Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Fallacy of the Dumb Dichotomy

noun, plural -mies.
1. division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs.


This or that. A or B. One or the other. Us or them. Choose.

It seems like every day a new controversy arises that forces us to make a decision, to pick a side on a particular issue.

A dichotomy is an "either... or" mindset. A dumb dichotomy is where one truth is positioned against another truth, causing us to think it’s an "either... or" scenario. A situation where we are made out to think that we have to choose one and give up the other.

We see these dumb dichotomies play out in the Church, in our daily lives, in the political arena, in the workplace... almost any place where we confront decisions, we are approached with dumb dichotomies. 

Make no mistake, there are certain areas that are black and white, where there is no room for debate. But there are so many unnecessary dichotomies that cause unnecessary disputes that end up leading to unnecessary division. And over what?

Especially in the church today, we're seeing a bunch of debates being had that have broken us into different camps; we point and tell the other side why they are wrong. We elevate a preferred truth over another truth and we squabble over it.

When I went to C3 Conference in Dallas earlier this year, one of the speakers, Pastor Kevin Gerald of Champion's Centre in Tacoma, Washington, spoke about these dumb dichotomies and gave a few examples of some that the Apostle Paul faced and a couple others that you've probably heard at one point or another.

1) Should we follow Apollos' example or Paul's? 

BOTH. One plants, another waters, God gives the increase. Each person has a role to play, and in the end it's going to be God that ushers in the results. Whether you sing, greet, work in production, provide the food... you have a role to play! Don't put people down because someone doesn't have a particular set of skills!

"For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building." - 1 Corinthians 3:9

2) Is it about law or grace? 

BOTH. Law was schoolmaster and it’s by grace that we have been saved. Each serves its own purpose, the law acts as a mirror to show us our need for a savior and we are saved not by fulfilling the law, which is impossible, and not by any action of our own, but by God's grace. It's about both.

"Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:23-26

3) Is it by faith or is it by works? 

BOTH. You show me faith without works and I will show you works by my faith. It shouldn't be one or the other; it should be about both. Our works should be evidence of our faith. And what good is faith if it doesn't get you to move?

"But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works... For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." - James 2:18-26

4) Should I follow man or should I follow Christ? 

Paul responded by saying to follow him as he followed Christ. Again, it's BOTH! Find people who follow and imitate Christ as you follow and imitate Christ yourself. Will we do so perfectly? Absolutely not. But surrounding yourself with imitators of Christ, people who will be there with you during the good times and the bad, will help you grow.

"Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ." - 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus..." - Philippians 2:5

5) Is our church going to be attractional or missional? 


Jesus said “Come and see” (John 1:39) and He said “Go and tell” (Matthew 28:19-20). Why does the “go and tell” have to exclude the "come and see"? Churches should be attractive to people. People should be able to come and see what God's love is, investigate Christianity and ask questions, and do so in a safe and friendly environment. Churches should be the most creative and engaging places on the planet! Why shouldn't we want people to see what the local church is all about? 

Simultaneously, we should be going out into the surrounding community, and even around the world, to make an impact and spread God's love to a world that is in desperate . My awesome pastor Zak White dubs it as making a "Glocal" (Global + Local) impact. Why do we have to choose one or the other?

6) Are we going to preach the sovereignty of God or the free will of man? Which one? 

Pastor Gerald nailed it on the head:

"God has decided in His sovereignty, to a great extent, to limit His involvement in this world to the willingness of human beings. So think about this way: God willed that we would will that His will would be done in our lives. We cannot without God and God will not without us. So I’m gonna tell people that God is sovereign and that our greatest power is our power to choose. God doesn’t make our choices; we do. There’s a power of choice that God has given to man and that doesn’t mean that God is not sovereign. The purpose of the Lord stands firm; the purpose of the Lord is already predetermined; His purpose will prevail. Why do we think we have to get hung up on a dumb dichotomy. Why one or another; why not BOTH?" - Pastor Kevin Gerald

When Pastor Gerald spoke about this at C3 Conference 2012 this past February and the message stuck with me for a long time since hearing it in Dallas. 

It's a big problem the church, and really our society in general, faces today. We have become addicted to division. To choosing sides. Even I've been guilty of that. We need to know when we need to stand up for the truth and when to realize we're dealing with a dumb dichotomy. Why elevate one truth over another? Why not both?

Below is a clip of Gerald's message in February (Click HERE for the entire message, well worth the half hour):

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