Monday, August 9, 2010

Gray is BOTH Black AND White

I've read several books this summer, and I intended to write about each of them. Now, it's almost time for school to start; plus, it's been so long for some of them, I don't remember a lot of the details. Oh, well. I'll try to get caught up this week.

Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, by Adam Hamilton. Recommended to me by my friend Jo. When I heard the title, I was anxious to read it, even while I was a bit wary of where the author was going to go with that. I tend to lean toward trying to see the grays, but I'm also aware of -- as Leslie and I learned about last year in her Critical Thinking studies -- the Fallacy of the Golden Mean.

This is when people assume that the truth lies in the middle of two extremes. "Laura says she has never cheated in school. Tonya says she cheats all the time. So, the truth must be that she cheats some of the time." I hope the problem with this thinking is clear to everyone reading. Just because the truth lies at an extreme end of somebody's arbitrary continuum doesn't negate the fact that it is true. "Some people say that six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Some people say there was no such thing as the Holocaust. So, the truth must be that there were only about 3 million killed . . ." If you start paying attention, it's amazing to observe how often and easily we fall into this mental trap. We're so conditioned about the evils of extremes.

Fortunately, Hamilton doesn't engage in much of that thinking -- generally. He addresses some very tough subjects in the Christian world, primarily in terms of the liberal Christian vs. conservative Christian differences. But I found most of what he had to say to be very helpful and insightful.

And I liked how he addressed the two extremes on the various continuums he discusses. For example, regarding worship "style" or focus. There are the mainline denominations, on one hand, who tend to be intellectual and structured in their worship, but also pretty spiritually dry. Then there are the charismatics who brought the emotion and the Spirit back into it, but who are often pretty flaky and easily drawn off-track from scriptural truth. True worship does not lie in less of each extreme -- it lies in both extremes in co-existence. It's not "either-or", or "neither in excess" . . . it's "both-and". Jesus said we are to worship "in spirit and in truth".

I've been seeing this "both-and" approach pop up a lot in my faith. God is both loving and just. Jesus is both God and man. The Kingdom of God is both now and yet to come. The truth is often more complex than our minds can wrap around -- and so beyond our limited human experience that we would never come to it on our own. Thus the need for divine revelation.

But I digress. Good book. Recommended for anyone interested in the church and social issues. Thanks, Jo.

1 comment:

Ona Marae said...

The "both-and" has been popping up a lot for me also....nice to know I'm not alone!