[StriderMTB’s lengthy article, “The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s ‘Two-Wills’ View,” has been divided into 30 parts and edited for serial publication on this website. Here is a link to the original post. After the entire series is published, it will be made available as a single article on this site. Critique 15 is included in this post.]
Critique 15: WHY DID GOD HARDEN AND BLIND THE NATION OF ISRAEL? DEALING WITH PIPER’S UN-CONTEXTUALIZED ASSERTIONS
The issue of God’s hardening and blinding of Israel requires a thorough analysis far beyond Piper’s quick treatment and conclusions. It is important we take note of how the Bible treats this very critical issue and the context that surrounds divine, judicial hardening. God’s word of warning cries out to us in Hebrews 3:12-13,
“Watch out, brothers, so that there wont be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sins deception.”
Why should we encourage people to strive for repentance and belief “while it is still called today?” According to the Bible tomorrow may be too late! The proverbial door of the ark becomes closed. The “day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12, Lk 1:68) and “The long-suffering of God who waited in the days of Noah” runs out (1 Pet. 3:20) and we are delivered up for judgment “because [we] did not recognize the day of [our] visitation” (Luke 19:44).
And again we read in Hebrews 3:15-18,
“As it is said: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses? And who was He provoked with for 40 years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And who did He swear to that they would not enter His rest, if not those who disobeyed?”
Astonishingly the above scriptures tell us that the very Hebrews who were led out of Egypt and who witnessed Pharaoh’s downfall and judgment are themselves judiciously judged by God just like their former foe Pharaoh! Moreover none of them were allowed to enter Promised Land.
Why? Because God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). The Hebrews persistent un-repentance and habitual hardening of their own hearts against God ultimately disqualified them from life and further opportunities to repent just like Pharaoh. They too became judiciously hardened as a result. Once again all this becomes total nonsense within a Piper Calvinist paradigm given that God is thought to be the controlling and determinative power deeply sequestered and hidden behind every act of sin and un-repentance that subsequently leads to God’s response of confirming people in their hardness as an act of judgment. As we saw in the earlier critique, such reasoning inevitable collapses back in on itself since it would mean God isn’t actually responding to what humans choose to do or not do. Rather God is responding to what God doesn’t like about what God decided he ought to decree. This schizophrenic, split-personality view of God will be explored more in the next critique.
Suffice it to say now that the lapses in Piper’s reasoning cause him to utterly fail to connect N.T. references of judicial hardening and blinding as something Israel had to experience because of her prior persistent unbelief and self-induced blindness and self-righteousness. Once again a full reading of scripture reveals God only punitively hardens and blinds people when his ideal will is repeatedly spurned. This in turn consequently sets the stage for his accommodating will confirming people in their self-chosen hardness of heart as an act of judgment.
Piper astonishingly conceals this critical interchange between God and man from his readers (if not himself!) and myopically zeroes in on verses and phrases that fit the un-contextualized narrative he is dogmatically pushing. Piper’s reading of the Bible is often approached with a hermeneutic that can best defined as opening a novel mid way and then making critical judgments irrespective of what came before.
For example right after discussing God’s hardening of King Heshbon and evil Canaanite kings, Piper states,
The hardening work of God was not limited to non-Israelites. In fact it plays a central role in the life of Israel in this period of history. In Romans 11:7-9 Paul speaks of Israel’s failure to obtain the righteousness and salvation it desired: “Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day.” Even though it is the command of God that his people see and hear and respond in faith (Isaiah 42:18), nevertheless God also has his reasons for sending a spirit of stupor at times so that some will not obey his command.
Yes, God does “have his reasons” to harden people— and chief among them is God’s divine judgment against those who repeatedly spurned his grace, light and purpose. Though Piper ignores this antecedent context, the Bible does not. This is why the scriptures speak of key Jewish leaders of Christ’s day as being those who “always resist the Holy Spirit” and who “rejected God’s purpose for themselves (Lk 7:30).” As a result God’s patient longsuffering has reached an end and they will be judiciously hardened and blinded. Yet through it all God remains sovereign as one who will exploit their earlier unbelief and use it as means to fulfill his long desired purpose and plan to bring light and salvation to the Gentiles. He will use their disobedience to bring about what he had originally intended their obedience would achieve.
It is helpful to quote Greg Boyd’s thoughts on the matter:
“The passage fits perfectly with the point Paul is making in Romans 9. While some individual Jews had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the nation as a whole had rejected Jesus, and thus rejected God’s purpose for themselves (cf. Lk 7:30). Hence, though God had previously blessed Israel, he was now changing his mind about them and was hardening them. Ironically, and shockingly, the Jews were finding themselves in the same position as their old nemesis Pharaoh. He had hardened his heart toward God, so God responded by hardening him further in order to raise him up to further his own sovereign purposes (Rom 9: 17). So too, Paul was arguing, God was now hardening the Jews in their self-chosen unbelief to further his sovereign purposes. He was going to use their rebellion to do what he had always hoped their obedience would do: namely, bring the non-Jewish world into a relationship with him (Rom 11:11-12).”
Not too surprisingly Piper appears to strategically downplay and tactically overlook the historical reasons and critical backstories that contextually lie behind the examples he puts forward. But this is par for the course for Piper. In the end it is quite unfortunate if not highly suspicious. His habitual omission of the larger context that surrounds God’s acts of judicial hardening is troubling. For it is only when we realize that God’s judicial actions of hardening, blinding and delivering people up to their own sin, occur within a context wherein people have freely and repeatedly spurned his earlier offerings of light and grace, that we can confidently rest in the truth that God is not acting unconditionally and therefore capriciously or arbitrarily with people. Remember for Piper God’s two-wills are what God allegedly wants to happens and what he unconditionally determines should and must happen—which of course renders the first divine will a schizophrenic figment of God’s confused imagination that God’s second will ensures will never see the light of day.
 Piper must admit that all God’s acts of decree are unconditional since he holds to the Westminster Confession of faith which states, “God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass…yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.” See: http://www.the-highway.com/WCFChIII.html