“Hello Pastor John, my name is Jacob, a college senior. I am reading your book A Peculiar Glory and looking forward to your new book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally. My question comes from chapter 12 of A Peculiar Glory. If it is indeed God who shines the light into darkness, how is it that we as humans are responsible for knowing God? I may have misinterpreted something along the way, but this seems like a legitimate question in light of Romans 1:18–23.”
Jacob is absolutely right that I argue in A Peculiar Glory that all human beings are spiritually blind to the superior value of the glory of God. Which means that, left to ourselves, we will see the gospel, see Christ, see Scripture, but not see it, or see him, for what it truly is; namely, the most beautiful, valuable reality in the world.
“Our only hope for salvation is that God would miraculously shine in our hearts with the light of his glory.”
We can see, but there’s something wrong with our spiritual capacities to discern the beauty and value of what we see so that we always wind up preferring other things over God. “Seeing they do not see,” Jesus said (Matthew 13:13). That’s the essence of sin, and it’s the plight of every human being, not just a few. The only hope, therefore — he noticed I argued for salvation, for recognizing who Christ is and what his word is — the only hope for this salvation, therefore, is that God would miraculously shine in our hearts with the light of the glory of God.
In the text that he’s talking about mainly, I think — at least this is the text I go — is 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, where our blindness and God’s supernatural intervention is so beautifully expressed. Let me read that: “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” — hence, our inability to see the truth and beauty and worth of Christ in the gospel. We’re blind. In verse 6 is the solution: “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.” There’s the problem: we’re blind. There’s the solution: supernatural, God-given sight of glory.
That’s what Jacob is referring to. We’re blind and unable to see the beauty and worth of Christ in the gospel, and a miracle is required to save us, which 2 Corinthians 4:6 says only God can give by shining into your hearts. Jacob asked, “Well, then, how is it that we are responsible and liable to God’s judgment if we’re blind and can only be saved from our blindness by God?” The key to the answer of why spiritually dead, spiritually blind people who can only be rescued by a divine miracle, the key is to see that this blindness and deadness is willful. It is rooted in what we prefer. It is owing to our desires for darkness, desires that are stronger than our desires for light. We’re responsible for our moral preferences: our desires for darkness and our desires for light.
Even though the Devil does have a hand in keeping us blind, like I read back in 2 Corinthians 4:4, our blindness originates from within us. It is owing to what we want. It’s not forced on us against what we want. Here’s the key text to help me get a handle on this. It’s what Jesus said in John 3:19–21. It goes like this:
“This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness” — now, notice: loved darkness — “rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light” — you have love of darkness and hatred of light — “and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been wrought by God.”
“The problem: we’re blind. The solution: supernatural, God-given sight of glory.”
This is a description of the blindness and deadness of all human beings in the world who refuse to come to the light. The light that God reveals of himself in nature, they refused to go there. The light that he reveals in Christ, in the gospel, the light that he reveals of himself in Scripture, the reason people don’t come is not that they lack light, but that they love darkness. They are not kept from light against their will. It’s precisely their strong-willed preferences for the darkness that keeps them away from the light.
Therefore, our blindness and our deadness is a real blameworthy desire and love and preference for darkness over light. We are really responsible for these desires, these loves, these preferences that we have. They are the very essence of what is evil about us. Oh, how thankful we should be that God does not simply leave all of us in our rebellion, but instead breaks in with light so we can see and savor and embrace the glory of Christ as our supreme treasure.