My first thought was “Christ and him crucified” but Paul does it better than I ever would.
I would preach knowing and loving God. On a recent flight I was reading Richard Rohr’s book The Divine Dance and in it he makes the distinction in believing in God and knowing God. It didn’t hit me well when I first read it but the more what he was saying sunk in, the more I agreed with him.
If you imagine Adam meeting Eve, what would the difference be between Adam believing Eve was real (believing in an entity/being the person of Eve) and what the scriptures actually tell us, that Adam “knew” her? Believing in Eve would be to believe she is really real. She exists. She isn’t a mirage or a figment of delusional, loneliness-inspired thinking or longing. Knowing Eve is both relational and experiential.
In my upbringing I knew an awful lot about God. I believed in God but I didn’t learn how to connect with God on a deeper level until adulthood and even that didn’t come easy. I had few to no models on how to do this until even the last few years.
We have to guide people to understand not just how to believe in God but how to know God. There is a huge difference between the two. Remember, even the demons believe in God but they don’t really know God as we are to know God because they will not experience God in the same relational ways we will and do as they are objects of wrath whereas we are objects (the recipients) of God’s love.
We acknowledge the relational/experiential nature of our understanding of and connection with God when we call Him Father and acknowledge ourselves as His children and each other’s brothers and sisters. Unfortunately even that belief is usually seen as a theological position rather than a relationship to be lived out and into.
This must become more than a theological position requiring mental ascent. We would we require someone to believe in God to consider them a Christian but would we require them to know God to consider them a Christian? If loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength was the greatest command and not just love him with our minds, then we are missing something here. The missing piece is what we must reclaim and missing it has cost us far too much in the last 100 years.
What is more, the way we educate needs to change. We aren’t training just minds. We are training whole people. The only way I knew to be a son to my dad was through experience and instruction. We get the second without ever touching on the first. Maybe we think experience is too mystical, subjective and wishy-washy to be of any real value.
Until we wrap our minds, our ministries and our discipleship around helping people come to know God rather than just believe in God we will continue to create a culture in the church that is far too nominal and not nearly relational/experiential as Jesus himself taught.