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Assorted and general Bible questions that really don't fit any of the other categories

Why does God harden people's hearts and blind people?

Postby Dango » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:28 am

"God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden" - Romans 9:18

"God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" - 2 Thessalonians 2:11

"He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them" - John 12:40

"Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?" - Isaiah 63:17

"Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart" - Exodus 11:10
Dango
 

Re: Why does God harden people's hearts and blind people?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:51 am

Let's start back with Pharaoh. Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God says anything about it, showing that when God "hardened Pharaoh's heart," he wasn't doing anything actively (as you have implied), but merely let Pharaoh pursue the course Pharaoh had already decided to pursue.

Pharaoh reveals a hard heart from the starting line towards the people of Israel (Ex. 1.11-22). Pharaoh also shows a hard heart towards God in Ex. 5.2. Exodus 7.13 says Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them. Exodus 7.14 says Pharaoh's heart was unyielding. Exodus 7.22 says Pharaoh's heart became hard. Exodus 8.15 says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart in 8.32. And THEN we read that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. God hasn't done anything actively like interfered with his free will, but rather has left Pharaoh to harden his own heart. By the time in 9.12 it says for the first time "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart," Pharaoh was resolved already to pursue the course he had freely chosen. God gave him over to it (as in Romans 1.18-32: when people exercise their free will in rebellion against God, he doesn't stop them but lets them do it. He doesn't interfere with their free will.) God is not forcing Pharaoh to be rebellious, Pharaoh has already decided that on his own. God isn't actively forcing Pharaoh to do anything against his will, but rather just affirming what Pharaoh has decided on his own. God "hardened" hearts that are already hard. They made their choices, God brought elements into their lives that should have turned them around but only cemented them further in their positions. It is only in that sense that God hardened hearts.

To me an example is like a parent whose teenager is making a terrible decision, and the parent fights with them for a while and threatens them, knowing that the decision is going to train wreck the situation and be hurtful of them. But eventually the parent has to back off, because of the resistance, and say, "Go ahead, but don't say I didn't warn you." The teen, with their even more hardened heart (hardened more by the parents' attempts to change them), goes and does it, the situation train wrecks, and people are hurt.

In other words, "God hardening hearts" means that he lets people pursue the course they have already decided to pursue. God yields to their free will.

Isaiah 63.17 is no different. The people have made their choices, and made wrong ones. They have turned away from God and made a mess of their lives. God has tried to help them, but they reject his help, insistent to continue on their self-chosen path of destruction. God gives them up to it. That's what it means when it says "God hardened their hearts." The whole of Isaiah is dealing with a people who have rejected God (Isa. 1.2-10). God doesn’t force people to follow him or love him. If they reject him, they will suffer hardness of heart.

2 Thes. 2.11. Here is the definite judicial act of God. He gives the wicked over to the evil they have deliberately chosen (Rom. 1.24, 26, 28; Ps. 81.12; Lk. 19.41-44). In the OT, God often punished people by giving them the very blindness they had chosen for themselves (Isa. 19.14; 29.9-10). Those who willfully reject Christian truth are punished by becoming the dupes of their own destructive delusions. If you lie long enough, you convince yourself that the lie is the truth. God will not protect the arrogant and the rebellious forever. Eventually he gives them up to the depravity of their own wills.

Romans 9.18. God knows when it is no longer possible to turn someone around. After expending every possible effort and extending mercy, He knows when the effort is fruitless and without hope, and He walks away, leaving people to their own demise.

John 12.40. When someone's heart is hard, no matter what a person does, it will be rejected. President Donald Trump is an excellent example of this. There are people who hate him so deeply, even if he happened to do something right they would find fault with it. We see in the Gospels that the hatred of Jesus was so deep and intense that even when he healed they hated him, and when he raised someone from the dead they plotted to assassinate him. Every good act he did made their hearts even more hard. Every good deed was punished with deeper hatred. Jesus was actively "hardening their hearts" with every loving word.
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