Monday, April 18, 2011

"God Grant It" / Walther / On Hardening Hearts

With my last purchase of books from CPH, we also got C.F.W. Walther's "God Grant It",  daily devotions translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer.

God Grant It

It has so far turned out to be one of my husband's favorites.  He is not the one who reads the theological books in this house, but he feels he is getting great instruction from this one.  I quite like it myself and read to him at random as he asks for a devotion to be read.

This is one we had the other day, that he found helpful.  Now, I don't know how much I can paste here without copyright, so I will not post the entire devotion.  It starts on page 638.  This devotion also relates to the discussion with Reformed friends.  So I might refer to it.

"Read Exodus 10:20.
The large church fellowship known as the Calvinist Reformed maintains that all who become hardened come into this condition according to an eternal, absolute decree of God.  They base this view on Holy Scripture, which says, "So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills"  (Romans 9:18), and notes that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart so he would not let the Israelites go.  But this is a blasphemous use of these biblical remarks.  We cannot attempt to make God the author of a person's sin and damnation.  Indeed, Scripture expressly testifies, "For You are not a God who delights in wickedness, "  (Psalm 5:4), and  "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one" (James 1:13).  Moreover, the Bible testifies clearly that God neither wants nor has decreed the destruction of any person:  "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?"  (Ezekiel 33:11), and "He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper"  (Hosea 13:9)
But doesn't the Bible also clearly say that God had really hardened many people?  Yes, but it also emphasizes that God hardens only those who have already hardened themselves by despising grace.  Christ says that the citizens of Jerusalem had finally fallen into the judgment of obduracy, not because God had decreed it from eternity, but "because you did not know the time of your visitiation"  (Luke 19:44).  If God ever visited any people in great grace, it was the citizens of Jerusalem.
The Son of God Himself, together with His twelve apostles, preached the Gospel among them and invited them a thousand times into the kingdom of His grace.  Faithfully, as a Good Shepherd, He followed them for three years with words, works and tears, admonishing and imploring them to turn from their wicked ways.  But when they all despised this grace, declined His kind invitation, and ultimately murdered Him, God finally withdrew His hand of grace and gave them up to the judgment of total hardness.
God always acts in this way.  No one who becomes hardened did not first experience a time of gracious visitation.  God's Word may be preached to him for a long time.  He may be exhorted countless times by teachers, pastors, parents, and fellow believers.  His own conscience and the Holy Ghost may often admonish and chastise him.  But if he wantonly and stubbornly resists all of this and remains in his sin, his pride, and his love of the world, God finally tires of extending him mercy and says,  "why will you still be struck down?  Why will you continue to rebel?  The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint"  (Isaiah 1:5).  At that point , he removes His hand of grace from such a person.  Holy Scripture calls this a hardening.  For when God no longer works in a person, he is left to his own devices..."

Ok, the end is missing.  Go buy the book.  :)

And more importantly, while we can only believe in Christ and God's favorable disposition towards us by the preaching of his word, we are also able to refuse this word.  Let this not be so for us.  Today is the day of salvation and mercy.  Thy kingdom come.


Steve Martin said...

God does harden hearts. He is God, after all, and if He wants to do so, who are we to say, 'that's not fair!'.

It isn't fair. Do we really want, "fair"?

Brigitte said...

Yes, we have all seen this. Dear Lord, protect us from this and may our own ears be open.

In terms of reading about the Reformation, we find, too, that Luther prayed for the pope the his catholic opponents for a long time and really prayed. He believed in God and in petitioning him.

At some point, however, he, too concluded that someone, such as the pope, was beyond praying for and he would cease praying for those who refused to repent and believe. The Gospel had been made so clear and had come so close to them, and yet they refused.