I find Kevin DeYoung‘s thoughts on Volf’s depiction of using ‘God is love’ as a starting point for “Biblical reflections on a Fundamental Christian Claim in Conversation with Islam,” somewhat problematic. His decision to deny this leaves no room to dialogue with the non-christian as well as find common ground between them to speak and dialogue. Here are a few excerpts that I’ll take my swipe at. You can read the whole post for yourselves here and make you’re own assessments.
DeYoung states that
…why should the statement “God is love” be given priority over John’s other “definitional” statements that God is light (1 John 1:5) or God is spirit (John 4:24)? And what about the “definition” in Hebrews 12:29 that “God is a consuming fire” or the repeated assertion that God is “holy, holy, holy”?
I think this is rather a weak argument. To find a common ground one needs to find a more uniting description or idea. For Volf, his use of God’s love is a good starting point. I wonder why the other descriptions must come into the picture? Sure we need all the definitions but in terms of finding starting points in conversation, to focus on just one is a better way than an array of definition being given out. Not all definitions need mentioning always. In particular situation there needs to be wisdom in focusing the necessary things. When we share about stuff in our life we focus on certain parts for conversation and focus. We neglect some parts of our life’s story because for certain conversation we use one part of our story. This does not mean that we deny other parts of our life. This has to do with selectivity.
The big swipe that DeYoung has with Volf’s ideas come in what he says here,
There are other problems too, but I’d like to focus on one egregious example: Volf’s use of Augustine to support the notion that concrete acts of love toward neighbor are more important than thoughts about God–the old deeds over creeds argument.
I think this is a constant hobby-horse topic that DeYoung constantly argues against. I find it problematic that the realm of the mind is separated from the actions of the person. Sometimes it’s really hard to put a finger on this to force a neat dichotomy. I contend that beliefs are important. Having the right belief of Jesus is important. But to constantly emphasize just right belief over against belief which has an outlet of real expression is problematic. One can have all the right doctrines and be, still, like a devil. There are no neat dichotomies. Faith is both right belief and expressions of deeds. But how is a faith judged to be ‘right’? It has to be seen in the form of deed. For me, faith and deeds are not two different things. They are always together.