The Importance of Theological Tension – The Beauty of Balance
May 16, 2011 2 Comments
Many things are best learned when two seemingly opposing points are held in honest and transparent tension with one another. Take the grace and works. In Eph 2:8-9 Paul tells us we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Then in the very next verse he informs us that our grace-filled salvation should result in the very thing he just said won’t save us – good works. Some go to one extreme and say since our good works won’t save us why do them. Some go to the other extreme and say God created us to do good works so if we don’t do them God won’t save us. But either of those approaches doesn’t appreciate or take into consideration the full weight of the other side of the discussion. If we hold both things in tension with equal weight, grace and works, chances are we will come out with a better conclusion than tossing one and just holding on to the other – because God’s grace is so magnificent and powerful it draws us toward doing the things God has called us to do…not to twist God’s arm but because God has transformed our hearts. That approach fully recognizes the place of grace and the corresponding and inevitable result of good works.
Another example – how do you foster/develop a community of Christians that is spiritually intimate for people to commune and grow closer to God without having those groups become so isolated that they can no longer see beyond themselves? There should be a tension there that keeps us in balance. While we value time with those we love we know that that time should result in our being sent out to those who have no community like that. We know we need close-knit community. We also know that God didn’t intend us to get so isolated that we forget there are other people who there in the world who need Christ. I wrestle with this one all the time. There is a tension there and if we give in too much to one side or the other it can be detrimental to our faith and our community.
Or how about this example, how do we as modern churches fully embrace the church we see in the New Testament and embody what they embodied? Another way to ask that is how do we become more organic without throwing away a few structures that actually are beneficial? We can go to one extreme and say the early church so is far removed from where we are today that they have little to offer us. We can go to the other extreme and say we must mimic them in every way conceivable. Both of those paths miss the mark. So we strive to share their message, many of their methods, and have the same focus and function the early church had all the while realizing we live in a time and place that means some things won’t look quite the same.
There are many other examples of this but the main point I am trying to make is often the solution or path forward is a both/and approach. Many of us are better at either/or because we have been trained to think one dimensionally and often miss the beauty of balance.