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Allegiance, Truth and Power: Three crucial dimensions for Christian living


Needed: Balance

I am not contending that relationship and experience should be emphasized more than understanding, though, given the fact that there is no salvation without a relationship with Jesus, we must give it proper priority. That relationship saves, whether or not we have a lot of knowledge to go with it. My plea is for balance, a balance that goes three ways. The academic nature of what we call theology and the classroom context in which we teach have, however, led us to largely ignore two of these dimensions.

Jesus called the twelve to be with him and only then to communicate and engage in power ministry (Mk 3:14). His teaching of Truth was, I believe, intended to serve these relational and ministry ends, not to be an end in itself. I have recently read and responded to two articles critical of some of what I am doing because, the authors contend, my theology may have some flaws in it. The impression I am left with is that these authors feel that what God really wants in this world is correct theology, whether or not people get helped. I think, though, Jack Deere was on the right track when he titled his chapter in the book Power Encounters Among Christians of the Western World (Harper Row, 1988), “Being Right Isn’t Enough.” By this he meant to indicate his repentance for seeking right theology over participating with God to bring freedom to those whom God loves.

My encounter articles point to an imbalance among evangelicals in our neglect of the power-freedom dimension of biblical Christianity. The additional neglect of the allegiance-relationship dimension may, however, make the situation even worse than I suggested, at least among the academically inclined. We may even have done injustice to the relational dimension out of fear of anything that is not easily explainable in rational categories.

We have recommended allegiance-relationship experience as the way to salvation. But, at least in academic circles, we have often downplayed the validity of interpretations of Scripture and life based on experience. Instead, we go full tilt for the knowledge-understanding dimension as if that were the most important. But even in this knowledge/truth dimension we go off the track because our understanding of knowledge and truth has been western Enlightenment rather than Scriptural. When we think of knowledge, for example, our interpretational reflex is to think of intellectual, theoretical knowledge. This kind of knowledge and truth is not, however, what the scriptural authors had in mind. The knowledge/truth spoken of in Scripture is experiential truth, not intellectual, theoretical truth/knowledge. If we are to be true to the original Greek (and the Hebrew worldview behind it), then, John 8:32 should be translated: “You will experience [not know in a theoretical sense] the truth and the truth will set you free.”

People die spiritually in seminaries and Bible colleges (not to mention churches) because the relational dimension that is so foundational to Christian experience is submerged, ignored, even spoken against in our quest for knowledge about whatever subject we are investigating. Sometimes those subjects are relational things like conversion, spiritual growth, prayer, love, the fruit of the Spirit, faith and any of the other aspects of Christianity that belong to this dimension. But knowledge about is quite a different thing from actually experiencing these aspects of allegiance-relationship. And the focus on knowledge about, plus the time and energy required in our schools and churches to learn information mitigates against the practice of the very things we are learning about.

In order to further define what I see in these dimensions, I offer the following discussion.


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Category: Fall 2010, Living the Faith

About the Author: Charles H. Kraft, Ph.D. (Hartford Seminary Foundation), is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Intercultural Communication, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California). He has served as a missionary in Nigeria, and professor of African languages at Michigan State University and UCLA. He has published widely both in missiology and in African linguistics, and his books include Christianity in Culture (1979 and revised 2005), Worldview for Christian Witness (2008), and The Evangelical's Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen, Feb 2015). His ministry website is

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