Sunday, May 4, 2014
We Possess The God-Given Gift of Reason
All of us are born with the God-given gift of Reason, the ability to think, analyze and question, and we are called to use that for the glory of God, the advancement of His spiritual Kingdom, and for the benefit of those around us.
Reason and Faith are not opposed to one another, but are instead necessary for us to understand God and God's will for us. Rationality walks hand-in-hand with Spirituality. When irrational elements of religion are stripped away, we may focus clearly on the mission God's Anointed One sends us to do.
God gave us Reason and the ability to obey Him, and Reason is a God-given gift we must use to discern His Will.
The Book of Proverbs begins with a beautiful poem praising wisdom, understanding, Reason and knowledge:
"To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth - Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Prov. 1:2-7)
God has created us as thinking beings, capable of perceiving, learning, growing, and expanding in knowledge and great understanding.
By use of Reason, we can either choose to understand the words God and His spokesman, Jesus, sends us for our own benefit, or choose freely to HATE knowledge, wisdom and reproof, turning our backs on God and those whom He sent us. We will "eat the fruits of our way" if we do so, however (Prov. 1:29-31) and will be judged according to our Works.
Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to, "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37.) Loving with our hearts and our very being (our Souls, our psyche) is one thing, but we are called also to use our MINDS - our understanding and our knowledge. These are not dirty words that spit upon faith, and our God does not diminish them at all, nor does his chosen and adopted Son, Jesus.
Some might now cite the Proverb, "Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding," (3:5) and it's certainly true! Anyone who has begun seeking higher education knows how much we simply do NOT know! But a humble acknowledgement of our lack of understanding itself points to our need to acquire it, and God loves those whom he corrects (Prov. 3:11)
Rev. George Harris (1794-1859) wrote, "Because we are required to submit to the divine authority, we should be assured, before we receive any doctrine that it is divine; and this it is evident we can only learn by bringing the doctrine before the high tribunal of Reason. Reason is unquestionably a divine law, written with indelible characters upon every human heart; and no laws can be divine which are a contradiction to our Reason, or which are plainly repugnant to that sense of right and wrong which is implanted in the mind."
When looking at scripture, we therefore must examine it cautiously - rejecting narrow, small-minded Literalism and mindless (often out-of-context) proof-texting - and instead interpret it using our God-given gifts of Reason and common sense, and knowing these books were written by men, selected and chosen for inclusion in a Bible for men, and are interpreted by men. Just as Jesus tells us the Sabbath was created for us, and not us for the Sabbath, use of our gift of Reason to examine God's message for us only makes sense.
In our moral lives, as well, we must employ Reason as a tool by which we may be guided.
The Rev. Joseph Priestley wrote, encouraging young men in college, "Above all things, be careful to improve and make use of the reason which God has given you, to be the guide of your lives, to check the extravagance of your passions, and to assist you in acquiring that knowledge, without which your rational powers will be of no advantage to you."
We have not been given impossible tasks by our God and by His Prophet, Jesus. Our senses have not been dulled nor our understandings darkened so much that we cannot turn to God and repent of our shortcomings.
If both Reason and our Hearts, along with our Teacher, Jesus, compel us to obey God, love Him, serve our fellow human beings with every fiber of our being, how can God's Kingdom NOT appear on the earth as we walk it?