Friday, August 20, 2010

The Hardening of a Heart: Was Pharoh Dealt from a Stacked Deck?

Recently, on a profesisonal web page I visit from time to time, a question was placed in the discussion area that caught my interest.

I was reading Exodus 7-8 again this morning and was wondering why God decided to harden Pharaoh's heart prior to Moses going to him to request the release of the children of Israel. Exodus 7:3 says " And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt". Was this done to prove that He is God? I know in latter verses it was said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and did not allow the children of Israel go. E.g Exodus 8:15 "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." But why did God initially harden Pharaoh's heart?”

Let me try to answer this question.

Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the hardness of heart was to help better develop the faith of Moses, as well as the children of Israel.

I have to disagree with the concept, that some have, that God just made an already evil man, just a bit more evil. This removes the gift of choice/agency/dealing with right from wrong that all the Lords' children are given. Using that theory, God must have made the Hitlers of the world just a little crazier, for some devine reason.

I don't find anything in recorded scripture that lends credence to that notion.

Pharaoh had the agency to let the children of Joseph go, but, because of pride, as well as a refusal to accept the word of the Lord from a Prophet of God, events went the way that they did.

Passover came as a by-product of this refusal, which was in turn brought about by the very words of Pharaoh, when he condemned the first born of every house of the children of Israel to be slain. His own words condemned him.

The by-product of this final horrific plague, that was turned on the first born of Egypt, was that we now have an event that is comparable to the sacrifice of God's First Born for the children of the Lord. The prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving that accompanied that first "Passover" are now echoed all over the world for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all people. The burden of sin that was heavy upon our own shoulders, has now Passed Over us, due to the atonement of Christ.

The Lord worked through Moses, and Pharaoh, on different levels, in order to prepare a nation of Spiritual of illiterates, a.k.a. the Children of Israel, for a transition from idol worship, and a secular perspective, towards that of a higher eternal form of worship.

On one level both the Children of Israel AND Pharaoh, had to see with their own eyes that the power of God was far, far greater than that of Pharaoh.

Consider that most of the plagues that the Lord called down, could either be duplicated by the "magicians" who were in the service of Pharaoh, or explained away. However, the final miracle could not be explained nor duplicated, by man, that of the parting of the Red Sea.
On another level, Moses, through these experiences learned to trust in the arm of the Lord more, and less on the arm of man. And even then the lesson wasn't fully learned, as we know from his later experiences in the desert.

I don't believe, and I would suggest that the Bible doesn't teach us, that we are used from time to time as puppets of God.

We have our agency, we can choose to turn right or turn left, to stand, or to sit. We can choose to commit sin, or to walk away from it

Some are born with that ability limited due to mental illness etc., however, I don't think that God will dictate who will have that limitation and who will not. Things happen naturally, and in accordance with the devine nature of the creative process.

Sometimes however the Lord will use a particular circumstance to further His work and His will. It's in these circumstances that we end up working with Him, even if we're not aware of it at the time

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trouble At River City

The Scene: River City USA.

A group of people gathers around Professor Harold Hill, a wise sage of the west who has come into town to perform an act of "compassionate" humanity.

'HOLD ON! My friends either you are blind, or you do not know of the danger of having the "Mormons" living here in this "Christian" community!!

'WHAT?!?!' the crowd cries in shock.

'That's right, friends, the "Mormons" are right here on this very town!! Why the whole thing would make a grown man weep if it weren't so serious!'

'Tell us Professor!' the crowd cries. 'Oh, please tell us about those "Mormons," are they really that bad?'

'Bad?' the Professor says. 'Bad? Why my dear people, if you're not careful they'll deceive you in to thinking that they've got some sort of new fangled Bible or something or other.' The professor looks at the crowd gathering around him. 'Why, it's a good thing I got here in the nick of time. Let me tell you about the 'Mormon' Church, why it's a den of sin, and delusion.'

The gathering crowd gasps in horror. 'Professor,' asks somebody in the crowd. 'Tell us more about this new Bible, Please!'

'Friend, it's a good thing you asked me about it instead of one of them!' The Professor puffs out his chest. 'Why I spent the last ten years reading about it!' 'I have read books written by some of the best minds in River City that tell me everything about the book!' The crowd listens intently. 'The people, who have written about the subject, have heard so much about that Book of Mormon, that it would make a grown man or woman blush with embarrassment. 'The crowd pushes forward, eager to hear all the "truth" about this "new Bible." Hill looks at them with cunning eyes. He thinks that he's got them.

From out of the crowd a young lady, looking a lot like a young Shirley Jones, pushes her way through the mass of people, making her way towards the front. Hill spots her, and focuses his attention upon her. The woman is Marion, the librarian. Hill figures that if he can win the town intellectual over to his side then his job is more than halfway finished.

'Why my friends did you know that they believe that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book ever written?' The crowd gasps. 'Why they even say that a man could draw nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of that book than by any other book!' 'What?!?' The crowd gasps again.

'Yes that's right, my friends. That's what they say. It beggars the mind! I have a book right here in my hand that was written by somebody over one hundred years ago. In it the author says that there are over 4000 changes to that book! The author did a word count and found that some words were actually changed and even removed from this book!' Hill takes a deep breath and continues.

'Yet the "Mormons" would have you believe that this book, the Book of Mormon, is the most correctly translated book ever published!' 'How in the world can they say that when there are over 4000 changes in it?!?' 'Not a single person in the 'Mormon' Church denies it!'

'And do you know what else the "Mormons"' want you to do?' Hill cries out in mock outrage.

'No, tell us professor, what do those "Mormons" want us to do?' Four men in the crowd cry out in Barbershop harmony.

'Why they not only want you to read it for yourselves, but they actually want you to pray about the fool thing and ask God, if it is really a volume of scripture!' 'My friends have you ever heard of such a foolish thing as that?!' 'Does it make your blood boil, well I should say!' 'Imagine, wanting you good people of River City to take time out of your busy lives and actually read a book that is supposed to come from God.' The crowd murmurs in amazement.' And then they actually want you to pray to God, who is pretty busy enough as it is, and ask Him if the Book of Mormon is scripture!'

'It's a good thing that I got here when I did my friends. I can save you all that trouble, and tell you that based upon the books that I've read about the Book of Mormon, that it is entirely false and that it contradicts the Bible!' Hill puffs his chest with prideful glee. 'Oh my friends, I've done you a service today, yes siree!'

'Oh thank you Professor!' Some women in the crowd say in harmony. 'It's a good thing for us that you are here!'

'Why my friends, we all know that It is evil and a-wicked to ask God to give us a witness of his word by the Holy Ghost.' Somebody in the crowds shouts, 'Amen!'

Hill, picking up on that says with as much conviction as he could, '"The Almighty has given us common sense and nearly two thousand years of Christian knowledge to fall back on. Surely you don't believe that He wants us to bother Him with every little trifling detail!'

The crowd murmurs in agreement.

'Excuse me, Professor Hill,' Marion the Librarian says as she pushes her way to the front of the crowd and stands directly in front of Professor Hill. 'But it says right here in the Bible that it is all right to pray for things.' Marion opens the Bible up to the twenty-first chapter of Matthew and reads:

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matt 21:22)

Hill looks upon her with condescending eyes and says, 'My dear, it's obvious to all of us that you've not understood what you've read.' Some of the crowd nod their head. 'Why my dear, if you'll re-read that verse, you'll notice that there is not any mention of the Book of Mormon or of looking for knowledge.'

'But Professor Hill, it says All things , surely that would include the Book of Mormon as well.' Hill begins to look a bit uncomfortable as those around Marion start to shake their heads in agreement.

Hill smiles down on Marion. 'My dear, even if that were true, and I'm not saying it is mind you, but even if that were true, the fact remains that the Book of Mormon contains 4000 changes to it since its first edition in 1829!' The crowd, most of them at least say, 'That's right!' and, 'It must be a phony to contain all those changes in it' Somebody in the back of the crowd says, 'If it came from God then there wouldn't be anything wrong with it wouldn't it?'

Hill smiles, he's back in control. Or is he?

'Professor Hill?' a voice from the crowd calls out. 'Yes, my friend.' 'What about the different Bibles that are in the world today?' 'How do we really know which one of them is the best one to read?'

'Why my friend, it's easy, those Bibles are put together by some of the best minds in the world today, using copies of copies of original copies taken from an original manuscript that is over several thousand years old!' 'Read about these translations and you'll not find a single story about God sending His heavenly messengers to help out with the translations.' Some in the crowd, not as many as there were before though, nod their heads in agreement. 'These committees are some of the best that money could buy!'

Marion the Librarian says, 'Professor Hill, about those changes to the Book of Mormon.' Hill looks deeply into her blue eyes. 'Yes my dear.' Marion blushes slightly, takes a breath and continues.' Isn't it true that all those changes to the Book of Mormon had nothing to do with doctrine but were merely corrections to errors that the printer made when publishing the Book of Mormon?' 'In fact, wasn't the Book of Mormon originally written, without any punctuation at all?'

The crowd begins to look at Marion and wonders if she is on to something.

'My dear, surely if the Book of Mormon is "true" then God would "inspire" "Joe" Smith to spell correctly and have better grammatical skills!' The crowd laughs, well that is to say, some of them laugh. More than a few are not so sure any more.

Marion takes out her Bible opens it to Matthew chapter 16, verse 13 and reads:

13 Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?

'Professor Hill, do you notice anything wrong with that verse of scripture?' Marion asks.

'Why no, my dear.'

'Professor, I am surprised!' Marion says shyly. 'In this sentence the verb 'am' is a 'be' verb which makes the whole sentence intransitive, and an intransitive sentence never takes an object.' 'Either the Lord was a poor speaker, or there is something wrong with the translation.'

The crowd begins to look at Marion in a new way. Suddenly she is beginning to make a bit of sense.

'Professor Hill, I read that it took approximately eighty days for an unschooled young man to produce a 300,000 word, 552 page volume of ancient America without any outside assistance. In fact he only had three years of formalized education, and you expect a grammatically correct translation.' Some in the crowd are beginning to get more interested. 'Being a wise scholarly man, Professor Hill, you of course know that it took 54 learned scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminister, four years to write and translate the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, and there are still grammatical errors in it!'

'What errors Madam Liberian?' Hill asks.

'Professor, I really don't want to intrude, after all, this is your meeting...but since you asked, perhaps when you retire for the evening you might want to look at: Gen.43:25, Gen 18:2, Gen 42:2, 2 Kings 19:35, John 4:2, Luke 23:32, and Acts 19:12 to start with." "There are literally dozens more that I could show you.'

'Marion!' shouts out a chubby man who looks like Buddy Hackett . 'Are there any errors of translation attributed to the Lord himself?' 'Yes there are.' 'The Lord's prayer is wrong. Remember when Christ is supposed to have said "Lead us not into temptation"? 'This contradicts the book of James when he says, "God is neither tempted, neither tempteth he any man."

'Don't you see, all this means is that the Bible is not nearly as perfect as some would have you believe!' A shocked murmur runs through the crowd. 'This does not mean that it is not inspired, only that some human error has crept in, despite the best intentions in the world.' 'Surely we should also be as charitable towards the Book of Mormon.'

Hill is getting a bit desperate now. He's losing his audience. 'If what you say is true, what use is the Book of Mormon anyway?' Hill has a gleam in his eye, he's on to a new idea!. ' I've heard it said that the Book of Mormon doesn't tell us anything new, or anything that is not already in the Bible!'

Marion flips through one of the reference books that she brought with her from the library. 'Alexander Campbell , who founded the Church of Christ said this about the Book of Mormon:

"..It decides all the great controversies: Infant Baptism, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, Church government, the call to ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, even the questions of free masonry, republican government and the rights of man."

'Now, Professor Hill, I don't claim to be as wise as you are, but it seems to me that the Book of Mormon isn't as empty as you say it is.'

Just then, a little boy, looking a lot like a young Ronnie Howard, but without the lisp, spoke out. 'Professor.' Hill looked at the little four year old, thinking that the kids' question would be an easy one. 'Yes son?' The boy looked up at Hill and said, 'Have you actually read the Book of Mormon?'

Hill smiled and said, 'No my boy I haven't.' The boy looked puzzled. 'But professor, how do you know if the Book of Mormon is wrong if you've not read it for yourself?' 'Ma always tells me, if I want to know how to spell a word, to look it up myself in the dictionary, she figures that's the only way that I learn for myself.'
Hill begins to suspect that the good folk of River City are a bit more smarter then he gave them credit for.

Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, Marion speaks again. ' Correct me if I'm wrong Professor, but wasn't it Lord Bacon who said;

"Read not to contradict and confuse, not to believe and take for granted...but to weigh and consider."?

'Forgive me, but if you rely upon the words of others to tell you about the Book of Mormon, but have not read it for yourself to see if the objections are valid ones, how honest is it for you to claim to be an expert?'

The crowd begins to see Hill in a new light. 'Say, the lady's right.'

Hill begins to perspire. 'Hey Professor!' Somebody from the crowd yells. ' You mean to say that you haven't read the thing and yet you're telling us what it's about?' Others in the crowd begin to murmur and say, ' How do we know that you're telling us the truth?' Others say, 'Rather strange if you ask me, claiming that something is a fraud without having first hand knowledge, sounds like prattling gossip if you ask me.'

'Friends, friends!' Hill almost shouts. 'I'm just like you!' 'Trust me! Listen to me, and you'll not go wrong!'

The towns people begin to look at Hill differently, it's as if somebody has told them that the emperor hasn't been wearing any clothes after all.

'Marion,' Says the chubby Buddy Hackett look alike. ' Do you have any copies of the Book of Mormon in the library?' ' If it is as important as you say it is I guess that it wouldn't hurt for me to read it for myself and then make up my own mind.'

Marion nods her head in agreement. 'I've got a few copies in the Religion section, I've had them for a while now.'

'You know, he's right maybe we ought to read it to see what all the fuss is about.' People begin to say. At this moment in time attention turns away from Harold Hill and the crowd drifts away towards the Library.

Hill is left alone. Somehow it went wrong. He had imagined that in the end he would have convinced many people to avoid the Book of Mormon, and that he would have ended up with the girl Marion at his side, marching down the main street leading a big parade of people who were grateful for his wise help. He would've been a hero!

But then again this is real life and not some sort of 1960's musical.

Isn't it?