Jesus’ Appeal to Human Emotion and Reason

Some really fascinating thoughts from Richard Beck this morning on Jesus’ appeal to human emotion and reasoning as a part of His teaching:

Jesus also used human experience as a hermeneutical and theological tool. In Matthew 12 Jesus enters a synagogue on the Sabbath and finds a man with a withered hand. The way the Pharisees interpreted the Sabbath laws prohibited Jesus from healing the man.

But Jesus disagrees, and he makes an appeal to human experience to argue for a different hermeneutical approach to Sabbath keeping. Jesus doesn’t appeal to Scripture or tradition, he asks a question about how something would feel.

“How many of you,” Jesus asks, “if a sheep of yours fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t pull it out?”

Jesus asks the Pharisees to imaginatively place themselves in this situation, asking them to consult their feelings, experiences and reactions. Jesus expects this appeal to experience to lead to an affirmative answer: They would grab the sheep out of the ditch, even on the Sabbath.

This intrigues me. The conservative circles I inhabit are fond of dismissing claims to human emotion and reason as a hermeneutical tool. (Or at least when that emotion and reason doesn’t challenge the conclusions of the existing theological framework.) If we are totally depraved, the reasoning goes, our emotions and reasoning are also totally depraved and therefore untrustworthy.

I tend to think that our intrinsic moral reactions, while fallen, still hold the echoes of what it means to have been created in the image of God, and as such, they shouldn’t be easily dismissed. Beck gives me another angle here to consider that thought.


Experimental Theology: Jesus and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

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