The Divine Romance and the Limits of Knowledge

divine romanceJohn chapter 14 is possibly the richest, deepest, and most nuanced revelation in the Bible concerning God’s purpose.

This chapter talks, among other things, about the inner workings of the divine Trinity, our incorporation into the Triune God, the indwelling Spirit, the economical visitation of the Triune God to make an abode with us, and our eternal destiny. These are profound, mind-shattering truths that warrant much study.

But embedded within these verses is an elegantly simple application that may be easily overlooked because of familiarity- loving God.

Depreciated Love?

Has loving God become banal?

Ba•nal (bə-năl′) adj. “Drearily commonplace and often predictable; trite.”

I admit that “personal relationship” has become a little trite and doesn’t quite convey all that is intended. Even devotionals seem more like a mastered art these days, more in the line of “we know what works.” But is a mastered technique for feeling close to God what it is all about? If that is our impression, then loving God has depreciated.

On the one hand, love can undergo reduction—God’s care for me or acceptance of me. We feel loved i.e. understood, accepted as is, taken care of, not abandoned or alone. On the other hand, love can undergo inflation—Christian zeal, intensity, labor, endurance. Both are necessary, but they are superstructures, add-ons, not the thing itself.

The Greek word for ‘love’ in John 14 is agape, which refers to the nature of God’s essence. God is agape (1 John 4:8). This Greek word appears 10 times in John chapter 14—v. 15, 21, 23, 24, 28, 31.

If we can unlock this word we will have access to everything in this chapter, everything in the Bible, and everything in God’s being.

Love Takes the Shortest Route

Love has a unique function in God’s purpose.

What e’er thou lovest, man,

That too become thou must;

God if thou lovest God,

Dust, if thou lovest dust…

To bring thee to thy God,

Love takes the shortest route;

The way which knowledge leads,

Is but a roundabout.

–3rd century hymn

Loving God is the catalyst in God’s purpose. Love operates in a realm inaccessible to knowledge. It activates, accelerates, and accomplishes God’s eternal purpose in our lives. It moves God out of the strictly objective and theological into the experiential and intimate.

The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. –Rom. 5:5

Love is not just our subjective response of affection. It is the transcendent God becoming subjective to us and penetrating our emotive core. If we keep in mind that “God IS love” then Romans 5:5 indicates that God has poured Himself into our heart. What could be more subjective than this?

As our love grows, it becomes an encompassing experience that pervades all other realms—heart, soul, mind, strength (Mark 12:30).

We imagine that love has as its object a person whom we can see lying down before our eyes, enclosed in a human body. Alas, it is the extension of that person to all the points in space and time which the person has occupied and will occupy. If we do not possess its contact with this or that place, this or that hour, we do not possess it.

–Marcel Proust

For God to fully possess us and for us to fully possess God, this mutual romantic involvement (His love for us and our love for Him) must extend to all spatial-temporal points in our day. Thus, “nothing can separate us from the love of God” becomes “nothing can separate us from loving God.”

Loving God is the banner under which everything else in the Christian life occurs (S.S. 2:4). Everything else should become secondary, a by-product.

Work? Yes, but “there I will give you my love (S.S. 7:11-12).”

Labor? Yes, but “labor of love (1 Thes. 1:3).”

Keeping commandments? Yes, the first of which is “you shall love the Lord your God (Matt. 22:37-38).”

In these contexts, love is not mere sentimentality, but an access point into a holistic experience of the divine life.

Cognitive Concupiscence

However, I’ve observed a proclivity in college Christians in America for knowing and doing, but not loving (in the way I’ve described above of experiencing the divine life).

This is an old trick played on a new generation. The first temptation of man was to know something—Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5). The second temptation was to do something—Cain (Gen. 4:3). With Adam and Eve, their lust for knowledge overthrew the sole divine mandate in the Garden of Eden. With Cain, his lust to do something for God was not restrained by the present divine revelation.

Ellen T. Chary calls this proclivity “a cognitive concupiscence in human nature.”

We obsess over knowing fully. If we can’t understand something we rationalize our way around it. “I think therefore I am” has become “I understand therefore it is.”

Again, I am all for learning, studying, processing, understanding. BUT there is a category of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect. Much in this category is a mystery to the natural mind preoccupied with knowing and suspicious towards experiencing.

To know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ. –Eph. 3:19

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not come up in man’s heart; things which God has prepared for those who love Him. –1 Cor. 2:9

Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and knows God. –1 John 4:7

Aristotelian logic has its limits in the divine romance.

And if we put all our eggs in the knowledge basket, what will we do when knowledge is rendered useless (1 Cor. 13:8)? If we have not been advancing in the divine romance, we will amount to nothing.

For your Maker is your  Husband. –Isa. 54:5

After all, God is interested in a romance, not an eternal Bible study or charity project.

27 thoughts on “The Divine Romance and the Limits of Knowledge

  1. This is a healthy word, especially in an age that is filled with many well-intended efforts to know and work for God but that is sorely lacking in the subjective experience of God Himself. To love God experientially is to transcend the the realm of human intellect and to touch God Himself in His essence. This makes God – our Husband – happy, and it furthers His eternal purpose.

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    • Exactly. Great way to put it. Subjective experience doesn’t annul, disregard, or discourage the pursuit of knowledge and the use of our rational mind, but it does transcend it. It’s not an either-or scenario. We have a mind to understand God’s purpose, an emotion to love God’s purpose, a will to choose God’s purpose, and a spirit to receive God Himself, which is the purpose itself in a nutshell. Romans 12:2 connects transformation (surely a subjective experience) with the mind. So they assist each other.

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  2. Great closing statement.This is a rather sobering word. To acknowledge that the love of Christ is knowledge-surpassing is intellectually relieving from the the deeply rooted suspicion and desire for knowledge. The agape of God has been poured out into our hearts, that is, the essence of what God is has been poured out into our hearts.

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    • “Intellectually relieving”- that’s a unique perspective. I like it! Especially relieving in an information age compounded with postmodernism- the burgeoning kaleidoscope of ideas, perspectives, arguments, “truths”. Who even has the time to process what we learned last year?

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  3. Very healthy word on love. I was just in a wedding where the pastor spoke from the verses you mentioned at the beginning of this post, yet with a completely different emphasis. His sharing carried a sense of lack with it, and I see here what it was. It is God’s love, and to love God, that these verses speak about. May we all be those who daily live in God’s love, loving Him with the first love within us.

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  4. I do like your post thank you. Would you say that you can have information without transformation? You’re right, our God is looking for romance. He knows our hearts and our thought life. You mentioned to Graeme in the mybroom site that born again is a redundant tag line for the christian. Why do you suppose that the born again title has been adopted by some christians? And is there a way, at introduction, other than displaying the fruits of one’s life, that you can as quickly and easily differentiate yourself from the nominal christian? i.e. The one who may profess the name of Jesus Christ and believe himself or herself a christian but has yet to repent, turn from their sin putting their complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation so that they can be born again in the spirit? aka John 3:1-16

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    • Information without transformation? Yes. I was mainly getting at the fact that if we develop an obsessive reliance on our mental reasoning capacity to sanction only that which we understand, we will miss out on much of what God has in store for us. Especially the experiences of Christ that God has in store for us. Who can fully understand how we can dwell in God and God can dwell in us? We can’t fully understand it, but we can know it by experience. I appreciate books like “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” but that is not the extent of Christianity.

      Quick and easy way? If they say they are a Christian, I believe them unless there are strong signs to doubt that. Prayer always manifests where someone is at. Or their reaction to fellowship, or whether they hide from the light, or whether there is any softness toward the word. But these are approximate indicators. A lot of times I just have a sense in my spirit about people- “this person might not be saved.” But it’s not like I have my tare radar up always second guessing people. I personally don’t like the phrase “saving faith” pitted again faith. It’s also redundant and confusing. Faith IS saving.

      The Bible provides at least 3 ways to know that we are saved:

      The plain words of the Bible

      “I have written these things to you that you may know that you have eternal life, to you who believe into the name of the Son of God.” -1 John 5:13

      The Spirit’s inward witness

      “The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.” -Rom. 8:16

      Loving the brothers

      “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. He who does not love abides in death.” -1 John 3:14

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  5. Wow. Really enjoyed reading this. I agree with Joseph in that it is a sobering word. Having grown up around Christians, “loving the Lord” has become almost like something you just say, not something real. May the Lord really enlarge us and be so attractive to us that we would love Him in a deeper way.

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  6. Pingback: What does it mean to love God? « life and building

  7. Amen! His love is most wonderful, His mercy incredible, and every morning we can have a fresh new start enjoying Him, and His mercies new every day. May we stay in the flow of His life all the day long. Coordinate with the top vital group, the Triune God.

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    • Thanks. I think this is the secret to the easy yoke and light burden that Jesus talked about. The Salvation Army used to sing a hymn that said, “Love will lighten every care.” First love then first works. That was Jesus’ word to the church in Ephesus in Revelation.

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  8. I don’t know so much about that…. but I think definitely know what it means to not love Him. That means not spending anytime with Him or including Him wanting Him involved in anything you do and not taking even the slightest interest in who/what He is or what He desires, or what He is doing.

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    • Hi Marcus. Thanks for your insight. Check out my next post for my understanding of what it means to love God. This post was more on the function or superiority of loving God. Paul calls it “a most excellent way” in 1 Cor 12:31.

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  9. I almost got lost in the article. Love is something that, as you finally noticed, is NOT related to the mind – it is knowledge surpassing. Loving the Lord and Him loving us is un-understandable, that is, we cannot comprehend it. We praise Him for loving us, reaching out to us, wooing us, drawing us, courting us, and bringing us into a sweet loving romance with Himself. Now we just want to love Him – by exercising our emotion filled with God’s love which was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit!

    Lord, draw us away from our mind that we may love You with our whole being! Increase this love in us until we just waste ourselves on You!

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    • I glad you made it out and to the comments section! I’m not saying loving God is unrelated to the mind or that we can dispense with our rational faculties, but that loving God surpasses knowledge and is a key to our experience of Christ as life. I think Mark 12:30 and Eph 3:19 strike this balance.

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  10. Pingback: The Divine Romance in the Bible « Enjoying Christ with Christians on Campus

  11. Pingback: God’s Love and Our Response « Unknown and Well Known

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  13. The mind is part of the heart. It is most definitely related to loving God. Mark 12:30 is certainly in plain words. Have you noticed that in this verse the Lord hits the mind three times? More than any other part of our being?

    “You shall love the Lord your God from you whole heart (contains the mind) and from your whole soul (contains the mind) and from your whole mind (again the mind, 3rd time), and from your whole strength.”

    The mind is the most crucial, directing, leading part of our soul. What our mind is occupied with and set on determines, our current spiritual condition, sets the path we will take in our spiritual life, and ultimately foreshadows the destinations we will pass through on the way to our ultimate destiny in the New Jerusalem.

    The mind CAUSES us to be in the spirit or in the flesh. That’s pretty powerful, especially since we are, it has been said, one eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) from the flesh at all times. If your mind is not occupied with Christ, you will not love Him freshly or at least not for long, regardless of His wooing. You will have no room in your being for Him, it will be filled with other things. Eve’s mind was affected by the Serpent’s speaking, and as result her being was already infected before she even ate of the tree of knowledge, etc. Her mind was touched and her heart became negative towards God.

    We must love the Lord with all parts of our being, as Kyle rightly points out. This is elementary.

    A major key to properly understanding the Bible is to understand the principle of balance, the two-foldness of the divine truth. Every aspect of truth has two sides. Tragically, most Christians don’t keep this principle. “Man”, Martin Luther says, “is like a drunk peasant; help him up on one side of his horse, and he falls over on the other.” We most hold all sides of the truth properly.

    There is a time to triple hallelujah with a fully released spirit and there is also a time to gird up the loins of our mind.

    I will leave all with this, our knowledge of the truth will always surpass our experience of the truth; and yet at the same time we will experience things of the truth which we will never understand. Praise Him.

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  14. Pingback: the Bible is a romance: God really loves us and He is continually courting us

  15. Pingback: The Divine Romance – a Diagram |

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