Distinguishing Natural Depravity from Judicial Hardening

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by The Biblicist, Sep 3, 2016.

  1. The Biblicist

    The Biblicist
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    Nov 13, 2011
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    Some think that the distinction between natural depravity and judicial hardening is an artificial distinction without any real difference. The following is purely an philosophical explanation of the difference between natural depravity and judicial hardening. Although, it is based wholly upon scriptures, these scriptures are not presented in this explanation simply for the sake of brevity. Nor am I digressing into a Calvinism versus Arminian debate. This is purely an attempt to provide a philosophical distinction between natural depravity and judicial hardening.

    Here is the real difference.

    A. Natural Depravity

    Natural depravity is the antagonistic disposition of the fallen nature against God that every human comes into this world by birth due to the fall. It is not merely the inability to please God but the ruling inclination that is unalterably at enmity with God. It first manifests itself in complete selfishness and self-centeredness but as the infant comes to rational determination and is exposed to that which condemns self-centeredness it instinctively reacts much as an animal does when self-preservation is threatened by enmity toward that principle which threatens the survival of self-centeredness. Its inability to be inclined to what threatens its own self-centered survival is simply it loves self above all else. This is natural depravity.

    B. Judicial Hardening

    In contrast, judicial hardening is the intentional act of God to expose natural depravity to that which threatens it survival. It is not that the natural deprived condition cannot see or hear what is threatening the very survival of its core driving inclination but that it does see and hear it and responds accordingly to secure its own survival which results in the conscience being hardened against that truth. This hardening effect is manifested in many different ways. It can be manifested by religious enmity or redefinition and reexplanation or repudiation of that which threatens the survival of the self-centered ruling inclination. It can be manifested by philosophical redefinition, reexplanation, repudiation of that which threatens survival of the ruling disposition of self-centeredness. It can be manifested in a greater moral rebellion. It can even be manifested by suicide. The bottom line is that it reacts by redefining, reexplaining or repudiating the truth it is exposed to into something that does not threaten its own survival. Therefore, like clay, the more it is exposed to the light of the sun, the harder it becomes. The problem is not in the sun but in the nature of the clay. The greater exposure to the truth the greater the hardening effect becomes manifest in religious, philsophical, and moral degeneration.

    With regard to Israel, they were exposed to more direct truth than any other nation on earth. From the age of five the Jewish child was exposed to the whole Torah in a systematic fashion. Their natural depraved condition could recognize (see and hear) what the Law required required (love God and love thy neighbor as yourself - thus self-denial) but the ruling inclination (depraved heart) naturally responded in survival mode, redefining, rexplaining and/or repudiating what it both saw and heard which begins the natural hardening (closing ears and closing eyes) of the conscience against that light so they could no longer even recognize truth but rather were completely blinded and deaf to the truth as their conscience had been trained to redefine, reexplain and repudiate the truth.

    Therefore, natural depravity refers to the innate ruling disposition of man that loves self above all else, whereas, judicial hardening is the intentional exposure of that ruling disposition by God to what threatens its survival, which if unchanged by God, starts a process of hardening against the that which threatens the survival of self-centered ruling inclination. That process begins with the conscience and its ability to discern truth from error which moves the depraved ruling disposition into action against what the conscience reveals as threatening its survival. The tools used to quiet the conscience is the mind, which reexplains, redefines or repudiates the very thing the conscience initially reveals to be truth and/or the heart (affections) which drives fallen man away from that which threatens the very survival of the ruling disposition by indwelling sin. Without the gift of repentance, the soul of man reacts against that truth by "worldly sorrow" or a sorrow that does not lead to salvation but leads to some other process or consequence that reexplains, redefines, repudiates or releases the soul from that confrontation (suicide). Ultimately the eyes and ears of conscience is changed, redefined, reexplained or even silenced by death. This process is explained in Psalm 1:1 as a downward spiral digression. The process of judicial hardening is completed when the person/nation sits in the seat of the scorner.

    So the ability to see and hear truth by totally depraved humans refers to the function of conscience. Whereas, judicial hardening refers to the process of silencing conscience because fallen man under the driving inclination to preserve self-centeredness (the indwelling law of sin) is the ruling dispositon over ever facet of the fallen human nature, thus making fallen man the "servant" of sin.
    #1 The Biblicist, Sep 3, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016

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