One of the questions that comes up from time to time when looking at spiritual blindness is whether or not people who don’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them should be held responsible for their sins. After all, if what they are doing actually seems good to them even when it is bad, how could we or God hold them accountable for what they are doing?

To answer such a question, we must first look at a person’s relationship with God. As discussed frequently in my column, God has revealed Himself to every living person in such a clear way that a person’s denial of God’s existence makes him a fool (“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god’ Psalm 14:1). Most people, however, acknowledge that God exists — at least some version of Him.

Recently, I had a young lady tell me she was an atheist. Interestingly, when I asked her, “What do you mean by that?,” her response was, “Well, I mean, I know that there has to be a god of some sort. I’m not a dummy; it’s pretty obvious when you look around you that a god of some type must exist.” So, what this girl was saying is that she believes in the existence of a higher power or greater being, she just doesn’t know who He is.

How did my friend, as well as anyone who has ever been born, know there is a god? Because God has put that knowledge within each of us and has given evidence of His existence all around us. Romans 1:19-20 states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.” No one can say to God on Judgment Day, “I didn’t know you were real,” because He has shown each of us that He is real indeed.

If my friend knows there is a god because she has seen plain evidence of His existence, how could she still fail to see Him for who He really is? Because knowledge that a god exists is not the same thing as acknowledging that the one true God of the Bible exists. Romans 1 goes on in the next verse saying, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

In other words, everyone starts out knowing God, but it is very easy for us to forget what we know when we refuse to acknowledge it. They know God but they reject Him. They don’t treasure His goodness or His Law or His truths. They don’t want to submit to Him, but instead worship themselves and create gods in their own images that allow them to do whatever they want without guilt or shame. Anyone can tell you that the longer you commit any particular sin, the easier it gets to ignore it, then accept it, then embrace it, then promote it.

The Bible teaches us that the unconverted person is unable to discern spiritual things. He hates the Bible because he can’t understand it. He mocks Christians because Christians are light, and he prefers the dark. Blindness does that to you. The spiritually-blind person continues to sin unrepentantly, because it’s all he knows; he can see nothing differently.

So, that takes us back to the question of the day presented in this week’s intro: if a person is spiritually blind and can’t see the things of God, how can he still be accountable? Because there is enough evidence all around them to see. He is blind because he has rejected that evidence and God has given him over to the enemy, who loves to deceive. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). As stated earlier, they are all without excuse.

Fortunately, there’s hope. God still sends messengers. God still works through His church. God still speaks through the Bible. Pray for those suffering from spiritual blindness. Speak to them in love. Bear with them with patience. Trust that God will open their spiritual eyes so that they can see. He did it for you!

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Mark Wingfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grottoes,

is a columnist for The News Virginian.

His column is published Saturdays.

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