for the love of doctrine

I am put off by the title of a Christianity Today interview with Jamie Smith. The title is “You Can’t Think Your Way to God:  Christian Formation means shaping our loves, says Jamie Smith, not just educating our minds.”

The title is true enough, but I wonder why it singles out “thinking” as the way we can’t work our way to God. Scripture is clear that we can’t love our way to God either. We can’t anything our way to God. The title makes it sound like there is something particularly deficient with thinking, when actually there is something deficient in any method of getting to God.

I gladly say that right doctrine is not enough to save us, for even demons know some accurate facts about God. We must love God and commit to him too. Of course, this is impossible to do without knowledge, because we can’t love or trust what we don’t know.

Bottom line:  I don’t understand the need to play doctrine and love against each other and then say that love is the thing. 1 John 3:23 clearly says that we’re commanded to both believe in Jesus and love each other. So it’s a both/and not an either/or.

Double bottom line:  the main question isn’t which route you’re going to take to get to God, whether believing the right thing or loving in the right way, because both ways are bound to fail. The question isn’t how we will get to God, but how God has gotten to us. He came to us with grace and truth, with love and right doctrine. We need them both, right?

13 Comments

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  1. It seems to me that Jamie Smith wrote the song, “Bifurcation Bi-fur Bi-fur-cation, Bifurcation that’s the song we sing.”

  2. Right…Double Right.

  3. Michael Faber May 28, 2013 — 4:20 pm

    The debate seems to me to be like the various theories on counseling, which (imho) comes down to whether you have an individual act differently so they begin go think differently, or whether you get them to think differently and that results in acting differently.

    My favorite scripture passage is Romans 12:1-2, specifically because we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. So, in effect, changing our world view to be more Christlike should result in actions that are more loving and Christlike.

  4. Makes “your way to God” parallel to the “spiritual formation”?

  5. I would guess that Jamie is responding to what he perceives as an overemphasis on knowledge in some churches, as opposed to character. In some ways this rings true with my experience growing up, where discipleship largely consisted of accumulating more information.

  6. That’s a fair point, Rick. Though I don’t know why one extreme is any better than another.

  7. God drew me to himself largely through my analytical mind and philosophical thoughts. God can draw someone to Himself in many different ways, but in all ways it is God doing the reeling.

  8. Mike, this is a good word. I appreciate your insight into our total inability that end the end magnifies God’s grace. It’s also time that we stop pitting God’s love against all his other attributes and turning him into a marshmallow diety. The modern day culturally conceptualized God looks less and less like the God of Scripture.

  9. Once again, it’s the binary trap we see in so many recent writings, especially among those associated with the Emergent Movement (e.g., “Either God is love–and would never send a person to hell–or he is evil.”). The wrong questions get asked and supposed antitheses get juxtaposed against each other.

  10. To quote Don Carson, “Damn all false antitheses to hell.” (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 234) I wish I had been there when he said it in public.

  11. “Camping” makes it easier to state your side in a positive light. Also, enough folks that “stand for truth” have done so in a negative light that it makes it easy to put them down to make yourself look better. Logical fallacies abound inside the discussion of truth.

  12. Dave Carpenter June 9, 2013 — 12:09 am

    What is love?

  13. Psalm 119 is replete with love of the Word–meditating, studying, pondering, extolling, relying, trusting. That is love and knowledge hand-in-hand. I am to love God with my mind as well as my heart and soul and strength. What this age needs is men and women of the Word, sound in doctrine and demonstrating Christ-like love.

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