Letter 24: Either/Or vs. Both/And

My Son,

 

The truth of a matter is not always to be seen in terms of an either/or construct, but a both/and construct. The Catholic Church has long taken the both/and approach to most matters of theology.

 

It’s not either “Jesus is fully man” or “He is fully God,” but that Jesus is both fully man and fully God.

 

It’s not either “God is One” or “God is three,” but that God is both one essence and in three persons.

 

It’s not either “I follow Jesus” or “I follow the Church’s Teaching,” but in light of the fact that Christ and the Church are one, we follow both Jesus and Jesus’ Teaching through his Body, the Church.

 

It’s not either “Jesus built his Church on Peter by calling him Cephas (Rock)” or “Jesus built his Church on the faith Peter confessed,” but it’s both Jesus built his Church on Peter and he built his Church on the faith Peter confessed.

 

It’s not either “Jesus is the head of the Church” or “the Pope is the head of the Church,” but that both Jesus is the invisible head of the Church and the Pope is the visible “head” of the Church who represents Christ’s headship.

 

It’s not either “the sacraments are symbolic” or “the sacraments actually accomplish something,” but that the sacraments are both symbolic and they do the very thing they signify.

 

It’s not either “Scripture” or “Tradition,” as authoritative for Church Teaching, but both Scripture and Tradition are necessary for developing doctrine.

 

It’s not either “predestination” or “free will,” but both God initiates his calling on our lives to be predestined into the image of his Son and we freely choose to cooperate with his grace so that this sanctification occurs.

 

It’s not either faith or works, but faith and works expressed together are necessary for the salvation process (James 2:14-26).

 

It’s not either “the kingdom is here” or “the kingdom is not yet,” but both the kingdom is here through the Church and her Sacraments and is not yet fully realized because we are waiting for Christ’s return.

 

As usual, I could go on and on with such a list, but I think my point is clear. Whenever you encounter a dichotomy try to see where there can be harmony.

I will leave you with this quote by A.W. Tozer, a prominent Protestant theologian, who said, “The various elements of truth stand in perpetual antithesis, sometimes requiring us to believe apparent opposites while we wait for the moment when we shall know as we are known. Then the truth which now appears to be in conflict with itself will arise in shining unity and it will be seen that the conflict has not been in the truth but in our sin-damaged minds” (Knowledge of the Holy).

 

Love,

Dad

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