What it Means to be Spiritually Blind and How the Spirit Helps Us See

What it Means to be Spiritually Blind and How the Spirit Helps Us See February 16, 2007

Andrew Fountain has made a number of his articles available online. One of them, entitled The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics inspired the following post.

According to Henry Virkler, based on the teachings of Romans 1:18-22, 1 Corinthians 2:6-14, Ephesians 4:17-24, and 1 John 2:11, there is a common Christian belief that it is spiritual blindness rather than a lack of intellectual capacity or persuasion which prevents unbelievers from coming to Christ. Another key verse on this matter which is not mentioned in this context by Virkler is 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.

I wonder if the effects of this really do totally stop at conversion, as we like to imagine, or whether, as I suspect, some of our theological differences are really caused by the same spiritual issues described below. We need to pray that God will turn on the light in our own minds, our believing friends, and of course, those who do not know God.

“. . . spiritual blindness and darkened understanding hinder a person’s ability to discern the truth regardless of one’s knowledge and application of hermeneutical principles.

Thus, unbelievers do not know the full meaning of scriptural teaching, not because that meaning is unavailable to them in the words of the text, but because they refuse to act on and appropriate spiritual truths for their own lives. Furthermore, the psychological results of such refusal make them less and less able (and willing) to comprehend these truths.”

(Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981, pp. 29-30.)

Cited in Andrew M. Fountain, “The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics,” a chapter in Acorns to Oaks: The Primacy and Practice of Biblical Theology: A Festschrift for Dr. Geoff Adams, Ed. Michael Haykin, Joshua Press for The Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College, 2003.

In the chapter in which I found the above quote, my dear friend, Andrew Fountain, goes on to describe a spectrum of how people view the role of the Spirit in helping us to understand the Bible. He lists five possible views. Which one of these views do you hold to and why?

  1. The Holy Spirit imparts a vague “blessing” on the hermeneutical endeavor.

  2. The need for the Holy Spirit is limited to the final part of the process of interpretation, that is, the application and internalisation of the message. This is often referred to as illumination.

  3. Through the indwelling Spirit, the believer has a new faculty, capable of receiving and understanding truth, which the unbeliever does not possess.

  4. In addition to the new faculty, some Christians are particularly gifted by the Spirit in understanding the Scriptures.

  5. The Holy Spirit replaces the need for disciplined study.

    Andrew M. Fountain, 2003

To help you think through this question, Andrew also directs us to the following passages in addition to the ones mentioned above:

Matthew 11:25-27; Matthew 13:11-12; Matthew 16:17; Luke 24:25-26; John 16:12-15; John 5:45-47; 2 Corinthians 3; Ephesians 1:17-18; Psalms 119:18; 2 Timothy 2:7.

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