Tension is Required
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
When I was young I saw life in black and white. Right and wrong. Good and bad. But the older I get, the more I realise life isn’t that simple. It seems the answers to some of the toughest questions are not always “either/or”, but rather “both/and”… As Carolyn Arends articulates so well,
“Is it faith or works? I demand of the scriptures, and the answer seems to be: “Yes.” Is God a God of revelation or of mystery? Is he as close as a whisper or beyond all things? Yes. Yes. Is the kingdom of heaven now or not yet? Should I be wise as a serpent or innocent as a dove? Should I fall headlong into grace or work out my salvation with fear and trembling? Yes. Yes. Yes.
A lifetime of evangelical thinking has primed me for either/or questions,breeding a deep distrust of both/and propositions. After all, one of the distinguishing features of Christianity is its insistence that there is one way to God. A wariness of pluralistic worldviews is completely warranted. But if I’m not careful, that insistence can mutate into creating artificial schisms that fly in the face of a God who desires to make us whole in radical ways.
When we fall for false dualities, we end up arguing over whether the gospel is concerned with ministering to the poor or proclaiming the Word. We believe our theology must emphasize either a free gift of grace or a call to holy living. In a myriad of areas, we polarize, dichotomize, and greatly minimize the life God has for us.”
Unfortunately this truth is easier to write about than to live.
It takes less effort to settle for black and white. And so we congratulate ourselves for taking a stand, but lose half of what God has for us in the process.