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The Value of Reason

On April 22, 2008

So often those of us who would consider it legitimate to interpret Scripture with due consideration being given to the historical culture and context, especially in the issues relating to Biblical equality, are accused of not being true to the literal text. By posing such questions of the text we are said to be resorting to logic or reason to bolster our argument and this is seen as an unacceptable principle of interpretation. It is interesting to note that in John 7:24 Jesus says, "Think this through and you will see that I am right," which meant, to the Pharisees and the crowd in this context, using their own powers of deductive reasoning. This is as it reads in the New Living Translation, while the KJV expresses it this way, "Judge not according to sight, but judge with righteous judgment." Apparently the verb form of this word 'judge' suggests, separate out, select, choose, determine and, armed with this insight and knowledge, one is now equipped to pass judgment. (W.E. Vine - Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

In the passage under consideration Jesus is accused of having broken the Sabbath Law (John 7:16-24) and He attempts to reason with His accusers that His having made a man well on the Sabbath was a 'righteous' thing to do, thus superseding the Law in this instance. Along the way Jesus points out that the religious leaders are serving themselves in their application of Mosaic Law and in fact are ultimately determined to find an excuse to kill Him (vs. 19). The crowd too becomes incensed by this accusation directed at the Pharisees and declare Jesus to be demon possessed! Despite their rash outburst Jesus resorts to logic and reasonableness (vs. 21-23), asking his detractors to make a judgment on the basis of the 'rightness' of His argument.

He, Jesus, sets one law against another. The Sabbath Law, which is attributed to Moses' era, as opposed to the rite of circumcision, which He points out (vs. 32) predates Moses, because it is a command given to Abraham. Jesus argues that if the 'correct' time to circumcise a male child happened to fall on the Sabbath it would be performed on the Sabbath so as not to defy the edicts of circumcision. By inference He suggests that this too is 'work' and therefore should not be done. But, as it is deemed a 'righteous' act it is therefore considered, on such occasions, not to be a violation of Sabbath Law. What Jesus would have the religious leaders and the crowd deduce from this is that His having made a man well, even though He did it on the Sabbath, was also a 'righteous' act and must also be seen as not violating Sabbath Law.

This passage of Scripture affirms for me two things:

1) It is perfectly acceptable to use my powers of reason and deduction when interpreting unclear passages of the Bible by investigating all of the available scriptural, traditional, historical and cultural evidence to support my growing conviction. Even to the weightier matters of the (apparently contradicting) law! Obviously, in the case cited above, Jesus' full knowledge of the Law (see John 7:15) and the Mind behind its intent assists greatly in His attempts to help His detractors see reason and the 'rightness' of His argument.

2) When it comes to the matter of choosing which path to follow in respect to women and full Biblical equality I will always fall on the side of Jesus. His treatment of women, in a secular and religious culture that was unquestionably male dominated, demonstrates to me comprehensively God's overarching attitude to women (see also John 14:8-11, 23-24). Therefore I cannot accept that God ever intended the sanctioning of male authority over women, or a hierarchy of any kind based on gender preference or creation order.

As in the case of Jesus setting one right act, 'keeping the Sabbath', over another right act, 'doing good on the Sabbath', the good won out. It seems to me that it is good to honour redeemed women fully, recognising their intrinsic value, equality and giftedness to share with men all the responsibilities of both the church and the home. Men should not be able to lead simply because they are men, they must demonstrate a calling and giftedness. On the other hand, women who are obviously gifted should not be denied opportunity to express and use their gifts in ministry, or the home, because of their gender. People are chosen by God to serve Him on the basis of their heart motivation and Spiritual giftedness, not by sexual preference. I do not see gender distinction in the teaching or actions of Jesus therefore I cannot see it in the heart or mind of God.

In accepting Biblical equality and mutual submission I believe with all my heart that I am following Jesus' admonition in John 7:24, "To think this through and see that I (Jesus) am right." (NLT) I would also encourage others, who have arrived at a similar conclusion not to be ashamed or denigrated because we are attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Master.

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