The Hardened Heart
Total Inability also seems to oppose the Bible teaching concerning hardness of heart. The Scriptures warn us that those who repeatedly trifle with sin may sear their consciences (1 Tim. 4:2), render themselves “past feeling” (Eph. 4:19) and enter into a hardening of the heart toward God and His truth. This is not a condition of birth, but seems to be a consequence of repeated sin.
Isaiah speaks of this condition: “Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” (Isa. 63:17) The hardening of the heart which precludes reverence of God is here described as a condition that has come upon these people, probably as a judgment for rebellion. But Calvinists tell us that this condition – an invincible anti-God bent – is the birth-condition of all human beings.
In Romans 1, Paul writes of men who are “without excuse” because of the manifest presence of God in the creation. He says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). Here we see men who became futile in their thinking and were given over to a darkened state of the heart. The apostle is not speaking of a condition of birth, but a judgment that came upon them because of willful refusal to acknowledge the Creator.
The Calvinist is hard-pressed to show how this judgment condition of darkness differs from their notions of Total Inability – a state they deem universal. Their doctrine states that everyone is born hardened toward God, unable to believe or take the slightest step toward Him. But if this is true, why do the Scriptures seem to say this only about some people?
Again, Zechariah says of rebellious Zion, “They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty has sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets” (Zech. 7:12). Here, people made themselves insensible to the truth of God, indicating that they were not in this condition from the womb.
There is no denying that all people are born with sinful tendencies and are apt to go astray. This can be established by Scripture and experience. But it is one thing to say that all men have such tendencies and quite another that they are unable to respond to God. General human sinfulness differs from Total Inability. To prove the first is not necessarily to prove the second.