Love and justice are what give us ears to hear

Love and justice are what give us ears to hear July 21, 2014

Let me revisit what I’m trying to say in the previous post — “Without justice, we’re not reading the same book.” Tony Jones points toward something similar in his recent discussion of Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian:

Vines’s book is oddly lacking in autobiography. He briefly recounts the day that he came out to his parents — “my dad’s worst day” — but then gets right to his argument that long-term, monogamous, same-sex relationships are not contrary to the Bible because they’re never mentioned in the Bible.

Vines’s father plays a large role in the book. Vines the younger repeatedly tells how his father changed his mind on this verse or that view based on the study that the two undertook together. Although it’s clear that Matthew’s orientation was the impetus for the project, he never suggests that his own attempt to live as a holistic person or his father’s love for his son had any effect on changing either of their minds. They cast their stance as a totally intellectual decision: they studied the Bible and changed their minds. This book, Matthew hopes, will do the same for many others.

I share Tony’s doubt that this process happened the way Vines says (and, I think, genuinely believes) it did. White evangelicals imagine that they’re reading the Bible and then making “totally intellectual decisions.” That’s not how humans work. Vulcans make “totally intellectual decisions.” Humans almost never do. For humans, the presence or absence of love is never irrelevant.

Without love, without being influenced by love, no human can ever “study the Bible and change their mind.”

“If I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith … but do not have love, I am nothing.”

If that strikes you as a radical hermeneutical claim, you’re right. But it’s also exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13. That’s not just something pretty to be read at weddings or an ethical plea for everybody to be more nice. Paul is talking about epistemology — he says that without love we are incapable of knowing. Incapable of knowing God, knowing others, knowing ourselves, knowing anything. Without love, Paul says, what we think we understand or know amounts to “nothing.”

Or, in other words, love changes our minds. It is the change in our minds that makes changing our minds possible. Love is not an alternative to making “intellectual decisions,” it is the basis — the starting point — for any intellectual decision. Vines’ dad was only able to “study the Bible and change his mind” because he loved his son.

The important thing, my point here, is that both halves of that are true. Love was what enabled this man to “change his mind.” But also love was the only reason this man was able to study the Bible.

Revelation comes with reconciliation, or it doesn’t come at all.

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