Theology and Doxology Does Theology Ignore Biblical Love?
Many people, even professing Christians, consider theology to be dry and boring. Others deem it to be too complicated and thus, reserved only for scholars. Still others disregard the study of theology, believing it to be unnecessary or irrelevant, or worst of all in our modern society, divisive.
Most objections stem from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “theology, so we suggest reading our What is Theology article before continuing with this one. Basically, theology is studying about God, based on His self-revelations, for the purposes of a greater knowledge and deeper personal relationship with Him. Article written October 2010.
Theology, Doxology and Biblical Love
While the significance of theology and doctrine is questioned by many, almost everyone can agree on the importance of Biblical love.
Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other (1Th 4:9).
If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1Cor 13:1-3 HCSB).
As we said before, some people object that doctrine is relatively unimportant; it is love for God and love for each other that is primary. However, the choice between biblical love and orthodox Christian doctrine is a false dilemma. The only option should be “both/and”, not “either/or”. In fact, it is impossible to divorce our love of God from our knowledge of God. Just as knowledge without love is a dry, dead orthodoxy, love without knowledge has no basis or foundation. Without knowledge of who God is, we can only attempt to love the concept of a god who exists exclusively in our own mind.
We are commanded not only to love God with our heart, soul and strength, but also with our mind (Mk 12:30). Correct knowledge of God is absolutely essential for a meaningful relationship with Him. This is also true of relationships with one another. How can we love and trust someone we don’t know?
Now, many who downplay the importance of doctrine actually realize that love is more than just feelings; that love also involves will and actions, such as being a “good person” or doing “good deeds”. This is very commendable, but we must ask. “How do we know when we’re being or doing good?” or an even more basic question, “What is good?” Without an absolute foundation, just as one’s concept of God can radically differ, so can our perception of good. For example, a certain dictator thought he was doing good (benefiting the world) by killing six million Jews during the second World War. But if we rightly say that “being good” is living consistently with God’s character, and that “doing good” is acting in a way that is pleasing to Him, then we must know God’s nature and His likes and dislikes.
Jesus equates love with obedience to God. He said that “whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching... He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (Jn 14:21,23,24). Elsewhere, while he was teaching and someone notified Him that His mother and brothers were outside waiting, He replied “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). We must know the Word of God before we can be obedient to it (and Him). Jesus also said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31-32). Since God is truth, to love God is also to love truth.
Once we know God, it is very easy to love Him. In fact, the more we know God, the greater our capacity to love Him. Unfortunately, the same can rarely be said of loving others. In many cases, the more we know of some, the harder it is to love them (most people would say that about me). We must first understand that Biblical love doesn’t always entail that warm fuzzy feeling toward a person. Instead, it involves our will, and an attitude of service toward others. A wise person once said, “We can’t always control our feelings, but we can control our will”. So, if we have Biblical love for a person, we will desire that that person become a disciple of Christ by instructing them to obey his teachings (Mt 28:19-20).
Paul expressed this attitude in his letter to the church at Philippi:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Php 1:9-11 NRSV)
So, we see that Biblical love never minimizes the importance of Bible doctrine, it magnifies it. If we truly love a person, then we will desire that person to be totally indoctrinated in the truth of God from Genesis to Revelation, including every jot and tittle of God’s Word.
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