Theology Club: A Question for Open Theists

BrianJOrr

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If man has libertarian free will, making him accountable for his actions apart from God’s will, how do you understand/explain these texts where God is clearly the cause of the action, but the action is clearly ascribed to the human agents, attributing blame as well.

Exodus 7:2-3; 11:9 – “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. . . . Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’”

Deuteronomy 2:30 – “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.”

1 Samuel 2:25 – “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” (Eli’ sons)

2 Samuel 17:14 – “And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.”

1 Kings 12:15 – “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (Rehoboam did not listed to the people and his failure to do so was Gods work in fulfilling his Word).

2 Chronicles 25:16, 20 – “But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, ‘I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.’ . . . But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.”

Ezra 6:22 – “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (the king was against this, but he changed his mind, but the Lord turned his heart—will—to give them aid)

Daniel 11:36 – “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done.” (Here the King does as he wills, as it was decreed that he should.)

All the actions attributed to the parties involved were determined to come to pass according the Lord, and they are held accountable for them as well (Or shown that the Lord changes one’s will—Ezra 6:22—to conform to God’s purposes).

I ask because in the open theist literature that I have read (Boyd, Sanders, Pinnock, Rice), none of them interact with these texts.
If someone has addressed these already, can you provide the link on this discussion board for me? Thanks
 

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Original Lamerson - Pastor Enyart Debate
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Desert Reign

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If man has libertarian free will, making him accountable for his actions apart from God’s will, how do you understand/explain these texts where God is clearly the cause of the action, but the action is clearly ascribed to the human agents, attributing blame as well.

Good questions.

Exodus 7:2-3; 11:9 – “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. . . . Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’”
This is an idiom. It means that God did things to Pharaoh such as would cause Pharaoh not to like him. We might say 'he softened him up'. This is quite clear from the subsequent narrative: God gave Pharaoh four small plagues in the hope that Pharoah would acknowledge YHWH was God and then he said that he had given him these plagues to show him his glory. But if he did not let Israel go, then he would really start to do business. This is what is meant by 'God sustained Pharaoh' or 'God caused him to stand'. The first four plagues were tempered so that Pharoah could comfortably stand through them. This is erroneously interpreted by the Septuagint as 'God raised you up'. God of course knew that Pharaoh would not let Israel go after four small plagues (because he knew his character) but he did give him the opportunity.

Deuteronomy 2:30 – “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.”
Same. And there are other places where this idiom has been substantially misinterpreted.

1 Samuel 2:25 – “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” (Eli’ sons)
In other words, God did nothing to stop them being themselves. He did nothing to persuade them to repent. He showed them no sign.

2 Samuel 17:14 – “And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.”
Whatever God did, he persuaded them to believe that Hushai was right and Ahitophel wrong. How he did this is not stated. Notice in particular that God is here reacting to the advice of Ahitophel, which, if followed, would have led to David's demise.

1 Kings 12:15 – “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (Rehoboam did not listed to the people and his failure to do so was Gods work in fulfilling his Word).
Same as above. We do not know what God did to persuade the king not to listen. Perhaps God knew that the king would not listen to the people (through knowing his character) and just let it happen. Perhaps it was more proactive than that. I don't think it makes any difference.

2 Chronicles 25:16, 20 – “But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, ‘I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.’ . . . But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.”
Same. But again, Amaziah could have changed history then and there by listening and obeying and repenting. The prophet was there to give him a chance. So that no one could lay the blame on God. It was in order that he might be defeated but he could have changed that.

Ezra 6:22 – “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (the king was against this, but he changed his mind, but the Lord turned his heart—will—to give them aid)
It's this heart idiom again. It doesn't mean that God controlled his will.

Daniel 11:36 – “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done.” (Here the King does as he wills, as it was decreed that he should.)
I don't see a lot of point in commenting on a passage which in form is all future prophecy anyway.

All the actions attributed to the parties involved were determined to come to pass according the Lord, and they are held accountable for them as well (Or shown that the Lord changes one’s will—Ezra 6:22—to conform to God’s purposes).
The Lord made them joyful - same idiom as hardening the heart. It doesn't mean that God manipulated their heart directly to be joyful. It means God gave them cause to rejoice. Same with the heart of the king of Assyria. God gave him cause to favour the Israelites.

I ask because in the open theist literature that I have read (Boyd, Sanders, Pinnock, Rice), none of them interact with these texts.
Consider them interacted with!
 

BrianJOrr

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Desert Reign,

I need clarity in your first justification. After exactly four small plagues, God knew Pharaoh would respond in the way he did. That sounds more like foreknowledge than understanding one's character. Also, do you have training in LXX translation and exegesis? Thanks
 

Stripe

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If man has libertarian free will.
A man has a will. If it is not "libertarian" and "free," it is not a will.
How do you understand/explain these texts where God is clearly the cause of the action, but the action is clearly ascribed to the human agents, attributing blame as well.
The actions God took did not make the outcomes necessary.

All the actions attributed to the parties involved were determined to come to pass according the Lord, and they are held accountable for them as well.
As men should be held accountable for their choices.
 

intojoy

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All of humanity is born lost, already condemned and headed to hell. God doesn't harden anyone that they should not repent. He simply alows those who have already been lost to harden their resolve so to speak.
 

BrianJOrr

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Stripe,

Desert Reign said, "God of course knew that Pharaoh would not let Israel go after four small plagues (because he knew his character) but he did give him the opportunity."

But you said, "The actions God took, for example: initiating a plague, did not necessitate Pharoah's response."

God doesn't do things in perfect wisdom wastefully. He knew that bringing about the four plagues (as Desert Reign notes), would bring about Pharaohs response (necessarily).
 

Stripe

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So, what did it necessitate? He obviously had a purpose in mind, right?
It brought about what was expected.

Stripe, Desert Reign said, "God of course knew that Pharaoh would not let Israel go after four small plagues (because he knew his character) but he did give him the opportunity." But you said, "The actions God took, for example: initiating a plague, did not necessitate Pharoah's response." God doesn't do things in perfect wisdom wastefully. He knew that bringing about the four plagues (as Desert Reign notes), would bring about Pharaohs response (necessarily).

Not necessarily. Pharaoh always had a choice.
 

patrick jane

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Stripe,

Desert Reign said, "God of course knew that Pharaoh would not let Israel go after four small plagues (because he knew his character) but he did give him the opportunity."

But you said, "The actions God took, for example: initiating a plague, did not necessitate Pharoah's response."

God doesn't do things in perfect wisdom wastefully. He knew that bringing about the four plagues (as Desert Reign notes), would bring about Pharaohs response (necessarily).

yeah but, brianJ - none of that explains why God did any of that at all. i mean, why didn't God just come right out and tell us, look, if you people obey me, and do as i command, you can save everyone alot pain and anguish. i mean, why put us through all this ? why not destroy evil, right when it started ? why brianJ ?
 

Lighthouse

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Desert Reign,

I need clarity in your first justification. After exactly four small plagues, God knew Pharaoh would respond in the way he did. That sounds more like foreknowledge than understanding one's character. Also, do you have training in LXX translation and exegesis? Thanks
Foreknowledge is not required to have present knowledge. God knew Pharaoh's character, thus He knew what to expect. But Pharaoh could have done something different than expected, as Nineveh did.

A man has a will. If it is not "libertarian" and "free," it is not a will.
:thumb:
 

BrianJOrr

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Lighthouse, read your post again. Isn't the whole premise of LFW that one's actions cannot be predicted? Because if you think about it, if God who knows us--our thoughts, desires, strengths, and weaknesses--perfectly, and knows every possibility based on what situation he presents to us (these are all points Boyd, Sanders, and Rice affirm), then God could bring about a situation by his omnipotent will to get the intended response he desires to bring about his purposes. And God, just as Desert Reign states, knew that Pharaoh would respond after four plagues.
 

patrick jane

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Lighthouse, read your post again. Isn't the whole premise of LFW that one's actions cannot be predicted? Because if you think about it, if God who knows us--our thoughts, desires, strengths, and weaknesses--perfectly, and knows every possibility based on what situation he presents to us (these are all points Boyd, Sanders, and Rice affirm), then God could bring about a situation by his omnipotent will to get the intended response he desires to bring about his purposes. And God, just as Desert Reign states, knew that Pharaoh would respond after four plagues.

God uses the choices we make to work towards God's Perfect Will. we don't always see it clearly, or instantly. i trust God for the things that don't make sense. God does bring about events, "situations", circumstances. I think God Works WITHIN our "choices", which is freewill. but really,:ha: all we have anymore, is "FEE - Will" - pay up
 

Desert Reign

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Desert Reign,

I need clarity in your first justification. After exactly four small plagues, God knew Pharaoh would respond in the way he did. That sounds more like foreknowledge than understanding one's character. Also, do you have training in LXX translation and exegesis? Thanks

Actually I made a mistake, it was the first 6 plagues:

“Let My people go, that they may serve Me, <SUP class=versenum>14 </SUP>for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. <SUP class=versenum>15 </SUP>Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. <SUP class=versenum>16 </SUP>But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.

It is clear from the context that 'raised you up' means 'preserved you'. Or 'caused you to stand'. NASB:

For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. <SUP class=versenum>16 </SUP>But, indeed, <SUP class=crossreference data-cr="#cen-NASB-1759O" data-link='(O)'></SUP>for this reason I have allowed you to <SUP class=footnote data-link='[h]' data-fn="#fen-NASB-1759h">[h]</SUP>remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.

When I said that God knew Pharaoh would respond that way I meant it in the sense that people's actions are predictable from their characters. I did not mean it in the sense that it was inevitable or necessary. Stripe and Lighthouse said it correctly. YHWH was a winner either way: Pharaoh changed his mind and acknowledged God or he persisted in refusing to let Israel go and God did some more judgements and miracles that got his holy name on the middle eastern scoreboard of gods who are to be reckoned with.

As to my qualifications, I'm afraid I can't help you. I know ancient Greek and Koine; I also know Latin, modern Hebrew and other languages; you must judge for yourself whether what I say is correct and form your own opinions.

Thank you for giving open theists the opportunity to answer your questions.

And it may not be that the Septuagint was wrong. Perhaps it was understood by LXX readers that egeiren meant 'preserved' or 'caused to stand'. Perhaps it is simply unfortunate that the English translation was rendered with a word ('raised') that could also mean to bring up a child. The meaning 'to bring up, (of a child)' is of course totally out of context but is often used by those who promote predestination of all things in this current context as a proof text. And I appreciate that many people just don't realise what they are doing and the assumption gets worked into our modern church cultures and Bible translations. And then you start needing justifications like the one I am now rambling on about to undo the erroneous assumptions. Personally I think the NASB got it right and that generally it is a more realistic translation. The context is clear, I don't know how 'raised up' came to be prominent, unless it was disingenuity on the part of some theologians and teachers with an axe to grind.
 

BrianJOrr

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Desert Reign,

While that may be the case with the LXX reading, though I think you may be stretching it a bit, considering the long-standing translation and understanding of the passage in its context. But if that is the case, I think the NT, which I believe should be our primary source for understanding the OT, teaches opposite of what you are saying the LXX should say. Paul’s importation of it in Romans 9:17 in his context and even in the Greek words used further solidify the orthodox understanding of it.

17 λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ ὅτι Εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι

For, the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "for this very reason[auto here is used definitively, which is why most translations use 'very'] I [have] raised you up [the verb here is ἐξήγειρά, it is an aorist, act., ind., 1p., sing., of ἐξεγείρω, which means: to raise to life, cause to exist, raise up in power] so that [or in order to, showing purpose or intent] I might show [ἐνδείξωμαι; aorist., mid., subj., 1p., sing., of ἐνδείκνυμαι, meaning to show or demonstrate. So, God as the subject is doing this action]

ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου, καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ.

in you my power [my power in you], and that [in order that] my name shall be proclaimed [διαγγελῇ: aor., passive., subj., 3p., sing., of διαγγέλλω, meaning to proclaim announce; If you notice it is in the 3rd person, meaning that God did not use him to proclaim his name; rather, the power he demonstrates through Pharaoh, the result of that demonstrates who God is, with his name being proclaimed because of and through it] in all the earth.”

So, we see that God’s purpose in raising up (this verb ἐξήγειρά is only else where used in the NT speaking of resurrection in 1 Cor. 6:45) Pharaoh is to show his power, the power of God’s, which when we look at Romans 9:14-18, we see that the power is in reference to God’s omnipotent will in hardening and/or softening one’s will, or redemptively speaking, those he chooses. In v.15 Paul uses Exodus 33:14 showing the sovereign will of God in the grounding work of election, which reflects the nature of God and his unconstrained decision to choose as he pleases. And then in v.16, Paul buttresses that truth of God’s sovereign will in election, “So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God” (italics mine). And then v.17 is an example of God’s purposes in what he raised up Pharaoh for, and then v.18 serves as the inclusio of v.15.

Patrick Jane: I too trust God in the things that don’t make sense to me. The Scriptures clearly teach that man is responsible for what he does, but God’s will is behind our wills in which what we decide to do, using the language of Genesis 50:20, God means “it” for good. And that is what we see in those Scriptures I put in my first post, which I believe were specifically avoided by Boyd, Rice, Pinnock, and Sanders.

I think the assumption that we have libertarian free will is a mistake. The reason it is is because when we look at Scripture, though we see we have a will, which ultimately is enslaved to, and only serves, a sin nature (until the Spirit changes it). It’s not truly free as I believe open theists and those non-Reformed espouse. You have to ask if it is, why do we need the Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts and minds to be able discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Rom. 8:6-8). If our wills are truly free, we should have the ability within our own wills apart from God (John 15:5).

Bruce Ware footnoted in God’s Lesser Glory, a comprehensive study done by a doctoral student regarding divine foreknowledge documented, “1893 texts state predictively that God will do something or other in or through human beings; 1474 texts state predictively what human beings will do something or other, apart from God directly acting through them; 622 texts state predictively what unbelievers will do or have happen to them; 143 texts affirm God’s sovereign control of human choices; 105 texts of apparent counter-evidence” (n2., p. 100).

So what is clear is that we see both. And I will argue that more so to the sovereign side, which rightly gives glory to the Creator.

The Scriptures don’t teach LFW according to the definition employed by those who espouse it. I think Frame’s criticisms of it are quite damaging (see No Other God, pp.122-31. To note a few: in the consummative state we will not be free to sin; Scripture does not judge one’s conduct based on LFW; a declaration of innocence or guilt according to standards of law are based on the motive, which if LFW is accepted, then one’s actions could be shown to be causeless, independent motives, which could make the party insane and not responsible for one’s actions; and the Scriptures also deny that we have it in the words of Christ in Matthew 7:15-20 and Luke 6:43-45 (good tree bears good fruit; evil tree bears evil fruit).

But the bottom line is God is the one who makes us accountable for our actions, so I will follow Job’s and Paul’s lead, “who am I to question God?”
I think we need to be ok that at some place, the sidewalk ends.

Patrick, you stated:

“why didn't God just come right out and tell us, look, if you people obey me, and do as i command, you can save everyone alot pain and anguish. i mean, why put us through all this ? why not destroy evil, right when it started ? why brianJ ?”

You know Patrick, I hear that quite often from JWs and Unitarians when it comes to the deity of Christ. They always say, “Why doesn’t Jesus just come right out and tell us he is YHWH?” Well, my defense is that he has, but those who don’t have eyes to see won't see. (I am not inferring that you not seeing God’s sovereignty as such means you are not saved—far from it brother). But JWs and Unitarians commit the same mistakes, as I believe open theists do, focusing on the trees instead of the forest.

I have to ask, would you all believe that God’s perfect knowledge of each human being (as open theists believe), as it pertains to his will, motives, traits, etc., is so precisely known that God can see the consequences to our actions like a mathematical equation?

I would have to say, if you do, then doesn’t 2+2 always = 4? Taking 2 + 2 together, no matter how I order them, will always come to the number ordained of 4. In my foreknowledge (not exactly the precise definition of the word but ok for my analogy) of adding 2 to 2, I know that the number 4 will always come to pass.

I sure appreciate the discussion so far with all of you.
 
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Desert Reign

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Desert Reign,

While that may be the case with the LXX reading, though I think you may be stretching it a bit, considering the long-standing translation and understanding of the passage in its context. But if that is the case, I think the NT, which I believe should be our primary source for understanding the OT, teaches opposite of what you are saying the LXX should say. Paul’s importation of it in Romans 9:17 in his context and even in the Greek words used further solidify the orthodox understanding of it.


Firstly, let me get one thing straight. The meaning of a text is determined by itself, not by some other text whether in the New Testament, the Old Testament or anywhere else. The principle that passages in the Bible are interpreted in reference to other passages is a false principle and leads to unpredictable and inconsistent outcomes. Each passage should be interpreted in its own local context and the sum total of all such interpretations in the whole Bible constitutes the written inspiration of scripture. This is an objective and consistent approach. If you introduce random passages as essential contributors to the meaning of some particular passage, then you bring randomness and unpredictability into hermeneutics.

The only issue here is what constitutes 'local context'. This may be wider or narrower depending on circumstances but always the passage under consideration is the focal point of its own interpretation. In my view, when people attempt to use other passages to derive meaning, it is a sign that they have axes to grind; that the passages they choose to adduce are chosen by them for their own subjective purposes and this is usually because they are unhappy with the plain meaning of the first passage - they in short want to make the Bible say something different to what it does say. The Bible should speak for itself and that means that each passage should speak for itself. The writer of Exodus never thought to himself that what he wrote was incomprehensible or incomplete because someone 2000 years later wasn't born yet and hadn't written the words that are required to complete the understanding of his own writings. I have had this exact same debate with another person here and you can read it at your leisure. I need say no more for the time being. You might want to read that debate in detail, especially if you are particularly interested on how open theists interpret the Old Testament.


17 λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ ὅτι Εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι

ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου, καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ.

So, we see that God’s purpose in raising up (this verb ἐξήγειρά is only else where used in the NT speaking of resurrection in 1 Cor. 6:45)
As I said, the use of a Greek word in the New Testament has no bearing on the interpretation of Exodus and the context of the Exodus passage itself is quite clear. However, I would question your interpretation of Paul, which also relies heavily on Augustinian / Calvinistic presuppositions. As I write I don't have my books handy. Perhaps later I will edit in detail. However, Paul's example of Pharaoh is not an example that supports general predestination but rather shows that God chose Israel as the quality vessel and Egypt as the cheap vessel for his particular purposes. This was his right to do but it does not mean that he predestined everything. He chose to show the nations who he was by doing some bad things to Pharaoh and some good things to Israel. It's that simple. He chose Jacob to be the progenitor of his chosen nation over Esau without reference to anything good or bad they had done. Jacob could have been a really bad guy but this would not have changed the plan. That is what Paul is saying. In the same way he chose Pharaoh to be the recipient of plagues. Pharaoh could have chosen to be the good guy and acknowledge YHWH but chose not to.
It is clear to me that Paul understood exactly what Exodus meant and your reading of Paul merely presupposes a wrong interpretation of Exodus.
 
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