Believing is Hearing
John argues early on that the logos comes to everyone that comes into the world, and deep in the soul, the Spirit of truth brings him into direct contact with the truth about himself, about God and about his relationship to God. It will be a truth as hard to face as Plato’s protagonist coming out of the cave of shadows, seeing the blinding brilliance of the sun for the first time. The key to understanding John’s gospel is the centrality of belief: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
The central theological idea of the Pauline corpus, which dominates the New Testament, is that we are saved by naked belief – belief apart from any kind of work. Belief is described as a submission to truth itself. We are here not talking about a kind of unthinking military obedience, in which we conform our behavior to the letters of an order (even if it doesn’t make any sense or might even be immoral), which in the Greek is ὑποτάσσω; for example, “[Exhort] servants to be obedient unto their own masters, [and] to please [them] well in all [things]; not answering again.” And when the seventy return to Jesus they explained that even the demons are subject to them.
No – submission to the truth is another word – ὑπακοή. The core of this word is ἀκούω, which means simply “to hear.” This perfectly explains how thoughts can be brought into submission to truth: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This is the same kind of “obedience” that Christ himself learned: Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. This seems to be a bizarre assertion concerning the Son of God. Until we realize that what Christ has learned is what it means to conform our wills to the truth, even though we must suffer grievously for it. You can’t get this knowledge by eating an apple or not eating an apple. You get this knowledge by suffering and dying, just like Christ.