Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wrestling w/Knowledge

One of my favorite stories in the Bible occurs on the eve on which Jacob, who had run away from his past, was about to come face to face with his brother, the one who he cheated years earlier. Jacob, sitting alone on the banks of the Jabok, wrestles with a mysterious figure all night long. This mysterious man overcomes Jacob, but Jacob never lets go. At day break, the figure asks Jacob his name (which has all kinds of psychological implications when you read Jacob in context since the first time he was asked that question in scripture, he said he was someone else), and then changes Jacob's name to Israel, one who struggles and is ruled by God. It is a great picture of what it means to journey with God, what it means to struggle with a God who is interactive in his creation.

This past weekend I attended a Pastor's Conference at my seminary, Truett Seminary. The speaker was well-known Christian author and philosopher Dallas Willard. His books, especially Renovation of the Heart, have impacted my life and thought greatly, and so I was already looking forward to the conference before it starts. He argued at the conference that knowledge is more important and is the basis of faith (not surprising coming from a philosopher). That goes against much of what I have been taught. We are often taught to seperate knowledge and faith. Willard says that is where the church went wrong. Now, he does not use knowledge in a Fundamentalist sort of way, or legalistic sort of way. Rather, Willard defines knowledge as interactive relationship. In other words knowledge of God is an interactive relationship with God. It is not a statement of faith, or a leap of faith into the unknown. Rather, faith is rooted in the knowledge of an interactive relationship with an interactive God. In other words, we need to wrestle with God so that we can have an interactive relationship with God. That is what discipleship is all about. It is about interacting with the God who is interacting in the world so that we can get to know who God is and where God is in mission in the world. The scary part of this is maybe we will come away with a limp like Jacob.


Mason said...

Great thoughts here Ray. I've quite enjoyed Willard's works as well (though I've not read Renovation of the Heart), and was pretty challenged by The Divine Conspiracy.
I think its true that our culture underestimates knowing in our spirituality. It's really quite contrary to how anything else works. There is certainly a relational aspect to faith, but if we look at real human relationships who are we closest with? The people, friends or family, who we know the best.

Tremonti said...


I always knew there was a way of explaining knowledge in a way that different from a Fundamentalist sort of way, or legalistic sort of way. I'm not a fan of statement of beliefs if it just for the sake of a just having a statement which we ideally believe, because it often never gets past being fully embodied. I like this definition of knowledge better as you put it "knowledge of God is an interactive relationship with God". It's not fancy, no hidden spiritual knowledge, nothing magical, but just plain, real, true relationship.