As we do our duplicative discipleship and mentoring we find people are the same in many ways (for one, trying to cut corners and fearful of teaching others regardless of how easy it has been made for them); but we have also seen how different people can be. It is no surprise, yet it really is noticeable when you are interacting one on one/few.
Some are more intellectual in their faith. I can relate to those kind very well. Yet, such can be very knowledgeable about or take a strong interest to the Bible, apologetics, theology, and so forth, but not be relational. Others are very relational and experiential and do not want to be bothered with theology and to even learn how to study the Bible and interpret it correctly. Just as in many things related to the Christian faith, when there are two extremes, and both seem to be correct, the middle where they are blended is likely closer to what is expected or is true. (For example, in history, some have thought Jesus was just a man, and some have thought He was just divine and only appeared to be a man. The reason both have been advocated is because they are the two extremes of the truth that people have had difficulty with – He was and is all man and all God. If both hadn’t been true, there wouldn’t have been the battles that came up a few centuries later on the question.)
When we think of knowledge, we as westerners think of intellectual. But, the eastern idea in the Bible has more to do with experience. We know God when we experience Him. When Adam “knew” Eve, he experienced her intimately such that she conceived a child (Gen 4:1). We do not really know God in the biblical sense if we only know about Him. Thus to both know about and know by experience are critical to knowing God. (This is at play in Matt 7:21-23. They knew about the works of God and performed them themselves as religious activity, but they did not have an intimate knowing relationship with Jesus.)
Without understanding the theology and the details of the Bible, we have insufficient understanding to drive our hearts to a solid base for Christlke change. Not that we can’t change by mere experience, but that change can be tossed and blown about by every different experience. There is nothing solid to anchor the experience to. I can have experience of other people, but unless I combine those experiences with real understanding of what makes them who they are, their character, their likes and dislikes, I end up missing the boat on getting the most out of my relationship with them. Some will say that their experience is driven by the Holy Spirit and they do not need any intellectual part of their knowledge of God. But they are ignoring (because of lack of intellectual knoweldge concerning the Scriptures) that it is the Holy Spirit who inspired the human authors of the Bible and who illuminates its meaning to the reader (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit uses experience and intellectual knowledge to bring about christlike character. Both are required to work together. If experience alone sufficed, we wouldn’t have the word. If the word alone sufficed, we wouldn’t need to receive the Spirit.
Without a relational experience, no application of the “what” of Christian life (the intellectual part) can take place to effect real life change. What we learn from the Bible has to be understood against the real world that exists. It corresponds since it is the same God who created the world who gave us the Bible. Thus, the Bible helps us understand our experiences and help us improve in our relationships with God, others, and nature. Our relationships with God, others, and nature and how we experience them helps us come to better understanding of what the Bible is saying. In this sense, the intellectual drives the “what” for the heart, and the relational experiences drive the mind to understand “why”.
When the intellectual and the relational experience is not integrated in the Christian life, one of two things can happen: one can have a dead faith (being either non-relational, thus not an active working faith, or a faith in something other than Christ for who He is, such as faith in religion instead of Christ, or in a new age mystical type of Christianity, or a faith in faith to name and claim wordly blessings, or a faith in knowledge for its own sake), or one can be legalistic (which is harsh, judgemental, and also non-relational).
So, in all of this, one who ignores doctrine, is often errant in knowing what they ought to know about God, Jesus, the church, sin, etc., and is likely to not live life out the way that God desires for them. Many who mix New Age and Christianity are in this category. And, the one who ignores relationships – who only studies and does not develop relationships, is likely not living out life the way God desires for them either. If God reconciled us to Him and has lead us to reconciliation with one another, then doesn’t it make sense we should be having relationships with others (see 2 Corin 5:14-21)? It is part of what it means to be human. (This coming from a person that went into science to avoid people.) That is one reason fellowship and Church is so important! We are one family in God. So we should act like one family in God who love one another and are even willing to die for one another if a situation calls for it.
So, check your faith. Do you know about God well enough to know what He has done for us and what He expects from us? (Many in today’s churches don’t – they think He exists to make them happy and to make their life perfect now – what He wants is for them to be content in Him (Phil 4:11-12; Heb 13:5; 2 Cor 12:10) and to let Him live out His purposes through them (2 Tim 1:9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; Rom 8:28-29; 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18). Do you exercise your faith in getting to know others so that you can help build them up and can minister to them properly (Eph 4:12; 1 Thess 5:11; Mk 10:43-45)? We must fess up to the fact that all who follow Jesus are supposed to be ministers (see Eph 4:11-16; and the Great Commision, Mt 28:18-20, where the disciples are to make disciples teaching them everything He had taught them – which includes how to make disciples). So, what does that mean if you claim Jesus as Lord and Savior but are not ministering to others yourself, or if you do not care to know more about the character of God in the truth by which it is revealed in His Scriptures? Personalities vary and some are more natural to follow one way or another. Jesus uses each differently. But we cannot ignore that when we are made new in Christ, we are made to be conformed into His image – which includes intellectual knowledge for correctness and to know the “what”, as well as a relational experience that makes a difference in peoples lives and in the world!