23 August 2013

"Love without truth has no character. Truth without love has no power."

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This post (republished in its entirety) is from the blog back in February 2011. It's an excerpt of an article that appeared in the Jan-Feb 2011 edition of Bible Study Magazine. Phil offers his thoughts on the challenge of keeping love and truth in proper perspective.

As usual, the comments are closed.

It's not easy, especially nowadays, to keep love and truth together in a balanced way.

Our culture force-feeds us a postmodern notion of love. Tolerance, diversity, and broad-mindedness are its defining features.

Meanwhile, truth is generally held in high suspicion, if not treated with outright contempt. After all, if the very essence of love is to accept all points of view, how could it possibly be virtuous to believe that one idea is true to the exclusion of all others? Indeed, many in our culture regard emphatic truth-claims as inherently unloving. As a result, truth is regularly sacrificed in the name of love.

As Christians, we need to understand love from a biblical perspective. Authentic love "rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love and truth are perfectly symbiotic, and each virtue is essential to the other. Love without truth has no character. Truth without love has no power.

In fact, when radically separated from one another, both virtues cease to be anything more than mere pretense. Love deprived of truth quickly deteriorates into sinful self-love. Truth divorced from love always breeds sanctimonious self-righteousness.

Nowhere in Scripture is the essential connection between these two cardinal virtues more clearly highlighted than in 2 John. Love and truth are the key words in the salutation of that brief 13-verse epistle, and the central theme throughout is the unbreakable interdependence between these two essential qualities of Christlikeness.

John is the perfect apostle to write on this theme. Jesus had nicknamed John and his brother James "Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17)—doubtless because of their fiery zeal for the truth. At first, their passion was not always tempered with love, and we see a glimpse of that in Luke 9:54, when they wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a village of Samaritans who had rebuffed Christ.

In later years, however, John distinguished himself as the Apostle of Love, specially highlighting the theme of love in his gospel and in all three of his epistles.

And yet, as we see in all his epistles, he never lost his zeal for the truth. He did, however, learn to keep it wedded to a proper, Christlike love. And in his short second epistle, where he has some hard things to say in defense of the truth, he is careful to give first place to love. Before getting into the main issue (how to deal with supposed Christian teachers who deny essential truth) he accents once more the supreme importance of obedience to Jesus' command "that we love one another" (v. 5; cf. John 13:34-35).

Christians today desperately need to learn how to ground love properly in the truth. We must not succumb to pressure from our culture to spurn or bury the truth of Scripture under a false and foggy notion of love.