person with common sense would say, ‘Just let the people go’. His own magicians, his own sorcerers, they told him "this is from God, -- this is the finger of God," they told him -- but he would not listen to them. He hardened his heart and rebelled against God. And the reason he did so was so God could destroy him. That was the purpose that God raised him up. It’s not just that God foresaw it and said, ‘Well, I’ll make do with what I’ve got. It’s too bad there’s this rebel here’. No, He raised him up for the purpose of destroying him. And I know that’s a sobering thought to those that have a view of God and imagine that God is some kind of heavenly Santa Claus, who wants to make everyone happy and who has only positive things to say about anyone. But that’s not the picture that God gives of Himself in Scripture and we need to be faithful to Scripture, even when our traditions are sacrificed as a result. And that will conclude my opening speech. I understand we’ll proceed next to the rebuttals.
Lou: Okay, I guess it’s time for my ten minute rebuttal. I don’t know if I’m going to be needing ten minutes, but I’ll try to use most of it anyway.
What does it mean to harden a person’s heart? How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Well, let me go to Daniel, Chapter 5, when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was hardened. It had directly to do with pride. If you take a look at Daniel, Chapter 5, verse 18, this is what it says, “O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:” Verse 20 says, “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:” So, notice that the hardening of a heart is directly to do with pride. And we could take this example in Daniel, Chapter 5, verses 18-20, and apply it to Pharaoh. Now what happened with Pharaoh? Well, in Exodus, Chapter 7, once again, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Now, we need to remember, what kind of person was Pharaoh? Well, Pharaoh was the king of a world empire; the most powerful man in the world. They built pyramids. Egypt built pyramids for its kings. That’s pretty prideful, isn’t it? So, Pharaoh was already a very prideful man -- the leader of a world empire -- the most powerful man in the world. Okay? So, what happens in Exodus Chapter 7, verse 10? I’ll read it for you, this is what it says, “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.“ Now, if Pharaoh was just a regular guy, it would have gotten his attention. I mean, if that happened to me, it would have gotten my attention. ‘My goodness, this guy has got some kind of black magic on his side’. If I was a pagan Pharaoh, I would have said, ‘Oh, really, Moses and Aaron have some kind of black magic on their side, well I have some black magic on my side too’. Verse 11, “Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.” Now, Pharaoh had these high priced magicians, these high salaried magicians, that threw their rod down, to confront the rod that Aaron put on the ground. Okay. What happened? Verse 12, “For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.” Now, Pharaoh just got beaten up bad. Pharaoh’s pride rose to such an extent, because these two Israelites walked in and cleaned his clock. Okay. So, what did Pharaoh do? He hardened his own heart. When God told Moses, in Exodus 4:21, that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, how did he harden Pharaoh’s heart? He challenged the king’s authority. He beat Pharaoh up with the rod and Pharaoh’s pride rose to such an extent that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. That’s how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart -- by showing Pharaoh His power, where Pharaoh would not be able to respond to it, where Pharaoh would have no defense to God’s power, so Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Now, my worthy opponent said, ‘Well, God wanted to destroy Pharaoh’. Oh, really? Oh, really? Well, let’s go to Exodus, Chapter 8 and find out what happened here. God says to Pharaoh, “And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:” What happens? Well, here comes the frogs, “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.” So, Pharaoh is asking Moses for mercy. He said, ‘entreat for me’. So, what happens? In verse 12, “And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.” What did God do? “And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.” God didn’t want to destroy Egypt. God wasn’t set out to destroy Pharaoh. In fact, later on in Exodus, Chapter 8, Pharaoh pleads again for mercy! And, when he does, he says, ‘I’ll let the people go’. He asks Moses, ’entreat for me’. The same thing happens again later on in Exodus, Chapter 8. What happens? Moses entreats the Lord for Pharaoh and the plagues stop. God wasn’t out to destroy Egypt. He knew He would have to, but it wasn’t God’s intention to destroy Egypt. You know what God’s primary intention was? To get Pharaoh to agree to let the people go. Now, He knew Pharaoh wasn’t going to, but He was always showing Pharaoh His mercy. God is not unmerciful. God is not unloving. We serve a God who’s willing to show mercy. He even showed it to Pharaoh. Now, let’s go back to Exodus, Chapter 4, verse 21. My worthy opponent repeated this verse before. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the people go. Let’s all use a little common sense. Doesn’t that mean that if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, according to Calvinism, that Pharaoh could have let the people go? I mean, I’m just a regular person. I read the Bible like any of you out there listening to this debate. When I read this verse I say to myself, ‘Gee, if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh could have let the people go’. That means it was within Pharaoh’s nature to release the Israelites. Pharaoh had free will. It was within Pharaoh’s nature to release the Israelites. And, this isn’t my position, this is Calvinism’s position, God had to go and harden Pharaoh’s heart to make sure that he wouldn’t release the children of Israel. But that’s not a Biblical position, because, even after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God asks Pharaoh, well God mention/says in Exodus 8:2, “And if thou refuse[…]” Well, let me ask you a question. When you see the word "refuse" being used here, doesn’t that mean Pharaoh could have let the people go? Or was God mocking Pharaoh? I don’t think God was mocking Pharaoh. I don’t think we have a mocking God here. I think God is making a legitimate command to Pharaoh. He’s telling Pharaoh don’t refuse to let the people go. Because the word "refuse" is used here, Pharaoh still had, within his very nature, the ability to release the children of Israel. And, in fact, even after all this hardening too place, in Exodus 10, verse 3, once again, the Lord God of the Hebrews said to Pharaoh, “[…]How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?[…]” -- once again proving that, even after all of this hardening took place, Pharaoh still had within his very nature the ability to release the children of Israel. He had free will before God hardened his heart and he had free will after God hardened his heart. God chose to leave the decision of Egypt’s fate up to Pharaoh. That’s the God of the Bible, but it’s not the God of Calvinism. Who, according to my worthy opponent, likes to harden somebody’s heart. He says, well, he doesn’t know how God did it -- it’s kind of like a mystery. Well, I don’t think it’s a mystery at all. I think Exodus, Chapter 7, tells us that the reason -- how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was, He wiped the floors with Pharaoh, when Moses' rod ate up all the magician’s rods. And the most powerful man in the world was left a beaten man. He was prideful to begin with, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to let the children of Israel go. He had an internal conflict within himself. Egypt was going to be destroyed; he couldn’t do anything about it; he had to let the people go, but he didn’t want to submit to God -- he didn’t want to admit to himself that there was somebody out there greater him that he would have to submit to. He was a prideful man dealing with an internal conflict within himself. He couldn’t humble himself before the Lord God of the universe. And all these pagan gods that he was praying to were left helpless before the only true God of the Bible. He prayed to them, nothing happened. The plagues continued, he was powerless and a prideful man, who was the leader of a world empire -- doesn‘t like being left powerless. That’s why he refused to let the people go. That’s how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He didn’t divinely zap it with crazy glue. He didn’t divinely zap it so Pharaoh couldn’t. Pharaoh could have, because the word refused is used here in Exodus 8:2 and in Exodus, Chapter 10, verse 3. My time is up. TurretinFan, I guess it’s time for your rebuttal. You’re up.
TurretinFan: Thanks again for that rebuttal and thanks kalmotzah for helping us out with the moderation and keeping the time. Hopefully I’ll stay on track with this ten-minute rebuttal. I’m going to go through what Lou Rugg has said and try to, basically, hit on those main points. First of all, he said there’s three reasons why this is important. The first is that Pharaoh had free will before and after the hardening. The second is that Pharaoh was not utterly depraved. The third was that Pharaoh was not a preordained vessel of wrath -- he was just foreseen to be stubborn. We’ll take these apart -- piece by piece, I think, throughout this debate, but let me briefly address them real quickly.
This first one about Pharaoh having free will before and after the hardening. It depends what you mean by free will. Now, usually, when in these sort of Calvinism and non-Calvinism debates, when people talk about free will, they mean a libertarian free will -- a free will that’s not subject to God’s predetermination, that’s not under the providence of God. That’s certainly not the kind of will that Pharaoh had. He had a will that was bound by his nature; he couldn’t do something that’s contrary to his nature. He had a will that was bound by God’s providence as well -- he wasn’t going to do something other than what God had ordained and what God had already told to Moses in Exodus 4 and Exodus 7. Second… the second point… So, you know, free will, well, you know, it depends what you mean by it. But if you mean what most people mean by it: No. If you mean what Calvinists mean by it: Yes, he had that kind of will. Just the ordinary, Jonathan Edward’s type of free will.
Now, the second point is Pharaoh was not utterly depraved. Well, no one said he was utterly depraved. That’s not the Calvinist position. The Calvinist position is that Pharaoh was totally depraved -- not utterly depraved; those are two different things.
The third point is that Pharaoh was not a preordained vessel of wrath. Well, I’d respectfully disagree. That’s exactly what Pharaoh was. He was preordained for this purpose, so that God would be able to show His judgment on Pharaoh and bring out His people by a mighty hand. And we even saw this in the earlier prophecy about the 430 years. But, regardless, let’s go on and look at it.
So that was first verse that Lou had brought up -- was the prophecy about the 430 years -- then the prophecy about Pharaoh refusing to let the people go in Exodus 3:20 -- then the next prophecy, in Exodus 4:21, about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. And then Lou had pointed out there was a first encounter, in Exodus 5, where Moses threw down his rod and it seems as though Lou Rugg has the view that that’s where Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. But I don’t see that in Scripture. I don’t see anything that he has brought to us from Scripture, saying that’s where Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. And, in fact, if I remember his argument right, he says that later on it couldn’t have been hardened there, although Pharaoh didn’t let the people go, because of the verb tensing in Exodus 7:3, because it says there that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Now, that’s not quite right, because He hardened his heart twelve times. There were twelve times Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, let’s say -- if you want to dispute which ones were God’s and which ones are Pharaoh’s -- if you’re going to say we should divvy them up, in stead of attributing them all to God -- but, in any event, there were twelve hardenings, so just because He says He will harden, doesn’t mean He hasn’t already hardened. And Pharaoh’s heart can get hardened, it can get softened, it can get hardened again, it can get softened again. Each time there’s a judgment it seems like Pharaoh starts to relent a little bit; not every time, but many times -- and we saw one example with the frogs. At least it seems to the outward appearance that he repents, but then, you know, when the demand is placed to him, ‘let the people go’, he hardens his heart and receives another judgment.
Moving on to the next verse, well, the next point that Lou raises, is that he says that Pharaoh is said to refuse in Exodus 8 and Exodus 10, or that he will refuse in Exodus 8 and Exodus 10, and Lou says that if you use that word "refuse," that means he could have not refused. But this doesn’t make any sense. I mean, just because someone will refuse, doesn’t mean that they could not refuse. It just means they can refuse. They can refuse and they do refuse and they will refuse. The idea that some alternate reality, where they don’t refuse, has to also be possible, is out of the question. In fact, because there’s a prophecy there, there’s no possibility, there’s no other world in which God has prophesied that Pharaoh will refuse and Pharaoh nevertheless doesn’t refuse. It’s impossible for that world to exist and Pharaoh can’t bring that into existence. It’s impossible -- there’s just no way. So, that’s the case with those "refuse" [examples]. And he says as well, with respect to Pharaoh, that if God had to harden his heart, so that he would refuse, then it means that Pharaoh was not totally depraved. And that’s a little bit strange, because it seems that he thinks that if Pharaoh would sin, in letting the people go -- and letting the people go can still be a sin, if it’s done from the wrong motivation. And when you do something that seems to conform to God’s Law, but you do it for selfish reasons, -- when you have the wrong heart attitude and you’re doing the right thing -- you can do whatever seemingly good thing it is and it can still be sin to you. Pharaoh can let the people go simply because he loves himself so much, that he doesn’t want to receive any more judgments; and that’s not a morally upright thing to do -- that‘s still sin. And when Pharaoh eventually let the people go, it was still sin. He was still not doing it out of the right heart attitude. And whatsoever is not of faith is sin; that’s what Scripture says. And Pharaoh didn’t have faith in God; he never did: he didn’t have it at the beginning, he didn’t have it later.
In his rebuttal, and I know I only have about 3 minutes left, but in the rebuttal Lou mentions the idea that Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was hardened by pride. But, if you look at the verse, it says, that it was hardened in pride. And I think the point there is that we should see from that is that this is man’s natural state, to be proud. Pride is one of the primary sins. It’s easy to make almost any rebellion against God, out to be pride. Even the humblest slave, that’s ever lived has some degree of pride in their nature, because of the Fall, because of original sin that came down to us from Adam’s sin. We all have pride. Now Pharaoh wasn’t exempt from that, certainly, but it wasn’t that pride is the only element of hardening. And we can see that as well. I mean, there’s nothing particularly telling us that pride is the reason why Nebuchadnezzar was hardened. But, even if it was saying that, about Nebuchadnezzar, certainly there’s nothing that says that that’s the reason why Pharaoh was hardened. There’s no reason to simply apply that from Nebuchadnezzar to Pharaoh. In fact, he states that Pharaoh was already very prideful and he mentions the pyramids, -- although I don’t think this particular Pharaoh is the one who built the pyramids, but we’ll leave that aside; if he show us that it was, then, you know, I’ll accept that. He mentions this example of the sorcerers and I recognize that it does seem a little bit strange to us that Pharaoh wouldn’t relent after, you know, Moses shows up and does something we might view as amazing miracles, but, you know, the sorcerers of Egypt did something fairly similar. And it’s actually, you can explain from common sense, that he just viewed this guy as another sorcerer, like his sorcerers; that doesn’t take a, you know, some kind of extreme pride on the part of Pharaoh, by itself.
He questions whether or not God wanted to destroy Pharaoh. And we can get into this some more, but when you get to the twelfth hardening of Pharaoh, the final hardening of Pharaoh, it’s pretty clear that that’s exactly what God is up to. God tells Moses in Exodus 14:15-18, He tells them to go to this peninsula, where he is trapped by the sea on three sides and Pharaoh’s got this opening and He says He will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, so that they’ll follow the people and so that they won’t let the people go. And then He leads them into the Red Sea and destroys them all in the Red Sea. And it’s not the case they just wanted to let the people go and He didn’t have some alternative, except to destroy the Egyptians, in order to get that done. Nothing is too hard for the Lord, remember that. Even the heart of the Pharaoh isn’t too hard. But, presumably we’ll explore this a little bit more in the cross examination section. We’ll see that Pharaoh couldn’t have let the people go, because that wasn’t what God’s plan was and because God took the means necessary to ensure the ends. And we’ll see that this idea of God divinely zapping him with crazy glue is just a misrepresentation of the Calvinist position. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying God withdrew common sense from him.
And I’m now ready for cross examination.
Lou: Okay, I’ll begin my twenty minute cross examination of TurretinFan, with this question: In Exodus, Chapter 5, verses 1-2, which records the first meeting between Aaron, Moses, and Pharaoh, was Pharaoh’s heart hardened by God yet? Yes or no.
TurretinFan: We’re not told that his heart was hardened at that point.
Lou: Well, no, that’s not the question. The question is: Does the Bible tell us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart at this moment? I know you said we’re not told. But does the Bible say that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God up to this point? Does the Bible tell us?
TurretinFan: Alright. When I said we’re not told, I meant we’re not told in the Bible. I believe in Sola Scriptura and that’s going to be my rule of faith in this debate as it is in all of my theology. So, yes, that’s what I meant when I said we’re not told. It’s that Bible doesn’t tell us whether God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart at this point -- or whether He hadn’t hardened it at this point.
Lou: Okay. So, according to your belief, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the first time in Exodus, Chapter 7, correct? Can we agree on that? Yes or no.
TurretinFan: No. What I said is not that. What I said is that we’re not told whether or not it was hardened in Exodus 5. But the first time we’re told that its hardened -- and we’re not told this is the first time God hardened it -- but the first time we’re told is Exodus 7:13-14.
Lou: Well, TurretinFan, that’s not what it says in your blog. You have a blog [http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/10/hardened-hearts-brief-biblical-survey.html] that you put out on Monday. First hardening, Exodus Chapter 7, verses 13-14. It says here, after you quote Exodus 7: 13 and 14, “Notice that, again, the hardening is connected with Pharaoh not hearkening and, as well, with Pharaoh refusing to let the people go.” Exodus 7:13 and 14, you have this down on your blog as the “First Hardening,” correct?
TurretinFan: Yes, that’s correct, I have it as the “First Hardening” of the twelve hardenings, which are identified in Scripture. Not that it’s the first time that Pharaoh was ever in his life hardened. I certainly don’t say that on the blog and I didn’t mean that when I wrote the blog. I meant it’s the first of the twelve.
Lou: Okay, so when God told Moses, in Exodus 4:21, that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he shall not let the people go, doesn’t this mean that if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh could have let the people go? Yes or no.
TurretinFan: Of course, it depends what you mean by “could have,” in the sense that God had already determined this is what’s going to happen. So, it couldn’t have been otherwise than what God had determined. But, yes, He is saying that the means by which it will be the case, that Pharaoh will not let the people, is through this hardening; that will be the means to the end.
Lou: Okay, so let me rephrase the question then. Was it within Pharaoh’s nature to let the people go, if God didn’t harden his heart? Did Pharaoh have it within his nature, his spiritual condition, allow him, enable him, to let the people go, if God didn’t harden his heart? Yes… You’re up.
TurretinFan: Well, that gets us back to what I had laid out in my opening speech. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is best seen as God not giving Pharaoh this gift of common sense. So, in other words, it’s not… This gift of common sense is not something within Pharaoh’s nature, but if God doesn’t give it to him, He hardens him in that way. Then Pharaoh will not let the people go. So, it’s not within his nature and, yet, the instrument is God not giving him common sense.
Lou: Well, you’re not answering my… you’re not answering a question in a yes or no manner. My question is: Before God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, did Pharaoh have it within his nature to let the people go? Yes or no. It’s a simple yes or no question. You’re up.
TurretinFan: I’m sorry that my answer was confusing. What I said is that it is not within Pharaoh’s nature, because the only thing that would have caused him to let the people is common sense, which is a gift from God, not part of his nature.
Lou: Can you show me anywhere in the Bible where the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart has to do with God removing common sense? Anywhere, anywhere at all in the Bible that says that?
TurretinFan: Well, I showed you from the dramatic signs and wonders that were done and the fact that even the sorcerers of Pharaoh told him that this is the hand of God. And I can show you that from an abundance of evidence, but, as I said, in my opening speech, God doesn’t come out and say this is what hardened Pharaoh’s heart. And, so, we have to draw inferences and that’s the -- from what I’ve seen -- the best inference to draw, because if we start to draw a different inference, you’re going to start saying that God positively placed something on to Pharaoh -- that seems to be the only alternative and that doesn’t seem to be an acceptable alternative -- anymore than a dark bulb is the way that people are put in darkness.
Lou: Okay, I’m going to jump ahead a little bit and then I might go back to Exodus 5 again. The word "refuse" is used here in Exodus 8:2 and Exodus 10:3. During your rebuttal, you said that just because the word "refuse" is used here that doesn’t mean Pharaoh could have. Are you holding to that theory -- that even though God used the word "refuse," that Pharaoh was still unable to let the people go? Go ahead.
TurretinFan: Yes, assuming that when you say "could" -- and, of course, the meaning of words is very important -- [but] if you’re saying "could," that it could have been otherwise. In other words, there could be some possible world, where God had prophesied that he is going to refuse and yet he nevertheless doesn’t refuse. Yeah, that’s impossible. There couldn’t be any world like that. So, the only thing he was going to do is what he did, which is to refuse.
Lou: Yeah, let’s think about the definition of the word "refuse" here for a moment. Let me ask you a question. If I tied your hands behind your back and told you to touch your nose with your finger and you couldn’t do it, because I tied your hands behind your back, would it be right for me to say that you refused to do it? Yes or no.
TurretinFan: No it would not be, because in that situation… Well, of course, if I nevertheless refused to do it. For example, if I didn’t know my hands were tied behind my back and I’m just a stubborn person and I say ‘No, I’m not doing it’. But, you know, obviously, if I’m trying to do it and I’m not successful, then I would be said to be refusing. Of course, here, you know, Pharaoh is not trying to do anything and being blocked by God from doing something he wants to do.
Lou: Well, let’s talk about “being blocked by God.” Lemme give you another example. If you were being delivered a package, in the mail, that you had to sign for and you know who sent you the package and you didn’t like the person that was sending you the package and you declined signing for the package, would it be right to say that you refused to sign for the package? Would that be the proper use of the word "refuse" there, because you knew who was sending you the package, but you refused to? You’re up.
TurretinFan: Yes, that would be a proper use of the term.
Lou: Okay. Well, since you couldn’t… since you’re saying that Pharaoh wasn’t able to let the people go and God uses the word "refuse" here in Exodus 10:3, why can’t you apply the same definition of the word "refuse" to the two analogies I gave you? If a person can’t touch there nose, when there hands are tied behind their back, it would be incorrect to say they refused to, right? But, if the same person, was unable to let the people go, why is God telling Pharaoh ‘How come you refuse to humble yourself’ if Pharaoh was completely unable to humble himself? Isn’t God using the wrong word here? Can you explain why God is using the word refuse in Exodus 10:3, if Pharaoh was unable?
TurretinFan: Yes and I’m glad you asked, because the distinction is an important one. The distinction is that in the example of the hands tied behind your back, you see someone is being forced against their will to do something. And that’s an important distinction between maybe… between what the Calvinist view of man is and some of the misrepresentations that are out there. Some people think that Calvinists say that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened so that Pharaoh couldn’t do what Pharaoh wanted to do. But, of course, that’s not it. The point is that Pharaoh was left to the depravity of his heart. He wasn’t given some favor from God, so that he would choose what’s right. Instead, he is left to himself and, when left to himself, he refused. There wasn’t any possibility of things going differently than what God had planned. There wasn’t any ability of man to do otherwise than what God had planned and, yet, his will lined up perfectly with what he did. That’s why it’s appropriate to say "he refused" in that situation, but it would be inappropriate to say it in the situation where someone’s hands are tied behind their back.
Lou: Well, I’ll go back to the word "refuse" in a little bit. Jeremiah 17 verse 9. Calvinists love using this verse. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Would you agree that this also applies to Pharaoh before God hardened his heart? Yes or no. I’m sure you would say yes, but just for the record. You’re up.
TurretinFan: Yes, I do.
Lou: Okay, so God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus Chapter 7, right? Uh, we don’t know that. And then Pharaoh hardened his own heart in Exodus Chapter 8, twice. Let me ask you a question. How hard can a heart get? When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, how hard was Pharaoh’s heart before God hardened it? Okay, here’s my question: Was Pharaoh’s heart completely and totally hard before God hardened it or was it only partially hard, before God hardened it? You’re up.
TurretinFan: Well, it’s interesting, you read me a verse that says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” And then ask how hard a man’s heart is, or how hard it can be. You know, the depths of depravity are so, so horrible that, if you’ll remember in Ezekiel at one, -- excuse me, if you’ll, I hope, I got cut off there for some reason -- but you’ll recognize that at one point in Ezekiel, God Himself says that the depravity of Israel was so bad that it was something that hadn’t entered into His heart. And that’s how He expresses it -- it’s not that God can’t see the future or doesn’t know how bad man is. But the answer, with respect to Pharaoh, is that what Calvinism teaches is not that man is utterly depraved, that his heart is ultimately hard as it can get. It can get worse than it is. And it’s only the restraint of God that prevents it from being worse than it is. And one of the ways that He restrains it is commons sense -- as I pointed out before. And the way that it got harder is, and it seems a reasonable inference, is that God withdrew common sense from Pharaoh. He was still a wicked man throughout, totally depraved, and you not as bad as he could be; that’s the important distinction.
Lou: Yeah and, once again, where’s that verse where it says God withdrew common sense from Pharaoh? Are you assuming? Can you give me a verse on that between Exodus Chapters 4 and 10? Or are you assuming? You’re up.
TurretinFan: Those aren’t the only two options either -- a verse that explicitly says something or assuming, as you know. And if it were the standard, then, of course, I’d expect you to use the same standard for your own presentation. But, in fact, what we do is we draw inferences from Scripture and the inference -- the analogy of light and darkness seems like an appropriate one. And as such, the withdrawal of some good is a better way of expressing the issue of hardening, than an imposition of something bad.
Lou: Okay. Exodus 7:14. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus Chapter 7 verse 14. And then, in Exodus Chapter 8:32, Pharaoh hardened his heart. Lemme ask you a question: Once again, didn’t God do a good enough job the first time when Pharaoh had to harden his heart again in Exodus Chapter 8? Once again, how hard can a person’s hart get?
TurretinFan: Well, it can get at least twelve hardenings hard, because that’s how many times we’re told that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. We’re told it twelve times -- it doesn’t mean that was the entire number of times that his heart was hardened. But it can be also softened and it looks as though, in each case, the judgment that God brought softened Pharaoh’s heart and then God hardened it again and hardened it again and hardened it again. So, I don’t know if there’s any particular limit to how hardened it can get.
Lou: Okay. Lemme me ask you this as a straight forward question: Why did God tell Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, in Exodus 4:21?
TurretinFan: Well, it looks as though the reason is that He wants -- twofold -- 1.) He wants to prepare Moses and 2.) He wants to prove to Moses that He’s God.
Lou: Well, doesn’t Exodus 4:21 tell us that the reason why God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart was so Pharaoh couldn’t let the people go? It’s right there in the verse. Right there. The last part of that verse. Isn’t that the reason why God tells that to Moses?
TurretinFan: I misunderstood your question. I thought you were asking ‘why did He tell him?‘, not ‘why was he going to harden him?’. Yet, the reason why He told him was the reasons I gave. The reason why He was doing it was so that Pharaoh would not let the people go.
Lou: And you still refuse to accept the fact that if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh could have let the people go?
TurretinFan: Well, there’s… your expressing it as “refuse to accept the fact” seems to kind of prejudice the issue a little bit. Seems pretty clear that it’s absolutely impossible, given Exodus 4:21, that anything else could have happened expect what’s right there in Exodus 4:21, because God’s prophecy can’t fail.
Lou: Yeah, so if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, if God never hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh was left outside of God’s will -- imposing God’s will on Pharaoh -- you’re saying that Pharaoh still wouldn’t have let the people go? Yes or no. Are you saying that if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh still would not have let the people go? Yes or no.
TurretinFan: Well, you phrase the question as ‘is that what I’m saying?’. The answer’s no. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that Pharaoh is going to be under God’s will no matter what. There’s no way that Pharaoh’s outside of God’s will. And, yes, at the same time, the means by which Pharaoh is under the wrath of God, under the judgment of God, is by having his heart hardened so that he doesn’t let the people go. The judgment is the punishment for not letting them go and the reason he doesn’t let them go is because he lacks the common sense, because God doesn’t give it to him by -- in that sense hardening him. And that’s the chain of causality, if you will.
Lou: Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart, in Exodus Chapter 7, so he would not let the people go, if Pharaoh already agreed, without God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, that he wouldn’t let the people go in Exodus Chapter 5 verse 1 and 2? Why is God going out of His way to harden Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 7, if Pharaoh already agreed, in Exodus Chapter 5, not to let the people go? Why did God do that? You’re up.
TurretinFan: He did it because, if God had just given him the normal common sense that He gives to everybody, Pharaoh would have let the people go after one or two plagues; the magicians were ready to give up about that quickly and Pharaoh would have too.
Lou: Thank you. So what you said is ‘If God gave the common sense that he gave everybody, Pharaoh could have let the people go’. Thank you. That’s all I wanted to hear. I relinquish the rest of my time. You’re up for cross-examination.
TurretinFan: Well, thank you very much. You had stated that the reas… the basis upon which Pharaoh was hardened was by God triggering his pride. Is that a correct characterization of your position?
Lou: Yes, that’s what Exodus Chapter 7 seems to tell me. Yes, that’s my position.
TurretinFan: It’s not your position that Exodus 7 actually uses the word pride, it’s an inference you draw from that, correct?
Lou: No, it’s not an inference, because in Exodus Chapter 10 verse 3, God tells Moses… God tells Pharaoh ‘Why do you refuse to humble yourself before me?’ and the opposite of humility is pride. So, clearly, Pharaoh had a pride problem, because God uses the word humble here in Exodus 10:3. So, I don’t think it’s an inference at all. God is telling Pharaoh to humble himself. Humility is the opposite of pride. Pharaoh was a prideful man and God was dealing with Pharaoh’s pride. Exodus Chapter 10 verse 3 tells me that. You’re up.
TurretinFan: And the… But, nevertheless, so the word pride isn’t there, you draw that from the fact that it’s the opposite of humble and… and, on top of that, you also draw the inference that pride is the reason why he’s being hardened and rather than saying refusing to be humble is the result of the hardening, is that correct?
Lou: I really need you to rephrase that question, because I just didn’t get that question at all. So please, with all my apologies, please would you rephrase that question.
TurretinFan: Let’s agree that to refuse to humble means a person is proud. That said, the text doesn’t say ‘That because you refuse to humble yourself’ therefore he was… he became hard. Is that correct?
Lou: No, that’s not correct. He became hard. His pride rose up when he was defeated by Aaron’s rod, in Exodus Chapter 7. His pride rose up even further than it was back in Exodus Chapter 5. That’s how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. When he challenged Pharaoh’s authority. And Pharaoh, being a prideful man, his pride rose up and even further than it was back in Exodus Chapter 5. And that’s why God says in Exodus 10:3 ‘Why did you refuse to humble thyself before me? Let my people go’, because God is telling Pharaoh ‘Hey man, get rid of that pride you have. Humble yourself before me and let my people go. Stop being prideful in refusing to release my people’. That’s basically my understanding on Exodus Chapters 4-10. Go ahead.
TurretinFan: Now, you’ll agree, I think, that it doesn’t actually say his pride ever went up. Is that correct?
Lou: I’m not saying it actually doesn’t say that. I’m saying that…uh… No it doesn’t… I don’t think it actually says it in Exodus Chapter 4-10 that his pride rose up, but I think you see an inference -- well, it’s not even an inference -- that in Exodus Chapter 7 verse 13 the process of Pharaoh’s pride, or Pharaoh hardening his heart, was the fact that it happened when Moses' rod ate the magician’s rods and then Pharaoh hardened his heart. I mean, to me, that’s a logical inference, that it was the result of challenging Pharaoh’s authority. Pharaoh was a beaten man and he hardened his heart, because of the fact that he was helpless to deal with the God of Israel and in his prideful state, his wrath became further ... He became even further enraged over the Israelites, because of it. That’s my understanding. That’s the inference I get from Exodus 7. You’re up.
TurretinFan: Okay. Well, I think that you’re last words there were the… I was just going to follow that up with a question specifically asking you on that topic again, but I think we’ve covered it. So, let me move on to the next question, which is: You have argued… excuse me… that… I wanted to move on to the next question, which is that you have argued that God did not want to destroy Pharaoh. Is that correct?
Lou: It was not God’s intention to destroy Pharaoh, even though He knew He had to. He knew that it would have to lead to it, but God wasn’t intent and Hell-bent on destroying Pharaoh, but He knew -- or on destroying Egypt -- but He knew, down the road, that it was going to be necessary in order to get the… get the… get His Is… get the Israelites to be released.
TurretinFan: So, if I can… Is it fair to say that He just wanted it incidentally to releasing the Israelites? As long as He could get the Israelites somehow out -- it was just an incident that if He had to destroy Egypt, He had to do that, but he didn‘t specifically want to destroy Egypt, is that your position?
Lou: Well, I think Exodus Chapter 8 tells us that. Every time… Every time Pharaoh agreed to release the Israelites -- twice in Exodus Chapter 8 -- and Moses entreated for Pharaoh, the plagues stopped. So, I think that shows that God was willing to work with Pharaoh, as long as Pharaoh was willing to release the Israelites -- the plagues stopped. But whenever Pharaoh hardened his own heart the plagues continued. So let’s… I get that inference… I get that clearly from Exodus Chapter 8.
TurretinFan: Now, I know that you belie… you know that God knows all things. And surely you don’t… you agree that He knows the heart of Pharaoh. Would you take the position that God had no other way of getting the people out of Israel, except to provoke the pride of the Pharaoh? In other words… Let me rephrase the question… Isn’t there some other way God could have got the people out of Israel, without angering Pharaoh? Maybe just putting Pharaoh in a coma for a week?
Lou: Absolutely. God could have let Israel go any way He wanted to, but He wanted it to be Pharaoh’s decision to release the Israelites. God wasn’t going to impose His will on Pharaoh. God doesn’t impose His will on anyone -- Pharaoh included. God left it up to Pharaoh to let the people go. He did not impose His will on Pharaoh.
TurretinFan: I think that’s an interesting claim that you’ve made. Let’s explore it. You say He wouldn’t impose His will on Pharaoh, now suppose I tell you ‘I want you to do this x, y, and z, and if you don’t, I am going to… throw rocks through your windows, I’m going to burn your front lawn, I’m going to smash your car, I’m going to… etc. etc. … kill your firstborn child, if you don’t do it’. Now would you say that that is imposing your will on somebody or not imposing your will on somebody?
Lou: I would say that that’s not imposing your will on somebody. Because you clearly don’t have to. God’s not going into Pharaoh’s mind and making Pharaoh do something that’s outside of Pharaoh’s nature to do. It was Pharaoh’s nature to release the children of Israel and it was within Pharaoh’s nature not to release the children of Israel. God didn’t go in and effect (affect?) Pharaoh’s decision one way or the other. Threats? If you were to say you’re threatening me, you're still not affecting me, I could still tell you ‘No‘. Okay, but what I’m saying is God is not imposing His will on Pharaoh, making Pharaoh do one thing or another. God is leaving it all up to Pharaoh whether to release the Israelites or not.
TurretinFan: Well the… my… my comment about the… I had proposed a coma as another alternative. That one doesn’t involve Pharaoh’s will at all. He’s just, he’s out like a light. Nobody’s imposing anything on his will -- in the sense of forcing his will to do something that he doesn’t want to do -- changing his will or anything like that. How is that imposing on his will, if God just knocks him out for a week -- makes him fall asleep, so he doesn’t wake up, he doesn’t see the Israelites leaving, and they’re gone?
Lou: Yeah, I guess a coma woulda worked, but I guess God either didn’t think of a coma or God was thinking that He wanted to leave it up to Pharaoh to let the people go. And a coma wouldn’t have left it up to Pharaoh to let the people go, because God would have made Pharaoh comatose and God didn’t want to do that; God wanted to leave it up to Pharaoh. And, oh, by the way, the reason why God raised Pharaoh up is given right in Romans 9:15-18. That His power would be made known to the world. So, God raised up Pharaoh, even though He knew Pharaoh would be the way he was, so His power would be made known to the world. Pharaoh and Egypt were being used as an example to the rest of the world, that if you come against the Israelites you come against the God of Israel and if you come against the God of Israel and the Israelites, the rest of the world will bear the same punishment that Egypt got back 4,000 years ago. So that’s what Romans 9:15-18 teaches. A coma wouldn’t have done it. Because, you know what I’m sayin… A coma wouldn’t have done it, because God was using Pharaoh’s rebellion as an example. You know, putting a guy in a coma isn’t showing a person’s rebellion. Pharaoh was willfully rebellious against God. And when the rest of the world becomes willfully rebellious against God, they’re gonna bear the same punishment that Egypt got. That’s the lesson being taught in Romans Chapter 9. Go ahead.
TurretinFan: Well, that’s interesting, because a minute ago, I thought you had suggested that it was really incidental to the objective of getting them out and that was really the driving force. But now it seems like you’re agreeing with me that, actually, God wanted to destroy Egypt and the purpose in doing so is to demonstrate God’s power to the world, to the nations. Do you agree with me now, that that is the reason that God did this?
Lou: No. God knew He had to, ‘cause God has foreknowledge and God is omniscient. He knew He had to destroy Egypt, -- He didn’t want to -- but he knew that that was… it was going to take the destruction of Egypt to let the people go. And even though God knew that all this would need to take place, God raised Pharaoh up anyway. No, God didn’t want to destroy Egypt. Once again, if you read Exodus Chapter 8, whenever Pharaoh agreed to release the Israelites, the plagues stopped. That proves that God didn’t want to destroy Egypt. He was willing to work with Pharaoh. He knew Pharaoh would continue to harden his heart and it would lead to the ultimate destruction of Egypt. But we’re dealing widda merciful God, who stopped the plagues once Pharaoh showed that he was willing to let the people go.
TurretinFan: Well, actually though, if you… and… I’m going to set aside the issue of whether or not it’s the case that He could have or couldn’t have put him in a coma. But, let’s just go right to your… instead of dealing with that… let’s go right to this issue about whether or not once Pharaoh let the people go, He would have destroyed him or not. Well, what about that twelfth hardening? Look at Exodus 14:15-18. It says:
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.
Doesn’t that suggest that, although Pharaoh had already let them go, He still wanted to get Himself honor on Pharaoh? And by getting Himself honor on them, He means destroy them.
Lou: When Pharaoh agreed to release the children of Israel and the Exodus began and Pharaoh saw those millions of Jews, those millions of Israelites, leaving Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart became hardened again. He knew he was a beaten man. He was pride… He was initially prideful. He agreed to let the people go, but when he saw the Israelites on their way out he told his army to go after them and kill them, because he still had a hard time swallowing his pride. He was a defeated man, beaten. Egypt was left ransacked. He let the people go in his humility, but, once again, his pride rose up when he saw the Israelites leaving with all of the gold that the Egyptians were willing to give them just to get out of Egypt. Pharaoh was a beaten man. He had his army chase them and he paid the price for it.
TurretinFan: But God’s hand wasn’t really forced, was it? Since God could have just struck the Egyptians with blindness or put up an impenetrable wall between the Egyptians and the Israelites -- like this cloud wall that He put up, so the Egyptians couldn’t get through before He allowed the Egyptians to follow them through the Red Sea. Wouldn’t you agree that God didn’t have to kill all the Egyptians -- no one forced Him to do that, He could have let them live if He wanted to?
Lou: Yeah, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. You see, that’s the whole thing. When God says He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, all He did was challenge Pharaoh’s authority and Pharaoh challenged… Pharaoh hardened his own heart. You know, God didn’t go majestically and divinely zap Pharaoh’s heart with a hardening. What He did was He challenged Pharaoh’s authority. Pharaoh as a beaten man, hardens his own heart. His pride rose up. He hardened his own heart. All God did was take action against Pharaoh, challenging Pharaoh and Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God didn’t do anything divinely in Pharaoh’s being to harden his heart. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. That’s the theme of Romans… That’s the theme of Exodus 4-15.
TurreinFan: Uh, no, maybe you didn’t hear my question. My question is not whether or not Pharaoh had to harden his own heart. My question is whether God had to destroy the Egyptians? And I’d like a -- if you can -- to give me a yes or no answer. Did God have to destroy the Egyptians here? Or could He have done something else, like blind them?
Lou: God could’ve done anything He wanted to give further punishment on Pharaoh. Anything He wanted to, to inflict further punishment on Pharaoh, due to his pride and refusal to humble himself. And that’s the way he chose to do it.
TurretinFan: And nobody forced God to do that. Correct?
Lou: Correct. Nobody forced God to do anything.
TurretinFan: So it was within God’s own free will to kill the Egyptians?
Lou: Sure. It was within God’s free will to choose to kill the Egyptians. You’re up.
TurretinFan: So it’s fair to say He wanted to kill the Egyptians?
Lou: No, He didn’t want to kill the Egyptians. If He didn’t kill the Egyptians, the Egyptians were gonna kill His people, TurretinFan. The Egyptians… God… Pharaoh told the Egyptians to go and kill the Israelites. Okay? That was Pharaoh’s decision. God didn’t place that decision in Pharaoh’s mind. Pharaoh told his army to go and destroy all the Israelites who were leaving. So, it was either the Egyptians or the Israelites. If God didn’t destroy the Egyptian army, they would’ve destroyed His people. That’s why… It wasn’t… God had no decision left but to do that and Pharaoh gave God that ultimatum when he did that.
TurretinFan: Well, I think we’ve explored that quite a bit. Let’s ask the question about this term you used a couple of times -- about ‘zap him with hardening’. Now, I’m wondering if you got that concept of zapping with hardening from something I said? Or… Where did you get that from?
Lou: Well, you said it was like kind of removing common sense and then I heard people say it was a mystery how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart -- ‘We don’t know, the Bible just doesn’t tell us’. So, that’s the way I kind of use it -- kind of divinely zappening… zapping it with a hardening, because even the Calvinists don’t know how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Though I think the Bible is clear that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart by challenging his authority -- and Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
TurretinFan: Okay, so you agree I didn’t say that God zapped him with hardness. In fact, I kind of mocked that position by calling it a dark bulb approach. Is that correct?
Lou: Yeah, you use the term that God divinely took away Pharaoh’s common sense, which, to me, doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. So, I mean, like, I’ve always took it to mean that when Calvinists say God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that God did something in Pharaoh’s being to make Pharaoh… to compel Pharaoh not to let the people go -- that God somehow divinely affected Pharaoh’s nature, where Pharaoh suddenly became a raging monster and he refused to let the people go. I mean, that’s the way the Reformers have always explained it to me -- not in those terms, but kind of in those terms.
TurretinFan: Okay. So, if you were… if that’s not… if you’re just mistaken by what the Calvinist position is, that’s significant to this debate. Correct?
Lou: No, I don’t think I’m mistaken about what the Calvinists having been saying on PalTalk at all. Calvinists have been saying that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, because Pharaoh was a vessel destined for destruction and that’s the reason why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was because God wanted to destroy Pharaoh in Egypt and He wanted to make sure that Pharaoh was not gonna let the people go. So, God was doing something in Pharaoh, where Pharaoh would not let the people go. God was doing something in Pharaoh’s brain, in Pharaoh’s mind, in Pharaoh’s will, to affect Pharaoh to make the decision not to let the people go, because God wanted to destroy Pharaoh in Egypt and Pharaoh wasn’t unconditionally elected. And that’s what they teach in Romans Chapter 9.
TurretinFan: Well, I guess I’ll get my very last question, since we have last than a minute left. You mentioned that… you seem to have mentioned, several times, that Pharaoh was hardened as a result of the Exodus 5 encounter, but would you agree that the Bible doesn’t say that he was hardened in the Exodus 5 encounter? The Bible is silent regarding any hardening at that time. Is that correct?
Lou: The Bible tells us that the first time that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God [is] in Exodus Chapter 7. The Bible does not tell us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus Chapter 5.
TurretinFan: Okay. Thanks very much. I don’t have any further questions. And I guess that means it’s time for your concluding statement.
Lou: Okay, here’s my five minutes. Closing arguments. I just want to make a number of points here. First of all, the Bible is clear here that God never imposed His will on Pharaoh, with respect to making a decision to release the Israelites from their bondage. When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus Chapter 7, all He did was challenge the king’s authority. Pharaoh, being the prideful, arrogant, ruler that he was, hardened his own heart in response. It was always Pharaoh’s decision to let the people go. God always empowered Pharaoh to make the decision whether or not to let the people go. Certainly God could have imposed His will on the king, but chose rather to leave Egypt’s fate in the hands of its king. Proof of that is found in Pharaoh… when Pharaoh decided to agree with God’s demand -- the plagues stopped. You’ll find proof of that twice in Exodus Chapter 8. But when he challenges… When he changed his mind and hardened his heart, the plagues continued. Okay. The second point I want to make is God, not being bound by time, because of His foreknowledge and omniscience, foreknew the results of all of Pharaoh’s free-will decisions -- before they were made. He knew that these decision would lead to the demise of Egypt and its king. But as Romans 9:15-18 teaches, He raised Pharaoh up anyway, so that His power would be made known to the world. Pharaoh in Egypt we use as an example to the world, that if you come against the Israelites God is gonna punish you just like He did with Egypt and Pharaoh. Proof that Pharaoh always had the ability to release the Israelites is found in Exodus 4:21. I’m gonna post it again for the room. In Exodus 4:21, God said that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the people go. Now, let… we are all reasonable people in this room. If God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, so he wouldn’t let the people go, clearly, Pharaoh could have let the people go if God didn’t harden his heart. That’s, to me, simple, common sense. Why would God tell Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the people go, if Pharaoh wasn’t going to let the people go anyway. Wouldn’t that have been a waste of God’s time? Okay. The first time that God hardened his heart was in Exodus Chapter 7 and in Exodus Chapter 8 verse 2, even after the hardening took place, God says to Pharaoh: “And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:” God uses the word "refuse" for a reason. Pharaoh, even after the hardening took place, had the ability to release the Israelites. Otherwise, God is mocking Pharaoh. Why would God use the word refuse, if Pharaoh was unable? Once again, I think common sense needs to be applied. And, in Exodus Chapter 10 verse 3, God says to Pharaoh: “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go …” Now why is God saying to Pharaoh “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?” Did God forget that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart back in Exodus Chapter 7 and Pharaoh wasn’t able? Is God mocking Pharaoh here? Or, once again, was Pharaoh perfectly capable of removing his pride and arrogance and humbling himself before his Maker? I believe that the later is true.
Now, regarding Calvinism’s Total Depravity position… What is this world coming to? Calvinists always use Jeremiah 17:9 to convince their audience that a person’s heart is entirely corrupt, but, if this was true, the question becomes: "Why does God have to go and harden Pharaoh’s heart, if the king was already born with a completely depraved heart?" Or, if it was partially depraved, as my worthy opponent says, why doesn’t my worthy opponent say ‘Since it was partially depraved… Hey, maybe Pharaoh did have the ability to let the people go, because Pharaoh’s heart was only partially depraved’? Finally, is it that difficult for Christians to believe that we serve a merciful and loving God and not a god that is Hell-bent on destroying his creation? Is it that difficult to believe that God has given man the ability to choose between right and wrong, though He already knows the results of all of our free-will choices? Why do many of us have the human tendency to place God in a box? Well, I think the answer is clear: We’re all human. We all have that tendency. And those embracing Reformed theology are the perfect example.
My time is up. TurretinFan, I guess it’s time for your five minute close and then we’ll say goodbye and close the room.
TurretinFan: Well, thanks very much Lou and, again, thanks kalmotzah for your moderation and time keeping on this - I really appreciate it. And I appreciate Lou that we’ve been able to have a civil dialogue. And I know we got some heated question in there, at times, on both sides, but this is the way we seek after the truth: by pressing the point and searching Scripture to see what the answer is. Whoever you are or whoever is listening, I hope that what you’ll do, when you judge this debate for yourselves, because that’s why you’re listening -- to decide who’s right and wrong, not just to root for your friend. If you’re my friend, I hope you’re not just here to root for me, but to find out what the Bible says. And I think Lou would feel the same way -- that he wants the truth to prevail over any friendships, regardless. The question then is: "What does Scripture say?" We’ve looked at Scripture and I’ve tried to show how Scripture provides us with an illustration of the fact that hardening and showing mercy are the two options. There’s no third option -- there’s no twilight zone -- where someone’s neither hardened, nor under mercy. And Pharaoh, if he was under mercy, would have let the people go. But, since he was hardened, he didn’t let them go. And we tried to bring that out with a lot of explanation. I’m not sure how clearly it got across, but I hope it did. If God showed mercy to Pharaoh, Pharaoh would have let them go. But God didn’t, God hardened him instead. That doesn’t mean that God made his nature worse than it was; what it means is God didn’t give Pharaoh some good thing that Pharaoh didn’t deserve. Pharaoh didn’t deserve mercy, he deserved only justice. And that’s -- unfortunately for Pharaoh -- that’s what he got. We can feel sorry for Pharaoh, perhaps, but he got what he deserved and he was a proud man -- that’s absolutely true -- he did refuse to humble himself before God -- that’s absolutely true. But I think that the only reasonable explanation is the one -- the inferences I’ve drawn are the only reasonable ones to be drawn from Scripture. Here’s… When you go back and analyze the debate, I think here’s some things you’ll see: In the presentation of my worthy opponent, he has held to several contradictory positions. One is he said, which is right, that if… that this, essentially, that if He, if God didn’t harden Pharaoh, then the only other option is that God shows mercy on Pharaoh. If God didn’t harden Pharaoh, then Pharaoh would have let them go. If God had shown mercy to Pharaoh, he would have let them go. And we got that out in cross-examination at the end of -- it was the last question that Lou asked me. And… That’s one position, but his other position is: he still could have let them go. And what’s really strange is that -- that contradiction is like ‘Well, then why did He do it, if it doesn’t actually ensure that he’s not going to let the people go?’ Why did he do it? Isn’t that the whole point of doing it -- is so that he wouldn’t let the people go? But… and then we’re told that God actually wanted the people to be let go. But then why did He provoke the pride? Why did He harden Pharaoh’s heart, if he wants to let the people go and if Pharaoh could have done that -- but for the hardening he would have done it -- then how does that make any sense? And I think we’ve explored that pretty well in the cross-examination -- about how it doesn’t make much sense to come out and say ‘God is doing this freely. He’s doing it of His own choice. He doesn’t have to do it. And, yet, for some reason He doesn’t want to do it’. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like God is being put against Himself. Lou used the analogy of not putting God in a box. But I would respectfully say it’s Lou’s explanation that puts God in a box. Basically, the only way God can get the people out of there… First, it seems like, the only way He can get [them] out is He has to destroy Egypt. And, so, God doesn’t really want to do it, but He has to -- His hand is forced. But then we explored the options and, well, He could have knocked the king… the Egyptian Pharaoh out for a week. And that’s just me being creative. God is much more creative and much more powerful than I am; He could come up with some better way. We talked about when it came time for crossing the Red Sea. God could have blocked the way so the Egyptians couldn’t get through. He could have struck them with blindness. There’s lots of things He could have done short of actually killing them. He didn’t have to do that. Nobody forced Him to do it. He wanted to do it and He wanted to do it to show His power, which is what Scripture says. And that’s the answer. That’s why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart: to show His power. It was… That’s why He raised him up. It’s not that He raised him and saw what was going to happen. God raised him up for the purpose of destroying him and God is a powerful God and this shows one side of God. You can’t have a lopsided view of God -- you have to embrace the whole of Scripture. And I hope that you'll, as you listen to this debate, you go back to Scripture to see which… what we said is whether it’s true or not -- you’ll search Scripture and use that as your guide. Thanks again for this debate and that ends my speech.
Kalmotzah: Well, that’s it for the debate on The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart. I want to thank you Lou Rugg and you TurretinFan. I enjoyed it very much here. And I’m gonna go ahead and turn the room over here now to Lou.