Saturday, October 29, 2005

A false dichotomy of knowing and doing

Since my post on a revolution? has become a bit long to scroll through but the discussion is getting better and better I thought I would start a new one based on where it left off.

The Hebraic understanding of knowledge does not allow us to separate knowing from doing. It was not a part of their world view, nor should it be from ours. To know is to do. Knowledge is intimacy in the way Adam knew Eve. The prophet Jeremiah gives props to King Josiah by saying that, "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD (22:16). Knowledge is action. Jesus builds on this by saying, that the truth will set you free by doing what he says, not be getting the right information (John 8:31-32). And how about the knowledge of Father, Son and Spirit of one another as perichorisis, an intimate, dance and even interpenetration.

I heard a story once from my friend Steve Garber who wrote a book called the Fabric of Faithfulness. He came one evening to find the trash in his kitchen overflowing. He called for his son and said, "you are supposed to empty the trash." He son responded, "I know." Steve then retorted, "you do not know because if you knew you would have emptied the trash." For those who have ears let them hear!

How ought a Hebraic understanding inform and shape the church?

9 comments:

Brian said...

The Hebrew word in question, "davar" literally means word-deed. The best we can do in English is to seperate them with a dash, but even that fails to capture the true meaning.

I think what it says to the church is that we only believe that which we do. In other words, if we say "Jesus is Lord" without being committed to Jesus' mission then we really don't believe Jesus is Lord. In the same way, if we say "We love and accept everyone" but don't live it, we don't believe it. Even more concretely, if we say "We care about the poor" but don't actually live that out then we as the church don't really believe it.

I'll use my own life as an example. Those things which I most believe in you can tell by how I live. I believe that youth ministry is absolutely essential, so its no suprise that I direct most of my time and efforts there. That which the church most believes in should be that which we are most known for. Sadly, the things the church most seems to be known for are being anti-homosexual and judgmental.

Patrick said...

James agrees with this understanding as well:

"If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do...You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did" (James 2:16-18,22).

Brian, I think you nailed it in your second paragraph. People will write you off when you say you believe something, but live totally different. That's where the church's label of hypocricy has risen from. Too many people have witnessed Christians (well-meaning too) tout the values of the faith without the lifestyle that show it. It's like the old English teacher adage, "Show, don't tell."

So it's a both-and, word AND deed. BJ's question is a good one. It's not good just to train people in private world skills (prayer, Bible reading, etc), but we need real-life training in the public life - work, play, family-life, neighborhood-life, etc. How do we live and maneuver through these, both as an individual and a group, with Christian distinctiveness?

bj woodworth said...

yes, but why do we as the church spend so much time in our heads and little time with our hands and feet? how do we get out of our heads on onto our feet? I just heard John Perkins speak last night and he nailed hom this point as only a 75 year old prophet can. he said that the church is defigning it self by orthodoxy - correct beleif and in particular what or who it is aginst. but rather the church should be defining itself by being the replacements of Jesus' ministry to the least, the last and the lost - orthopraxis. thanks be to God for prophetic men like John Perkins who spur us on to love and good deeds!!

Patrick said...

Dang! Totally forgot that John Perkins was speaking last night. I would have liked to have caught that.

BJ - That's a good question. It's easier just to focus on the word-side, because you can do it in a classroom that's isolated from others. It's a lot more difficult to go out and practice love and good deeds in our neighborhoods and workplaces. We need on-the-job training!

marlaena said...

kids will be ringing my doorbell soon asking for candy but maybe alan hirsch will hop in on the conversation about orthopraxy and orthodoxy - i found that to be a great discussion in shaping of things to come.

on a practical note the praxy/doxy discussion was enlightening to my friend who is also a counselor by profession. she said there is a dynamic interplay between right living and right thinking.

i also woo-hooed at alan hirsch's comment in the other post about being/doing - that it's really about becoming. one of my favorite books is called sacred companions (it's on spiritual direction) and the author reminds us that we are constantly being shaped and formed by God and are always "becoming" - who are we becoming and what is shaping and forming us . . . but oh i will digress into my spiritual formation stuff and i really need to get ready for candy and steeler's football . . .

have a great time at the game BJ!!!

Tony Y said...

Several months ago I heard Tony Campolo at The Pittsburgh Project. He concluded with a "title or testimony" discussion. Pharoah had a title, Moses had a testimony, Darius had a title, Daniel had a testimony, . . . you get the idea. So to your point, how much of our church work is title driven vs testimony driven? At the end of any given day, does your/our testimony revolve around our title or believe, or around our testimony of reaching out with God's love, in obedience to him? Each and every day?

sabbath day's journey said...

BJ,
How I am just now finding out that you have a blog is beyond me. But I am so totally delighted to have found it. You made a really big impression on me during new staff training (2004), and turned me on to a lot of good insights. I always appreciate what you have to say, and this post is no different. Wish I could have heard Perkins, too. Along with you, I say thanks be to God for prophetic men like him who spur us on toward love and good deeds. I think the church has (unfortunately) lost so much of the importance of this teaching.

Peace,
Michele

Roland said...

BJ,
Can I ask you to flesh out the trinitarian ideas of knowledge you raised in the original post, and perhaps relate them more clearly to your thoughts on ecclesiology?

I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the anthropology that we're using to talk about ourselves as Christians. Hirsh has already hinted that this point, but it seems that we're positing the being/doing debate in existentialist terms, who unfortunately don't seem to have moved very far from this Hegelian anthropology: We think of ourselves as little independent blobs interacting with other blobs, also independent. When I come into contact with others, I must react to them because they are a threat to me. Whether I repel or attract them depends on my choice, which is controlled by what I know.

Let's assume that we're agreed that to BE/TO BECOME is to ACT. What we do flows not simply from what we know, but from who we are. So praxis should not simply be an attempt to force our wills into line with our head knowledge, it should flow naturally from our position in Christ: we are CREATED in Christ Jesus to do good works, not taught to do them.

Given this, who are we? And by extension, what is the church?

If I'm this little ball of "me" coming into contact with and joining in fellowship with other "mes", then the praxis problem is an issue of my volition and the church revolution thing can be discussed in terms of demographics and target audiences.

But if the Church is the body of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit as it proceeds from the Father in love, and eternally returning glory and praise to the Father through the Spirit even as it is eternally begotten, then praxis ceases to be a question at all. It becomes wrong-headed. I do not need to think about myself as a pew-sitter, an activist or an artist, and I don't have to think about others in these categories either.

The beauty of this notion of perichorisis is that by turning our eyes upon the Father we end up acting despite ourselves, because we are caught up in the eternal motion of the trinity in loving itself. Christ is in "the least of these" [the poor] as a sacrament, and so by serving Him we serve our brothers too. Good actions are impossibly hard if we focus is on ourselves (who are weak) or on our brothers (who smell). If we subsist in the Trinity as part of the body of Christ, then I am him and he is me because together we are in Christ. [Please forgive the sexist language, it's too late at night]. We are interpenetrated by each other, and hence we cannot help but love our neighbor as ourselves.

This is beginning to ramble, but I think I'm questioning this idea of preaching at ourselves and at others to make them do stuff, when we should be simply dwelling in and on God more.
What think ye all?

bj woodworth said...

Roland good stuff. If I am tracking with you which is a BIG IF. I have not any Hegal so that one comment stretches beyond me but let me take a stab at this.

Your Point? We are untied in Christ by his death and ressurection and therefore united to the Trinity in an interpentrated kind of way; we are also mystically connected to the global/universal body of Christ. And if this is ontologically true we will be so changed by that that we cannot help to do, act and practice the faith, thus eliminating the knowing and doing dichotomy. Is that what you are saying? If so I agree, but...

I think we do need praxis to spur on our wills to serve, give and do our faith. I am indebted to Dallas Willards book the renovation of the heart that discusses the full-orbed nature of humanity and if we want to allow the Triune God to change us then we need to submitt, will, heart, mind, body, soul, and even our social world to him.

I feel like I am disconecting with what you wer talking about. This si the disadvantage of bloggin' let's pick up at dinner on Wednesday!