Living and Dynamic
Recognizing False Dichotomies in Approaches to Theology
False dichotomies abound in our churches today. Considering the endless variety of personalities sitting in the pews, it is no surprise conflicts arise. For example: Many services have a slavish devotion to rituals, which overshadow genuine appreciation of God’s grace. There are those who believe in salvation by works and those who believe in salvation by faith. There are even dichotomies between love and hell (How can an all loving and merciful God send anyone to hell?)
It is challenging to avoid such tensions.
One such false dichotomy is that of Faith versus Reason. Kapic went into great detail of how the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, “reason rightly works in the service of faith; and because of this, faithful theology does not despise rational reflection.” To use a common phrase, it is a two-way street.
I have personally encountered this situation many times in my Christian walk. Faith versus Reason seems to be a common “go-to” counterargument when witnessing to non-Christians in particular. Non-believers assume that to be Christian is to abandon Reason. They also assume that by choosing Faith, we are being narrow-minded. However, according to Kapic, quite the opposite is true. “Faith expands our horizon, whereas a rejection of faith closes down inquiry and possible knowledge.”
A common false dichotomy in contemporary worship is the dreaded word: change. There are members in every church who have a rigid loyalty to how the service was performed by their parents and their parents’ parents. There are also members who want to try something new even if it hasn’t been tested. On the one hand, if we stubbornly refuse to be flexible in our approach to worship then we run the risk of growing stale and stagnant. Conversely, if we defiantly forsake the “tried and true” practices of our predecessors, we run the risk of veering off course and missing the mark.
From Herman Bavink’s statement, “theological dogma is always a combination of two elements: divine authority and churchly confession,” Kapic concluded “we can value tradition without elevating it to the status of sacred writing.” I believe he would advise the church to never forget it’s corporate purpose: to be a “living and dynamic response to God’s Word,” in whatever situation. It would require one to be mindful of the past and mindful of the future for one to be considered “living and dynamic.”
An obvious solution to this common dilemma is another dreaded word of our times: compromise. If both sides acknowledged the validity and importance of the other, a mutual respect could be attained. For example, if the source of tension is contemporary praise music as opposed to traditional hymns in the service, then each camp could concede in allowing both. The practical application would be for each praise song, a hymn could be sung. Meeting in the middle, so to speak, a balance is reached.
I propose that conflicts are inevitable, why not embrace them? A policy of open dialogue is far more conducive to ministry than a policy of cold shoulders. In John 13:35 Jesus revealed how Christians would be recognized. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for another (NIV).” Recognizing and resolving false dichotomies is just one of a million ways that we can demonstrate love to our fellow Christians.
 Kelly M. Kapic. A Little Book for New Theologians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 52.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid., 78.
Kapic, Kelly M. A Little Book for New Theologians. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.
Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course SEMI 500.