Echoes of Paul in John and the Priority of Love over Knowledge

Paul and John had very different encounters with Jesus, but they both speak of knowledge and love in similar ways.

I listened to a podcast this week in which the topic of discussion was the difference between John’s Gospel and the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Some people say the Gospels are so different that they couldn’t have all been written by people who followed Jesus. People say that John’s Gospel, which was written latest in time, includes theological progression and embellishment.

NT Wright, on the other hand, points out that John’s words echo words found in the other Gospels, though it is very different in its emphasis. He also observes that since John’s Gospel was written latest, he would have had access to the other Gospels. There would have been no need for him to cover the same ground the other Gospels already covered.

Wright’s observation about John not wanting to cover ground already covered by the other Gospels, or not wanting to cover it in the same way, makes sense to me. John also had more time to think over and chew on the words of Jesus because he lived long, and he wrote his Gospel later than the others.

John’s Gospel is more philosophical and theologically developed in an obvious sort of way (not that the other Gospels are lacking in theology). Did he embellish on what Jesus said? We don’t know. Would embellishment make it any less “scripture”? I don’t think so.

John was one of the three apostles who spent the most time with Jesus and was most intimate with him. He was part of the inner circle of disciples who were closest with Jesus. He may have gained more insight into what Jesus said in that intimacy and the luxury of a long life to reflect on what Jesus said than the other Gospel writers.

I probably like John’s Gospel the best because it is so philosophical, beginning with some of the most poignant words found in writing anywhere:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-4

Fast forward a few days: A friend texts me and a group of people a Bible verse or two every morning. I always read it as part of my morning Bible reading. Sometimes the things that I am reading tie together with other things I am listening to and thinking about.

That was the case this morning. The verses sent in the text reminded me of NT Wright’s statements about the echoes of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in John’s Gospel. The verses in the text from my friend this morning are as follows:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 3:2‭-‬3 NIV

These words are not from the gospel of John, but from the first epistle of John. As I read them, I immediately heard echoes of the words of Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, which was likely written earlier than John. In that letter, Paul said:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:10-12 (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13, of course, is the famous “love chapter”, ending with the statement: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) John’s first letter is all about love. Just as Paul focuses on love in 1 Corinthians 13, John focuses on love in 1 John, and both of them speak in that context about the present limitations on our knowledge and knowing more fully when we see Christ face to face.

The statement that caught my attention is that we do not know what we will be until Christ appears; then, we will be like him, and we will see him as he is. These words of John echo Paul’s words when he says for now we know in part, but then we will know as we are fully known. Now we see only as a reflection in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face and we shall know fully even as we are fully known.

The similarities between these passages are striking to me., and all the more that they are both spoken in the context of love. They emphasize transformation that will take place in us in the context of our relationship to God. They emphasize that we see and know only partially in this life, and we cannot see or know exactly who God is or exactly what God has created us to be at this point.

Both passages speak to a future in which we shall know fully even as we are fully known (Paul) and see God as He actually is (John).

Now, though, we do not see clearly. The King James says we see only as “through a glass darkly”. I am struck by the implications of these things: both the fact that John echoes Paul, and Paul echoes John, and by the emphasis on love because we do not know what we do not yet know.

Continue reading “Echoes of Paul in John and the Priority of Love over Knowledge”

The Best and Hardest Apologetic Argument

We place too much emphasis, perhaps, on the arguments when we “do” apologetics. Not that being intimate and proficient with the arguments for God are a bad thing; but they aren’t the only thing.

I like apologetics because I like the intellectual exercise. I enjoy loving God with my mind. Maybe the reason for that is that I became a Christian in the academic setting of college. I was a seeker then, and I have always been stimulated by the intellectual journey.

I have loved talking, writing, and reading about meaningful and significant matters since I emerged from an existential angst that I sought (unsuccessfully) to smother with alcohol and drugs in my teens. Once I stepped out of that haze to face the reality of life, I dove head first into the search for truth.

I had no patience for merely fanciful speculation. My keen interest and motivation became a quest to learn about and understand the nature of reality. If there was meaning to find there, I was dedicated to finding it.

My journey led me eventually to Jesus, and there my quest was fulfilled. I have found in Christ the truth for which I sought. In the Old Testament, which speaks of him and foreshadows him, and in the New Testament, which is a testament to Jesus, the Messiah, the savior of the world from all the existential angst that bears down on mankind, I have found explanations and nuance that make sense of reality.

I have found a home for my restless mind in learning to love God with my mind. The intellectual pursuit is part of loving God, but it’s easy to forget for someone like me that I also need to love God with my heart, soul, and strength. (See Luke 10:27)

I may get into what it means to love God in these various ways in another blog post, but first I am realizing it’s important to see that love is meant to be the primary object and focus of our hearts, souls, strength, and mind. Loving God is the ultimate goal of these things – not the other way around.

We engage our hearts, souls, strength and minds in order to know God. Knowing God in a Hebrew sense means much more than intellectual ascent and understanding. It means relationship because love is relational.

Knowing is also the primary focus of apologetics, but the emphasis on knowing in apologetics, especially for western-mined Christians, is often primarily intellectual. In apologetics, we talk about learning various arguments for God, like the cosmological argument, the argument from fine-tuning, and the ontological argument. Then there is the Kalaam cosmological argument, and variations on variations of arguments.

We talk sometimes about which arguments are the best arguments, which arguments are most effective and most difficult for a nonbeliever to counter. We talk as if we do apologetics like gladiators in an arena where knowledge is the ultimate weapon.

I have suspected for awhile now we are missing the boat when we view apologetics this way. Maybe I am slow to this realization, and most other people are way ahead of me, but I suspect I may be more typical than I fear.

Continue reading “The Best and Hardest Apologetic Argument”

How Will the World Know You?

How will the world know you?

Will the world know you by your family, your ancestors and the legacy that comes after you?

Will the world know you by your wealth, your fiscal responsibility and ability to turn a profit?

Will the world know you by your great intellect, by the diplomas on your wall, the articles you have written? and the collection of books on your shelf you have read?

Will the world know you by your creativity, your command of a color palette, graceful and unique strokes of the brush and eye for design?

Will the world know you by your fame, by the number of people who know your name?

Will the world know you by your physical prowess, your ability to come through in the clutch, and your wins?

Will the world know you by your command of the English language, your artful turn of a phrase and your ability to move people with the written word?

Will the world know you by the instrument you play, the finesse of notes and rhythms, and the virtuosity with which you play your instrument?

Will the world know you by your professionalism, by your reputation for excellence in your field, and the accomplishments you have achieved?

Will the world know you by your stunning good looks, your impeccable fashion taste, and the company of beautiful people you keep?

Will the world know you by your eloquence, the depth and richness of your voice and your ability to command the attention of a crowd?

Will the world know you by your scientific mind, your understanding of technical details, and ability to apply scientific method and sound logic?

Will the world know you by your leadership, the number of people who follow you and your influence?

Will the world know you by the music you compose, the divine harmonies and intricate melodies you weave together in symphonic wonder?

Will the world know you by your politics, the platforms you have championed, and the dedication to your party allegiances?

Will the world know you by the roles you have played, the tears you have coaxed from fawning audiences, and the adoring fans you have?

Will the world know you by your architecture, by your complex end subtle designs, by the magnificence of the structures created from your drawings?

Will the world know you by your dedication, reliability and number of sick days you did not take?

How will the world know you?

In the end, we all go down to the grave, and the world is passing away. When an Ode to a Grecian Urn fades from collective memory, Jesus said we will be known as his disciples simply by our love for each other.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

“We know that we have passed from death to life,  because we love each other.  Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

1 John 3:14

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.”

Romans 12:10

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away….” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. “

1 Corinthians 13:8,13

A View from a Different Angle: Journalism, Law, Children & the Internet

Changes are occurring in the practice law like they are in the field of journalism and elsewhere as a result of the ubiquitous Internet that have application to the practice of law, other endeavors and to our children and future generations.


I just read an interview with an award winning photojournalist and journalism school professor who was laid off by the Chicago Sun-Times in the newspaper’s scramble to respond to the threat of Internet competition. The interview can be read at the Daily Dot. The situation and many of the statements made in the interview struck a chord with me that I will attempt to play out in a different direction below.

I am an attorney. Changes are occurring in the practice law like they are in the field of journalism and elsewhere as a result of the ubiquitous Internet. The layoff of all of the photographers at the Sun-Times exposes a deeper root growing out of the burgeoning success of the Internet that I want to explore. It has application to the practice of law, and it has application to our children and future generations. Continue reading “A View from a Different Angle: Journalism, Law, Children & the Internet”