Why Does God Harden Hearts?


#1

This has always puzzled me in the past, the notion of God hardening hearts.

John 12:40
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them."

I would just like to get people’s perceptions on this.

Thanks!


#2

Perhaps, this is way of speaking, let me expound, you normally see this language when someone has witnessed the power and glory of GOD manifested either directly or through a prophet’s witness AND that person refuses to believe.

To a normal person this seems incredible, illogical even. How can someone deny so powerful evidence and yet they do so.

SO as a way of an explanation they write, well GOD hardened their heart so they would not believe.
But it could be entirely possible that the heart hardening was a long process, possibly spanning the whole life of that person. Notice also that this apply normally to people in a position of power: Egypt’s Pharaoh, Kings in the era of the Kingdom of Israel, the Pharisees of Jesus time, etc.



#3

The statement proceeds from the ancient philosophical argument that God is the direct cause of everything that happens on earth. There’s a flood in Kansas? God directly willed it. A baby dies in LA? God literally made it happen. According to that view, everything must be directly ascribed to God’s action. There’s a problem there, though. What about when people choose to act against God’s will? Doesn’t that disprove this philosophical argument? After all, if God makes all things happen, and if I’m able to do something that God doesn’t want, then doesn’t that mean that I’m more powerful than God? In this context, then, we can understand what “hardening of hearts” means. It’s a way of shoring up this ancient philosophy: it’s not that you chose to disobey God… it’s just that God hardened your heart so that you’d act that way. In other words, it’s both the case that you acted poorly and that God’s still in ultimate and direct control. Thank goodness we no longer hold to that philosophical argument, though – if we did, then God would truly be seen an angry puppet master, blessing and crushing us arbitrarily at His whim!

John is pulling from that tradition, though, by quoting Isaiah. How else might we explain why people were able to see Jesus and yet not believe? In more contemporary terms, we might say that God allowed people to turn away from him; that is, we might say that God allows people to harden their hearts against Him.


#4

My Bible commentary says too, that St. John the Evangelist has **‘taken over Isiain texts’, **using them to ‘explain the disbelief of Israel’, recalling how both Isaiah and Abraham saw His glory and were able to prophecy about Him; in addition though, the Commentary goes on to explain that St. John the Evangelist purposefully 'modifies this picture of universal rejection’. The commentary explains that St.John concludes by writing that ‘more persons would be willing to admit to believing in Him if the synagogue ban and concern for “human glory” did not prevent them from confessing their faith.’ (‘The New Jerome Biblical Commentary’, p.972).


#5

“Hardness of heart” is an expression of the pre-condition that a person is already in. They are in that state…with a closed mind and an uncompromising attitude.

God of course can give them thoughts leaning them to that state while subduing the opposite thoughts. As a matter of fact, we too can do that to another person by telling them some information while leaving out other information. The devil too is apt to do this very thing to lead us into sin, while our angel can prompt us to other good thoughts as well. This is the power any spirit has toward another spirit…to persuade and to lead by presentation of this or that idea.

“Hardness of Heart” is connected to pride in that the mind refuses to listen to any other idea and has no chance of softening. So my understanding is that when God heardens a persons’s heart, it simply means he does not send that person the aid to change his mind. Since the person has gotten himself in this condition in the first place without counsel from God, then there is no obligation on God’s part to change him, and in fact he would refuse help, and God would certainly would not force them to accept it.

This is what Jesus accused the Pharasees of doing, being hard. And He said that harlots and tax collectors had a better chance at heaven than they. They refused him time after time.

On the other hand “hardness of heart” can be quite good if it means that a person is stubborn in his love of God and will not forego it for any reason…Mary Magdelane. This too is a kind of hardness that forms in loving God with one’s whole heart, mind, and soul, over time. This happens when one uses God’s graces, and the other “hardness” happens when one throws away graces.

May God’s light shine thru you.


#6

Rather than understanding it as God forcing hardness on a person against that person’s will, I also think it best to understand the phrase as an idiom of God’s recognition of a person having hardened his own heart. For example, some passages in Exodus say God hardened Pharoah’s heart. Other passages say Pharoah hardened his own heart. For instance:*Ex. 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them

Ex. 8:32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

Ex. 9:12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them; as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

Ex. 9:34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

Ex. 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; **for I have hardened his heart *and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them.The idea is the same, worded 2 different ways, and a little confusing to 21st century ears.


#7

This has always puzzled me too, especially the Pharoah of Egypt case. If God hardened someone’s heart, isn’t it akin to taking away their freewill? One could possibly argue that Pharoah’s heart was hardened by God, hence, he shouldn’t be held responsible for his actions. On the other hand if God is unable to harden one’s heart, the other side of the coin is that God is not all powerful then.

I have not located any interpretations for hardening of one’s heart especially for usage 2000-4000? yrs ago. Only then can we know how this phrase was used and meant when Moses wrote it.


#8

Right – that’s exactly the philosophical error that the ancient were making! For them it was simple: either God directly causes all things or else God isn’t all-powerful. Aquinas (among others, IIRC) resolved this dilemma through the notion of primary and secondary causation.

Only then can we know how this phrase was used and meant when Moses wrote it.

They meant it the way that it sounds: that God directly caused the hardening of the heart. Ancient Islamic philosophers (in particular, I’m thinking about Al-Ghazali) expounded on this kind of occasionalism.


#9

Taken as a lietral question:

The Answer is that He Doesn’t!

What He DOES do, is permit us to harden our own heads and hearts. :o

Taking this as a brief but accurate definition of God: “GOD IS ALL GOOD THINGS PERFECTED”

We can see that God cannot cause evil; BUT can and DOES permit it.:thumbsup:

God Bless you,
Patrick


#10

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