It seems that there just may be is such a thing as "spiritual blindness" or the inability to grasp spiritual realities. Just as there are some people born into the world without the ability to see physical things, so too there seem to be others who are unable to apprehend what is unseen. The only question is this: is it their fault or the fault of someone else?
St. Augustine pondered this question as well. Speaking about himself, who only became a baptized Christian in mid-life, he wrote: "As usually happens, the person who has tried a bad doctor is afraid even to trust a good one. So it was with the health of my soul, which could not be healed except by believing, and refused to be healed for fear of believing falsehood." (Confessions, Book IV, Chapter 4.) So it appears that the inability to believe, and thus see "spiritually" can sometimes be the result of being given the wrong spiritual "medicine" or being exposed to a religious "quack".
But I think it can also sometimes be our own fault. Take what could be described not at either physical or spiritual, but instead mental or intellectual blindness, and I think youíll see my point. For example, while Iíve always been keenly interested in science, I seem to suffer from an inability to grasp abstract concept when they are expressed in mathematical terms. (You might even describe me as "mathematically challenged" or suffering from mathematical "dyslexia" whenever I see a mathematical formula of any sort.)
Now in this situation I can respond in one of several ways. I can react like an Archie Bunker and yell "Donít confuse me with facts, my mind is made up!" Or I could try to apply myself harder (in fact, in high school I used to get "A"s in math -- the only problem was I could never figure out, except in geometry, where I could actually see something, what the numbers actually stood for). Or again, I could maybe admit that perhaps I suffer from a disability of some sort, and defer to others just might know what they are talking about. In other words, I should try to keep an open mind.
By now I hope my point is more or less obvious. Religion, and most particularly theology, is a "science" or form of knowing, and like most other forms of knowing, it depends our ability to trust people who are supposed to be "in the know". Even more to the point, "theology" ĺ a word that means "science" of or "knowledge of God" ĺ is a specialty that demands more than just good intentions or the ability to read the Bible (even if one has learned to understand a smattering of Hebrew or Greek). Likewise, we should demand that pastors, like general practitioners, have proper accreditation, much the same as in any other science. But even more, we should expect from them honesty and open-mindedness, and perhaps even more, the humility to be able to admit it when one has been proved wrong.
The Cardinals of the Holy Inquisition, Iím afraid, did not prove themselves to be very good theologians when they refused to look through Galileoís telescope. So too, today we still have churchmen who, depot all the evidence, refuse to believe evolution ever took place. Augustine had something to say about this kind of situation. "When the Scriptures seem to be contradicted by clear, consistent reasoning ", he wrote, "then it is probably because we are reading the Scriptures wrongly." But I wonder if the opposite isnít also true and that not only is the reasoning as clear or consistent as it might be on either side of religion and science debate, but even that, like old Archie Bunker, too many minds are "already made up!"
R W Kropf 3/6/05 Blind2.doc 05-03-06.html