Christians often make the claim that unless one has the helper (the spirit of truth; or the holy spirit) or the gifts of the holy spirit; or is saved; that they are unable to understand Christianity. This is self evidently false – Christianity is the most variegated religion in the world; While it is difficult to say exactly how many denominartions there are, the NCC (National Council of Churches) is a group of 35 different (actual) denominations. Wikipedia lists about 40 major divisions, each of whom might have some variation in belief. One must therefore suppose there could be a bit more than 50 different actual denominations in the world, but almost certainly less than 100.
Take the simple issue of Baptism. At times it can seem like no two denominations agree on what Baptism is, what it is for, how to do it, or anything. This is despite clear and concise verses such as Ephesians 4:5. If the gift of the helper, the spirit of truth, is required to interpret scripture then what do we make of Christians who cannot interpret their own scriptures? And thus we conclude that the notion of spiritual blindness is self-evidently false.
However this proof (as strong as it is) can be considered trite and therefore plebeian because it is short. I suppose then it is a good thing there is a little bit more to say on the matter.
Christians often make the claim that the proofs and truths of Jesus and Christianity are found in many places throughout the Old Testament – that they can be demonstrated and illustrated from the Hebrew Bible – the Tanakh.
However, when we go to the text we find that the text says (at best) the opposite. For example, we are told by the Christian that God's plan for salvation is Vicarious Attonement (an innocent who dies for the sins of the wicked). As an Example, we could go to Ezekiel 37:10-11 and read,
10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?Ezekiel 33:10-11 (RSV)
Or in Ezekiel 18:21-24,
21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?Ezekiel 18:21-23 (RSV)
In a similar matter, we go to scripture and we are told Joshua is the one who is raised up a prophet like Moses. We find in Isaiah 7 that it's not talking about a virgin birth. In Chapter 9, it's just talking about Hezekiah. If you read Isaiah 53 in context you will find it is one of the suffering servant songs, and that the suffering servant is named by God as the nation of Israel.
So the response becomes, “We don't have anything against Jesus, it's not about Paul. It's not that we are rejecting a person. What we do is we take the Jewish scriptures and we use it as a measuring stick to measure any claim – Christian, Mormon, Buddhist – even Jewish – and it is on that basis alone that we accept it or reject it.”
What happens next is very strange. And that is, when we look at the Jewish scriptures, and we are then told (for example) that Paul says 'you don't need to keep the law anymore, the law has been made a curse for you, it's done with, not just for Gentiles but for Jews too' (ex. Romans 7) but the Torah says in Deuteronomy 4:2, 'that you cannot add to the law or take away, and if any one takes away, if any prophet says you don't have to keep the torah anymore, that individual is speaking presumptuously in my name, I didn't send them, declareth the lord, if someone declares to you about a God your fathers did not know, i did not send him.“ and 'He might even do miracles,' Deu 13 tells us, 'but despite that i am only testing you to see if you love me.'
So, we have these very graphic texts in the Jewish scriptures, and we find zero support for the Christian scriptures.
And then we are told the mind-blower. And the mind-blower is, there is a veil over your heart. There are scales over your eyes.
This is a Pauline innovation which means, you can't read your bible. You don't have the holy spirit, so therefore even tough the Jewish scriptures say something clearly such as 'you can't add to the law or take away from it,” or that 'Shabbos is forever, the Torah is forever,' (ex. in Deu 29, 30), 'The law is not too difficult, you can keep it,' '..the Torah of God is perfect, it gives comfort to your soul, do not forsake the Torah of your mother,' and countless other passages, that we have actually been blinded from the spiritual truth of passages like those found in Romans 10:
4 For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.
5 Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); 9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. 13 For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”Romans 10:4-13 (RSV)
If this principle was true, then what belief could be rejected? Why don't Evangelical Christians accept the teachings of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons)? Because they say the teachings in the book of Mormon are not consistent with the New Testament. This could lead to Mormons making the same claim regarding Christians. i.e. 'Christians are spiritually blind because they do not have the holy spirit; they cannot see the truth of the book of Mormon.'
No evangelical Christian would accept such a claim, but it is based on the same logic as the Christian claim.
Turning the tables, one might ask why the average SBC-type or Evangelical Christian opposes Gay Marriage. They will say, because it quite openly says in Leviticus that to lie with another man is an abomination. Does this then mean, that because the Christian is using an Old Testament passage, that they have scales over their eyes? Someone who is in support of Gay Marriage could simply say the Christian was blind, and that the Old Testament did not mean what it plainly said, and that therefore it was okay to have Gay Marriage (considering the Old Testament).
This is a kind of contortionist theology. Once the Christian says anything such as there are scales or veils, or something like “I met Jesus”, or that they have some special qualifying religious experience, why then do they categorically reject when people of other faiths – even other Christian denominations – make the same claim?
Roman Catholics in San Paulo, in Manilla, and many other places Holy to the Catholic Church claim to meet the Virgin Mary on a nearly daily basis. In Prtugal, people meet the virgin Mary all over the place. Why are these claims rejected out-of-hand, but the Christian turns and expects someone to accept his claims purely on faith and faith alone? The reason they are rejected is not because Christians believe these people are lying and making everything up. Some maybe, but that is not why the claims are rejected. The claims are rejected because meeting the virgin Mary and praying to her is not consistent with the New Testament.
That means, Christians “get it”, and to skirt this issue one must only apply this same form of critial thinking to the Old Testament.
The Jewish response to a verse from Paul like Romans 10:4-13 (above) is to go to the original text and read the parts Paul cut out. If you look in your Christian Bible if it has a cross-reference you will see Romans 10:4 cross-references Deuteronomy 30 verses 11 to 14:
11 “For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (RSV)
When you have a serious health problem, who do you go to? You go to the Hospital, to the Doctor and not straight to a friend, relative or person off the street because you expect a Doctor to know what he is doing with regard to Medicine. You expect this because you expect a Doctor to have studied Medicine enough to be placed in a position of trust and authority regarding medical issues.
In the same way, Paul is addressing a very serious connundrum. The monumental question.
In Romans 11:8, Paul issues a stunning indictment of the Jews, and states that God himself has stated openly in the bible that the Jews would be made spiritually blind.
|8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. –Romans 11:8 (KJV)|
What is stunning about this passage is that it cross references to Deuteronomy 29:4:
|Deuteronomy 29:4 (v.3 in Hebrew)|
|Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.||KJV|
|But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.||NIV|
|but to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.||RSV|
|But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day.||ASC|
Ladies and gentlemen, a crime has been committed here before your very eyes. The Christian bible has misconstrued this passage. The Artscroll Stone Chumash gives commentary 'Until this day' ref. v.9 (v.8 in the English bibles). What is stated in verse 8/9 and on is that on this day Israel is finally standing before God in order to enter the covenant and on this day God will fulfil his promise to the patriarchs Abraham et al. Commentaries here emphasize that the people were standing before God in his very presence; God cannot be deceived. The Israelites were meant to hear His word on this day.
Now I know that many Christians will wonder where I am “getting this”. Let me explain that this is a Pharisaic (Orthodox Jewish) teaching. If it is not correct, Paul would have been taught this (as a Pharisee) as if it were correct. Therefore he never would have used this verse as a proof for Romans 11. Yet, still, it is correct. The word in question is Strong's 05704 (aḏ, “עַ֖ד”) meaning to or until. “Until this day” is a perfectly valid reading and makes just as much sense or more considering v. 8, 9 and onwards.
There is no reason to believe the Jews, who stood in God's very presence in order to enter the covenant and fulfil God's promise, to serve as witnesses of God to the entire world – there is no reason to believe these people are somehow spiritually blind. In fact given the above discussion, to suggest that the Jews are spiritually blind doesn't even make sense. It goes against the plain and clear narrative of the Bible – in Deuteronomy 29 – and in other places.
So the monumental question is, if it is so patently obvious that Jesus is the Messiah, why did the Jews reject him?
Why is it that the only people who can read the bible in it's original language, the very people who encountered the prophets – it's their bible – why is it the very people to whom God promised, foretold and prophesied the Messiah, whose job it was to recognize the Messiah, who had been expecting, and waiting for the Messiah, have said that Jesus is not the Messiah, that the Messiah has not yet come, and that the notion of worshiping a man who has died is not only foolish but also blasphemy?
A lot of people, even ministers and pastors ask this question. They see the Jewish people around them in daily life and they see these people are pretty normal, possibly a doctor, how is it that this person doesn't get it?
The answer you will never get is,
The reason why the Jews don't believe in Jesus is, they read their bible and they draw a different conclusion.
That can't be. You will never get this answer in any Church, in any commentary, or in any Seminary or bible college, never at Fulton, not at Moody's.
It is as if someone said, “Smoking cigarettes is not harmful”. What would you ask? “Why is it that every doctor, everyone who has gone through Medical school, every scientist who has studied this, has said that cigarettes contain some 250 carcinogens, it's responsible for all the major killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and so on. Why is it that everyone who should know has said that smoking is very bad for you and has no benefits at all”.
So you have to then say that all these doctors are blinded. This should always concern you; it is an extremely self-serving theology.
I don't think any Christian really believes you don't understand things simply because they are written down. That is almost never what is meant by this; if you are talking to someone who honestly believes you can't understand your native language in print, they are the ones with a problem not you! Scripture is normal, logical communication. It is abnormal only in its revelatory nature, not in the manner it uses human language to communicate actual thoughts. Therefore, it is possible for the man without God’s Spirit (the unbeliever) to mentally grasp the meaning of Scripture, at least in terms of its logical content.
This explains why an unbeliever can write a perceptive biblical commentary. Mark Twain, an avid unbeliever, said, “It is not those passages of Scripture I do not understand that bother me, but those that I do understand.”
It is however the Christian position that man without God’s Spirit cannot understand God’s Word in the fullest sense, for he does not and cannot have a real appreciation of the spiritual implications of biblical truth, especially in relation to himself. He may grasp the thoughts, but he misses the spirit, the life-changing purpose behind the thoughts. In that sense he comprehends the raw concepts, but he does not truly “see.” Hence, the man without the Spirit of God cannot truly understand (fully grasp or appreciate) the things of God.
Christianity and Judaism are not on an even playing field. The Jews were the chosen people, chosen by God to be a light to the nations. All Christians must concede that one minute before Jesus was born, Pharisaic (traditional orthodox) Judaism – the same Judaism of Jesus and Paul – was the one true world religion.
This means Christianity has to prove itself. Christianity is saying something changed, and it changed at the Cross. That is a fantastic claim – and fantastic claims require fantastic, graphic evidence. And what the Christian Church is coming up with is in fact horrible evidence – none of it works.
So what happens when you remove the Pauline claim? The default fall-back is Judaism. For example, in one of the early epistles (2 Timothy) which has been speculated written between AD61 and AD65 (5 to 10 years before Mark), 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” – this is not a statement regarding the New Testament, any of the Gospels or the works of Paul or any apostle. There was no New Testament until well after 2 Timothy was written, so we know for a fact 2 Timothy is referring to the Jewish scriptures.
Even Marcion who was the first to publish a proto-New Testament (consisting of ten excerpts from Luke, and ten Pauline epistles) did not begin his work until at least AD140 or AD144. Therefore the epistle of 2 Timothy could not have referred to any collection of New Testament scriptures but only to have Jewish scriptures.
The spiritual blindness ascribed to gentiles or other non-believers is a little different but can often be confused with the spiritual blindness with which the Christians claim God cursed the Jews.
Let's go through this and try and see where the Christian Doctrine of spiritual blindness might come from.
In 1st Corinthians 2, Paul makes argument based on the idea that humans are separate from God spiritually, that they therefore do not understand spiritual things, and that through Jesus they can rejoin God and be spiritually connected to God (in their doctrine they mean, to Jesus).
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (KJV)
Yet looking at 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, one may find Paul's errors multiple and difficult. One, in 2:9 Paul simply presupposes he is right because he believes in Jesus. This is a sentiment – not a proof: “8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (KJV). You can see this in how verses 8, 9 and 10 do not really make sense as a string of related thoughts in that no proof or justification or methodology is given other than a contrast. I.E. other people are blind therefore we must be spiritually awake.
But another and perhaps more serious error in Paul's theology is that he believes we are disconnected from God and we have only the spirit of a Man (vs. 2:11-12 and vs. 2:14). This is covered somewhat in Image of God, but in short the bible is very clear Man has God's spirit in him already. Verses like Psalms 104:29-30 and Job 34:12-15 express this as the common understanding, which would have come out of strong scriptural support such as Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:7, and Genesis 6:3. I.E. the idea that we need God's holy spirit to somehow enter us to understand is in fact true – however, this in fact is what already happened. We are alive and can understand and comprehend even merely because God has filled us with his holy spirit. The notion that Paul supposes, that our spirit is not of God, but separate and corrupt, would have been incomprehensible to any Jew in history, not only to 1st century Jews at the time he wrote it. In Short Paul's theory here is a broken cistern that cannot hold water.
But maybe Paul made a mistake, or meant something else? Let's keep reading, starting with some other choice passages from Corinthians, and see if Paul can make a better case in the following pages. He must have been aware he would need more than the above, so he presents no less than three additional separte arguments in the next chapters of this book.
This verse is occasionally used, it is a sort of 'warning shot' some Christians use because it is light, friendly and bypasses the issue usually being raised in favor of a different issue. It's about as non-confrontational as possible but unfortunately due to that it is also not a very strong attempt in and of itself.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.Matthew 6:33 (RSV)
The meaning is, whatever the answer to your question is, it probably isn't very important. The Christian may use this passage to try and prevent a long discussion, especially with someone they recognize won't be convinced by an answer no matter how well-delivered (they may feel it is not an important issue). They will then try to deflect away into a sort of soft-sell by stating 6:33 or it's paraphrase, 'If you just pray to Jesus, he will answer you' or 'Why don't you just try believing in Jesus/Praying to Jesus/Having faith in Jesus, and he will reveal himself to you'. It is essentially the statement that you must believe via faith before the truth can be revealed to you.
Ultimately this is an incredibly weak passage; being asked to assume a belief is true without any proof or in the face of conflicting evince is a ridiculous proposition. It can be problematic; Asking someone to worship (pray to) Jesus first before believing in him is a very soft-sell approach; “believe in Jesus first, then make a decision later on if you really believe in him” isn't logical, it's a sort of subtle-sell approach some would even consider a hard sell.
But the biggest problem is, of course, the Christian is ripping this verse out of context. What “all these things” are, does not mean the answer to your question. It means what's written just before in Matthew 6:31-32. Seeing the passage in it's proper context instantly reveals what is really being said here:
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV)
The verse is specifically referencing the fact that God knows what material things you need to survive: Food, Drink, Clothing, i.e. material possessions, money, and even a modicum of success to let you feel proud to be you, to feel happy. Sure. But to rip this out of context and to separate the meaning of the passage away from God's plan for your life is a somewhat dishonest way of sidestepping the issue a non-believer may be raising in a passage.
Fortunately I have never met a Christian who means to do this, once it is shown to them that the passage is about material possessions and not spiritual understanding of an answer or of a verse, they don't continue with that line of reasoning anymore. Unfortunately for you though, what you are likely to encounter next might not be so obvious to answer.
13 This is the reason I speak to the crowds in parables: because while [having the power of] seeing they do not see, and while [having the power of] hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand and grasp [spiritual things].Matthew 13:13 (AMP)
The first problem with this verse is that it is only referring to Jesus' sermon on that day. In Matthew 3:13, it is stated that Jesus is specifically speaking to this crowd in parables. It does not mean that the entire Bible is written in parables. So to use this part of the verse to explain that people can't understand the bible because it is written in a kind of spiritual code is incorrect. Jesus merely says he is explaining things in such a way so that crowd will not understand but his disciples will understand.
The second issue we take up with this verse is that we are not even member of the crowd; we are not hearing these words as if we were a member of that crowd. We are hearing the words as readers of the Apostles who wrote down what Jesus said, and we also have the inside track here: in Matthew 13:10-11, Jesus via the Apostles states,
10 Then the disciples came to Him and asked, “Why do You speak to the crowds in parables?” 11 Jesus replied to them, “To you it has been granted to know the [b]mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has [spiritual wisdom because he is receptive to God’s word], to him more will be given, and he will be richly and abundantly supplied; but whoever does not have [spiritual wisdom because he has devalued God’s word], even what he has will be taken away from him.Matthew 13:10-12 (AMP)
Given that the New Testament was written expressly to shed light on Christian doctrine it is inconceivable that the reason a non-Christian cannot understand Christian doctrine is because it is left unstated and the key to the parables was not given to them. No Christian could make the claim credibly that he was taught some kind of secret meaning of the New Testament in sunday school that a non-Christian wouldn't have learned. It should be clear that the New Testament is not interested in hiding the message and teachings of Jesus from anyone, but instead goes out of it's way to explain everything you would need to know to believe and practice as a Christian. So to state that someone can somehow not understand the message of the New Testament because they are not a Christian does not make any sense. This is explained beautifully in passages like Mark 8:26 and 8:30 where we are told things only the Apostles could know and even things which were explicitly forbidden to be revealed to outsiders by Jesus himself.
Finally, what the Christian may in fact be referring to is a kind of spiritual blindness they claim is caused by a sort of veil, or scales, placed over the eyes of Jews by God. This is referenced in the passage above in Matthew 13:14-15 and onwards, which is cross-referenced to Isaiah 6:9-10. There is of course, a huge issue being raised here. I've gone through the AMP, NKJV, KJV, RSV and others and it is very apparent that Matthew has changed the text he is using here away from what is written in Hebrew. This is not a false or idle claim at all; you can check it in any Christian bible. Just open the bible to Isaiah 6:9-10 and check what is written in Matthew 13:14-15. Now, you should be well aware that the Christian will claim Matthew was quoting from the Septuagint; however this is a spurious and frivolous claim as Isaiah was never a part of the Septuagint. The introduction to the Septuagint clearly states the Septuagint was only the first five books of Moses; All other books were translated either anonymously or by the Church. It will also note that Isaiah in particular is a translation of incredibly poor quality. You can read this for yourself in the introduction to the Septuagint, it's true. So there is a major issue here in that Jesus and Matthew are quoting the Septuagint and not the Hebrew because there is a subtle doctrinal difference present in Matthew's quote.
To underline the issue, no Hebrew and Aramaic speaking Jew in Jerusalem in Jesus' time would ever have quoted and relied on a greek translation when the Hebrew was available and was what they would have been taught as children, and what they all would have been familiar with. The difference is simple; in the Hebrew this is not a curse issued by God at all, it is a message given to Isaiah by God, to tell the Israelites as prophecy. It also does not say “never” but it is made clear that should they not do this they will repent and return to the Lord. It is, in short, a warning. It is a message sent to the Israelites who had fallen into Idolatry. This passage is self-aware of this precisely because it mentions King Uzziah who is remembered for his failure to put an end to Idolatry, and famously committed ma'al (like the Maccabees–a kind of ritual impurity–unfaithful encroachment upon priestly duties) by burning incense in the temple.
Even if one disregards this context, God states in Isaiah 6:13 (AMP), ““And though a tenth [of the people] remain in the land, …the holy seed…” (AMP). This is universally understood to refer to the righteous remnant of Israel that God always preserves (by whatever means). The tenth refers to tithing, that which belongs to God. Therefore it is very difficult to use this passage to show that the Jews in particular are spirutually blind, but by it's very nature it does not apply to non-Jews at all.
Finally, the demarcation line is actually spoken by Jesus in Matthew 13:12; “12 For whoever has [spiritual wisdom because he is receptive to God’s word], to him more will be given, and he will be richly and abundantly supplied; but whoever does not have [spiritual wisdom because he has devalued God’s word], even what he has will be taken away from him.” This makes it very clear that what is meant here by being unable to hear or understand his parables is being unfamiliar with scripture. Therefore, this passage could never apply in the sense of meaning that someone can not underastand scripture itself simply because he is a non-Christian.
Conclusion: This passage does not apply to non-Jews at all, nor does it apply to Jews in general, esp. any Jew who has ever performed chuvah (repented of his sins) via Isaiah 6:10 (AMP) “And return and be healed.”
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.John 14:15-17 (ESV)
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.John 14:22-24 (ESV)
Christians will use this passage to state that someone who does (did) not love Jesus would not have kept his commandments, and then would not receive the helper (the spirit of truth), and would therefore be unable to understand the truth (in general) which would include spiritual truths, and an understanding of scripture. Only people who “love him” will receive the truth and will receive their presence.
This seems a little tenuous. We just heard Jesus say in Matthew 13 that people would need a basic understanding of scripture before they were able to hear and understand his parables. To deny them the possibility to understand truth as a whole doesn't really make sense. So this would be considered a spiritual truth.
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.John 15:26 (ESV)
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.John 16:12-14 (ESV)
Much clarity comes from John 15:26 and 16:12-14 (above). Here the helper (the spirit of truth) is explained as something or someone that will manifest by proclaiming Jesus. Therefore, this passage may appear relevant to a Christian who is facing someone on certain topics, such as Is Jesus God, or Is Jesus the Promised Messiah. Non-believers who deny Jesus in various ways and attempt to use scripture to justify their claims would be seen as not being able to recognize the truth, which is a convenient way to undermine or demonize their entire argument without having to respond to the verse. In short, they're wrong, because they can't see the spiritual truth in the passages they are reading.
Fortunately this tactic can be countered swiftly and cleanly in a couple of ways. First the spirit of truth would only apply to seeing the truth (the proclamation) of Jesus in a passage that affirms Jesus as such – should such a passage exist – and would not apply to any other kind of passage. This is just a passage about being able to recognize the proclamation of Jesus and not necessarily about understanding scripture in general.
Secondly, note that you are not trying to explain anything to them, you are not trying to convince them of anything. You are merely pointing out God's word in the bible i.e. you are pointing out that God has issued a certain understanding in his own words (in the 'Old Testament') and that therefore such a verse should be considered relevant if it applies to the topic of discussion. The secondary fact of whether or not you happen to understand the verse is not relevant.
As an aside, doing so would obviously verify you understood the verse because you would understand how it was different from the Christian position and would be capable of making a then-informed choice between the two – the rationale for your choice being what the Christian would have to counter and not your understanding of the verse.
In short, a simple acceptance by Faith is no longer possible when God has already spoken on the matter. If you are asked to accept something new, that is possibly okay, but if you are asked to accept something new via rejecting something God has said (which can never be undone) it is not okay – even if you do not understand the thing you are being asked to accept.
The notion that Jewish people in particular are spiritually blinded from recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah.
The idea comes from Paul, not from Jesus or the Gospels, and is not corroborated by any other source (although a possible reference to this idea is made in Acts 9:17-19). In 2nd Corinthians 3:13-16 Paul writes,
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.2 Corinthians 3:13-16 (KJV)
The statement here is that in the same way Moses covered his face so that the Jews could not understand God's word (could not understand the end of the Law), in that same way (i.e. 'the same vail') was used by God to blind the Jews (those under the covenant of Sinai). In that manner, even though (apparently) Jesus is “on every page” of the Torah, the Jews will deny Christ because they cannot see (that truth). However, should a Jew turn to God (here understood “to Jesus”), then Jesus will take that veil away and allow the Jew to know the truth.
There are a couple of issues here. First, this kind of blindness would only apply to Jews – and looking around, no other kind of blindness is necessarily prescribed to non-Jews. But even just considering the Jews there is one really big problem with this story: It simply isn't true.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.[d] 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.Exodus 34:29-35 (ESV)
It must have been made exceedingly clear that when you read the story you understand that the Veil was only worn because during those times when Moses was not giving testimony or instruction to the Jews. First, he did not put on the veil until after he spoke to them, then, he would always remove it before he went in before the Lord and not put it on again until after he had delivered the Lord's message.
This presents an incredible problem because the idea that Paul was so unfamiliar with this passage that he made such a mistake is inconceivable if Paul was a Pharisee; that he could make such a mistake in doctrine is inconceivable if he was divinely inspired, and that he could have lied or deceived us in such a manner is incomprehensible because we would have expected the founding fathers of Christianity, who were Jews, to have noticed such a controversy as soon as they read Paul's letters.
Whatever the reason for this, whether the ends justify the means or not, the end here serves a very simple purpose: An explanation of why the Jews reject Christ. After all, no one should know the bible as well as a Jew – they memorize it as Children. Why then don't they see the divinity of Christ expressed in the Bible? The thought that it's precisely the error of Paul – a complete lack of understanding of the Bible – and that the problem rests primarily on Christian shoulders, never occurs to the Christian.
In any case, without it's foundation in the Old Testament this becomes Paul's word against God's, and Paul's credibility (as a Pharisee, as divinely inspired, and as honest in his intentions) is already slipping away by his own mouth here. Let us state this particular issue as unresolved – and state that if it is true that the Jews are blind in some way it must be by some other device and that therefore this source alone is not an acceptable amount of evidence.
Following the above and in the same vein,
The Light of the Gospel
4 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[c] for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.2 Corinthians 4:1-6(ESV)
The issue here is that it is predicated on the previous Veil of Moses theory. However remarkably it attempts to give a secondary although very weak proof: “5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[c] for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The problem here is really that this isn't a proof of anything at all; when God said “Let there be light” he was not casting spiritual blindness on the Jews.
Some Christians will in turn claim the above responses miss the point. To quote,
Second Corinthians 3:12–13 gives another contrast. Ministers of the New Covenant are unlike Moses. New Covenant ministers proclaim the unfading glory in a bold manner, while Moses wore a veil to shield Israel from a fading glory. Paul is not giving us new insight into what Moses was doing. There is no new information in 2 Corinthians 3 concerning the events in Exodus 34. The main point is that the Old Covenant glory was temporary; the shining of Moses’ face was destined to fade, just as the Law he proclaimed. The emphasis is that the veil prevented the Israelites from seeing a temporary glory, not that they were prevented from noticing that the glory was gradually fading, much less that Moses had some personal (perhaps prideful) reason for hiding the fact that it was fading. This paraphrase may help: Unlike Moses, who wore a veil to conceal the temporary glory of the Old Covenant, we boldly proclaim the permanent glory of the New Covenant.https://www.gotquestions.org/Moses-veil.html
This an interesting problem but it opens a can of worms. First by making this claim the real comparison here is not the veil or what it may mean but Moses' fading glory vs. Jesus' eternal glory – the passage is no longer about spiritual blindness but about the comparative value of God's covenant at Sinai and the 'new covenant' of Jesus. It insinuates the reason why the Jews don't accept the gospel is not because they are blind–but because they do in fact see and understand scripture and they know it is different from the testament of Jesus.
Finally, the concept that Moses' glory was a 'fading' glory sticks out as being in sharp contrast with what is written in Exodus. In Exodus (above) it is clear that the reason the veil was placed on Moses' face was for the benefit of the Jews, who were afraid of his shining face. Therefore, the assumption would be not that he wore the veil to hide a face which was no longer shining, but to hide a face which continued to shine. The concept that the glory was fading therefore has no basis in scripture and in fact seems a little forced. In fact I would say that Exodus 34:35 basically contradicts Paul on this matter by noting that Moses' face continued to shine even after he had spoken to the Jews.
This is not a passage you will often hear because of how self-deprecating it is to the Christian position. It will be quoted as Isaiah 42:7 and quickly presented to show that spiritual blindness can exist. However anything more than a casual glance will actually provide a complete indictment of the Christian position:
5 Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.Isaiah 42:5-9 (KJV)
Obviously this passage is about how the Jews, and not the Christians, are God's tool to bring light to the world. Isaiah 42:16 is no greater help;
16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
17 They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.
18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant?
20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.
21 The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
23 Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?Isaiah 42:16-23
I asked several Christians I've spoken to if they really believe non-believers and/or Jews are completely spiritually blind, and could not understand the bible. Here are the results:
b'bs – main issue
A - I do have a personal belief that Jews are under a different covenant. CN-MT - no i dont believe God blinds anyone. no further comment M5 - AS to your question it is quite the opposite, God doesn't blind anyone spiritually, he gives us spiritual eyesight.
CD-MN - i'm not sure god is capable of spiritually blinding anyone, merely people are blinded by their own societies (mis)perceptions of the god they are taught to believe in RO – I think non-believers can gain some sort of understanding (but maybe not the full picture). Re – I thought they were called the chosen people?