Monday, May 08, 2006

The Power of Presuppositions

Last evening in our study of Matthew's Gospel we came to his account of Jesus before the Jewish Sanhedrin. On one level it was a tragic event as Jesus was spat upon, struck with their fists, slapped and taunted with regard to his prophetic abilities. On another level those who have eyes to see can discern something of his kingly majesty even in the midst of such humiliation. He is led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shears is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7). Yet when he must speak because he is under oath, his words reveal his inner awareness that he has been given a place at the right hand of God until his enemies are a footstool for his feet (Psalm 110:1), and that he has authority, glory and sovereign power so that all peoples, nations and men of every language will worship him since his dominion is an everlasting dominion that will never pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

But beyond these very important observations the passage provides us with an example of the power of presuppositions. By presuppositions I mean 'assumptions' or 'lens' through which we all see reality. Ultimately the Jewish ruling council condemned Jesus because he did not fit their preconceived notions of what the Messiah would look like. They were looking for a political leader who would free them from the hated Romans, not the God-man who would save them from their sins and from the wrath to come.

Because of their presuppositions they could not properly evaluate the evidence before them. Their minds were already made up about. They were just going through the motions. Playing a political game. Making sure they were ceremonially clean and ready to celebrate the Passover when in fact, the Passover Lamb was standing in front of them. Their presuppositions rendered them blind. And consequently they condemned the Son of God to death.

If we think we could never make such a mistake we have not learned a thing. We need to be aware of our assumptions and be willing to bring them to the Scriptures for correction. We need to ask God to keep us open and teachable. Many mistakes are made when people try to impose their 'grid' or 'lens' upon the Bible and try to read it accordingly. The Bible not only contains data but it organizes the data in a way that we must grasp if we are to enter into what God is saying and not just impose our own ideas on the biblical text. All Scripture down to the sentences, phrases, words, grammar, and the very structure of the text is breathed out by God. Over and over again we need to bring our ideas to the touchstone of Scripture. Only when our presuppositions are the presuppositions of Scripture are we safe from the blindness that characterizes the world as a whole and each individual by nature. In the end this requires a miracle of grace, an inner transformation that not only teaches but makes us willing to do the will of God from the heart.

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