Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up

We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Cor. 8:1-3

Have you ever left a church service, having listened to a teacher or preacher, deeply troubled; wondering if God really loved you? That happened to me nearly a year ago; I left church that day very depressed by the picture of God that was painted for me. A picture of a God that was not much interested in relationship but 'required obedience' in order to be satisfied. It took me a couple of days to recover from that and I haven't been back since. Since that time, I have pondered on several occasions as to why it bothered me so much? And I think God has been working that answer into my life ever since that day.

Back then, when I would say that 'I know God loves me/us', this was really a statement about a collection of facts and applied reason. The problem with relying on our knowledge and reason is that we sometimes have to re-evaluate our conclusions whenever we receive new information. That is essentially what I was going through that day since I was lead down the wrong 'track' ironically by a very common teaching about a 'train' that was supposed to help people understand what to place their trust in. This 'train' was a picture that showed 'fact' as the engine, 'faith' as a middle car on the train, and 'feeling' as the caboose. This picture was supposed to teach you that faith comes from knowing certain facts that you learn from the bible (mental ascent to proper theology). This image fit very well with the teaching in my particular denomination, a denomination that is known for 'in-depth Bible study' programs. However this ideology is really a result of the enlightenment idea that 'knowledge is power'.

There is another way of knowing based on relationship and personal experience rather than a collection of facts and applied reason. To say that I know that my wife loves me is something quite different than how I 'knew God loved me'. I have 14 years of relationship with her that has been tested by time and trials. I draw from that far more than I would draw from the occasional 'I Love You' notes that I get (even thought I do enjoy receiving them). Notes minus the experience wouldn't be very convincing at all, however the notes do add to the reality of relationship that is already there.

That fateful day exposed to me the reality that I was relying on facts and reason rather than on experience. The flimsy baloon of my knowledge was easily deflated by a single lesson that left me confused. I thought I knew something, but as paul said I didn't really know as I ought to know. We are finite beings; our understanding of facts and our reasoning ability are far too weak to rely on alone. Since then God has been showing me that the Bible was intended to point me to Him and have a real relationship here and now with Him. And I am recognizing the care he has had for me all along.

Here is a quote from The Shack that relates to this very subject:

'In seminary [Mack] had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners' access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just God in a book. Especially one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?'

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