Divine Blindness: A Biblical Concept?
This week, we have a guest post from my son, Ben Childs. Ben is a graduate of Moody Theological Seminary and is currently church-planting (along with his sweet Bride, Ellie) among Muslims in Europe. Ben’s topic is “divine blindness” and the implications for evangelism and missions. Read and be stirred. —Jay Childs, Senior Pastor
Monday, April 20 • 8:30 PM
I was sitting recently in a mosque across from a young Muslim man with a long black beard, penetrating eyes, and a soft voice. I had never met him before, yet he seemed anxious to talk with me—and I soon found out why. As we sat together at the back of the mosque, this young Muslim performed a verbal slight-of-hand, asking me a question which was not really a question at all, for that would imply that he was seeking knowledge. He was trying to trap me, and the quickest way for a Muslim to trap a Christian is to ask the following question: “Can you please explain the Trinity to me?” I immediately knew that I was in trouble.
The core of Islam is Tawheed: the oneness of God. To affirm Tawheed as a Muslim is to affirm two truths: 1) Allah is a solitary (Unitarian) god, and 2) the Trinity is blasphemous. Allah even says in the Qur’an: “Say not Three,” directly countering the Christian belief that Yahweh is one in essence, but three in person. If a Muslim even entertains the idea that Allah may be Trinitarian, they risk condemning themselves to eternal hellfire.
Monday, April 20 • 8:40 PM
Though I knew that a trap had been sprung, I didn’t see any point in evading the question, and truth, even complicated truth, must always be proclaimed. So I offered a simple answer (one in essence, but three in person), which my Muslim friend rejected on many grounds: irrational, illogical, unnecessary, unbiblical, etc. We proceeded to have a 45-minute discussion, mainly revolving around this topic. I tried to explain that, while God’s nature is ultimately incomprehensible, we can still speak positively about what He has revealed. But my friend would not hear what I said and continued to insist that Christians embrace absurdity. Though he never became hostile or abrasive, he was also not interested in having an honest dialogue. This became evident when he “informed” me that the Trinity was invented at the Council of Nicaea—an assertion that finds no support from history. We eventually moved away from the issue, and he asked me another question: “Why do Christians eat pork, since it was forbidden in the Old Testament?” I recounted to him Peter’s vision in Acts 10, but my Muslim friend suggested that Satan was actually the one talking to Peter. Our conversation came to a conclusion soon after this.
Tuesday, April 21
Divine blindness was on my mind throughout the day. In light of verses like John 12:40 (“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts”) and Romans 9:18 (“He has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills”), I continued to ask myself: why would God keep people from understanding truth if He desires their salvation? I don’t remember the last time I was so incredibly vexed by a question. I had personally witnessed divine blindness the night before: a human being who was concerned not with the things of God, but with undermining my worldview. No matter what I said to him, my Muslim friend would not listen, and even when I appealed to the Bible, he claimed that Satan was behind the words I read. I believe that God really “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), yet why does He make that such a lengthy, challenging, and oftentimes unfulfilled endeavor?
Saturday, May 2
I have had almost two weeks to process this question, both alone and with those closest to me. What is the result of all my pondering, and how does divine blindness, as taught in the Bible, fit into a larger picture of missions? Here is my reflection up to this point, and I welcome interaction and feedback. I believe that God’s highest pursuit—the desire that trumps all other desires—is to be worshipped. Even more than being “famous” (which is to be well-known), worship connotes adoration. Famous people are always well-known yet only sometimes adored. Here is a vital component that must be addressed: worship cannot be obtained without a love-relationship.
Jesus summarized the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). This is the essence of “knowing” God. Without this love-relationship, worship is hollow, and praise is meaningless (see Isaiah chapter 1 for an example). If this is the case, it means that salvation of individuals is not of primary importance to God. If it were, all people would surely be saved. If fame and salvation are God’s end goals, why does He blind eyes and harden hearts? I believe that to be known (in the fullest Biblical sense) is what God most desires. In this “knowing,” God is loved whole-heartedly, worshiped unreservedly, trusted implicitly, and enjoyed thoroughly.
All will not know Him; this is true. God’s first object of desire is Himself; His self-love trumps all other love relationships. Why does God condemn unbelievers to Hell? So that He may worship Himself for how just He is. Why does God welcome believers into Heaven? So that He may worship Himself for how loving He is. Therefore, divine blindness is a necessary component of God’s self-love and self-worship. This truth should not concern or anger us. If Yahweh is the only being worthy of worship (He is), and if worship for Him is increased because His will is being worked out (it is), how can we keep from singing His praise?
The work of worldwide evangelism is slow—not because Satan is a masterful chess player on God’s board, but because in the pain and hardship, God is sanctifying the person with whom He has relationship with so that they may know Him more fully. Why else are trials a normal part of the Christian life (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:12)? Why would God take Israel through the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10)? Why would Jesus tell His disciples to expect persecution (Matthew 10:16-23)? Why does Paul say, “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” (2 Corinthians 12:10)? Because the heartbeat of God is not fame or salvation; it is worship, blossoming from a love-relationship that begins on earth and will flourish throughout all eternity.
by Ben Childs