The Bible Tools, “Sabbath-keeping, non-Trinitarian” post I was viewing read, “God Himself has kept Israel from seeing and hearing (understanding and applying) His truth, giving Israel a spirit of slumber to make possible the salvation of the Gentiles. He has determined to call and choose only a limited number from Israel in this age, allowing the rest to remain blinded . . .”
According to this errant view, the only way for God to offer salvation to the Gentiles was to blind Israel from seeing and hearing His truth (which is contradictory to its own thesis, as will be pointed out momentarily). Poor God: He cannot seem to save people without damning others; and His gospel does not seem to contain the life-changing power it boasts (Rom. 1.16) without God first regenerating the sinner.
Concerning the parables of Jesus, this same post teaches, “Christ did not speak in parables to make the meaning clear to just any reader! . . . According to Romans 11, the meaning is veiled from most of mankind until the day God offers them salvation . . .”
What causes such strained and restrictive interpretations of Scripture and such distorted views of God? The Bible Tools website is by no means an orthodox Calvinist theology. We wouldn’t libel Calvinists with some of the false teachings found on that website. But they do hold some tenets of Calvinism which cannot be ignored.
Let us look at the first clause. (1) “God Himself has kept Israel from seeing and hearing (understanding and applying) His truth . . . [and] has determined to call and choose only a limited number from Israel in this age, allowing the rest to remain blinded . . .” This is their conclusion from reading Romans 11. Is this interpretation correct?
Paul wrote, “And they also [the Jews] if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again” (Rom. 11.23 NASB, emphasis mine). But Paul must be mistaken! For according to the Bible Tools website and Calvinists in general, it is God who is blinding the hearts and minds of the Jewish people! This seems like a contradiction of Calvinistic terms, does it not? Why would God have to blind the heart and mind of any person seeing that (according to Calvinism) no one can believe in Christ Jesus without first being regenerated by God? But according to 2 Cor. 4.4 it is actually Satan, not God, who is blinding the minds of unbelievers.
God’s word teaches that if the Jewish people do not continue in their unbelief, then God will gladly accept them. This is, once again, another demonstration of a conflict between the Bible and a Calvinistic hermeneutic. God is not unwilling to save people. He has chosen/elected to save those who will believe (1 Cor. 1.21). Those who continue in their unbelief He will not save.
Let us look at the second clause. (2) Jesus spoke in parables to confuse people. Why did Jesus speak in parables? Let Jesus answer our question. He said, “For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matt. 13.11-13 NASB).
Whoever was truly interested in knowing God’s truth, as it was expounded by Jesus, more knowledge of the kingdom would be given to him. But to those who did not have, because they were not interested in Christ’s message and thus ignored Him, even what truth they did know would be taken from them. The latter claimed to see, hear, and understand, but were really blind, deaf, and ignorant. And why?
Jesus went on to explain: “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive . . .'” But why? Jesus, using Isaiah’s prophecy, explained, “‘[because] the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them‘” (Matt. 13.14-15 NASB, emphases mine).
By reading some commentators, one is left with the impression that God is really not all that interested in saving people. Sure, He is interested in saving a few, His alleged elect, but He is truly indifferent towards the rest of humanity. Contrary to that notion, however, is Christ’s explanation that the Jewish people’s heart had “become dull.” For it to have become dull, there must have been a time when it was not dull.
Moreover, some of the Jewish people had closed their own ears to the truth, and closed their own eyes to the truth, and hardened their own hearts to understanding God’s truth. The text implies that the action that was done to the person was caused not by God but by that person. The Isaiah passage (6.9-10) reads the same way in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament).
Even if someone wanted to argue that this hardening came upon Israel as a direct result of God’s doing, then I respond, He only did so in reacting to Israel’s stubbornness, and not because He had only elected to save some. Like I mentioned above: some people leave the impression that God is indifferent to saving the creatures whom He created in His own image. And if that be so, then how can anyone rightly interpret such statements made by the Spirit of God to the extent that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2.4)? That declaration rings hollow in a Calvinistic theology.