In his sermon, Why Was This Child Born Blind?, Pastor John anticipates an objection:
Let me address an objection at this point. There are some pastors and teachers who dislike intensely the idea that God might will that a child be born blind so that some purpose of God might be achieved. One of the ways they try to escape the teaching of this text is to say that Jesus is pointing to the result of the blindness, not the purpose of the blindness.
Pastor John is only scratching the surface of the objection some will make. For those of us in God-centered, Bible-saturated churches, the idea that God isn’t purposeful about everything is astonishing. We might not be ready for the not-so-subtle shift of the argument away from purpose.
Yet we should be ready. There are scholars who take a run at finding new meanings by changing the punctuation. The influence of these arguments then play out in other arenas, like youtube preachers who think ‘the works of God’ sounds more like the works of the devil.
Pastor John helps us read the Bible more carefully through his three responses:
1. Pastor John points out the importance of actually reading what is happening, in this case, what are the disciples really asking Jesus to answer, and is his answer consistent with their question?
One is that the disciples are asking for an explanation of the blindness, and Jesus’ answer is given as an explanation of the blindness.
2. Pastor John reminds us about who God is in terms of his foreknowledge and control:
God knows all things. He knows exactly what is happening in the moment of conception. . . If God foresees and permits a conception that he knows will produce blindness, he has reasons for this permission. And those reasons are his purposes. His designs. His plans. God never has met a child from whom he had no plan. There are no accidents in God’s mind or hands.
3. Finally, Pastor John uses the Bible to interpret the Bible:
And third, any attempt to deny God’s sovereign, wise, purposeful control over conception and birth has a head-on collision with Exodus 4:11 and Psalm 139:13. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
The only thing I would add to number 3 is that God is directly speaking to the issue of disability in Exodus 4:11, and does so again in John 9:3.
We should learn this lesson as best we can so that we can be prepared when objections are raised to God’s sovereignty over disability. I’ve read various articles trying to reinterpret Exodus 4:11 and Psalm 139. But the strongest objections typically come against John 9:3, Mark 2 (the healing of the paralytic) and John 5:14.
I’m grateful Pastor John continues to lead us in how to read the Bible carefully for ourselves as we seek to understand more about God and his incredible purposes in his creation. And that, obviously, includes disability.