One way to get into trouble, theologically speaking, is to hold tenaciously to one aspect of the truth to the exclusion of counterbalancing truths. In fact, this is how people get into heresy: taking one aspect of the truth and making it the whole, entrenched on one side of a false dichotomy. Learning to embrace BOTH/AND thinking is really important.
I was reminded of one of these important BOTH/ANDs when I was listening to a talk from Dallas Willard. He was talking about the ways that both liberals and conservatives miss the point of the New Testament. The liberal mistake is to emphasize structural and social evils but neglect the more personal, covenantal aspects of salvation. The conservative mistake is exactly the opposite: emphasizing our need for forgiveness and personal redemption to the neglect of structural evils.
One way to say it is that the conservatives think they can have Jesus without the kingdom, and the liberals think they can have the kingdom without Jesus.
Willard was encouraging us to “step through to the center” and lift up Jesus as the king who has a kingdom. “The proper hermeneutic of the New Testament, I believe, is a picture of how this vision of the kingdom of God and Jesus come together.”
So you have Paul, at the end of the book of Acts, preaching the kingdom AND teaching about Jesus (“He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ”). It’s about BOTH Jesus AND the kingdom of God. Bringing them together makes all the difference.
The way 3DM talks about this is to say that the story of the Scriptures is basically about covenant and kingdom (hardcover or e-book). The DNA that weaves itself through the Bible is a double helix of coming into covenant relationship with God (through Christ) and moving out as his kingdom representatives (with Christ). We are adopted into the family and given responsibility in the “family business.”
It’s about BOTH forgiveness of sin AND freedom for the captives.
It’s about BOTH a perfect substitute taking our place AND a permanent victory over the power of evil.
Any time we try to lift one aspect up to the exclusion of the other we end up with an incomplete and weak version of the gospel that can’t do everything it is meant to do. Let’s be BOTH/AND people in this regard and learn to do what Paul did: proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus, preaching the gospel in both its covenantal and kingdom aspects!
"It’s about BOTH forgiveness of sin AND freedom for the captives."
"It’s about BOTH a perfect substitute taking our place AND a permanent victory over the power of evil."
It seems like regularly praying and meditating on the Lord's Prayer and the Psalms should help keep this delicate covenant/kingdom concept balanced. Both are packed with intricately woven covenant and kingdom images. And yet so often I find myself zooming right past the words without ingesting their meaning!
Ben Sternke says
That's a great idea, Brian!
Adeola Plumptre says
Love the teaching on counterbalancing truths. I think so called paradoxes in the Bible are God’s way of shaking our thinking to grow in thinking like him. Even in the Scientific world it is often accidentally that newly observed phenomena is in disagreement with known theory resulting in new thinking in order to have an understanding of the phenomena. This may eventually lead to a new field in that discipline which may have technological applications. All this with respect to a phenomena that has been since creation but mankind had neither the tools nor learning to study or harness it. Now this is something temporal either of the Earth or Universe. How much more of the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ which are Eternal.