God's control of the human heart

How do Catholics interpret verses such as the following that stress God’s immediate and direct control over the human heart?

Exodus 4:21 - The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Exodus 14:17 - I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.

Deuteronomy 2:30 - But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.

Deuteronomy 29:4 - But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

1 Samuel 10:9 - As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.

2 Chronicles 36:22 - In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing.

Ezra 6:22 - For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

Psalm 104:24-25 - 24 The LORD made his people very fruitful; he made them too numerous for their foes, 25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to conspire against his servants.

Proverbs 21:1 - The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Isaiah 6:10 - Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Acts 16:14 - One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Romans 11:8 - As it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

Revelation 17:17 - For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled.


I am aware of the general Molinist attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, in which God places humans in the proper situations so that they all choose with their free will exactly as God wants them to (they are “triggered” by the situations to respond exactly as He wants them to). But I believe these verses, stressing God’s immediate control over the human heart, refute that notion.

How do Catholics understand passages like these?

Some here are Molinists, others are not. Molina’s idea that God elects people on the basis of their foreseen response doesn’t IMVHO do justice to the gratuitousness of grace - but, to say that people are put where God wills for them to fulfil His purpose does not erode His Sovereignty, but displays it.

IMO, there isn’t a problem at all. That God acts on our wills, does not make us unfree in our willing; the motion of our wills, is still genuinely elicited by us, even though it is essential that God maintain us in being & dynamism: if He did not,we would perish. The Joseph story in Gen.37-50 is a useful model for seeing how these issues come together & inter-act - so, even more, is the Passion of Christ.

But a proper answer would fill volumes - as you probably know, it has already :slight_smile:

Are you saying that we still act freely because we always act in accordance with our wills (whatever our wills may be)?

If so, then no offense, but how are you a Catholic? To affirm that philosophy of the will is to deny philosophical libertarianism, i.e. free will.

If not, I apparently misunderstood you, so what do you mean?

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