Not Either-Or but Both-And

Angel and Demon tug of war tattoo courtesy of Pinterest       There is a logical fallacy called the False Dilemma, more commonly known as the “Either-Or” fallacy.  This fallacy presents that for any given problem, there are only two solutions, and usually one (or sometimes both) of them is pretty distasteful. One example of this fallacy can be found in political ads, where voters are told something like, “Either you vote for Candidate X, or America will continue to decline.” Even simple shampoo ads convey to viewers that either you wash with Brand Y or your hair will not be soft and shiny. This fallacy has also made it into the realm of Christianity. When we think about the crucifixion of Jesus as the result of the wrath of God for our sinfulness, we are presented with an either-or dilemma:  either Jesus dies for our sins or we die for our sins.  Neither prospect seems like it would come from a God of love.

We human beings are a compilation of contradictions: we want the security of a savings account but we also want possessions; we want to work but we also want leisure time; we want to be thin and fit but we want to eat anything we want and never exercise; we gravitate toward sin but we are children of God.  When we get caught in dualistic thinking (believing there are only two ways for us to be, either good or bad), we start identifying ourselves as being only one of those two ways.  We either see ourselves as good (righteous, moral) or we see ourselves as bad (sinful, licentious), rather than seeing ourselves as the complex composite that is held together by the master transformer Jesus.

“For in him we live and move and have our being,” it says in Acts 17:25 (NIV). We are living and moving and having our being in a variety of ways, most of which contradict each other as our true selves wrestle with our false selves (our egos).  “For in him” is the key part of this verse, as the god-man Jesus has brought our two selves, both true and false, together in him. It is no longer “either-or:” either you follow a legalistic set of rules or church doctrine or you don’t belong to God.  Rather, in Jesus, it is “both-and:” Jesus is big enough to contain our dualities, and even more importantly, it is in him that they are resolved and transformed, put to bed, like the tired, petulant children they are. In fact, Jesus himself offers us the resolution of two contradictions:  fully human and fully divine.  By demonstrating his ability to hold together these opposites, it proves Jesus’s ability to hold together ours.

As we more fully grasp that Jesus is the glue to hold together those “either-or” parts of ourselves, we can better understand the crucifixion.  We now see that it wasn’t an angry God taking out his wrath on his Son so that we could live.  Instead, we see the god-man Jesus taking our contradictions, our good, our bad, our love, our hate, into himself and then rising again that Easter Sunday, transformed.  “For when we died with Christ, we were set free from the power of sin,” Romans 6:7 (NLT) informs us.  This setting free means taking the entirety of human existence, both the beautiful and the ugly, and transforming it all in himself. No more “either-or,” but instead, BOTH-AND. We are both good AND bad, often at the same time, yet ultimately in Jesus, we are transformed and included.

We can celebrate this resurrection day coming soon, knowing that all our parts are held by Jesus, both good and bad.  What’s more, in him they are made sense of and transformed, turned into the good, loving kindness that is the Father, Son, and Spirit. No more being either good or bad, but lovingly held  in the Triune embrace.

~by Nan Kuhlman

**Note: this post was edited for clarity

4 comments so far

  1. calvin simon on

    Hi Nan,
    I think that you write some great articles, as well as all the other people that write up here. As I was reading this article, a few things struck me. I understand how sometimes people box things in with either or, instead of both and, but in the case of our sins, we truly were perishing, and if Christ did not step in at the right time, we were headed towards non being. So that truly was an either or. Christ was always chosen to be true humanity, and when he as the Son of God added humanity unto himself, he began the work of bending our humanity into the way that God wanted it. So when Jesus took our humanity to the cross, he crucified sin, death, evil, etc. and when he was raised up new, so were we in Him. So we should find our identity in Christ, as adopted children of God, but at the same time, if we don’t believe that Christ is the risen lord, then we are living a lie because it is true. So the both/ and in this case is that we are children of God in Christ, and we could not be living as his children thereby being children of the devil. Because Jesus is humanity, it is true that all people are children of God, but we are distinct, so we could be living in a false reality. So as children of God, we want to live out of the relationship that God is sharing with us in Christ, we don’t want to go against the grain and get splinters, we want to live as if God is the greatest reality, because He is. In Jesus Christ, you have perfect humanity, there is no reconciliation of good and bad in Him. He has perfectly reconciled us to God in Himself, so in other words, He is our humanity, our flesh is not real humanity, and we believers are all awaiting the day when we too will truly be human, when we see him as he really is.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Hi Calvin,
      As you point out, there could be situations where there are only two solutions. If the cosmic Christ did not become incarnate, we would not enjoy the fellowship we have with the Father, Son, and Spirit. There was no other way than for God to become human, yet still be fully divine at the same time. This is not what I was referring to in the post when I spoke of the logical fallacy of “either-or.”

      The point of my post was to recognize that as humans, we tend to think of ourselves as good or bad, depending on our behavior of the moment; when in reality, we are both good and bad, mostly because of our struggles between the old man and new man (as Paul points out), also called the false self and true self. When human beings believe themselves to be one way or the other, rather than honestly recognizing the presence of both, they inadvertently block the transformation that the cosmic Christ offers all people. As you aptly point out, we want to live knowing our identity in Christ, and my point is that when we’re consumed with seeing ourselves as good or bad, we forget that in Jesus we are made whole. I do disagree with you a little, when you say “there is no reconciliation of good and bad in Him.” Christ has taken both the good and bad in humanity through death on the cross, though he himself was without sin, and when He rose, we rose. To me, that’s sounds like reconciliation.

      I appreciate your interest and your comments!

  2. John on

    Thanks for your blogs, for many are sent onto other people. We all find ourselves at various stages of freedom, of the completed life and work of Jesus in us.
    I think that this is healthy for it allows me to embrace with humility and delight, differences in all individuals that I come to meet; much different from years ago when I tried to make “my last stand” in trying to prove my own beliefs onto people.

    Today, the old man for me is an “echo” of a past life that has been crucified and buried, I do hear it every so often in my body of death (flesh) and sometimes even participate in its death cry, however do come to my senses and realize and understand that “Christ in me the hope of Glory” has completed a work of reconciling me back to my original design in “HIS IMAGE AND LIKENESS”. This is who I am and this is how I view all humanity in Him.
    For me it is in the detail of His finished life and work for all. I live in a body where sin is present but this is not who I am. Thanks to Jesus, there is no condemnation, I am free. My freedom in this reality of Life, depends on me changing my mind.

  3. Nan Kuhlman on

    Hi John,

    Love it! All I can say is amen!

    Thanks for summing it up so succinctly!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: