Why Not Both?

Why Not Both?

Over and over again in the Bible we are told that if we love God we will keep his commandments. And that is not just Old Testament stuff. It is repeated constantly in the New as well. Jesus made it clear that if we are to love him, we must keep his commandments. The idea that we must choose between loving God and obeying God is as dumb as saying we must choose between breathing in or breathing out. 

A false dilemma is a logical fallacy in which an either/or is being demanded, when a both/and is the way to go. One can get rather technical about all this, but let’s keep it really simple. An obvious and easy-to-understand example features a TV ad for tacos.

Adults are arguing and debating about which must be used: soft or hard taco shells. A little girl rightly asks, “Why not both?” Why not indeed! It is a false dilemma to demand one or the other when both can do. In this case it is a personal preference – a matter of choice. Thus there is no right or wrong answer.

When it comes to more important matters however, we must be a bit more careful. Some things clearly ARE a case of either/or. Let me offer just one quick example of this. You can either embrace and affirm the teachings of Islam or you embrace and affirm the teachings of Christianity, but you cannot do both.

The reason for this is quite clear – and quite logical. At the very heart of the Christian faith lies the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that he died on a cross and rose again for our sins. Islam denies this. So if you accept the core beliefs of Christianity, then you cannot accept the main teachings of Islam. They are mutually exclusive.

But in many other areas we do have clear cases of both/and. We do NOT need to pick one while denying the other. Instead we can affirm both. But so often I find rather fuzzy thinking in this regard. When I find the need to emphasise a certain truth, that does NOT mean I am negating or minimising another truth. In many cases we can usually affirm both truths simultaneously. Let me offer a few examples of this (out of many).

1. Evangelism or social action – why not both?

This is something I likely have penned a few dozen articles on, but it keeps coming up. Some believers insist that we should only evangelise, and ignore any works in society around us. But it has always been both. Simply read some church history here.

Wherever Christians have gone with the gospel, they of course told people the good news that Christ died for their sins, but they also performed many good works. The early church could not do this quite as much because of all the intense persecution.

But as things quieted down, believers led the way in so many charitable works and causes, be it in education, caring for the sick, helping the poor and destitute, and so on. They set up schools (and eventually even universities, they built hospitals, they worked with the poor and helped those in prisons and in so many other areas.

The two went together, and that is how it should be. But as mentioned, I discuss all this in plenty of detail in other articles. Here is just one: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1997/10/10/the-case-for-christian-social-involvement/

2. Love or obedience – why not both?

This is another area where too many Christians can get things wrong. So many believers (often progressive or lefty or liberal or biblically illiterate types) will claim that all that matters is that we love.

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