Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
It has been stated that, in order to accomplish his purposes, God will sometimes show mercy even to men who have hardened their own hearts. It has been suggested, however, that even if God does have mercy upon such men, this mercy will only be effective if they are willing to accept it. The implication, then, is that the fulfillment of God’s merciful purposes upon hard-hearted men is, to some degree at least, dependent upon hard-hearted men’s willingness to accept God’s mercy.
Let us imagine a scenario in which God’s attempt at showing mercy is met with the kind of resistance here described. Let us imagine that God sets his attention upon some hard-hearted man, determining that, instead of further hardening him, he will have mercy upon him. He offers his mercy to the man, only to find that the man is unwilling to accept it. What are to become of God's purposes? Are they to be thwarted? What are we to suppose that God might do in such a situation?
It would seem there are only two things God can do. He could just give up, deciding not to accomplish his purpose and perhaps move on to some hard-hearted man more willing to accept his mercy. But what if God really insisted upon having his way in a particular case? What if he was truly adamant about accomplishing his merciful purposes in this particular hard-hearted man? Would God’s determination be of any avail? Would there really be anything God could do in such a situation?
We might first consider what success here would require. If God’s mercy can only be effective upon men who are willing to receive it, then, of course, the only way he could accomplish his purpose would be to make the man willing to receive his mercy. But this is a tall order; after all, we’re talking here about a man who has already hardened his own heart. We’re taking about someone who wants to do evil, who has committed himself to do it, someone who has decided to reject God. How could God possibly make such a person willing to accept his mercy?
Certainly, the only way God could ever make a man (especially a hard-hearted man) willing to do something he was formerly unwilling to do would be to change his heart. Men's desires are determined by their hearts. Pure, soft hearts give rise to good desires, and defiled, hardened hearts give rise to evil desires. Therefore, if God is to have any hope of accomplishing his merciful purposes in a hard-hearted man, if God should ever expect to make a man willing to receive his mercy, it can only be through changing his hardened heart.But would God ever go so far as to change a man’s heart? Would God really take a man who desires evil and cause him to desire good? Would God really ever be so bold as to tamper with a man’s will?...