The Instigator
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
InquireTruth
Con (against)
Winning
35 Points

Exodus 7-12(the Egyptian Plagues) demolishes the Christian Doctrine of Free Will

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
InquireTruth
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/9/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,367 times Debate No: 6836
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (7)

 

Blessed-Cheese-Maker

Pro

I argue that God's interaction with Pharaoh in the Exodus story, specifically relating to the Plagues and Pharaoh's reaction to them negates the commonly accepted Christian doctrine of Free Will.

God intentionally hardened Pharaoh's heart negating his free will and creating cause for all humans to question the free will doctrine.

(As a simultaneous sidebar debate I will be attempting to prove that God's action towards Pharaoh, was immoral as it was designed to result in the death of innocent children)
InquireTruth

Con

Introduction:

What a wonderful debate topic and one I hope my opponent and I can enjoy very much. I know that his intentions for wanting to negate freewill – being an atheist and all – are different than that of a Calvinists, but I am almost certain that what my opponent and a Calvinist have in common is where they err.
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I would first like to start out with the definition of demolish:

Demolish - To tear down completely (www.dictionary.com)

If I can show that there is reason to believe that Exodus 7-12 does not pose a demolishing threat to freewill, my burden is fulfilled.

Perhaps the most important point will revolve around the understanding of Hebrew language and colloquialisms.
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1. Understanding Hebrew Idioms

The error in my opponents rendering of the text is that he reads it without understanding who it was written to and what the intended meaning of the text was. My opponent's entire rendering of the text depends unilaterally on a misunderstanding of a Hebrew idiom.

Before I delve into the idiom, let me illustrate with a contemporary example. Suppose my father came up to me and started to explain his encounter with someone who disagreed with him. This person was not a skilled arguer and my dad explained that he "ripped him a new one." If I was completely unaware of colloquialisms and idioms, I might be entirely shocked that my dad would do such a grotesque thing. But of course, my dad did not ACTUALLY rip him a new one.

The question that now arises is: did God ACTUALLY harden Pharaoh's heart? E.W. Bullinger in his work has shown the many ways that Greek and Hebrew verbs are used in different ways other than their literal usage. He shows that the Hebrew language "used active verbs to express the agent's design or attempt to do anything, even though the thing was not actually done" (1898, p. 821)." Bullinger shows how active verbs (in his list of idiomatic verbs) are often used, "by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do" (p. 823, emp. in orig.) Bullinger explains that God saying "I will harden is heart" is actually a way of saying I will allow Pharaoh to harden his heart. This is of course evidenced also by the use of the phrase in question:

God hardened Pharaoh's heart - 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8
Pharaoh hardened his own heart - 8:15,32; 9:34, 10:3 (he was stubborn in 13:15)
Passive form of hardened without indication of source: 7:13,14,22; 8:19; 9:7,35

The writer of Exodus is using the phrase idiomatically to show that Pharaoh hardened is heart and God, in his permission of freewill, allowed it to happen. This resembles the Greek used in Romans 1:26 that shows God giving the Romans over to their desires – showing that, though He did not want it to happen, He let it happen. This seems to be the quintessence of freewill.
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2. Not enough evidence to demolish

My second objection is the very idea of believing that the whole doctrine of freewill could either stand or fall by one section in scripture. If my opponent's rendering were true, it still would fall very short of "demolishing" the notion of freewill. Similarly, if my fingerprints were found on the weapon used to murder my close friend - which would be some rather damning evidence against my innocence in the matter - if over 20 corroborating witnesses were able to testify that I was nowhere near the scene of the accident at the time of its happening, would it still be said that the fingerprints were enough to demolish my innocence? Certainly not.
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Conclusion: My opponent not only misunderstands Hebrew idioms, but he believes that one section of scripture can unilaterally demolish the entire doctrine of freewill (that is attested – in some way or another – by every single book in the Old and New Testament). Moreover, Semitic use of metonymy still remains as a perfectly viable explanation.

Sources:

Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Debate Round No. 1
Blessed-Cheese-Maker

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for taking on this subject, it is clear from the response in round one that he is a learned and logical challenger.

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1. Understanding Hebrew Idioms

It is fortuitous that my opponent was first to breach the subject of Hebrew interpretation and idiom. For that is precisely what this argument is built upon.

Let me start by expressing my joy at hearing Bullinger's "the bible doesn't say, what it means" apologetic. It is consistently curious to me how proponents of the bible, will point out that hundreds of thousands of men were intently involved in ensuring an accurate interpretation of scripture, and that God himself guards his inspired word, only to then claim that it has been misinterpreted, or that Greek verses Hebrew interpretation leads to unfortunate words like Hades replacing Shoal. It appears as if God isn't guarding his word as closely as claimed, leading to an document that is unsupportable as the word of God?

That aside, this example in Exodus is actually a case in which the word hardened is used with intent. There are two different Hebrew words that differentiate the two phrases. First is chazaq (H2388) and the other one is kabad kabed (H3513) – that's one word.

God hardened Pharaoh's heart - 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8 = chazaq
Pharaoh hardened his own heart - 8:15,32; 9:34, 10:3 = kabad kabed

In order to properly interpret the differences a contextual reading of other biblical verses utilizing these Hebrew words is required. *Chazaq* is used 290 times in the bible, examples of it are as follows:
Genesis 19:16 And while he lingered, the men *laid hold* upon his hand..
Genesis 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and *hold* him in thine hand;
Deuteronomy 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man *force* her, and lie with her:
Jdg 3:12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD *strengthened* Eglon the king of Moab against Israel

When one examines the instances of the use of the word Chazaq it quickly becomes clear that it is clearly a verb, used with the intent of showing action on behalf of the subject.

Examples of *kabad kabed* are as follows:

Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very *grievous*
Gen 34:19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he *was more honourable* than all the house of his father.
1Sa 2:30 ...Be it far from me; for *them that honour* me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed

It is clear that Kabad Kabed is an adjective that describes the nature of the subject, and that the two words are not interchangeable.

We can tell by the intended use of both words where God actively hardened Pharaoh's heart, and where it was simply a hard heart being Pharaoh's own fault. This renders my opponent's argument of misinterpretation false.

Bullinger's contention that "I will Harden his Heart" really means I will allow Pharaoh to harden his heart is patently falsified, but the use of the Hebrew word Chazaq in conjunction with Yahovah in the text. It is clear that the writer of Exodus purposely wanted the reader to understand that God was directly involved in Pharaoh's decisions which is strengthened by God's initial statement to Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 7:2-5
"2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Clearly God hardened Pharaoh's heart to display his power to the Egyptians supported by; Exodus 7:5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.

What becomes very clear is that God considered the death of Egyptian Children as a requirement for convincing the Egyptian people that he was God, and actively hardened Pharaoh's heart in order to accomplish it.

2. Not enough evidence to demolish

In this rebuttal my opponent states that one section of scripture cannot effectively refute doctrine. This is clearly not the case. Many Christian doctrines hinge on single instances of scripture, and Christians are continually arguing amongst themselves over the weight of the cited verses and accounts. The doctrine of rapture theology is sole based on 1 Th 4:13-17 yet many other verses appear to contradict the notion of pre tribulation rapture.

The doctrine of Free Will however is a little different than Christian arguments about escaping the wrath of their God. Free Will talks to the nature of God himself, and must be supported by God in EVERY INSTANCE in his interaction with mankind in order to be truth for all mankind.

God cannot provide disproportionate free will to mankind, and remain perfect and benevolent and, most importantly, just. Which is why Bullinger's apologetics were required in the case of Pharaoh. If God interferes with the free will of one man/woman in human history, then the claims of his perfect justness are untrue.

If it is established that God interfered with Pharaoh's free will, then the free will doctrine CANNOT stand, because it states that God gives ALL men free will. Therefore this one instance in scripture, can most definitely demolish the entire doctrine.

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Rebuttal to opponent's conclusion:

It quickly becomes apparent that the contender is the one who has been mislead about Hebrew idioms. His reliance on Bullinger's (it doesn't mean what it says) apologetic was done at the expense of actual study and translation of the Hebrew words themselves, which provide proof of the purposed intent of the writer. It is apparent that God actively hardened Pharaoh's heart, as the text implicitly states. Basically, my opponent relies on Bullinger's interpretation of the intent of the writer, instead of what the writer actually wrote, engaging in semantic apologetics. A valiant effort that falls short when the Hebrew is actually studied in full. Semitic use of metonymy is not a perfectly viable explanation because of the specific use of two different Hebrew words, with different meanings in specific instances.

It is clear that the contender has either adjusted the doctrine of free will to allow God to apply it non unilaterally or doesn't understand the definition of the doctrine of free will which requires just application by a perfectly just God in every case.

I excitedly await my opponents reply.

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Round 3 preview: What is the meaning inherent in the instances where God hardened Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh's heart was hard on his own volition?
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Sources:

The Bible
Genesis 19:16
Genesis 21:18
Deuteronomy 22:25
Jdg 3:12
Gen 18:20
Gen 34:19
1Sa 2:30
Exodus 7:2-5
1 Th 4:13-17
InquireTruth

Con

Introduction:

Clearly my opponent is more formidable than the typical Calvinist (though I have never debated KRFournier). I would like to call attention to the resolution before progressing. In order for my opponent to "tear down completely" the doctrine of free will, he must show that his interpretation is in fact the ONLY possible interpretation. My proposition (though far superior) need not be true or known to be true – it need not be so much as plausible. Really all it needs to be is possible. If my offered interpretation is possible, then my opponent has failed to destroy the doctrine of free will (he has only possibly destroyed it).

But, irrespective of the aforesaid, I believe I can show that my offered interpretation is not only possible, but far more congenial to the text and Semitic culture.

.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?

1. Understanding Hebrew Idioms

The caricature of my defense as "the bible doesn't say, what it means" apologetic notwithstanding, clearly there is a stylistic aspect that my opponent wishes to disregard.
Either Pharaoh and God were playing past-the-baton in regards to whom would do the hardening, or the author of Exodus is employing a Semitic idiom.

The very fact that there are two different and distinct Hebrew words used depending on who is "doing" the hardening, only lends credence to theory that the author was trying to stylistically distinguish the difference between God's action and Pharaoh's action.

Deuteronomy 28:68 is an example in which an active verb is used to express an action that did not ACTUALLY occur. It states, "You will be sold to your enemies…and no man will buy you." Of course it is impossible to simultaneously be sold and not be sold, so the intended rendering would actually be "you will be put up for sale."

Jeremiah 4:10 is an example of an active verb being use to designate permission or allowance of the action. God allowed them to be deceived.

There is another nuance that plays in my favor in regards to the Hebrew word Chazaq. Chazaq is not strictly used as forced or hardened. But it can also mean confirmed (2388 Strong's). That is to say, God did not force Pharaoh to harden his heart, but rather confirmed his firmly established proclivity to harden his own heart. This is evidenced by the fact that Pharaoh unilaterally hardened his own heart in many cases (8:15, 32; 9:34; 10:3; 13:5).

Furthermore, stepping out of the context of Exodus, we see that contemporary Semitic authors were very aware of the idiom and the proper interpretation of Exodus 7-12 – 1 Samuel 6:6a states, "Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did?"

Bullwinger and James MacKnight have not been adequately refuted. It is still very possible, and indeed very plausible, that the author of Exodus was employing an idiomatic device.

"Clearly God hardened Pharaoh's heart to display his power to the Egyptians supported by; Exodus 7:5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Being aware of an event in advance does not equal causation of said event. This is not an example of God causing an event to occur, but, in His sovereignty, using said event for His own purposes.

.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?

2. Not enough evidence to demolish

My opponent uses the rapture as an example of a doctrine that stands on one section of scripture. There are not only verses that contradict the idea of pretribulation ratpure (that is if we accept the idea of tribulation. Being a partial preterest, I disagree even here), there is virtually no additional evidence for the idea of the rapture (and that which does exist is sorely wanting). I would contend that the doctrine of the rapture does indeed fail as a doctrine by the criteria aforesaid.

"Free Will talks to the nature of God himself, and must be supported by God in EVERY INSTANCE in his interaction with mankind in order to be truth for all mankind."

And

"God cannot provide disproportionate free will to mankind, and remain perfect and benevolent and, most importantly, just."

And

"If God interferes with the free will of one man/woman in human history, then the claims of his perfect justness are untrue."

God using pre-established behavior is not a negation of free will, but a use of it. Furthermore, to say that God could not have superimposed His will over the free will of pharaoh and simultaneously remain omnibenevolent and just, is simply false. God is the metric by which we judge. It must be good and just by the mere fact that God did it. To say differently would place morality outside of the character of God and therefore necessitate the explanation and origin of this alternative and transcendental entity that is morality – a burden that would be yours.

Even if you were correct, then, that God did negate Pharaoh's free will, this would only mean that the doctrine of free will is 99.9% accurate – this, of course, is a few bricks short from completely tearing down the monolithic bastion of free will.

.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?.;'*^?

Conclusion:

My opponent has not adequately refuted the possibility of a Hebrew idiom or the possibility that God merely confirmed a pre-established condition. Moreover, he completely disregards the approach of systematic theology that seeks to understand the Bible holistically. Indeed, the very fact that free will is attested by virtually every book in the Old and New testament only makes the idea of an idiomatic usage in Exodus 7-12 all the more plausible.
Debate Round No. 2
Blessed-Cheese-Maker

Pro

Blessed-Cheese-Maker forfeited this round.
InquireTruth

Con

Pharaoh hardened his heart 6 times before, after the sixth plague, God confirmed that choice. This is evidenced by the word Chazaq essentially being ascribed to Pharaoh's own hardening when It says "Pharaoh's heart became hard...Pharaoh hardened his heart."

Thank you for the debate.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by KRFournier 8 years ago
KRFournier
This debate was very well done. I would have very much liked to see it play out completely, especially given Pro's comments below. Due to Pro's forfeit, I gave Con the conduct vote. And since Con's argument remains unofficially refuted, they stand, so he gets the convincing argument vote as well.
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
The Plague of Locusts - Pharaoh's officials tell him to let the Israelites God, pharaoh considders it but is worried that they will cause problems, if allowed to breed. Locusts come, Pharaoh repents even stating that he had sinned against God. The locusts leave, but this time God does the hardening. Considdering Pharaoh's officials were trying to convince him to let the people go and his own repentance of sin, it becomes clear that God had to do the hardening.

The Plague of Darkness - This time Pharaoh is completely defeated, he gives Moses everything he wants, tells him to leave with the women and children, a complete exodus is granted. Once again God steps in and hardens Pharaoh's heart.

The Plague on the Firstborn - This is the most damning plague for the use of idiom. God tells Moses that he is planning one more coup de gras a plague to beat them all. He tells Moses that Pharaoh will not listen to them, and then actively hardens his heart for the last time. When reading Exodus 11, it becomes abundantly clear that Pharaoh is a pawn in God's plan.

Context is king in biblical interpretation, I am sure you will agree, however Bullinger's use of idiom in this instance is countered by the context. God says he is going to do it, then he does it. To utilize a theory of idiom here, undermine's all the bibles claims of an active God. If idiom can be evoked for Chazaq, then every one of the 290 times it is utilized to show the actions of God, are subject to idiom. Which means God doesn't actually do many of the the things attributed to him in the bible?

Yikes, if idiom is in play, God is not.

Anyway, I am truly sorry I missed the end of this debate would have loved to have finished this one, and heard your reply, truly was fun.
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
Sorry inquire,

I concede due to inaction.

However was going to point out the specific context of when God does the hardening verses when Pharaoh's heart is passively hard.

For instance:
Aaron's Staff Becomes a Snake - Pharaoh harden's his own heart because his magicians can duplicate the magic.

The Plague of Blood - Pharaoh's magicians duplicate it on a smaller scale and Pharaoh hardens how own heart.

The Plague of Frogs - Pharaoh, is amazed by this one, and asks Moses to pray them away, but after they have gone, convinces himself that it wasn't God, hardening his own heart again.

The Plague of Gnats - now Pharaoh's own magicians are starting to wonder, but still he doesn't believe that it is God. Notice they try to convince him but still his heart was hardened. It shows disbelief.

The Plague of Flies - Things are ratcheting up now, and Pharaoh for the first time believes that God is involved. He askes Moses to sacrifice to God for him, but when the flies departs he changes his own mind once again.

The Plague on Livestock - Pharoah is unconvinced and sends people to check on the Israeli livestock just to see if Moses' claims are truthful or not, evidense of disbelief, once again it is his own hardening going on.

The Plague of Boils - This was a convincing miracle. Moses throws ashes into the air and suddenly all the Egyptians get boils to the point of not being able to stand. Pharaoh cannot deny that this one is of God. This is the first time God does the Hardening. Pharaoh was finally convinced. As soon as he is convinced it is God, God actively jumps in to harden his heart.

The Plague of Hail - This one is an interesting one, because Pharaoh repents and admits it is the work of God, but for the first time Moses tells him he will harden his own heart, and of course pharaoh does it.

cont..
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
Alright... a subject we can agree on beyond our silly sense of humor KR!! I'll try to do the Calvinists proud, its my destiny. ;-)
Posted by KRFournier 8 years ago
KRFournier
I will be watching this debate with great interest, especially because I am Calvinist.
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
Yuanti I am learning more about idioms every day, I guess you failed to garner the point that the use of multiple Hebrew words implies....

One is idiom, the other is not, and liberally applying idiom to both words is disigenuous.

I might say "I'm having more fun than a barrel of monkeys" as an idiom for enjoying myself, however if I say 'God creates the fun in my life', it is clear that there are two seperate meanings to these phrases. One is a metaphore, defining mood the other is a specific statement of intent about God and causality of my fun.

I apparently didn't clarify that well enough, and hope to do better in round three, thanks for the heads up.
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
WTG InquireTruth, sgstledge is spot on, your rebuttal was great. This is rounding out to be a great debate....

Jason, the reason that the religion persists is because there are parts of that old book that have been helpful for humanity. It is pretty clear that I would rather live under a Christian rulership, with thier notions of the golden rule rather than an Islamist rule with thier notions of hanging being a just punishment for exposing one's chin.

We need to debate the vagaries of Christian Doctrine, because it is clear that the vagaries themselves are what stop many faith filled believers from going off the deep end and burning you and I as witches. Nothing is as dangerous than a populous in agreement about religious doctrine.

We have to face reality and realize that most of the people in the world are convinced that life has no meaning without a purposed creator and an afterlife. While you and I disagree with that notion, it is still one that persists, and is very powerful and is exactly what keeps humans attracted to religion and ancient books that claim to hold answers to the purpose question.

That being the case, it is better to have them arguing over vagaries, than agreeing that God does want them to start the tribulation for him.....
Posted by Yuanti 8 years ago
Yuanti
B-C-M wants to look at what the Hebrew actually says. My question is, do you know what an idiom is B-C-M?

"I'm having more fun than a barrel of monkeys"

If you literally interpreted that, it would make absolutely no sense. But, if you take it as a cultural idiom that needs to be interpreted through the cultural lens: then it means:

"I'm having a lot of fun"

If you prove that it isn't an idiom then you can assert the definitions you put up. But, if you let the idiom comment stand than it doesn't matter what definitions you put up - an idiom isn't meant to be literally interpreted.

The definitions of Kabad Kabed appear to not really mean "hardening" though - which implies it most likely is an idiom.
Posted by InquireTruth 8 years ago
InquireTruth
Well the Old Testament is certainly older than that. But yes, the New Testament is approximately 2000 years old. But some of the greatest philosophers existed around this time. Would you say that Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aristophanes, and Pythagoras, deserve such harsh treatment? I hope the age of a document does not determine the value of its content.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
Why are there so many debates about the vagaries of Christian doctrine? Why can't people just realize the whole religion's based on a 2000 year old book written by people who could barely read and just throw it in the trash?
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