April 22, 2024

In today’s podcast, Kurt talks about the hardening of the heart with Leighton Flowers, a subject matter referencing the controversial passages in Romans 9. Discussed are the two different types of “hardening of the heart” mentioned in Scripture, dissecting the difficult verses of Romans 9, Israelite’s own hardening of their heart, and more.

Listen to “Episode 57: The Hardening of the Heart” on Spreaker.


Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill, where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s a pleasure to be with you here again. Last week was a very fun opportunity I had to sit down with, well I was sitting here, he was sitting at his office, Dr. Ken Samples of Reasons To Believe and we were talking about Shintoism and Taoism which is part of our worldview series. We try to bring to you as best we can the first Saturday of each month to talk about a different worldview. I’d love to get your feedback on that episode. What you thought. How we kind of knocked out two birds with one stone in one episode there and if you have any worldviews that you would like to have talked about on the show. Let us know. There are a couple of ways you can get in touch with us. You can send me an email. Kurt@veracityhill.com. You could also give us a call and leave us a message any time you want. The call-in line is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. You can call that number right now if you want to participate in today’s discussion as well. lastly, you can also text me. Just text the word VERACITY to 555-888 and I’ll get your text messages with guest requests you might have, show topics you want to have heard, or if you just have a comment or question about the show I’d love to hear from you in those ways. 

We’ve got a few announcements here today so let me start with this one. September 8-9, I will be in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the Deeper Roots conference which is a conference co-hosted by the Library of Historical Apologetics in partnership with Defenders Media. If you want to register for that event, you can go to Defendersmedia.com. It should be a great time. I’ll be there. J. Warner Wallace, the cold case detective, the great philosopher Dr. Timothy McGrew. Among other names, I know Lydia McGrew, Tim’s wife will be speaking. Tom Gilson, Rob Bowman, and a few other folks are going to be there as well. Should be a very fun time. If you can join us, September 8-9, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Secondly, today we are starting a Veracity Hill fundraiser. This is a fundraiser that we’ve talked about probably about the last month I would say we’re going to do this and we finally have the image for it, but funny enough we were having some tech issues and we had to revert to our Meevo so if you’re following us live right now, we’ll be sure to post that image about the fundraiser later today. We’re looking to raise $800 a month of recurring support and let me take a brief moment here to explain what this money will go toward. First, we’d like to have a formal advertising budget for Veracity Hill. Whenever we’ve wanted to promote something, we’ve just sort of taken it out of our little fund that we have and it hasn’t been formally designated for advertising. What does that mean in layman’s terms? What that means in layman’s terms is I’m taking it out of my own budget, my own personal budget for me. I’d like to get some advertising money. Secondly, Chris has been a devoted tech volunteer for over a year now and we’d like to be able to show him our appreciation by being able to pay him on a regular basis. That’s also there. Finally, I’m also looking to pay myself a little bit more. I’ve already been paying myself minimal, very small amount, I’d like to be able to take some more for the preparation involved here for the show, the production and what not, but let me also explain why I’d be getting a bit more from Veracity Hill here. Defenders Media is hiring a director of marketing. I’m going to be cutting back on some of my tasks and as a result of that I’m looking then to raise more money for the work that I do through Veracity Hill, if that makes sense. I’ll be taking a little less home from Defenders, looking to raise more for Veracity.

The main thing I wanted to do by hiring this market director, which that announcement will come in a couple weeks here, is that this would not be a self-funded position. There are a lot of parachurch organizations, parachurch ministries, that require self-funding and I did not want this position to be one of those, so Defenders is paying, it’s a part-time position, but Defenders is paying this person a good rate to do the job that they’re going to do for us. What that meant was I would be taking a pay cut, so part of the $800 a month here that we’ve got here that we want to raise is for my ministry work as well. Those are the sort of three categories and we’re looking to raise $800 a month and we’d love to get your support. If the Lord has blessed you greatly, and especially if you don’t already support apologetic ministries, I want to highly encourage you to be one of our medium to big-sized donors. If you’re already out there, you support apologetics ministries, and you don’t have all that much financial blessing, although the Lord has blessed you in other ways, we still nevertheless like to get your support, whether it’s $10 or $20 a month. That adds up and so really those that have studied fundraising, really you’ve got a pyramid. At the top, you’ve got your highest, that’s a few families. You’ve got your mid-range, and you’ve got that small army of grassroots donors so I’d love if you’d consider joining our small grassroots army that really helps provide a base for all that consistent giving. We’d love to get your support and I’ll be giving you updates each week. I’m going to be messaging you perhaps, if you’re one of my listeners and talking to you, sending emails, looking to get that goal accomplished and my goal is to have this done within two months, so if we can raise $800 a month within two months, that would really help us get on our way, and with that advertising budget, we’re going to help our online following grow and if you’re following the livestream right now, maybe it’s because you received that notification from Facebook, so we’re looking to increase our following so people can get that notification and follow along. 

That’s that on the fundraiser. Let me lastly talk about these really great tracts that we’ve had done through GodlovesMormons.com, Rich Sanford runs that and we’ve had these made. Those that are following on the livestream here, you can see this, these tracts with the Defenders Media website there. Here are the topics. Can we trust the Bible? Is Mormonism Christianity? While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Can we trust our feelings? Can men become gods? Do we still need a temple? And do we still need prophets? You’ll note that some of those first few ones really work for Christianity in general, but those last few ones there are really geared towards Mormons. Just these fine looking tracts, they’re great conversation starters. If you want to get a hold of some of these tracts, please message me and let me know and we’ll see how we can connect to send some your way. Just a great opportunity, especially if you’re interested in Mormon evangelism or if you get Mormons knocking on the door and you want some literature to give to them that they might consider reading and I don’t think they would consider it part of their banned books. While they’re not on their mission they’re not able to read anti-Mormon literature but this is a bunch of Bible verses so you’d think that they’d be able to read it. If you want that, get in touch with me and we’ll see what we can do to send some your way.

Thank you for bearing with me through those announcements. Now, I would like to get the main portion of the show underway and today we are talking about the hardening of the heart and what all of that means because in the Bible, we see that God hardens peoples’ hearts. You see that especially in Romans 9 which is a very controversial passage regarding God’s election and what all of that entails. You also see it in a number of other places in the Scripture and so really the concern here is that if God can willy-nilly harden peoples’ hearts, that this is really problematic because it might make God appear to be unjust because He can just pick whomever He wants to harden or not to harden and if we believe in a loving God, why would He want to do such a thing? We’re going to be talking a little bit about that and exploring other passages as well which I think are really important to recognize this and before we get to those passages though, I want to bring on my friend Leighton Flowers who’s been a guest on the show before. He’s the author of The Potter’s Promise: A Biblical Defense of Traditional Soteriology. Leighton. Thanks for joining us on the show today.

Leighton. You there?

We’re having a little trouble getting Leighton. We’ll try to get him on the line here.

Leighton: Good to be back.

Kurt; Oh. You there?

Leighton: Yeah. Can you hear me.

Kurt: Yes. Okay. Good. Alright. Thanks Leighton for joining us on the show today.

Leighton: I’m here. Can you hear me? Yeah.

Kurt: Looks like there might be a slight lag.

Leighton: My pleasure. Glad to be here brother.

Kurt: Well hopefully if we get this lag figured out, Leighton. Can you tell us a little bit about why the hardening of the heart issue is such a controversial one for some people?

Leighton: Yeah. It is definitely a controversial doctrine because it seems to suggest that God is ultimately causing people to respond in a typical way and then holding them accountable for how He’s causing them to respond. So when you have a situation like that, it obviously seems very unjust for God to quote unquote blind somebody and then punish them for being blind. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. The truth of the matter is the Bible does teach a concept of hardening. There’s actually two different concepts of hardening taught within Scripture. One is referred to as a self-hardening. The self-hardening is just what we could call stubbornness. Somebody growing more and more convinced of whatever they believe in and they almost become real dogmatic about that belief system to the point where they don’t want to hear anybody’s else’s ideas or thoughts. All of us have experienced people who have gone through that kind of self-hardening and somebody can become so hardened against the words of God, the Scripture even warns in Hebrews 3 and 4 that when you hear the voice of the Lord do not allow your heart to grow hardened, and grow calloused and stubborn. The word harden literally means to grow thick. Just like your hand can grow hardened if you work with tools on a regular basis, so too your heart can grow hardened and calloused to even the things of God. Then there’s also a doctrinal concept called judicial hardening, and which is the topic that just like it sounded, an act of a judge judging someone in their self-hardened condition by giving them over to it. In other words by saying, “Okay. If that’s the way you want go, go on and go and I’m letting you do it.” It’s kind of cutting them off from the revelation that they once had. So in other words, let’s say you had a friend and you were trying to convince them of Christianity and you went to them and you talked to them and at first they were kind of open to talking to you about it, but after awhile they just continued to denounce what you believe. They continued to fight against you or your views, and eventually after 15-20 conversations, it’s just almost every conversation they’re just more angry and hardened towards you to the point where you finally just say, “You know what? This is not helping to keep having these kinds of conversations, so I’m going to cut off this conversation.” I’m still going to love them. I’m still going to be there for them, but I’m not going to still try to talk them into this. The same thing can happen with God, where God judicially gives somebody over to their own fleshly desires, He lets them go their own way. Interestingly, that’s exactly what’s happening in the first century to the nation of Israel generally speaking. They have grown hardened and they’ve grown calloused to the revelation of God to the point where God cuts them off from that revelation. He gives them over to their own desires. He blinds them, the Scripture even talks about speaking to them in parables, lest they see, hear, turn, and repent, and then taking the gospel to the Gentiles, who are just as immoral. They’re sinful people, but they aren’t hardened. They’re not callous to the things of God. They’re more like a child that He holds up as an example to say, “You must become humble like this child.” Children are still guilty. They’re still sinners, but they’re also more moldable. They’re more willing to be taught. They’re not the old wineskin that’s not willing to take the new wine. They’re actually able to accept these teachings and to hear them and thus to freely respond as opposed to maybe an 80-year old who has been indoctrinated and calloused in his worldview and he has grown to the point where he’s no longer able to see, hear, turn, and understand the truth of God’s light and so that’s kind of the nutshell view of the different understanding of hardening from Scripture.

Kurt: Yeah. Great. For my recognition of it, it really comes from Romans 9 which is a passage which is full of election language and a description of election so let me, if you’re listening right now, I want you to push the pause button right now if you are listening to this on download and get out your Bible because we’re going to look at a couple passages here today and so I want to read just briefly from Romans 9 and then we’re going to flip over later on to a few other passages as well, so here in Romans 9 we have here, Paul talks about, and I’m going to read a little bit of the introduction because I think it’s very crucial to properly understanding the election language when we look at it in context and even just in the chapter context. Here’s what Paul writes in Romans 9. 

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

I’m reading from the New King James Version here. Basically, Paul’s saying “I wish that I were punished for the sake of my own brothers, these Israelites.” Paul continues on here in verse 6.

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Paul continues on and on here describing the moral high ground that God has for working with creation as he wants to. Now many have taken this passage to mean that God predetermines whomever He wants for eternal life and has predetermined or even some would say looked over those whom He does not want and who are we to question what God wants to do? Paul sort of talks about a little bit of that language. Who are we to question? But is that really what Paul is talking about here? Is He talking about predetermination of individuals for eternal salvation? Well, Leighton. What do you think? Is it about these individuals or is something else going on here?

Leighton: It is about the individuals, but it’s also about the nations they represent. In other words, it’s a both/and. It’s not either/or. Obviously Jacob and Esau are two individuals and from a corporate view of election perspective that we’re not willing to talk about the individuals sometimes can give a false perception that the corporate view doesn’t take into account the individuals, and the truth of the matter is we do, those who hold to the corporate view like I do, we do believe that individuals are involved. It’s just that the individuals are representative of a larger group. So for example, Jacob would represent Israel because His name’s changed to Israel whereas Esau would obviously recommend the Edomites who later go on to attack Israel in Malachi and are declared under God’s wrath or hatred. And so they’re not hated for no apparent reason before the world began. The actual expressed hatred is because they reject the promise of God and they attack the people of God, the Israelites, and so the expressed hatred, the wrath of God, it comes upon them for an exact purpose, exactly what the promise said would happen when He promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. Well, if the Edomites, even though they’re a direct descendant of Abraham himself curse the nation of Israel, then they too will be cursed. They will come under the wrath of God which is a warning in a sense from Paul to say just because you’re a direct descendant of Abraham doesn’t ensure your salvation, doesn’t ensure your blessing, doesn’t ensure that you’re going to receive the promises that were given to the children of Abraham because look at what happened to the Edomites, direct descendants of the older son of Isaac in fact, and yet look what happened to them when they stood against the promises of God. They came under His curse, and so too, you Israelites today, just because you’re direct descendants of Abraham doesn’t ensure that you’re going to be saved or that you’re going to have the blessings that were promised to Israel. God’s promises do not fail, but if you stand against the people of God and the Word of God, which is now coming through His apostles like Paul, then you too will stand under the curse of God. This is not about God rejecting the mass of humanity before they’re ever born or God hating some unborn babies, like He hated Esau or Jacob or He hated Esau before he was born and He loved Jacob before he was born for no apparent reason. That’s not in the mind of Paul and that’s a gross misrepresentation of the character of God in my estimation and I think a really bad application of this text.

Kurt: Right. And that quote there, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” That is a direct quote from not Genesis, but Malachi and so there the language is about Leighton, as you mentioned, these corporate groups. The Israelites and the Edomites.

Leighton: Right. There’s two verses right back to back there. One from Genesis which is that there’s two nations in your womb talking to Rebekkah and then the next quote, “Jacob ,I loved. Esau, I hated.” So you’ve got the first book of the Old Testament and the last book of the Old Testament with about 1,500 years in between, so this is long after the individuals Jacob and Esau are dead when He declares His hatred of the Edomites and it was custom in that day to refer to the nation by its figurehead and so they would often refer to Edomites as Esau and that was just a custom of that day. We see in other passages in Deuteronomy where God says do not despite the Edomites for they are your brothers, and there’s also passages where He blesses the Edomites and gives them a land, takes care of them. There’s no reason to go for this idea, this concept, that God hated this whole group of people for no apparent reason, just arbitrarily. That is a gross misrepresentation of the character of God.

Kurt: Yeah. I think that’s right, and as it pertains to the individuals, Leighton, I don’t know how exactly you would flesh it out, but the way I understand it is this. In the book of Genesis, you have Jacob and Esau and what did God pick Jacob for? What was the purpose in the narrative? The purpose was for God’s line, His chosen people group, to come and ultimately the Christ, to come out of Jacob and not Esau. The narrative is not about Esau being predetermined to go to Hell. That’s not what the text is about at all. It just seems quite strange here to then interpret and have to reinterpret so to interpret Paul here in Romans 9 and then to reinterpret the Genesis narrative in such a way, I think it’s unwarranted of the text here. 

Leighton: And that sometimes refer to. Sorry Kurt, that sometimes refers to the election to service view, which goes hand in hand with the corporate view of election. What you’re ultimately saying is, I totally agree with you. Yes. We believe that Esau was elected before he did anything good or bad, but, or I mean Jacob was elected before he did anything good or bad and Esau was passed by or not chosen, and if you think it’s for effectual salvation, then I think you have a lot of texts to prove and disprove and show otherwise, because it seems to me like you’ve just now said, that Jacob was chosen to be the lineage through which the promise would be fulfilled because that’s the very question he’s trying to answer in verse 6. Has God’s promise to Israel failed? Therefore he’s giving the explanation as what is God’s promise to Israel? What has God promised to do with Abraham? That’s that through the lineage of Jacob, the Messiah would come, the promise will be fulfilled through this lineage and not the other. That’s the point that he’s trying to draw out is what is the purpose for which He elected the nation of Israel? Therefore when he goes on to say, “I’ll have mercy on whom I have mercy and I’ll harden whom I’ll harden.” A lot of people read that as saying “I will have effectual salvation. I will effectually save some people and I will effectually damn other people.” That’s not what mercy is and that’s not what hardening is. To show mercy somebody is to refrain from punishing somebody who deserves to be punished. It’s not even about salvation necessarily. For example, when the Israelites built the golden calf which is where that quote is taken from, out of Exodus 32-33. When they build the golden calf they immediately deserved to be punished and destroyed and their insubordination and their disobedience to God, their rebellion. But God showed them mercy. In other words He refrained from destroying them so as to fulfill His promises through them, so God had mercy on Israel when it served His purpose to show them mercy and then later in Paul’s day, He hardens Israel. In other words, He does what we talked about. He judicially hardens them. He cuts them off in their rebellion, and as Romans 11 goes on to say, He cut them off for their unbelief, not for no apparent reason. He cut them off because of their hardened hearts.

Kurt: Yeah. Because they rejected Messiah.

Leighton: And He’s using them in that hardening, in that callousness. Exactly. And He’s using them in that rebellion to accomplish His redemption on Calvary and to bring in Gentile people, so there’s a redemptive purpose for the hardening of Israel.

Kurt: Alright. Let’s take what’s maybe slightly a harder issue here in Romans 9 so further along as I read regarding Pharaoh. So the Scripture says, “For this very purpose I have raised you up that I might be showed my power in you and that my name may be declared in all the Earth.” That comes from Exodus 9:16. What does Paul mean here that God is saying here that I’ve raised you up for this purpose, to show my power over you and in all the Earth, doesn’t that seem to suggest that the choosing to harden occurs before Pharaoh did anything?

Leighton: Yeah. This passage is oftentimes I think misapplied as well. I think one of the things that Paul does quite often is he uses Old Testament Scriptures in order to validate what he’s teaching today. In other words, he’s using, a lot of times the foreshadowing, especially of the Exodus event, there’s a lot of foreshadowing of the Exodus event. He’s already referred back to that with that quote from Moses who’s ultimately coming to God and saying, “Please. Don’t destroy the Israelites. I know they just built a golden calf but don’t destroy them. If you destroy them, blot me out of your book,” he even says. That’s when He declares, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy. I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It’s in that context of Israel being rebellious and Moses stepping in as almost the Christ figure there. He’s the one who’s stepping in as the intercessor for these sinful rebellious people and there’s a lot of parallel between the Exodus event and what’s happening in the New Passover. The first Passover is obviously with Moses and all that happened there. There’s the second Passover that’s happening right now in Paul’s day and there’s representation on both sides and so He’s already referred to God showing mercy to Israel in order to accomplish His promises through them and hardening Pharaoh. What’s the parallel to that in the New Testament times? Pharaoh was raised up and hardened in his already rebellious heart. In other words, God didn’t have to make him rebellious. God doesn’t even tempt men to sin according to James 1. He became self-hardening and callousness and God used that hardenness and cut him off in his rebellion, blinded him, giving him the spirit of stupor, giving him over to that rebellion so as to accomplish a redemptive plan through Pharaoh, i.e. the Passover, so through his blind rebellion, God brought about the plagues, which demonstrated His power over all the quote unquote little g gods of Egypt showing that our God is all more powerful than all their little made up gods and it demonstrated God’s power even through this rebellion of this hardened individual, Pharaoh. Who does that parallel perfectly? Exactly a parallel with Israel ironically. The very nation that’s freed in the first Passover are the same nation that’s raised up and then hardened in their own callous rebellion. Just as Pharaoh was given over to his callous rebellion, so to now Israel as a whole, as a nation generally speaking, is given over to their rebellion so as to accomplish the second Passover. Just as the first Passover was accomplished through hardening of Pharaoh, so too the second Passover is being accomplished through the hardening of the nation of Israel so there’s a parallel there that Paul is drawing out.

Kurt: Absolutely, and something that a lot of people don’t realize is that the narrative in Exodus itself tells us that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, so we do read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that occurs in chapter 7:9, 9:12, 10:1, and 20, and 27, 11:10, 14:4-8. But it also says, like I said, that Pharaoh hardens his own heart. 8:15, 32, 9:34. That he refused to humble himself, 10:3, and that he was stubborn. That’s in 13:15. You do see this give and take between Pharaoh himself, as you said Leighton, there’s this self-hardening that occurs and that has occurred here with Israel because they have rejected the Messiah and so God is not too happy about this and Israel is on no moral high ground to object to God’s including the Gentiles in salvation, and I really think that’s what chapter 9 here in the book of Romans is about. It’s about Israel complaining why the Gentiles are included in salvation, because later on in chapter 9, Paul talks about why it is that the Gentiles are included in salvation. He quotes from Hosea and two times from Isaiah. That’s what I take to be the other side of the conversation and what I mean by that is the other side of the conversation, that’s sort of a term I’ve mentioned here on the show before, is the reason for which the epistle is written. We don’t have the church at Rome’s letter to Paul. If we do that would help clarify a lot of things I’m sure. Nevertheless, we sort have to reconstruct as best we can what those objections and concerns were so I think the other side of the conversation is that the church at Rome, there are Jews that object to God’s including the Gentiles and Paul’s basically saying, “No. Israel has no moral high ground to objecting about what God wants to do and what He wants to do is to include the Gentiles and so who are you to complain and here he talks about Jacob and Esau. He talks about Moses and Pharaoh and the potter and the clay analogy, the vessel, basically saying that God’s the creator. He can decide to do all these things. It’s under that context for which Paul writes, “Who are you to object to” Let’s see here. Verse 20 again in Romans 9. 

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?

That’s the reason why Paul writes that. The reason is not because Paul is responding to concerns about predestination before anyone’s born. I definitely don’t take that here in this context. Leighton. We have to take a break but when we come back we’ll finish up our discussion on Pharaoh, but I do want to move on to the potter and the clay analogy and the vessels and that’ll take us to a few other passages in the Bible so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.

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Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break. Today we are discussing the hardening of the heart and what the Bible means when it talks about that and of course when I say the Bible means, of course I recognize that the Bible is a collection of books and that there are various authors and so I’m just sort of using that broad terminology, looking at it from a systematic perspective. What does it look like when the Bible talks about these things? It has that phrase. And I’m here with Leighton Flowers, the author of The Potter’s Promise: A Biblical Defense of Traditional Soteriology and we are talking about, we’ve been going through this chapter in Romans, chapter 9, talking about what Paul means here. Jacob, I loved. Esau, I hated. Pharaoh being raised up so that God can show His power over him and through all the Earth and that God has mercy on whom He has mercy and He hardens who He hardens. Leighton. I had to cut you off there a little bit before the break so what did you have in mind to say there furthermore about Pharaoh?

Leighton: I was just going to mention Dr. Leon Morris who is a pretty well known scholar and commentator, he says, “Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who has not first hardened himself. That Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and refused to humble himself is made plain in the story so God’s hardening of him was a judicial act abandoning him in his own stubbornness much as God’s wrath against the ungodly is expressed by giving them over to their own depravity.” It’s interesting, John Piper actually quotes that in his commentary and he says strongly that he disagrees firmly with Leon Morris’s conclusion there.

Kurt: That’s not surprising.

Leighton: Yeah. Even Leon Morris is actually a little Calvinistic himself. It’s interesting, even among Calvinists, they can disagree over this issue. Some higher Calvinists will hold to a little bit more deterministic view actually disagree with the fact that God actually is hardening those who are already self-hardened. In other words, God is using them in their rebellion, and what many people don’t understand is this is actually a very merciful thing for God to do when you really look at it. It’s almost like if you have that rebellious 20 year-old living in your basement who’s gotten addicted to drugs or alcohol or something and the best thing you can do is to kind of cut them off and say “I’m not going to provide home for you. I’m not going to provide food for you. I’m not going to continue to enable you in your addictions so I’m cutting you off.” A parent who does that isn’t doing that because they hate them or they don’t really want them or they don’t want to be reconciled with them. They’re doing that just like Paul does to the wayward sinner in the Corinthian church, saying cut them off so as you may save their soul. In other words, cast them out of the church so that you will help them to come to their pigsty quicker. In other words, you don’t want to continue to enable them in their rebellion, in their sin. Cutting somebody off is actually a merciful thing and exactly what we see in Romans 9-11. The same people who are cut off in Romans 9 are the same ones that Paul holds out hope for in Romans 11 to say, “I hope to provoke them to envy so that they may eventually be saved.” They’ve stumbled, but they have not stumbled beyond recovery, which proves to me that this is not about God eternally electing people for damnation or eternally passing them by to certain condemnation, but instead that he’s cut them off because of their rebellion with the hope holding out their hands, His hands to them still, with the hope that they will return and be forgiven once provoked to envy.

Kurt: Yeah. That’s a great point. I want to continue along here in Romans 9 as we’re going through it. Paul talks about this potter and the clay. Where does that come from? Is that something, an idea that Paul just had on his own?

Leighton: Like I said before, Paul uses Old Testament texts in order to relate to especially a Jewish audience. Matter of fact, in Acts 28 you see that he spent all day long using the Old Testament to try to persuade them of who their Messiah was, that Jesus was truly their messiah. Paul is an apologist. He’s great at using Old Testament texts, things that they did consider authoritative material in order to help them to see the truth of who the Messiah was. This would have very likely have been a reference to Jeremiah 18, where Jeremiah the prophet clearly lays out and uses this concept of Israel being this pot in the hand of a potter, this clay in the hand of a potter, and it’s interesting when you read Jeremiah 18 how much responsibility is given to those vessels. In other words, just because they’re a vessel doesn’t mean they don’t have responsibility in the process. It’s very clear in the language of Jeremiah that he expects Israel to repent so as to live and to respond in a positive way to the edicts of the Father.

Kurt: Let me actually take a moment here. I want to read through Jeremiah 18, just this crucial passage because I really think it’s so important for people to get this that with the corporate sense here that salvation is conditional upon how the people will act. So here in Jeremiah 18, verse 1.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

So here you get these two conditionals. If a nation is evil, but they repent, God’s going to hold off on bringing punishment, but on the other hand, if there’s a nation that God wants to bless, but they start doing evil things and it’s displeasing to the Lord, He’s going to stop blessing them. You see this conditional nature. Whenever you see an if clause, that means something is conditional in the text. Here Paul is talking even beyond Israel, He’s talking about nations generally speaking. Of course of which, Israel would apply, but this is something that applies I think to all nations and so I think that’s even too a testament to the importance that we have here today in our present world that God is still judging nations and we need to be a holy nation. That doesn’t mean we have to be a formal Christian nation without separation of church and state, and I mean that in the historical sense, not usually what secularists mean by it, but that we need to be a holy people. Otherwise we’re going to be facing God’s wrath sooner or later.

That’s Jeremiah 18 and that potter and the clay analogy. It really is a conditional idea. It’s a conditional notion that this is not an arbitrary thing that God just willy-nilly decides either for arbitrary reasons or for his supposed mysterious will and who are we to question that, but Paul is taking here from Jeremiah 18 and this is why he’s saying that Israel, you’ve rejected God so who are you to say what He can do? Again, they are on no moral high ground. Now, Leighton, I want to go over one other passage with you. Let me first say, do you have anything else to say there about Jeremiah 18?

Leighton: No. I was just going to say that it seems to me that some people want to have their cake and eat it too when coming to this issue of the potter and the clay because when they use that analogy of the potter and the clay and somebody says you’re interpreting God as just this puppet master, and they say, “No no no. That’s not what we’re trying to say.” Yet a lot of times the puppet has no more control over the puppet master, than the clay has over the potter in the more Calvinistic, higher Calvinistic interpretation of this passage. What needs to be really noted is that the vessel still has responsibility. It’s not as if the vessel, just because he’s using an analogy or a metaphor of a vessel doesn’t mean that it removes the responsibility of the vessel to cleanse himself for example. I know that Paul borrows this same exact analogy when writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2. That may be where the passage that you were wanting to look at.

Kurt: That’s it!

Leighton: I can read that if you want me to.

Kurt: If you’ve got it up, go ahead.

Leighton: Yeah. I’ll read it. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 says

Now in a large house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 

You can hear the parallel there. He goes on to talk about those who are molded for honor and some for dishonor and that’s the same kind of[NP1] he’s talking about here[NP2] anyone cleanses himself for honor, sanctified vessel to the master and it’s clear from his use here in 2 Timothy that just because he talks about a potter and having vessels that are some for honor and some for dishonor doesn’t mean there’s not the responsibility of the vessel to cleanse themselves. It says therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, so what’s your responsibility? To cleanse yourself, repentance. Humble yourself, repent of your sin, and then you will be molded and shaped by God, conformed into[NP3] in Christ so as to be used[NP4] This is not meant to dismiss or take away human responsibility at all. It’s just a metaphor to say God’s the one who molds us[NP5] why does He mold some people in this shape and some in that shape? He does so based on whether they humbles themselves or repent. Humble yourselves and you will be exalted. He brings low the haughty. He saves the humble according to Psalm 18:27 and some of the other texts that clearly show a responsibility to us as the vessels, to humble[NP6]  that we can’t save ourselves. That we can’t undo our bondage to[NP7] 

Kurt: That’s right and I’m glad you made that connection.

Leighton: But we can trust in the one who[NP8] …done that for us and we are told by God to humble ourselves and admit those facts and thus be molded.

Kurt: What we have here is the connection of the vessel and responsibility and it’s something that you see there in Jeremiah 18 and you also see it here by Paul’s very own hand in 2 Timothy, that these vessels have a duty themselves to act appropriately so God can work in their lives, but if they won’t repent and humble themselves, God’s going to give them over to the state that they want and that’s also you see by Paul’s hand in Romans 1, that God gives people over to their just resorts, if you will. So, Leighton. Continuing on then in Romans 9, I want to talk about something I didn’t get into. The Gentiles. I’m curious, and I know I mentioned this before. To me, and I don’t know your perspective so I’m going to ask sort of out of ignorance here where you stand. The reason why I view the passages here from Hosea and Isaiah as being, the reason why I conclude that chapter 9 is about corporate election is because Paul’s mentioning this at the beginning and the end, this corporate election sense. I’m curious to know, is that something that you, do you take the Gentile objection here, that is Jews are objecting, why God would include Gentiles? Do you take it, Romans 9, to be about that, in the central verses or do you have an alternative view?

Leighton: I do think that there’s that inherent objection that the Jew of why would you save the barbarian Gentiles? They’re immoral. They’re not working after the law like we are. Ultimately, from the very beginning, from his reference back to Ishmael, which is really a parallel with Galatians 4 where he talks about the two children and the representation of the two children of being a metaphor and symbolic. Paul says that. Not just us. He even calls it symbolic to symbolize, ultimately what Abraham’s doing. He’s working in the flesh to try to make the promise happen with Hagar. In other words, he’s working after it. He’s not trusting God to bring the son through Sarah. He’s trying to make it happen himself. That represents those who are trying to be saved by works like Israel is, vs. those who are waiting on and trusting in the promise, which is exactly what we see with the Gentiles. He gives his own summary of Romans 9 in verse 30 when he says, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained righteousness, even the righteousness of faith? But Israel pursuing the Law of righteousness has not attained to the Law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law. There’s a pursuit on both sides there. He’s not denouncing the fact that there’s a pursuit there. It’s either you’re pursuing it through works or you’re pursuing it through faith. Some people wrongly think that because we can’t pursue it through works and attain it, therefore we also have the incapacity from birth to pursue it by faith, and that’s never been the case. People have always been able to believe the revelation that’s been brought to them. That’s why we all stand without excuse. The Bible never says that people are incapable of pursuing through faith in the revelation graciously brought by God. I think that’s very clear throughout the text and of course, we try to make arguments on that in my podcast and my book and other places. 

Kurt: I think that’s a great point and what’s also interesting, so let me mention this. I’ve been reading this journal article. It’s called On The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart. It’s written by Bryn R. Rees. This is an interesting journal article because it is the publishing of and translation of five ancient texts dated to the fourth, possibly fifth century, and scholars are undecided as to who the author is. Initial reports had Jerome as the author of this document, this text, but some scholars have been led to believe that it was Pelagius who actually wrote this text. As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but realize that a lot of the thinking, a lot of the main thrust of the argument for the Pelagian authorship is chiefly because this document is anti-Augustinian. 

Leighton: As were the early church fathers.

Kurt: It’s so fascinating to me that simply because a document is anti-Augustinian in nature, that doesn’t mean that it was Pelagian. That’s a false dichotomy that I just see as someone who studies the so-called Semi-Pelagians. I see this in the scholarship, and thankfully, you do see some scholars objecting to this because, and especially Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars, but not Protestant scholars. I think Protestants are just so prone to these false dichotomies, that you’re either Augustinian or you’re Pelagian. You’re either a Calvinist or an Arminian. Heaven forbid, those Lutherans. They just have no say in the matter. What’s interesting is this document, this ancient document. Regardless of who wrote it, the arguments therein very much touch upon what we’ve mentioned here today, that Pharaoh was self-hardened, that Jacob and Esau was not about their eternal salvation, but sort of as you mentioned Leighton, the election to service, what their purpose was. The reason why I bring this up Leighton is that you mentioned that people really have a choice in the matter and the author of this document, this text, goes so far to say that even people whose hearts are hardened, they still have the opportunity to repent and I think that should, we shouldn’t look upon that as a bad thing. Imagine if Pharaoh himself had repented of his ways. That’s a beautiful thing. It’s a great thing. Whenever someone repents the angels throw a party the Scriptures say. To view God’s hardening as a set in stone thing, I think really misses on a number of points of Scripture and it misses at the spirit and the heart of the Gospel message, when a sinner repents from his ways. That really is problematic so I’m glad you mentioned that because it just reminded of this text that I’ve been reading where the author says even someone who’s heart is hardened, the opportunity is still there for them to repent should they decide, should they get to the pig sty sooner than they wanted to as the story of the prodigal son. I appreciate you mentioning that.

Leighton: What I love about it Kurt is it’s a widening of God’s grace and mercy. That’s what Romans 11:32 concludes. He has bound men all over to disobedience so as to show mercy to them all. In other words, He’s allowed them all to go their own ways. Give the prodigal his inheritance. He’s allowed us to take a bite of the apple. He’s allowed us all to go our own ways, thus relegating all over to disobedience in our freedom of the will so as to show us mercy to all. We can’t experience true love and true grace as C.S. Lewis I think so aptly argues, without experiencing the freedom of the will. It’s only through the freedom of the will that we can experience what unconditional love looks like. To be pursued by our maker in such a way as not to just be automatons who respond to strings being pulled, but instead we have the ability of the will to respond to His grace and His provision. That’s what, it’s a widening of God’s mercy, not a narrowing of it, and it’s something that we don’t have to be ashamed of. When I was a Calvinist, I remember always kind of cringing when someone would ask about Romans 9 just simply because “I believe it, but at the same time I know how hard it is for people to swallow”, and it really is a shameful kind of thing to think that God is narrowly down His mercy to just a certain preselected number of people when in reality, there’s nothing shameful about what Paul is teaching in Romans 9-11. It’s about a widening of His mercy, not a narrowing of it. 

Kurt: That’s right. Good. Leighton. I think that does it for what I wanted to cover today. I want to thank you for coming on the show and helping us think through these critical issues in Romans 9 and then touching upon various passages in Genesis, Exodus, Jeremiah 18, 2 Timothy 2. It’s really great when we can look outside of just five verses and sometimes when people look at those several verses in isolation, they begin to bring their own theological baggage and their own biases into interpreting that text. I want to thank you for helping to.

Leighton: Can I give you one more verse just real fast?

Kurt: Please. Please do.

Leighton: Proverbs 28:13-14. This is kind of one that’s not usually used in these conversations, but I want to bring it in. It says this. 

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will find into calamity. He sets up the difference between those who forsake and humble themselves and don’t conceal their transgression, they will not prosper, but those who fear always, fear the Lord, who humble themselves, who tremble at His word, they will find mercy, but those who harden their hearts. They fall into calamity. I think that’s just another really good small text that really highlights the point that we’ve been talking about today.

Kurt: Yeah. And you know, that’s even a verse I was unaware of. I hadn’t considered that so I’ll have to add that…

Leighton: That’s why I picked it.

Kurt: Yeah. Thank you. I gotta add that to the arsenal.

Leighton: Absolutely.

Kurt: Well Leighton, thanks so much for coming on the show and we’re going to put an Amazon link to your book, The Potter’s Promise: A Biblical Defense of Traditional Soteriology so thanks again Leighton and I’m sure we’ll have you on the show sometime again in the future.

Leighton: Thank you, Kurt. Appreciate you.

Kurt: God bless you.

That does it for our show today. Before I continue in my concluding spiel which I give week after week, let me again mention this. We are starting a fundraiser for Veracity Hill and hopefully it won’t last two months, but I’m willing to go the length of two months to mention it, so that’s at least eight episodes I’m going to be mentioning this on, but we’d love to get your support to help give us a formal advertising budget and to help recognize the value that a couple of us put into producing this podcast so we’d love to get your support whether if you can give a $100 or $200 a month if the Lord’s blessed you in that way, or if it’s $10 or $20 a month we’d be happy and delighted to accept any and all help for making this podcast happen. If you want to give to us there are a number of ways you can do that. If you got veracityhill.com/patron, you can look at the different support levels there. You’re also able to go to defendersmedia.com/donate and then click on the Veracity Hill tab and you can do it that way as well. Your donations are tax-deductible so at the end of the year you’ll get a receipt from us saying that we received your money and that you can write it off on your taxes if you need that proof. We’d love to get your support and I’ll be continuing to mention this for as long as it takes to get that goal accomplished, so if you want me to stop talking about it than support our work.

That does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the current help that we get from our patrons and our sponsors. They are Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, and Ratio Christi. I want to thank Chris today for his help working the audio and the livestream and thank you to our guest against Leighton Flowers, I appreciate you and the work that you’re doing. What you’re speaking on and teaching. It’s good stuff. So thanks so much for that and continue doing that good work. And finally, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. 

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Michael Chardavoyne

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