Franke Installation – Post 4 – Brian McLaren – "An Epistemology of Love"

At the Franke Installation, Brian McLaren gave the final reflection.  

As you may, epistemology is the study of knowledge.  It basically asks, “How do we know what we know?” (and as a result, what is it that we actually know?  and don’t know?  It gets pretty fun if you’re into learning and all).  

If you have seen Brian speak in person, you know how calm yet passionate, humble yet confident type of thing.  What else would you expect from a postmodern?  If he pounds the pulpit too hard, I’d be suspicious and if he was too relaxed and boring, I’d accuse him of being … nevermind (we don’t want to offend here).

Anyway, it’s hard to explain and keep the post relatively short but he began humorously asking,

“How do we know?” 

“How do we know that we know”

“What beliefs are warranted?  How do we decide?”

“What does it mean to “know?”

“We all know that we are right …

He stressed I John 4 “…those who think they know do not yet know as they ought to know.”  Unfortunately at this point my recording failed (stupid Microsoft Word Notebook program- what was I thinking??) and lost the remained of my notes.  Fortunately, I ordered the DVD and I remember a little more.

Brian had an interesting theme as he used chimpanzees to illustrate love.  He also used them to illustrate violence and hatred.  He quoted the work of Jane Goodall who spent years studying these chimps and how it affected her.  Now was Brian equating chimps to be humans?  Probably not any more so than Jesus equating people to sheep and goats or seeds or anatomy parts of trees.  But don’t get stuck on that my friend, there’s more to gain.

Say what you want about emergents, but I’d rather limp into heaven by acts of charity then to walk proudly under doctrinal flags and anthems if it meant that the world found me to be more obsessed with my theology then my humanity.  If our theology does not lead us into a deeper love with our God and our neighbor, then we have only found a hobby.  Or to write with more drama, we have only found a tune to whistle to while our hands dig graves for our neighbors.  

But here I am presenting a straw-man argument.  I can hear it now, “No one is saying that we only pursue solid doctrine and not love the stranger.  Why not do both?  Why not pursue a beautiful and better understanding of our God and love people?”  – Good idea, welcome to the conversation of an epistemology of love.


  1. Just a clarification, the woman studying chimps was Jane Goodall. She’s kind of famous, Tim.

  2. Famous? Only a biology-chemistry major would say that – kidding – sorta.
    In any case, I am sorry, they didn’t teach about famous anthropologists studying chimps at my conservative Christian college. (Unless you count the first anthropologist, Adam. And the second one, Noah but aside from that I do not recall.)

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