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Herman Bavinck once wrote that “If God were to speak to us in a divine language, not a creature would understand him.” We could say that it’s like a blind man trying to understand color—as illustrated in the video below:

HT: 22 Words

But thanks be to God that he has graciously condescended to speak to us, in a sense, from the ground up, using what we can see, touch, hear, and feel to explain eternal and invisible things. Bavinck continues:

But what spells out his grace is the fact that from the moment of creation God stoops down to his creatures, speaking and appearing to them in human fashion. This is why all the names by which God calls himself and allows us to call him are derived from earthly and human relations. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006], 100)

And yet this doesn’t mean that everything revealed is fully comprehensible. So the next time you’re tempted to think that certain things in God’s Word can’t be true or are irrational because they can’t be fully explained, just remember that perhaps it is like a blind man trying to understand color.

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11 thoughts on “Like a Blind Man Trying to Understand Color”

  1. Tim says:

    “So the next time you’re tempted to think that certain things in God’s Word can’t be true or are irrational because they can’t be fully explained,”

    When tempted, I am going to remember that video. This helps.

    Thanks Justin!

  2. Mike Francis says:

    Thank you, Justin. This was very helpful–and edifying.

  3. There are different aspects to understanding. Most people only consider something to be understood if it is experienced or intuitive. But understanding can entail other epistemic categories. For example, color can easily be understood by an explanation of the mechanics of electromagnetic radiation. (There are several blind physicists who I assure you understand color better than many sighted people. Notable is Dr Kent Cullers, an astronomer – now retired – who has been blind from birth.) The blind man in the video at the very least can link the words of colors to accounts people have given him of experiences common to sighted people. So while he hasn’t experienced the colors himself, he can understand what he’s been told about the experiences of others.

    And so we come to John 3. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he has come from heaven to reveal what is spiritual to people who have only experienced the material: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (v. 12) So many people fail to pursue deeper knowledge of God because they rely only on their external experiences and fail to acknowledge the inner experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we should know that we are at least as spiritual as we are physical beings. We have an account of our relationship with Christ given to us spiritually. It is of this we are to testify inasmuch as it has been explained and clarified to us in the scriptures inspired by the same Spirit who indwells us. Yes, we can understand proverbial color in our blindness and, yes, we can explain color to blind men in a way that they can understand it.

    By the way, this also provides an argument to debunk naturalistic presuppositions in science. That’s a different topic, however.

  4. Marsisme says:

    … reminds me of a poem

    Beyond Sight

    I pray for eyes that see more than mine
    eyes that perceive beyond memory or fact
    eyes that pursue the eternal through time
    eyes that penetrate the fabric of light

    I want eyes that probe what we vainly hold as true
    seeing beyond the walls of dark
    past the pillars of obvious conceits
    farther than the certainty of a wavering heart

    Grant me sight that moves in quantum leap
    and swirls upon a galaxy’s sparkling edge
    a vision that stabs at a nebulae core
    and fearlessly peers over gravity’s ledge

    To witness a thousand moons appear in the sky
    each of a color not yet perceived
    nudging the oceans to converge as one
    their mysteries from the depths revealed
    that is what I long to see

    I want eyes ignited with spiritual gaze
    tapping the tips of dreams that could be
    resolving darkness to light
    to learn the simple truths obscured by me

    I want to discern the face of god
    in both the weak and the strong
    wisdom in the eyes of the old
    everlasting life in the mind of the young

    I want eyes that I do not deserve
    eyes that see the fullness of you
    and the beauty of secrets you keep
    eyes that swell with childlike tears
    when face to face with truth

  5. Jordan E. says:

    As a blind man trying to understand color, so it is with the human mind understanding faith in what is not seen. What if we could help this generation of young men, teens and younger, understand its vital role as faithful believers? What if we could open their eyes to the power they possess from the Lord to turn the very tides of war that has taken so many lives in the younger generation? This generation, my generation of teen men that I am apart of, is starving for purpose, for hope. Our purpose lies in devotion and servitude to the one true God. For that we must be Valiant. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Ch. 16:9
    The Lord searches for those whose hearts are willing to do his will. What if we could show this generation that it can do so? What if we could raise up a generation of Valiant men not seen since the days of David or Caleb and Joshua?

  6. Flyaway says:

    Good example to use to explain to others why we can’t understand many things because of finite knowledge.

  7. Tim says:

    I used this when talking about Trinitarian Ontology this weekend. Already coming in handy.

  8. Jason Dollar says:

    This video was really good. My favorite line: “Way to go orange. Way to be involved in poetry and song.” I can’t think of any time I’ve heard someone address a color directly before.

    Seriously, Justin – thanks. Good post and good illustration of a great truth.

  9. Marc says:

    I definitely agree with this! Deuteronomy 29:29 – The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

    Thanks for sharing; plus the video!

  10. Bud Brown says:

    I’ve heard that trying to explain the resolution of God’s sovereignty and human free will is akin to explaining red to a man born blind. This is a great resource – thanks for putting it out there.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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