As I’ve studied theology over the past few months, it has become more and more apparent to me that one of the key aspects of theology is the need for tension.
In almost every issue or topic we cover I’m struck by the two seemingly opposite extremes of resolution which seem equally necessary.
Something as supposedly simple as the nature of Jesus, for example: his divinity and humanity must be held in tension. We cannot claim him to merely be a man, for then his death would have been in vane and his resurrection a figment of the disciple’s imaginations. Neither can we say he was entirely God and was never afflicted with suffering or temptation, as then there would have been no death and, therefore, atonement or salvation. The church argued over this question for centuries and, at times, still has minor disputes or disagreements about it. However, I think most would agree that we now must accept that the divinity and humanity of Jesus must be held in tension.
Similarly we must also see that God’s compassion and anger, love and justice can co-exist.
In the church we have to acknowledge that if it becomes too word focussed, it forgets to be missional and if it becomes too focussed on social issues, it forgets to proclaim the gospel. If it is too outward looking, it becomes indistinguishable from the world and if it becomes too insular, the world forgets that it is there.
The trinity is another example of this: Father, Son and Holy Spirti, three-in-one, all equally real and present, held in tension.
It is also present when we discuss the freedom which God has given us and take in to consideration our insistance that he is omnipotent and in control of all things. As human beings we are given the gift of free will and the ability to use that as we wish, however, we must also acknowledge that Scripture tells us that God has a plan which he will ensure is fulfilled. Freedom vs. being under God’s control, held in tension.
I use the phrase “held in tension” and not “balance” purposely. “Balance” suggests that we stand at a distance as we add weight to one argument or another, until we get it spot on and can step back, satisfied with our answer. “Tension”, however, suggests to me that we are in there wrestling with these issues, as though taking part is some heavenly tug of war, and that if we’re to find an answer we must continue to fight both corners. Both sides of an argument are correct but to lean to far to one side or another will end in a spectacular fall in the mud. Both must, therefore, be considered at every juncture.
Something in me loves that this means there is never a final answer. Instead we can argue/discuss/consider the intricacies of these things until the rapture. Maybe its just the theology geek in me who likes that there is always more to study!