Third Way: Is a path possible between opposites?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Third Way

An On Off switchGood vs. Evil.

Sacred vs. Profane.

Liberal vs. Conservative.

Seeing the world as patterns of opposites is a universal human phenomenon. Think, for example, of our polarized politics: Republicans vs. Democrats.

Or consider the debate about same-sex marriage that we covered last week on OurValues. For many Americans, it comes down to the question: Right vs. Wrong. The irony is that many people on each sides in the same-sex marriage debate see themselves as right—and their opponents as wrong.


Our question this week: Is there a possible pathway through the opposites?

Seeing the world as dualities is so common that anthropologists, historians, and sociologists have observed it around the world and throughout history. The perception may arise from the essential conditions of human experience, where we observe apparent dualities like night/day, male/female, life/death, and so on. These observations of everyday experience translate into more abstract dualities in modern life.

Consider, for example, the LGBT issue that confronts churches today. Seen as a pattern of opposites, the issue pits those who offer an inclusive approach against those who want to exclude or limit members of the LGBT community.

There is another way, a way beyond the opposition. Ken Wilson calls it the Third Way and talks about it in his book, A Letter to My Congregation. Essentially, he says that we can agree to disagree “in order to be together based on common values—concerns we do share.” The LGBT issue is a “disputable matter” and we should err on the side of side of full inclusion.

Wilson bases his approach on the counsel of Paul to the church in Rome. As Wilson summarizes, “It recognizes that we can enjoy a deep unity in the Spirit, indeed have an obligation to guard this unity given, despite having severe disagreements over important moral questions. In other words, our unity in the Spirit transcends our shared moral consensus.”

The Third Way—a way beyond opposites—applies in many areas of life, as we’ll see all week.

What do you think of Wilson’s argument—that there is a Third Way?

Is there a way to rise above the oppositions?

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  1. Duncan Newcomer says

    Abraham Lincoln is a model for a third way. A study of his life reveals that he saw and felt both sides of things while still being able to choose what he believed to be the right side in order to act upon it. A deep unity of spirit was his dominate characteristic. Like the ancient sages of India he felt a oneness with the natural world. He grew up with a sense of wonder and sense of yonder. He saw the forest and he saw the trees. Had he gone to school inside of buildings more he might not have learned so well from the cathedral of the forest. Rabindranath Tagore said that the walls of the Greek City States taught division and separate mistrust of the other while the caves and mountains of India taught the early wise men to view all as one. Lincoln had frontier and prairie as his Ivy League.