Cake & Contradiction

In spite of what the proverb tells us, I believe that I can ‘have my cake and eat it, too.’  That’s right.  I love fence posts, particularly in dealing with theology. It’s why I’m a Molinist–because I welcome the alleged paradox of Man’s Libertarian Free Will and God’s Exhaustive Foreknowledge. I love that many of my blog viewers just experienced Sudden Head Explosion* trying to read that statement.

Extremism is so unhealthy. Always, we must seek balance. Do we like a hot climate, or a cold climate? When we speak of climate, we somehow use that out-dated common sense of ours to rule out the idea that someone might actually want to live in a climate wherein his physical body would perish. Logically, when we say we like it hot, we are talking about 70, 80, 90 degrees…maybe even a few freaks who like it triple! How many people do you know who want to feel their flesh burning off their bodies? We naturally and logically seek balance.

And yet, in heavier matters, we insist upon extremes. Christians WILL attend Church every Sunday. Grassroots movements ARE NOT Conservative. War is wrong. AIG Executives should NOT receive their bonuses. Et Cetera.

What a silly game of extremism we play, insisting that some things are true to the forsaking of all other truths. This is, in my opinion, what has gone so incredibly wrong in the Global Warming** debate. The truth, in my best articulation of it, is that Mankind has stewardship of this planet and we ought to take care of it. But the detriment is in exalting this to a truth above all others. I understand the temptation to try and regulate household temperatures, for instance; but I find it appalling that some jackanapes in D.C. is going to decide how much heat I can have in Upper Michigan in the middle  of a February blizzard. How about we move all of our politicians to the U.P. for one winter–just one winter–and I’ll decide whether or not to heat their homes. And when their little tootsies freeze at night, I’ll encourage them with the knowledge that they are saving the planet.

This kind of extremism is destroying us. It’s not even logical. Take another approach: Everybody knows that we need water and oxygen to survive. But we also know that too much of either of these things can kill us just as well as a deficiency of them! So would you prefer hyper- or hypo-thyroidism? Yeah, you don’t want either one, because your body is created to be balanced–not too much, not too little.

And it is often true that the things that seem contradictory are actually synergistic.  Rather than arguing about who is right, perhaps we should be looking at what each perspective contributes to functionality. Perhaps we should be looking for the middle ground–the give and take that allows us to be save our money AND pay our bills, that allows us turn the heat up during the blizzard and down during the warmth of daylight, that allows us to be awake and alert during the day and then sleep during the night. It’s all about the balance, the middle ground.

Believe it or not, the Bible is a proponent of this idea. We could look at several passages, but I’ll just share my favorite, from the Ecclesiastes, chapter 7:

16: Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself?

17: Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool–why die before your time?

18: It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

G.K. Chesterton gives great perspective on this, as well. From Orthodoxy:

The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic…He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.

So what do you say, friends? Shall we have our cake and eat it, too? Or shall we continue to play this silly game of Extremism? Politics, social and economic justice, faith, temperature…these are matters that demand Absolute Truths; but Absolute Truths do not require Extremism and Exclusivity.

I vote for cake.

Pax Christi.

Sarah.

*It’s Glenn Beck’s fault. I didn’t know heads could explode until I heard it on his show.

**Are they still calling it Global Warming? I think they’re calling it “Climate Change” now to account for Cooling as well as Warming. Thumbs Up.

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8 thoughts on “Cake & Contradiction

  1. …I am perplexed……why does this twitter updates box show up on teh right side covering a portion of teh blog? I can’t read the ends of the sentences….

    I want cake, but I will wait till I get home adn make me a red cake!!! yummy!!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    There is one area that I think moderation is not the way to go.

    From Relevation 3: 14.”To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
    These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15.I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16.So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

    Just wanted to point out that there are some areas that we should be extremists. Food for thought?

  3. Hi Steve! Great to see you around here. I hope you’re well!

    Notice that the HOT and the COLD are opposites, but both are acceptable? I’m not sure these are Extremes so much as they are Absolutes in this context. I will grant you, however, that the moderation of both (ie: lukewarm) is unacceptable in this case. :)

  4. I’ve always like to put it this way – “We are predestined to an influenced free will.”

    You are being a bit extreme with “How about we move all of our politicians to the U.P. for one winter–just one winter–and I’ll decide whether or not to heat their homes.” Wouldn’t adding a summer in the Arizona desert without air conditioning give them a more balanced perspective?

    Balance vs. Extremism isn’t necessarily a battle of good vs. evil. Balance can be an excuse not to do what is right. Going to an extreme could be exactly was the Spirit of God is asking someone to do. Jesus often went to extremes, ultimately in dying for our sins. Balance has it’s place and is often the best course, but Ecclesiastes also say there is a time for…opposites.

  5. Hi Duane. Welcome! I appreciate your comments and the points you make. Can you give me an example of a situation where what is “balanced” is not what is “right”?

    In stating your point that “there is a time for…opposites,” you actually make my point even clearer. Ecclesiastes teaches us that we should not, for instance, ALWAYS be laughing or ALWAYS be crying. Life consists of both–this is balance. Having a time of laughing isn’t extreme; it is extreme to ALWAYS laugh and never feel sorrow or somberness.

    As for Arizona…I could go for some sunshine right about now. :)

    Pax Christi!
    Semmie

    • I totally agree that we should be balanced in that we aren’t always going to the same extreme. I don’t however totally agree with the NIV’s rendering of Eccl 7:18, I much prefer the footnote which would make the verse – “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will follow them both.”

      Someone who is avoiding either extreme is always trying to find a middle way. There is a time for war. There is a time for peace. When a war needs to be fought appeasement is the attempt at “balance” and is wrong. England in WW2 tried this under Chamberlain and fortunately the extremism of Churchill won out.

      I agree always going to war is a great evil. Always avoiding war allows evil prosper. Taking one extreme of going to war, and then going to the opposite extreme of making peace and becoming allies with Germany and Japan is the right kind of balance. Trying to avoid all extremes will lead you to say “peace, peace when there is no peace” Jeremiah 6:14.

      • Hi again, Duane. :)

        This is an interesting train of thought. I do think appeasement is an “attempt at balance,” but I don’t think it IS balance. It is, in itself, extremism. As you said–“always avoiding war” is an evil. The balanced individual knows that even some evils (ie: war) are sometimes necessary, and does not shrug off the responsibility of doing what needs done.

        I don’t see as the different wording of Ecc. 7:18 makes any difference. The idea is the same.

        Anyway, it seems to me that we mostly agree; we’re just arguing semantics here.

        Pax Christi, and Merry Christmas.

  6. Sarah,

    I’m a bit sensitive to false attempts at balance, but it was fun to sharpen a bit of iron with you on this one. We are in agreement I believe. To be extremely balanced we must be willing to go to the extremes! The more narrow we are the easier it is to loose ones balance!

    I’m a bit comment starved at my rather new blog, I’d be honored if you’d stop by if you have time.

    Merry Christmas!

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