Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Approve

Reading in John, I came across this passage I've come across before. In chapter 11 we have the wonderful story of the resurrection of Lazarus. We find "Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him." (John 11:45) In chapter 12 crowds were gathering to see Jesus and Lazarus (John 12:9). We have the Triumphal Entry where they "took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'" (John 12:13) Then foreign God-fearers asked to see Him (John 12:20-21). God Himself speaks to the crowd (John 12:28). It's a good time for Jesus. And, yet, we read this.
Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him. (John 12:37-41)
If you're paying attention, this is a disturbing passage. We like to think that God hopes to save everyone and works toward that end and all that -- very warm and friendly stuff -- but this seems to say otherwise. This appears to say that there are those who cannot believe (John 12:39) -- actually lack the ability -- and the reason that they cannot believe is "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." (John 12:40) Notice that it doesn't say that they have blinded their eyes and hardened their heart. It doesn't even say that the god of this world has done it. It says "He", speaking of God, has done it.

Now, there are all sorts of twists and turns we can take here to try to alleviate this. Maybe it doesn't mean that He did it. Maybe it just means that He allowed it. They did it to themselves. Like Pharaoh who hardened his own heart until God accomplished it by merely letting him do it to himself. Maybe it means that God allowed Satan to do it. So maybe it doesn't require active participation on the part of God to make these people blind and deaf. What remains inescapable is that 1) He knew about it in advance and 2) allowed it to happen. He knew there would be some -- always will be some -- who cannot come to believe because they are spiritually blind and deaf.

So, go about whatever dance you want to make that work for you. Maybe you'd like to think that God is not capable of changing that. Not me, but maybe you would. Maybe you'd like to think that God prefers Human Free Will to His own, so He won't interfere. Again, that is not for me, but maybe it is for you. Maybe you're even fine with "God did it". But it remains inescapable that in some sense this was God's foreordained plan. He knew it or allowed it or caused it and did not change it.

My question for you, then, is not how or even why. My question for you is, if this was actually God's plan, is that okay with you? If God planned to have people who could not believe and repent and He either could not or did not do something to overcome that, does that meet with your approval?

You see the problem, don't you? On one hand it is entirely possible that we could end up disapproving of God's choices or capabilities or actions. On the other hand we're actually submitting God to our approval. As if we have any grounds to do so. Seems to me our only right response is, "Not my will, but Yours, O Lord." If your only response is the right one -- "Whatever You do is right, Father. Blessed be the Name of the Lord." -- then you're in the right place. If you're thinking that God has to pass inspection, then you're standing directly on the core of idolatry -- "I will be like the Most High."

5 comments:

Stan said...

Please note, dear readers, that deleting or negating a passage in favor of other passages is not an adequate answer. Playing Scripture against Scripture simply negates Scripture. It has to work together or it is not the Word of God. And regardless of how you harmonize these kinds of texts with the others, you still have to conclude that either God intended some to be "blind" and "deaf" ... or He is not actually the sovereign God that Scripture describes, doing whatever He pleases, and, therefore, not God.

Bob said...

the other day I was considering the commission given to the apostles on their first missionary journey.
Math 10: 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go onto the road of the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’…

1. It is Jesus sending out the twelve.
this goes to authority: only God can give such a commission.
2. Jesus instructions are to avoid the gentiles and Samaritans.
3. Only the lost sheep of Israel are to receive the message.
4. The message does not make sheep, but rather calls out from the world, the ones that already exist.
5 The message is not evangelical, "make a decision for Christ" but rather : the kingdom of heaven is near.
This message is very exclusive; considering that while the sheep are being counted, the rest of the world is lost and perishing.

Danny Wright said...

Just run with the passages that fit the god I've created and like is what I say. Love wins.

Anonymous said...

"On one hand it is entirely possible that we could end up disapproving of God's choices or capabilities or actions. On the other hand we're actually submitting God to our approval. As if we have any grounds to do so."

Am I reading too much into that if I say you don't accept the ontological argument for God's existence? It seems like you're saying, "I can imagine a deity that fits my intuitive idea of perfection even more closely than the deity described in the Bible does."

The ontological argument claims that since this other deity you have imagined is even greater than the Bible deity, the greater one must be the one which actually exists. But I think you are saying the ontological argument fails because your own natural human standard for ordering the degrees of greatness is essentially flawed and cannot be trusted.

Stan said...

Wow, Anonymous, you've really gone far afield. I've not imagined a "greater than the Bible deity". I'm urging Christians to stick with the God of the Bible (rather than any other that might be imagined). I'm saying that if your intuitive idea of perfection is not in line with what God reveals about Himself, then your intuitive idea is not the God of the Bible and, therefore, not the Christian God.

Of course, any ol' skeptic is free to imagine any ol' thing he or she may desire. I wasn't addressing that here at all.

Or, to answer your question, yes, you're reading too much into what I said.