First of all, I’ve found a link for free access to The Journal of Religion, Disability and Health! I don’t know if this is a new development or if I just missed it in the past. As I have written before, having easy access increases the opportunity for us to reason together, even when we disagree.
In the January edition, Dr. John Poirier of Kingswell Theological Seminary presented “Another Look at the ‘Man Born Blind’ in John 9.” Dr. Poirier asserts that a change in punctuation could change the meaning of the verse.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to read this argument based solely on the merits of his argument about punctuation. While I believe he has affections for God and his word, and that he wants to provide a helpful way to read the scriptures, he demonstrates a clear bias on how he thinks about God and God’s sovereignty:
The old punctuation presents us with the monstrous thesis that God struck a man with disability from birth just for the sake of allowing Jesus to make a public display of God’s healing power at an obscenely later time in his life. Although we should not suppose that the writer of the Fourth Gospel shares our modern sensibilities, we should, I think, extend the benefit of a doubt when a particular reading makes God out to be so capricious. (Poirier, “Another Look at the ‘Man Born Blind’ in John 9“, Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, January 2010, v. 14, p. 62.)
Monstrous? Obscenely? Capricious? If you are familiar with my story, those are all words I have thought myself about God – before God revealed himself to me and my standing before him without Jesus. These words reflect a man-centered, experiential view of God’s word rather than how God presents himself.
Using the Bible alone, we can reasonably ask why Dr. Poirier would use the words ‘monstrous,’ ‘obscenely,’ and ‘capricious’ so freely in the space of only two sentences.
First, from Paul and Isaiah on God’s sovereignty over his creation:
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? Romans 9:20-21
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Second, on the specific issue of God’s creating human beings, God takes credit for who and how he creates them:
Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” Exodus 4:11
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16
Third, earlier in the book of John we see God giving Jesus all authority over everything made:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
So, it becomes difficult to take the rest of Dr. Poirier’s argument seriously when he simply dismisses God’s word based only on how he (and he assumes we) view what is right and just in the world. Why should we even care how one verse is punctuated if the rest of the Bible can be so easily ignored?
Of course disability is hard. Anyone experiencing disability knows that.
But God brings glory to his name all the time through very hard things.
Like the obedient life, death and resurrection of his own son:
From all these prophecies, we know that God foresaw and did not prevent and therefore included in his plan that his Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. All these were explicitly in God’s mind before they actually happened as things that he planned would happen to Jesus. These things did not just happen. They were foretold in God’s word. God knew they would happen and could have planned to stop them, but didn’t. So they hap- pened according to his sovereign will. His plan.
And all of them were evil. They were sin. It is surpassingly sinful to reject, hate, abandon, betray, deny, condemn, spit upon, flog, mock, pierce, and kill the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And yet the Bible is explicit and clear that God himself planned these things. This is explicit not only in all the prophetic texts we have seen, but also in passages that say even more plainly that God ordained that these things come to pass. (Piper, Spectacular Sins, pp. 102-103)
This act of murdering the sinless son of God, the most heinous crime ever committed in all of history, was part of God’s spectacular plan to bring greater glory to his name and fulfill the righteous requirement of the law on behalf of those who do not deserve forgiveness, could never earn it, and would rightly be judged for eternity for every offense made against our perfect, holy and righteous God.
No, God is not monstrous, though some things are hard for us to comprehend. We should be far more amazed that God is so patient with US rather than that he created one man to live with a disability for a few decades.