my heart is hard

June 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm 38 comments

stone heartFor in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

I attended church this past weekend. I was not initially unhappy to go, but walking into the service I realized I was not as happy to go as I had thought. As I sat unmoved by an actually lovely sounding song, I thought about what it means to have a hardened heart. And tried to consider if my heart could really be hardened, my conscience seared to the truth of the gospel…

I am frequently warned by Christians to guard against hardening my heart to God. They feel that though I may be in a dangerous place spiritually, things will turn out OK as long as I don’t harden my heart. The problem is this tricky definition of hardening my heart. What is hardening of the heart? How can one believe differently than what orthodox Christian doctrine teaches? I think a lot of unorthodox thoughts now, so my heart must be hard, right?

And there are signs of my hardening everywhere. If I don’t spend time with my Christian friends, it couldn’t be because I make them uncomfortable and they make me uncomfortable, I must be hardening my heart towards them. If I don’t want to read the bible during my “quiet time” in the morning, it couldn’t be a due to a rational decision about its content, I must have hardened my heart to God. And if it would be as difficult for me to believe the bible is literal history as to believe Aesops’ fables are literal history, well, that might be OK, as long as it doesn’t affect my belief in the “essential core doctrines” of the bible. But if I question those core doctrines? Right, hard hearted…

What other reason could there be to reject the clear and obvious revelations God has provided? I think that is the only logical conclusion left for conservative Christian doctrine. That’s why Christian doctrine equates disbelief and doubt with moral failure. If the bible really is all true, and you are going to hell if you don’t believe it, rejecting it it couldn’t be a rational thought process. Could it?

I do not think it really is a process of hardening my heart. Rather, it is a process of allowing my mind to rationally process things on my own, not being forced to interpret things through the lens of certain presuppositions. Conservative Christians maintain it is essential to have the presupposition that the bible is all true, and that presupposition must supersede and dictate all other thought, any examination of evidence. They can be quite proud of maintaining that presupposition without wavering.

Over time, as I have cast off that presupposition, yes, I have become more convinced of what I believe. But it is not accurate or fair to call it a hardening of the heart. If it is the only way conservative Christians allow themselves to think, it would appear they have hardened their hearts (or minds) by making a choice to only consider themselves correct.

For a OneSmallStep’s take on a cold, dark heart, click HERE.

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Entry filed under: doubt, faith, friendships, fundamentalism. Tags: , , .

more books (Jhumpa Lahiri)… touched by a miracle

38 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Will  |  June 10, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Hardening your heart to irrational dogma is very different from hardening your heart to the divine (whatever that is).

  • 2. TitforTat  |  June 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Geez, and as I sat in the pew that last few times all I could think was man this guy is full of Sheit. Oops did I say that. ;)

  • 3. The Jesting Fool  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Maybe it’s good for you to have a hard heart. Kind of like it’s good to realize that sliding down the slippery slope to apostasy is hella good fun.

    btw, I love that picture! Where’d you get it?

  • 4. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:37 am

    TJF: Yeah, my favorite part of the slippery slope was slamming into the ground at the bottom. It hurt like hell, but then I spun up into the air and landed on my feet, ta da! The vanity fair was cool too, but the slough of despond, not so good…

    I could tell you where I got the picture but then I would have to, ah never mind… I get all my images by imagining what key words I want a mental picture of, type them into google image search, and there they are, every time.

  • 5. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:40 am

    TfT, how long ago was it you sat in the pew? Just curious. I think I’ve been away from the conservative pew now for a couple of months. The last couple of times I was just taking notes to affirm why I didn’t want to be there again.

  • 6. OneSmallStep  |  June 11, 2009 at 5:52 am

    It’s fascinating how a group of people who say they follow this all-powerful God keep giving you so much control over this whole process by telling you to refrain from hardening your heart. God can’t prevent that?

  • 7. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  June 11, 2009 at 8:56 am

    And now this is running through my head. ;-)

    In all seriousness,my heart is hardened, whatever that means, towards an exclusivist Christianity, not towards the possibility of God.

  • 8. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 8:56 am

    OSS, yes, maybe it’s that free will vs. God’s omniscience thing going on. God is sovereign over everything in our lives, but he gives us free will to choose to follow him, and free will is given through our hearts, so we have the choice to harden our heart, so God can’t prevent that. Pretty simple, no? ;^)

    “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine”

  • 9. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Or here (from google search), easy!

    “In other words, Pharaoh’s hardening his heart is considered to be the same as God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. I take this to mean that Pharaoh did the actual hardening, as we see it – he decided on his own to not listen to God and let the Israelites go. But God knew in advance what Pharaoh would do in any given situation, and deliberately placed Pharaoh in this situation (i.e. God decided that Pharaoh would be born at the time and place that he was and thus placed him in this position of power). (See Exodus 9:13-16.) Thus God brought about the situation, namely that Moses would encounter a pharaoh whose heart was hardened against God, though Pharaoh hardened his heart of his own free will.”

    http://www.rationalchristianity.net/pharaoh.html

    :-O

  • 10. wowy  |  June 11, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Doesn’t the bible itself portray people in a good light who are honest about their feelings and thoughts – even if these thoughts and feelings are directed against God? Does the bible always accuse these people of hardened hearts?

    Jacob WRESTLED with the mysterious man/God at the river. Psalms ACCUSE God. Jesus asked “why has thou forsaken me”. And so on.

  • 11. wowy  |  June 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

    and, to make a very general and hopefully non-controversial point: OF COURSE, it doesn’t seem rational to completely close off emotionally and intellectually to the possibility that there might be a God much above our thoughts, much more beautiful, much different from what we’ve thought s/he might be. If someone closes off to even a small probability of encountering God, that seems to me to be an objectionable harding of the heart. It’s a hardening of the heart which is not even in one’s own interest. I think it’s fairly trivial that we humans are sometimes prone to “harden our heart” towards God in that basic sense, and that it therefore makes sense to warn against THIS kind of hardening.

    But you don’t seem to be anywhere near that!

    I just mention this because I think we can easier understand what’s WRONG about the accusation directed towards you when we’re clear that (in a fairly trivial sense) there obviously sometimes is something problematic about a hardened heart…

  • 12. Janus Grayden  |  June 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

    What I’ve found to be the case is that questioning, opening the mind to possibilities, and taking a humble approach to what we think we know is what really softens the heart.

    That’s not to say I had a hard heart, necessarily, it’s just that there were certain things that I was very closed about and was convinced I knew and nobody could tell me any differently.

    Having abolished that mentality, I’ve found that the things that challenge what I think I know give me tremendous joy and wonder. Isn’t that what having a soft heart is supposed to be like?

  • 13. wowy  |  June 11, 2009 at 10:10 am

    …a hardened heart is inflexible, not open… in that sense, many Christians have a hardened heart towards the idea that there might be no God. Many have a hardened heart towards their fellow human beings… and many approach God himself not with a heart full of free love directed at him, but with a hardened heart dictated by a sense of obligation….

  • 14. Lorena  |  June 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I find it interesting that they appeal to your “heart,” as if your “mind” had nothing to do with it.

    They explain things to us in what seems like a rational way: the Bible is true, the Bible says this, it makes sense, you should believe it.

    But in the end, according to them, it comes down to the heart, to your emotions, to that part of us that hears no reason.

    Yet another contradiction.

  • 15. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 11:27 am

    wowy, reasonable points I believe. Perhaps the matter is in whose interpretations you are following, what people you are surrounded by.

    Lorena, that is interesting. I was asked this morning in a conversation about biblical criticism with a conservative pastor, “What was in your heart to make you decide the [less inerrant] perspective of that part of the the bible?” I was able to explain that I didn’t think it was a heart issue, it is just what the evidence seems to indicate.

    I think they are often looking for something, like a presupposition that all supernatural things are impossible, or something like that. Which is still wrong, as you noted, it must be a heart (or moral?) problem rather than relating to reason.

  • 16. bk  |  June 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

    What if you have hardened your heart because you find the God of the Bible to be a monster? That, sadly, is my problem…if I even believed in the reality of the Biblical God, how can onyone not be hardened towards Him>?

  • 17. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 11:49 am

    bk, that’s an interesting problem. But at the same time, if you believed in the reality of the Biblical God, but found him to be a monster, it might be hard to love him, but you would still acknowledge him, right? And if you believed you would go to hell for not following him, you would likely do so?

    As this article states:
    “…if you think the Bible is accurate and reliable, then there is no need to get involved in manipulative pleas like ‘Jesus loves you, just reach out and accept the gift, let him into your heart’. It’s irrelevant how ‘caring, wise and loving’ Jesus was. If he’s god, he’s god. Even if he’s a genocidal monster I’ll bow down since you convinced me at ‘accurate and reliable’.”
    http://de-conversion.com/2008/08/06/putting-the-cart/

  • 18. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Having abolished that mentality, I’ve found that the things that challenge what I think I know give me tremendous joy and wonder. Isn’t that what having a soft heart is supposed to be like?

    Yes.

  • 19. bk  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I guess I am a sinning rebel, attr. Because my own human morality, derived from how I was raised, my culture, my education, responds that I could still not worship such a god. Plus…the evils of pride. If a God is “evil,” then how can we overcome our morality, if said morality is anything other than slavish obedience to power, and “worship” said entity?

    I am pretty much strong agnostic/atheist, but if I deep down acknowledge remnants of theism, the only “story” that makes sense to me is the Gnostic heresy that Jehovah is a fallen, even evil fragment of the true Godhead.

  • 20. bk  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    and there is no proof for that…certainly not in the lives of any of the Cathar leadership or Gnostic hermit-saints. :)

  • 21. atimetorend  |  June 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    bk, I agree with you, things pretty much fall apart for me with the morality statements you make. For me, I first questioned the inerrancy of the bible, along with observations about how things like prayer work. After that there was nothing left to encourage me to hold on to the dubious moral statements of the bible.

    It’s funny, it is stuff like what you wrote that can make me question whether or not I am hardening my heart to the truth. I certainly am towards that particular truth, I’m just convinced it is the right thing to do so.

  • 22. Janus Grayden  |  June 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I think a majority of the opinion here is that the heart and the mind do not exist in their own separate spheres.

    It is impossible to simply take into account one or the other. The heart determines our feelings, but our feelings aren’t independent of logic. For every feeling, there’s a rational process that determines why we feel that way.

    Really, to ask how the Bible makes you feel in your heart is, in effect, equivalent to asking what the logical thought process was that led to that feeling.

    In my case, it was simply that none of it added up. The parts that were horrifying to me were never justified or reconciled, the contradictions were rampant and glaring for me to ignore and so on and so forth. Therefore, that absolutely affects how I feel about it.

    In my heart, I couldn’t justify a continued belief in something that I logically knew was wrong. At that point, I felt in my heart that I could either keep going with it despite what I knew, or I could be honest with myself about where my questions led me.

    I would consider that a softened heart: to go with what you feel is right instead of believing something because you’re told you should.

  • 23. Sabio  |  June 12, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Tell me if you think this spin is different:
    Every adamant belief system has terms fro those who don’t believe and worse yet for those who stop believing ! Those beliefs are meant to keep people in their respective tribe whether it is a tribe of religious folks, ethnic folks, lifestyle folks (vegetarians, homeopaths, democrats, republicans) or some other group.

    “Hardening of the Heart” (HH) is circular !
    So, here is their trick, and lots fall for it:

    1) If you start doubting our doctrine, we call that feeling “HH”.
    2) If you doubt our doctrine you will be rejected
    3) You can not make good decisions with an HH
    4) You should be a thinker, but don’t do it with a HH

    You see the problem when I lay it out like this, perhaps, but your believer heart can’t see it.

    I have left many groups and they all pull some trick just like that. They pull that trick because it works — that is why the trick has evolved in a great many tribes ! Humans are easy to trick.

    I am reading “The Evolution of God” by Wright. He is talking about Chiefdoms and the silly/deadly things the religions in Polynesia got folks to do. Then, with little effort, one can see the parallels to similar phenomena in our present lives.

    You heart ain’t hardened — theirs is ! Feel pity for them.

  • 24. atimetorend  |  June 12, 2009 at 8:57 am

    ““Hardening of the Heart” (HH) is circular !”
    Yes, essentially. I know I am right, therefore you are wrong, you obviously would know you were wrong if you thought about it, therefore you are not thinking, therefore you have a hard heart.

    So, here is their trick, and lots fall for it:
    1) If you start doubting our doctrine, we call that feeling “HH”.
    2) If you doubt our doctrine you will be rejected
    3) You can not make good decisions with an HH
    4) You should be a thinker, but don’t do it with a HH

    I agree mostly. I think it holds for the tribal theory you are discussing. It would fit my personal experience if you take #2 out.

  • 25. dc-agape  |  June 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    It might not be you hardening your heart. YHWH did it all the time in the OT. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so YHWH could do some miracles (exodus 7:3). And he did it to Saul as well (1 sam 16:14). It would seem that YHWH just likes us to think we have freewill!

  • 26. bk  |  June 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    dc-agape: Maybe He just wants to make sure there are plenty of us to torture? For fun and games?

    Too many “Christians” certainly seem to get off on the torture and agony which (they beleive) will befall us..read any of the Left Behind mewlings.

  • 27. atimetorend  |  June 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    dc love — the thing I wonder about is, if God hardens my heart, how would I know? I guess if I don’t love him. Not believing in him seems like a different thing, so that would make me deluded, not hard hearted. Either way, I don’t see how I did it in the first place.

  • 28. Sabio Lantz  |  June 12, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Have you ever broken up with a lover and noticed that once you decide to break up with that lover, their shortcomings, which you once tenderly tolerated because you loved them, become extremely blatant and even more irritating ?

    Sad thing is, once you get another lover, and start to see that new lover’s faults, then you become less irritated by the faults of the old ex-lover because you start to see that all lovers come loaded with faults and the new faults are the ones bugging you now? And then you wonder that perhaps you (in all your perfection) maybe ought to be a little less picky.

    Wow, I am not sure what that implies ! (smile)
    What would Rumi say ?

  • 29. bk  |  June 12, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    A quote from another (political) discussion board about the Civil War and Slavery and Obama:

    “I meant that was Obama was brought to Jesus as a legacy of Christianity’s beneficent operation in the nascent African-American community, not that Obama endured the Middle Passage. Without first slavery, then its bloody ouster from American society, followed by the social and political ministrations of sensitive Anglos, Obama and countless others might still be but virtuous pagans. Instead, our president has been cleansed with the Blood of Christ, and with his help America can be cleansed with the Blood of Atonement.”

    Vile. Just vile.

  • 30. dc-agape  |  June 12, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    bk,
    YHWH has got his hands full. And I am one his prime targets…or at least his followers target!

    atimetorend,
    Not knowing if its you or him is a problem. King Saul and the Pharaoh didn’t know it was him either. There are more cases in the NT where Paul describes how YHWH hardens peoples hearts. It seems like a cruel joke, when a supreme being plays puppet with his dolls (us) and then promises to torture them for eternity!

  • 31. TitforTat  |  June 13, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I just had an epiphany. Jesus and Yahweh are like the “Good cop, Bad cop” idea. Unfortunately though it still makes them cops. ;)

  • 32. atimetorend  |  June 13, 2009 at 9:51 am

    That actually works pretty good as a Christian description of two parts of the holy trinity. And cops can be loving while doing their duty, right?

    Imagine what is was like for the Israelites; the bad cop worked them over, left the room, then the… bad cop came back in again and started all over again.

  • 33. TitforTat  |  June 13, 2009 at 10:19 am

    And cops can be loving while doing their duty, right?(Attrr)

    Not sure I would use the terms loving and duty in the same breath. At least not the ones I met after a night on the town sharing my sins. lmao.

  • 34. atimetorend  |  June 13, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Cops are loving for the greater good. They give you free will so you can be an integral part of society. But after a night on the town sharing your sins, they needed to discipline you, like a loving father disciplines his son. And if you hadn’t responded to their discipline they would have had to send you to eternal torment, I mean, the slammer, to protect others from you, a danger to society.

  • 35. Temaskian  |  June 14, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    The bible verse right at the top of your article used to scare me out of my wits when I was a Christian.

  • 36. bk  |  June 15, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Ah…just discovered a great Kinglesy Amis quote:

    The matter of Amis’s religious views is perhaps ultimately summed up in his response, reported in his Memoirs, to the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s question, in his broken English: “You atheist?” Amis replied, “It’s more that I hate Him.”

    :)

  • 37. John  |  December 7, 2012 at 2:17 am

    PLEASE LISTEN! I hardened my heart by not obeying the holy spirit. I just enjoyed his presence. I didnt realise in my sloth and sin That your heart could be so hardened that you literally have no spiritual understanding and ability to repent. In the bible this condition happens to people who have an irreverence for God. Ask God to help you fear him and stay on your toes about your faith. Trust me! This is something the toughest person in the world wouldnt want to go through. My heart was so hardened that i cannot have affection for others most of the time. This happened after a single willfull sin and not obeying and having a fear of God. The man in the iron cage by john bunyan is real, please believe me. Its horrible too. Keep a repentant attitute in general. Dont get sloppy. And dont play around tne cross, because there are serious consequences for those who come close to jesus but never have grace. Go all the way to jesus or dont seek at all. C.s lewis says in a warning that the christian life is something that will take the whole of a person.

  • 38. Amber  |  May 23, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I agree with John – one needs to listen intently to the Holy Spirit and not just relax in His comfort. I am having difficulties with trying to soften my own heart to God’s love and acceptance again.

    Don’t ever allow sin to call you back to its promises and its deceitful nature – look for what sin truly is: an abomination against the Holy Living God.

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