Wednesday, January 10, 2007

avoid dualism

A dualism, as I'm thinking of it here, is a simplistic way of looking at the world in terms of good and evil, "darkness" and "light". It is not denying the two ways set forth in Scripture: the broad way that leads to destruction, the narrow way that leads to life. Nor that there are those who have faith in God through Christ, and those who do not. Nor is this denying the existence of good and evil, light and darkness.

The dualism I speak of here fails to see the complexity of what our world is. Of what we see. Of what we experience. As we can embrace the fact that there is much we do not understand, and there is much goodness in the same places where we can find evil (and look in the mirror, too), then we can more and more appreciate the good that is there, yet not be at all surprised to see the evil present.

I'll take one general example. If one studies the United Nations they will find that through that organization much good is occurring in the world. At the same time they will find scandals, surely double standards, inconsistencies, and failure. But that does not deny all the good it does in the world.

Failing to see God's work and handiwork all over, even a fallen world and a creation under his curse, is to miss an important aspect of the Story we are all a part of. And it fails to see the good that God can redeem in a society. What if Joseph would have taken a dualistic approach when he was sold to Egypt? He could have been pious. In a corner. By himself. Rejecting all Egypt had to offer. Instead, we see what God accomplished through him, even as he became a leader there. Same is true of Daniel. And I believe the same is true of us, as one holy nation, scattered throughout the earth.

I can enjoy and appreciate a contribution from someone who does not share my faith in Jesus. Would I like to see them come to share in my faith? Of course. And we can pray and love to that end. But we can't simply push them aside as an "other". Jesus calls us to be a "neighbor" to all.

What dualism might shape your view of the world and of others? Is it Scriptural? Why or why not?

13 comments:

Michael W. Kruse said...

I think one of the most powerful dualisms is sacred and secular. It leads to compartamentalizing our lives. All the world is God's. All that we do has bearing on our relationship with God. Punching a time clock or changing diapers are no less sacred works than teaching a Bible class if they are done out of a response to God.

Ministry is not defined by what we do. It is defined by who we are doing for. When whole of lives becomes about service to God, everything becomes sacred and an opportunity for worship.

Mark Goodyear said...

Michael pretty much nailed it for me.

I hear the sacred/secular divide sometimes talked about in terms of church, too. Church vs. non-church.

What we mean by church is so often limited to the time we spend in the building where we worship together. If I'm not careful I fall into that kind of talk to. "It's time to go to church." And I fall into the guilt thing of trying to do more to glorify God at church.

But Christians are always the church and we should always be doing "church activities" that glorify God.

Am I glorifying God as I write this post? If not, I'm wasting my time.

Mark Goodyear said...

One more thing. In literary criticism dualism gets talked about in terms of binaries. Post-colonialism (and Queer theory) are two specific and interesting reading theories that try to encourage a broader view of the world.

Ted Gossard said...

Michael, Great thought! I want to get into Brother Lawrence to better understand that from him. But everything you're saying here is so important and has impacted me greatly, and I'm in need of more impact from that truth.

Jesus spent a majority of his time on earth doing common, ordinary things, which in God's eyes were holy and good. That certainly should say alot to us all, on this.

Ted Gossard said...

Mark, So true. We are the church. Gatherings are great, but every spot on earth is holy ground because of God's redemption in Christ.

Instead of me thinking I need to make the rest of the week as holy as gathering time on Sunday, I instead should remember that every day is as holy as Sunday, in God's eyes. The gathering is blessed in a special, as in different way, a different dynamic (although that dynamic, in a certain sense, is ongoing). But not in a way that makes it more holy from the rest.

Thanks for sharing the stuff on binaries and the theories. I will look at that.

Bob Robinson said...

Ted,

The dualism that Michael is speaking of deals squarely with the issue you are raising. When we split our existence into either that which is "sacred" and that which is "secular," we deny that Jesus is Lord of ALL THINGS and is redeeming ALL THINGS.

This radically changes the way we see evil. Evil is no longer something "other" that must be destroyed as much as "reality" that must be redeemed.

Instead of labeling people or institutions as "evil" (as we Christians love to do), we must recognize the evil for what it is: a sad twisting of a good creation, a twisting that sent Jesus to the cross to redeem.

The best book I ever read on "dualism" was Walsh and Middleton's The Transforming Vision. Here's a sample of a book study on their chapter on "dualism" that a member of my ministry produced to teach this important concept.

Charity Singleton said...

Jumping off of Mark's comment about literature -- I think that the best, most complex characters in literature are ones that can't be called "good" or "bad," but have both in them at the same time. I don't know if you've read Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but in this book, one of the characters is obviously being set up as Christ archetype, and yet the man is so obviously flawed (both physically and emotionally).

Perhaps this speaks to the dualism we apply to our own selves. When I am walking pretty obediently, I can sometimes slip into thinking I'm a pretty good person. The opposite is true when sin is apparent in my life. How difficult it is to embrace both the good (God's image, redemption, personality -- sometimes ;),spiritual gifts, etc.) and the bad (sin, bad habits, physical flaws, etc.) even in myself.

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, I'm at Cornerstone University's library right now to look up that book. Thanks.

I think I neglected redemption in my post (as well as sacred/secular). I certainly think we need to avoid dualism in both acknowledging all is created, and all, equally, is in need of redemption unto the new creation in Christ.

Grace means we're all on the same level, and common grace from God comes into play here as well (i.e., all have special gifts from God by creation). But we're all in need of redemptive grace. Well, I'm rambling (my mind is often tired and not that coherent in the afternoon).

I agree totally with what you're saying. And thanks for sharing it!

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Thanks for sharing that. Yes, even in our sins, God is at work for good, to make us in Christ's image. I think part of our problem involves the abuse of God's good gifts to us. We may begin to see those gifts then as not holy. When it is our misuse of them that renders our own activity unholy. As Paul says, all created things are to received with thanksgiving, because they are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (from pastoral letter).

And yes, the Bible itself reflects what you say about characters in literature. We see good and evil in them, most often. Though God's work of mercy and judgment throughout, towards a projectory of increasing holiness. I agree with you, that the best characters in books, are real to life (not some "saintly" soul that seems from another world or makeup altogether).

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Great post! I appreciate your words and will take them to heart.

As you know I find the UN to be quite a thorn, so I need to consider what you say. You are correct that the UN has done much good, particularly in its humanitarian efforts. The question I struggle with is when one looks at the terrible scandals, the sex slavery, the bilking of millions of dollars from the poor around the world, and I can go on, I wonder if ultimately the bad outweights the good?

The question is whether one's lack of character for all practical purposes, nullifies one's good deeds. This can certainly be the case with individuals; surely it can also be the case with corporate entities.

One more thought: while some dualism are quite dangerous, we must not forget that the Bible operates with many dualisms: light/dark, love/hate, good/evil, righteousness/sin, church/world. Without such distinctions we have no way of understanding what it means for God to redeem a world that refuses to acknowledge his lordship.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Great post! I appreciate your words and will take them to heart.

As you know I find the UN to be quite a thorn, so I need to consider what you say. You are correct that the UN has done much good, particularly in its humanitarian efforts. The question I struggle with is when one looks at the terrible scandals, the sex slavery, the bilking of millions of dollars from the poor around the world, and I can go on, I wonder if ultimately the bad outweights the good?

The question is whether one's lack of character for all practical purposes, nullifies one's good deeds. This can certainly be the case with individuals; surely it can also be the case with corporate entities.

One more thought: while some dualism are quite dangerous, we must not forget that the Bible operates with many dualisms: light/dark, love/hate, good/evil, righteousness/sin, church/world. Without such distinctions we have no way of understanding what it means for God to redeem a world that refuses to acknowledge his lordship.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan, You provide some good harmony into this discussion. Thanks!

Yes. There are dualisms in Scripture, to be sure. Those things are important in the Story. There certainly is the way of life and the way of death.

As for individuals and entities having evil that outweighs their good, I'm saying, still, we have to bring the message and vision of the kingdom of God in Jesus, to bear or impact all those dark areas. That must be our goal. So that nothing is potentially outside the redemption of God.

While, at the same time realizing that not all will receive and be impacted by God's salvation and transformative work. Nothing we do here and now, however, is in vain in the Lord, and in that context (1 Corinthians 15) goes beyond this present time, through Christ's resurrection.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Well stated.

Thanks.