Sunday, October 29, 2006

the unbearable lightness of being disjunctive

Yes - it is a mouthful. [It is a play on a famous article entitled 'the unbearable lightness of being postmodern']. I am trying to express an alarm over something which restricts the reach of God's mission in the world through us. What is it?

It is the hold which disjunctive thinking can have over us. What do I mean? Disjunctive thinking is the tendency to live according to an "either this or that" pattern. It is kinda like putting "vs" between two words when an "and" is what is needed. Let's try some examples...

(a) The recent post on Truth and Love is one example.

(b) A more ancient post (11 March 2006) raised the merits of church with External focus and church with Internal focus. Is church just about mission - or is it also about maturity? It is both. Mission by a people who are not Maturing is likely to be a Mess!

(c) Church vs Kingdom is another. How is it possible to be enthusiastic about one and not the other? Just read Ephesians 1-3 alongside the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and see if such a disjunction is possible. It isn't! So many other disjunctions gather here: gathered church vs scattered church; incarnational vs attractional models of mission (why not both, for God's sake!?)...

There are many, many more disjunctions...
Head vs Heart; Word vs Spirit; Work vs Worship; Grace vs Truth; Secular vs Sacred; Fences vs Wells; Theory vs Practice; Being vs Doing; Academic vs Devotional; Monday vs Sunday; Quality vs Quantity; Salt vs Light; Contemporary vs Ancient - on and on it goes. Can you think of some others?

If mission is to be robust then we must repent of this unbearable lightness of being disjunctive. It is shallow. It creates a weighty burden out of a superficial lightness. It is short-sighted.

I offer two comments to tease your further reflection:
(a) Embrace a space idea. Disjunction tends to create two circles in which there is no overlap. We function in one or the other. I wonder if the ellipse with two internal poles is a better spatial image. What do you think? Advantages? Disadvantages?
(b) Embrace a time idea. Disjunction is usually resolved with a simple "both:and" and therefore an affirmation of both sides. I wonder if this is subtle enough. I wonder whether it is wiser to be sensitive to the need for a sequence - "first this: then that". What do you think?

nice chatting

Paul Windsor


Matt said...

What do you mean by the line: "...something which restricts the reach of God's mission in the world through us."??

Is it that a balance of RW's worship, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry are required before evangelism can be effective.

Or have I just given another VS scenario??

Paul Windsor said...

Hi Matt - I guess what I am trying to say is that if we load up on just one side of the EITHER:OR disjunction than we are likely to miss out on half of what is important - thereby 'restricting' the reach of God's mission through us.

Some examples:
If we go and on about 'heart' and overlook 'head' then we will restrict God's mission through us (and dishonour Christ while we are at it).
If we go and on about 'being' and overlook 'doing' we will restrict God's mission through us (and dishonour Christ while we are at it).

That is the sort of thing I had in mind. I hope that this is clearer now.

Paul Windsor said...

In this context it is worth noting the age-old problem of dualism. In Plato's day it was body vs soul. In Augustine's day it was temporal vs eternal. In Aquinas' day it was nature vs grace ...
... and then the tendency was for Christians to make the first half a 'bad' bit and the second half a 'good' bit. Worse still the tendency was to empty the first bit of any interest from God and fill the second bit with all His interest.
God and the good are about the soul (not the body) and the eternal (not the temporal) and grace (not nature).
This has been going on for centuries! Is it any wonder that the Christian community has struggled to be at the forefront of discussions as diverse as global warming or pornography or anorexia ... when the importance of 'body' and 'temporal' and 'nature' has been diminished for so long?