The Apparent Pragmatism of Polarities

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I’m confident it surprises no one that I am profoundly uncomfortable with absolutism or fundamentalism of almost every stripe.

As a Christian who believes that Jesus was fully God and man and who confesses that God is both one and three, I am profoundly uncomfortable with theological approaches like strict Calvinism, which often seems to elevate the transcendence of God as the expense of his immanence and has a developed a hermeneutic which tends to turn non-essentials of the faith – such as the role of women in ministry or the eternal timing of election – into litmus tests of one’s fidelity to Jesus and inclusion in the faith. Similarly, I am not on the same page as extremely progressive Christians who often appear to embrace Jesus as one guru among many and in so doing reduce their focus on the wholly unique transformation that is available to communities and individuals through both the completed work of Jesus (i.e., his life, death, burial, resurrection and Kingdom reign) as well as the practice of picking up our cross, suffering beside Jesus and delighting in the in-breaking and unfolding of God’s Kingdom.

I’ve also drafted a paragraph about how similar polarities play out within the disability advocacy and social services field, but I’ll spare you.

In my experience, surrendering to polarities always seems intellectually dishonest and feels incredibly inauthentic. And yet it often appears that those who embrace and promote the polarities, such as Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 church planting movement or, in another era, Harry Emerson Fosdick of Riverside Church in NYC, are the ones who are able to develop distinctive voices and, in some instances, take real strides towards inspiring social and personal change.

I’ve known enough accomplished or aspiring leaders to realize that these individuals are often much more nuanced in person than they ever appear to be or are willing to openly admit to in midst of fulfilling their professional duties. I have also seen these people use the polarities like a well hewn tools to accomplish their organizational and personal goals or, in some instances, protect their income and/or position of power.

I’ve also personally realized, time and again, that refusing to embrace, wield, or at least profess the polarities leaves one outside of the power structure and, usually, an object of suspicion. So, I’m starting to wonder if the pragmatic use of polarities is a necessary practice for maturing leaders. Perhaps my commitment to living in the tension between polarities and my passion for authenticity – an emotional quality which I have sometimes elevated almost to the level of an absolute – are marks of an adolescent leader who needs to emerge.

I don’t know. Your armchair analysis is welcome.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Evangelical, Jeff Gentry. Jeff Gentry said: Just posted on "The Apparent Pragmatism of Polarities" at The Inconsistent Adopted. Bet you can't wait to read that. […]

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