I hear it too much—then again for me, hearing it once is too much!—“God is more concerned with doing His Word, than with knowing His word.” This one really bothers me. After all, this thinking is not simply counter to all of Scripture, it is actually quite dangerous.
One of the most commonly asserted arguments in defense of the position that we should focus on the heart over the head is that the Bible says, “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). (I heard this twice within the last week and one time it was from one of the most prominent leaders in evangelicalism).
Before responding to the argument from 1 Cor 8:1, let me ask if anyone sees the irony here? The argument is essentially quoting Scripture to argue that it is more important to do Scripture than to know it. They are asserting a certain knowledge of Scripture to condemn knowledge.
What was Paul saying?
The problem with this understanding of 1 Cor 8:1 begins with the fact that Paul was not saying that knowledge by itself was bad. Paul was condemning those who claimed to have knowledge, but had no love! Such knowledge, he argued, was worthless. Paul in no way says that knowledge was worthless: only that knowledge without love was worthless. After all, to say that knowledge was worthless would be a self-refuting statement.
In addition, this argument from 1 Cor 8:1 fails to account for the multitude of places that Paul elevates knowledge as the core of Christian living. Romans 12:1-2 says that we must renew our minds so that we can test God’s will. We really could go on and quote hundreds of Scriptures to support the primacy of the mind in Christian living. Foremost among them is John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Allow me to cite one more to bolster this argument. Paul says,
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead
Biblical Story is bringing the knowledge of God to the nations
The whole narrative of Scripture is aimed at bringing the knowledge of God to the nations! Exodus 6-9 repeatedly states that God’s actions through Moses were aimed at bringing the knowledge of God to Moses, the Israelites, Pharaoh, Egypt, and the nations. Failing to know God is the whole point of the biblical story!
When we reach the New Testament we learn that the heart of Christian Gospel is the fact that Jesus has come to make God known (John 1:18)! What the Old Testament anticipated, that God would be made known, has been fulfilled in Jesus.
This is evident in the dialogue between Jesus and His disciples in John 14:7-9 “‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?’’”
Jesus is God made known.
Another problem with the idea that we can separate the head and the heart is that this thinking derives from an Enlightenment worldview that is radically foreign to the Scriptures.
It is an Enlightenment worldview that sets forth a radical distinction between heaven and earth and the spiritual and the physical. Neither Jesus, nor Paul would have ever conceived of such a distinction. Jesus, in fact, said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
When Paul rebukes the Corinthians for failing to love he was contending that their knowledge was not really true knowledge. If it were true knowledge, then it would have had love!
Satan is the deceiver
To contend that it is more important to love God than to know God is also quite dangerous. Scripture is replete with warnings to “examine everything carefully” (1 Thess 5:21), “watch out for false prophets” (Matt 7:15; cf Matt 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26).
Those who undermine the role of knowledge in the Church are opening the door for deception: which just so happens to be the primary weapon of the devil (cf Rev 12:9).
Furthermore, how do we distinguish the believer in Christ who does good works from any other religious person who does good works? The answer is that the Christians knows Christ! The Christian is being obedient to Christ. Knowing Christ, knowing Scripture, and knowing truth are essential to living out the Christian life. This is why Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).
In conclusion, allow me to reiterate. It is impossible to have heart knowledge without a head knowledge. Certainly, one can have a head knowledge that doesn’t translate to the heart. That is, in fact, what Paul was condemning in 1 Cor 8:1. But you cannot have heart knowledge without head knowledge. To claim to do so is treacherous. It leaves the person susceptible to all kinds of dangers and deceptions.