Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Truth and Love

Inspired by a true story….


I Corinthians 13: 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

12(b) Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Sola Scriptura: Interpretationes Infinitum

We certainly must acknowledge the truth that ever since sola Scriptura, Christian understanding has gone forth in a thousand directions, every one of which can point to countless verses to make their point.  The point isn’t the Scripture, it is the interpretation.  Using sola Scriptura, there are those who can remove the divine from Jesus.  They have the verses – interpreted their way – to prove it.

What am I getting at, and what does this have to do with the passage in Corinthians?  I am not sure, but indulge me while I work through this.  I have often used the phrase “men of good will.”  It takes men of good will to properly work through differences of understanding, differences of interpretation. 

I am reading a book written by Laurence Vance: King James, His Bible and its Translators.  Separate from my point, I must say that Vance has done a remarkable bit of scholarship.  But to my point, in reading the book and the work of the translators, I cannot help but be struck by the idea that those working on the translation were men of good will.

What if Martin Luther ran into a Church that was led by men of good will?  Or John Wycliffe or Jan Hus? 

My point isn’t to rail against the Catholic Church – after all, since the Reformation it hasn’t split into a thousand pieces.  My point also isn’t to rail against the Protestants.  My point is to focus on this idea of men of good will.

The more I learn, the more I learn what I don’t know.  How am I qualified to judge matters that have been developed over centuries by men infinitely more knowledgeable than I am?  Shall I rely on my own wisdom, or the wisdom of the ages?  Compared to that, my wisdom is but a drop in the ocean.


Tradition is a valuable thing, except when it isn’t.  Regarding Christianity, it is quite true that Jesus broke with a lot of tradition.  We Christians certainly deem this necessary.  Luther also broke with tradition.  I think there is little doubt that much of what he noted in the Church tradition needed change.

So, how is one to consider when to keep tradition, slowly modify it, or make a significant break?  It seems to me that before one advocates change – minor or major – one should first be able to speak to why the tradition is what it is, what it is based on, how and why it came to be accepted in the larger population.  In other words, be able to articulate the wisdom of the ages.

Once one can speak knowledgably to these points, then one is qualified to advocate for change.    Certainly, Jesus qualifies as such.  Luther did as well.

Now, it doesn’t mean that such a person is correct (Jesus absolutely was; Luther was so to a greater or lesser part).  This comes back to the men of good will thing.


I have come across various versions of the following: truth can only be found through love.  I have struggled with what, exactly, this meant.  I think I am beginning to see through the glass a little less darkly. 

What have I meant by men of good will?  Perhaps it is nothing more than men motivated by love.  It is only through such motivation that differences can be overcome and truth can be found.

Go back to the excerpt from Corinthians.  Paul writes of one with less-than-full knowledge: knowing only in part; completeness has not yet come.  Completeness comes when he is fully known – and this comes through the greatest of these: love.  Full knowledge comes through love.


The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence or Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, Justice.  Through these virtues, man works toward his telos.  All four virtues require knowledge of truth.  Truth can only be found through love as demonstrated by men of good will.


  1. I've often thought that God's reason for bringing about existence, for creating all of us and the world we live in, is love. It's the one thing God might not have known about until He created us. Love is all about 'other regarding behavior', so how was God, alone in the vacuum, supposed to know love without any other to regard?

    It's not a new idea, but I think it is as good or better than any other reason out there.

    Surely He could imagine love, but is imagining love anything like experiencing it?

  2. The problem of institutional decay has bothered me for a good while... to accomplish things men must work together, and to work together effectively there must be a hierarchy, but hierarchies are prone to complacency and corruption. I'm fascinated by the exact process of this corruption - it can be seen anywhere social authority of any sort is to be found, and it's both subtle and powerful, not to mention complex.

    After a lot of observation, a conclusion coalesced in my mind that... for lack of a better way of putting it... will to power is often the source of authority, but that is the authority of the bully over the scrawny kid, and not just through physical violence. There are those who learn to revel in the wielding of authority over others, and those who feel comfortable being led, without taking responsibility for their own fate.

    The hierarchical relationships that arise from these two types of attitude in different people are the worst possible, in terms of the longevity of the institution in which it happens. Being purely based on emotional comfort, it does not invite thinking about one's place in the order of things; the reason for it, and what must be done - and what must be avoided - to perform it properly. Simply follow the rise and fall of fortunes within the pack, and of the pack, and let nature take its course towards entropic equilibrium.

    It seems to me that healthy authority must be based on mutual respect, with everyone understanding and accepting their place in the hierarchy, and staying receptive to feedback. I believe everyone understands this, it's not exactly rocket science - the problem, as usual in human matters, arises when expectations become divorced from reality, such as when a leader who is no longer up to the task refuses to acknowledge this, and his subordinates are too cowed or otherwise impotent to do something about it.

    Why do I bring up the matter of goodwill in institutions? Well, because of the Church, as in the post. The Church was supposed to care for the spiritual well-being of mankind but it failed somewhere along the way, and it's looking rather hopeless now; reform is desperately needed and reform is being undertaken, but in the wrong direction, and goodwill is nowhere to be seen - there's just the leaders, the led, and the grumpy. I'm growing convinced that it is one of many Western institutions that are beyond saving and will need to be replaced.

    But with what? And how can it be improved? Admittedly, 2000 years (or 1500 if you prefer to stop counting at Luther) is a pretty impressive run. And the last attempt at "replacement" didn't end so well. Maybe the trick is starting over from the ashes rather than trying to overturn what is already established.

    1. This is very thoughtful. Thank you for taking the time.

      Regarding Christianity today, this is the struggle. I don't have a satisfying answer beyond faith, just that the issues need to be raised and discussed.

  3. If we rely exclusively on 'Sola Scriptura' to guide us, we can easily veer off into dogmatic, rigid, unfeeling doctrines and practices. I know this to be true, I have done so and can think of numerous cases where I used scriptures interpreted my way to beat people up. Or beat them down.

    However, in the multitude of counselors there is safety, as one of the Proverbs says. We also have the Spirit to nudge us when we need it. We have common sense. We have wisdom gained by experience. We have the historical words of Jesus, Who encourages us to not only love God, but also to love others the same way we love ourselves.

    In the novel, "The Good Earth", Pearl Buck writes about an old man who encourages his concubine to marry a young man. When she demurs and he asks why she is reluctant, she replies that old men are gentle, young men are hard. This, I believe, is true. Old men have learned through decades of life what love is and how to practice it. Young men don't have a clue.

    I think sometimes that I'm actually starting to understand this.

    1. I am with you. Unfortunately for me (and those around me), despite my progress my age is advancing faster than my gentleness.