Continuing yesterday’s discussion of Dr. Paul Simmons’ use of scripture to justify his view that abortion is an acceptable moral choice, today we’ll look at how he deals with an important passage regarding God’s sovereignty over disability, Exodus 4:10-11:
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”Then the Lord said to him (Moses), “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
Here are Dr. Simmons own words on that passage, from his article, Personhood, the Bible and the Abortion Debate:
Using God’s statement to Moses to explain genetic deformity betrays careless exegesis leading to faulty conclusions. The context was Moses’ reluctance to become God’s spokesman because he feared he would not be persuasive. “Dumb,” “deaf,” and “blind” are metaphors for the ability to speak and understand God’s truth. This passage has nothing whatever to do with genetic handicaps.
Dr. Simmons is correct that Moses was reluctant. But he is not correct that God is merely using a rhetorical device to make a point.While it is not clear if Moses is speaking of a speech impediment, like stuttering, or if he merely thought himself inarticulate, God had already addressed the objection about not being believed:
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Exodus 4:1
God then gives him some powerful signs to ‘persuade’ Pharaoh and his court to believe what Moses has to say: the ability to turn his staff into a snake (and back again), the ability to make his own hand leprous (and back again), and the ability to turn water into blood.
But let us assume that Dr. Simmons is right, that Moses is most concerned in verse 10 about not being persuasive. God addresses Moses’ concern directly: who has made man’s mouth? God has made it, and it is God who makes one articulate or not articulate. This is a direct statement of fact in that situation; it is not meant to represent something else. And God does not need Moses to be articulate, nor is he asking him to be. He is asking him to be faithful to the call God has made on his life, using the tools God has made for him.
And rather than leave it at that, God significantly increases his pronouncement of his own sovereignty: who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
Where is the metaphor? There is nothing in this passage that Dr. Simmons can appeal to in which blindness or deafness is meant as a metaphor or that Moses should understand it as such. God has provided a direct response referencing actual physical things to Moses’ objections to that point:
- At the beginning of his encounter with God, Moses is told to remove his shoes because he is on holy ground. Literal holy ground.
- God produces his name: I AM.
- He proclaims a geographic region in which the people will enter.
- He tells Moses that God will deliver actual people from an existing country.
- He gives Moses physical miracles as signs.
- And after Moses’ final objection is answered, God brings a real brother, Aaron, to serve as spokesman.
Finding a metaphor in here is a stretch at best.
In essence, God is saying to Moses, “you think you are inarticulate and unpersuasive? I made you! I know you better than you know yourself, and I am calling you to this work. In fact, I make some who can’t even speak at all, or hear, or see. And I could use them, with their disabilities, to do this work if I so chose. But I chose you, even with your inarticulate mouth that I made for my glory. Get over yourself and recognize who is speaking to you. Here comes your brother. Go to work in the strength I provide.”
This offends Dr. Simmons because he wants to make God into a small creature of Dr. Simmons’ own design, one in which his human standards of goodness and rightness will apply. Dr. Simmons’ god would never do anything like create someone with a disability. That is dangerous territory for anyone, but particularly for one who wants to speak about the nature and character of God. Consider what God has to say about himself in these passages:
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:14-18
God does not appear embarrassed, as one would expect from a ‘loving’ God, to do whatever he wants without any human constraints. Why? Because God himself is the measure by which something is good or righteous or just or loving. Those of us who are not holy and can never be holy nor have any hope at all but for the work of Jesus Christ would do well to pause before casting judgment on the creator and sustainer of the universe.
There is also internal consistency within the Bible about God intentionally making some who are different through disability. John 9, for which this blog is named, is a clear example from the New Testament:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
Jesus wasn’t suggesting that this man wasn’t a sinner. Romans 3:23 addresses that. But in this case, his sin was not the factor that caused the disability; God did it to display his own works in him. The answer, “is it not I, the Lord,” applies to disability in both the Old and the New Testament. Dr. Simmons, and any other theologian or pastor who denies this reality, is a wolf among you, should be clearly rebuked and given something much less important to do than preach or teach Scripture.