The Submissional Life // Matt Tebbe

living in submission, leading from below, loving as mission

Beyond Answers and Addresses: Love as Measure of Knowledge: Bible Study and the Church (3)

In the last post, we talked about the insufficiency of Addresses and Answers as ways of measuring our Bible knowledge. In summary I suggested:

1. Answers and Addresses can (and often do) lead us to think that “the point of Scripture is Scripture”…but the point of Scripture isn’t Scripture, it’s Jesus.

2. The “knowledge” Answers and Addresses measure is a narrow definition of “knowledge” that isn’t fully biblical.

3. Measuring by Answers and Addresses reinforces a flawed human anthropology that assumes stupidity, and not sin, is the fundamental human problem.

 

In future posts we’ll dig into why I think this is, but in this post I want to put forward the first of three inter-related characteristics that demonstrate and indicate bible knowledge – Love.

“Every critical attempt to approach [Jesus] from a position other than that of the faith witnessed to in the Scriptures can only result in a pallid, distorted picture unworthy of belief (and hence devoid of interest)…only the person who is convinced that Jesus knows him personally gains access to knowledge of him…Everything begins with the love of God: this is what gives rise to the real knowledge which can fulfill man’s yearnings.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar

 

Love – Deep, true knowledge of scripture is demonstrated and enabled by loving God and loving people. This is Paul’s prayer that his people would know the love of Christ that “surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3.19). Love, Paul says, “never ends…although knowledge passes away” (1 Cor 13.8). Love is the measurement – the test – the Word gives us to decipher if we truly believe the Word (1 John 4.8, 1 Cor 8.1-3). Love, not answers and addresses, indicates whether we know the Bible.

 

But love not only indicates whether we know scripture, it also enables us to know (Phil 1.9-11, Col 2.2). Paul consistently weaves knowledge, obedience, love, and wisdom together as mutually reinforcing – and dependent – characteristics in the Christian life. We’ll get to wisdom and obedience in later posts (that’s a hint to where I’m going), but let’s really focus in on this aspect of love as the measure, demonstration, and empowering of knowledge.

 

The apostle Paul talks about two kinds of knowledge in his letters frequently, but perhaps the contrast is most explicitly seen if we compare 1 Cor 8.1-13 and Eph 3.14-19. Two kinds of knowledge – a knowledge leading to and flowing out of love and a knowledge that puffs up and leaves one loveless. Notice in these texts:

1. Knowledge puffs up but Love builds up –  Knowledge has the tendency to deceive the knower unless love takes priority in the knowing. In 1 Cor 8 the “knowledge” of the enlightened Christian – when it takes priority over loving other Christians – ends up leaving one loveless and deceived. “Faith” – when thought of as knowledge abstracted from love – becomes something we use to justify ourselves. Knowledge divorced from committed loving relationships becomes another way we use and abuse power for our own purposes.

 

2. Love of Christ surpasses knowledge – Love cannot be contained to pithy propositional phrases or even blog posts. :) It is a work of God’s grace and power to even comprehend how unfathomable Christ’s love is for us (Eph 3.16-19). To be known is to know. To know is to surrender to Love. To be known is not to control or be controlled – but to submit, open, receive from another that which is only knowable through the receiving. This kind of love – this knowing – frustrates our Cartesian minds precisely because we can’t soak it in formaldehyde, dissect and catalogue it, and squeeze it into our text book.

 

3. This isn’t a Knowledge vs Love – We are so accustomed to thinking about things in opposites. We are “in love” with dualistic thinking. But what I’m suggesting (and what I claim the Scriptures suggest) is NOT a dualism; rather, closer to a synergism. A relational, reflexive reality. To measure our knowledge of scripture perhaps we shouldn’t start with OUR knowing – this is a reversal of whose knowing is most important in our knowledge (God’s knowing of us in love, not our knowing of God’s love). Not our knowing of God, but his knowing of us – and that knowing happens in love. If we love the God who longs to know us, we will be known and know.

 

When we vacate the goal of love – concrete, practical, on-the-ground demonstrations of commitment and submission…NOT…the superficial warm fuzzies that is often described as love in 80′s love songs and some Contemporary Christian music – we allow our learning to be de-contextualized from loving. Living, lasting faith is swapped for true ideas, theological theories, and quasi-pious ideology.

 

In the next post I’ll put forward some reasons why I think we DON’T typically measure knowledge the way scripture does – but first…

What say you? Is love an appropriate measure of scriptural knowledge? Do you see the connection between knowing and loving? Are we able to talk about this in non-dualistic ways, holding knowledge and love in apposition to each other while understanding they can never be separated? If you’re reading, you’re welcome to contribute to this discussion.

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