Luther on God’s Hardening of Hearts

Posted: March 15, 2012 in books, god, justice, quotes, theology

Somebody asked [Martin Luther], “Is the hardening of the heart in the Scriptures to be taken literally or figuratively?” [cf. Rom. 9:18]

The doctor replied, “Literally, but not actively, because God doesn’t do anything that’s bad. Yet his omnipotence does everything, and as he finds man, so he acts on him. Pharaoh was by nature wicked; God acted on him, and Pharaoh continued to be wicked. His heart was hardened because God didn’t hinder Pharaoh’s ungodly plans by his Spirit and grace. Why God didn’t hinder them is not for us to ask.

This ‘why’ destroys many souls when they search after that which is too high for us. God says, ‘Why I am doing this you do not know, but ponder my Word, believe in Christ, pray, and I will make everything turn out well.’ If God should be asked at the last judgment, ‘Why did you permit Adam to fall?’ and he answered, ‘In order that my goodness toward the human race might be understood when I gave my Son for man’s salvation,’ we would say, ‘Let the whole human race fall again in order that thy glory may become known! Because thou hast accomplished so much through Adam’s fall we do not understand thy ways.’

“There is a threefold light: that of reason, that of grace, and that of glory.”

– Martin Luther, Table Talk No. 5071: “‘He Hardens the Heart of Whomever He Wills’ Between June 11 and 19, 1540,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, p. 38.

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