Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You mean God doesn't want some people to repent?

I've spent this afternoon rubbing my face in the Parable of the Word in Mark 4. And then I read this by Dan Phillips: Doomed Evangelism. Makes very helpful, if sobering reading. The Parable-Principle in action as Moses meets Pharaoh in Exodus 10.

When Paul writes about this doctrine in Romans 9, with his own people group in view, he writes with devastation and tear-stained face. We struggle with this doctrine because we don't like the idea of people not believing when we preach. But the weight of Biblical evidence seems to be that God is active both in hardening as well as in showing mercy, in both cases for his glory.


  1. I was just reading Jer 14-15 yesterday. I need to read it again because it was a little confusing, but it contains similar stuff. But I do wonder if it is maybe a bit more complicated than the Dan Phillips' of this world, or the typical Arminian/whatever on the street, make out. I wonder in particular what we mean by the word 'glory'.

    The answer usually comes back 'fame', and I think that is fairly true. But then the next question should surely be 'famous for what?' I am not sure of the answer, and Jer 14-16 seems to suggest that Jeremiah himself is with me in this.

    What do you think?

  2. Yeah agreed. The question is famous for what. In a long term sense, taking Romans 9-11 and the Exodus stuff into account part of that must be famous for being just not just merciful - i.e. if everyone got mercy then his justice would not be seen?

    In some sense I doubt we'll know til That Day how hardening glorifies God.

    We always go to proclaim Christ in hope of people believing and praying that it would happen... but we have to remember that Jesus word also hardens - that was the Isaiah 6 ministry, it was Jesus' parable ministry in Mark 4, and Paul saw the same in Acts 28...

    I suppose this reinforces our need to trust in the sovereignty of God when we wield his word... to trust with tears that God's best interests may be served even when people don't believe...

    (though: It would be all to easy to let ourselves use that as an excuse for not presenting the gospel as clearly, persuasively and winsomely as we might... - God's hardening of people is no excuse for poor proclamation)

  3. Does it also make sense of Ezekiel 2 - where Ezzy's call seems to be about faithful proclamation rather than successful (in human terms) ministry. In fact, before he is even told what to say he is called to be faithful to the God who calls him to say it.

    I think this can be liberating for ministry - not, as you say Dave, that there is any place for sloppy ministry, but the encouragement of ministry is NOT in the results it produces (some, as you point out are downright depressing), but rather in our faithfulness to the one who calls us to it. Would we be less likely to give up on difficult ministry situations if we really believed this, I wonder?

  4. Hmm, it is a difficult question. For every answer I can think of, I can think of an argument against it. Perhaps it is because I am trying to reduce God to a set of attributes (justice, love, redeeming, ruling etc) . I remember listening to Carson once preach saying that 'holy' means 'separate' if anything but that if you really delve into its use in the bible you come back with 'God/God-like/God-derived'. Perhaps I have to stop thrashing around trying to find an answer and settle with God being famous for being who he is. You can't reduce a person to one sentence, why do I think we can do it to God. Not that this means we can say nothing about him (I think of your earlier post Dave), but we can't say God is ‘just’ (or ‘love’) and just leave it at that. Besides God is the one who shows us what love/justice is anyway.

    We can never perfectly align our living with God, and not just because of our sin. So I suppose what you are saying Dave is spot on - proclaim Christ (we know we should always do this, while stop praying for God's people either (like Jer) without trying to second guess God's secret will), and trust God.

    Adrian's so right in saying it is liberating. I remember coming back as an AM in Bristol for the life mission and it was so liberating to be part of a mission passionate about proclaiming Christ, but utterly trusting in God to do the work himself.

    The truth of Jesus' character is sweeter than any philosophising.