25: Truth Over Love | Listener Feedback

In this episode John and Gregg interact with listener feedback from Anna, who asks whether we believe that authors like Kyle Idleman or John Eldridge have any value to offer the Christian community.

Gregg suspects these books are written within (and so informed by) an evangelical Christianity that has wrongly set truth above love, rather than understanding their primacy and yet mutuality. The impact is that by being unaware of this misalignment they cannot help but perpetuate it, leading to poorer understandings of God, ourselves, and our world.

Gregg’s wonders if the message of some in the evangelical genre might be sharpened and course-corrected by a rich integration of text and life, understanding and experience, God’s truth (and truth generally) and the love of God (being loved by God and loving God in return)?

John questions Gregg as to where he gets the notion of “love and truth” Gregg constantly advocates.  After giving some background and reasoning for his position Gregg issues a challenge to John and anyone listening to suggest a better alternative.

In other words, if “love and truth / truth and love” are not central to who God is and what is essential to human being, what terms would you put forth as better encompassing these things?

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “25: Truth Over Love | Listener Feedback

  1. Pingback: 37: Judging God | Untangling Christianity

  2. Pingback: 33: God is Not an Idiot--Grace and Truth | Listener Feedback | Untangling Christianity

  3. Melinda

    Thank you for your reply! That makes a lot of sense to me and I appreciate your taking the time to help me understand this better.

    Reply
    1. Gregg Monteith Post author

      Hi Melinda,

      I’m glad that my comment made sense and I need to thank you as well: your comment (and a later comment by Joanne) have inspired a great deal of thought and discussion between John and I, so thanks again for getting involved and being willing to share your perspective with us.

      Greggg

      Reply
  4. Melinda

    Interesting discussion, at least the cookies that were on the shelf low enough for me to reach! How about grace and truth? I knew “truth and love” sounded vaguely familiar to me. Now I remember a therapist I worked with talked a lot about balancing “truth and grace” in the context of personal relationships. Relationships can be dysfunctional and unhealthy when there is too much of either one and not enough of the other. I know God is described as Love (not grace) numerous times in the bible, so maybe that is the reason for the word choice. Is grace an aspect of love? Or is love an aspect of grace? To me grace and truth seems a little easier to understand because they seem a little more like natural opposites-truth could be saying-“you have missed the mark,” but grace says “I know, but I still accept and love you.” Or maybe I need to figure out a clearer definition of grace as distinguished from love.

    Reply
    1. Gregg Monteith Post author

      Hi Melinda,

      My apologies for not getting back to you earlier. I am currently out of town on the fourth day of a five day course and thought I could squeeze in a reply during the course. Unfortunately the course has proved too demanding and I’ll have to aim for this Sunday to get you a proper reply.

      Gregg

      Reply
    2. Gregg Monteith Post author

      Hi Melinda,

      Thanks so much for your interesting and thoughtful questions, and particularly for raising the relationship between grace and love: this is a very important distinction! First I’ll give a few general points and second I’ll give a rough answer to your question.

      First, then, I take my sense of the word “grace” mostly from the New Testament (the word “charis” in Greek), though the English word grace is also found in Jeremiah 31, a crucial chapter relative to the “new covenant.” (NB: in all of the following I am working from the NRSV). Also, in what follows I am choosing individual verses only for the sake of time and drawing from them only preliminary conclusions. In other words a) there are some 155 uses of “charis” in the the NT (115 or so being translated as “grace”) and all of them bear examination and b) I am thoroughly against the use of single verses to prove points—no one, me included, can “prove” anything by such a limited examination. So while I stand by the comments that I am making here, I recognize that my conclusions from this short examination are only preliminary.

      Second, then, in the New Testament I would focus by way of example on Romans 4:16. I have chosen this example because it offers a terse but ready contextualization for the use of grace (“charis”) in what I believe to be its correct context: in connection with both promise and covenant.

      Romans 4:16 “For this reason it [the promise to Abraham] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those that share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of us all . . .” Grace in this sense means “a beneficent disposition towards someone” in the sense of “that which one grants to another / the action of one who volunteers to do something not otherwise obligatory.” (From the Bauer-Danke Greek / English lexicon).

      Two points are important here:

      On the one hand, Romans 4:1-25 is considered to be a logical unit and the use of grace in Rom 4:16 in contextualized by its use in Rom 4:4, where “charis” is translated as “gift.” Particularly, grace is the mode or manner of the action—the how, if you like. So we have the close association between grace and gift: that which is given freely and without being earned.

      On the other hand, Rom 4:16 is a wonderful encapsulation of grace within its actual context: the extraordinary reality that a) God committed to a promise before entering into the covenant and b) that God “made good” on this promise by “making good” on the covenant, through the life and death of Jesus the Christ (see Rom 3:21-26, much of Rom 5, etc.).

      In other words, grace (“charis”) is how God both a) began his main dealings with humankind through Israel and b) completed those dealing to the inclusion of all peoples, through Jesus. But note that if grace is how God acted, it is not why.

      Why did God choose to freely give both full relationship (via the covenant) and the means for that relationship to be accomplished (via the life and death of Jesus)? While I would like to go much deeper with my argument here, I will simply write that God acted—and chose to act—according to God’s character. And against those who focus on sovereignty to the exclusion of all else, the Bible clearly characterizes God as both sovereign and father / parent.

      So with such clear biblical indications as “God is love” (1 John 4) and “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believed in him should may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3), my view is that the ‘Why’ of God’s action is because God is love and God loves us passionately. Full stop.

      God does require certain things of us as our sovereign, but the gift—the grace—of God comes to us as a matter of God’s love and specifically as an expression of God’s fatherly and parental love. In other words, grace is that mode of expression by which God most truly expresses God-self: grace shows God’s love in its truest and fullest light.

      In this sense, while I deeply value grace as God’s “mode of engagement” that makes my relationship with God possible (i.e., how the relationship has been made possible) love, along with truth, is the overarching orientation both from God to me and from me to God. Love is the reason why God offered grace in the first place (and God can legitimately do so because God is truly sovereign and truly father / parent), and being loved by God and truly known by God are the reasons why I am nowhere more content & more myself than in my relationship with God (and why I both am passionately in love with God and seek to proclaim God’s existence and character as being truly true).

      Reply

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