While on sabbatical at Regent College, Vancouver a few years ago I sat in on a preaching class with Darrell Johnston; a wonderful expositor of the Scriptures. That day, Darrell was speaking about Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1 (v 9-11). Paul prays that our “LOVE would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that we may be able to discern what is best.” The ability to discern he suggested comes from our loving. In Paul’s prayer in Ephesians Paul again is asking for knowledge, that we would know Christ better
and that we would know the hope, the riches and the power of Christ. ForDarrell the KNOW word is two pronged – to know cognitively and to know by experience. The word here is the same for word used for knowing in the intimacy of marriage. This is a flaw breaker. In recent centuries Christian doctrine the cognitive has usurped the experiential so knowledge can stand in independence to experience. Not so says Darrell.
When it comes to the word RIGHTEOUSNESS in the Philippians
prayer Darrell would suggest that that is not limited to a legal term but is far bigger and more effective. It is again not a cognitive knowledge we receive from Christ’s death. It is, but it is also, and much more importantly for a life of discipleship, an experiential righteousness in all relationships. The re-alignment, the re-configuration of the original design is righteous living.
In Eden relationship was lost with God, self, others and creation. In Christ’s death taking away the sin of the world Christ recreates the original design which is a righteous world with righteous people not only in a declaration but in a living experiential reality.
Those who will claim to know their systematic theology but treat others either in their pastoral care or theological discussion in dismissive and unloving might cognitively gifted but they are also in error. This is neither righteousness nor the effects of the cross of Christ. Truth, no matter how clear, succinct and sound, is not Christianity if it is not lived in a loving relationship to brothers and sisters in Christ, neighbours and enemies. The experiential actually is what leads us into the cognitive not vica versa. Indeed the vica versa leads us into loveless dogma, abusive self righteousness
and the taking of God’s name in vain. From the basis of loving relationships comes Christlike thinking and Christlike living all tangled up in each other.
Recently while at Taylor University for a Conference on Reconciliation I was thinking of how we in N. Ireland treat the other side. My colleague Ed Peterson was sharing how a Catholic Priest had knocked the door of my predecessor at Fitzroy Ken Newell’s door while they were both missionaries in Indonesia. Ed told us how they had spent the first few months trying to out theologize each other but when they left their loveless dogma and started to concentrate on their friendship and their love for Jesus they became firm friends and soul companions. What a good illustration of Darrell Johnston’s exposition of Philippians 1. When we realign our love relationships we grasp the cognitive and it leads us into a Godly righteousness that is so much more than creedal and cerebral but an energetic living transforming power; love!