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The Truth Lies Beyond: On False Problems

Introduction: Dilemmas and Decisions

In life there are situations where the right decision is clear. These are when the choices are between right and wrong, good and bad, true and untrue, black and white. However, we are perhaps more often confronted by dilemmas, situations from which we cannot see any way out, we cannot find the right course of action. In these cases we sometimes have to make compromises, to please all parties in order to overcome our dilemma. Of course, this is only sometimes and compromise solutions for ‘grey areas’ can be overused, they are the easy, but not right, way out. For example, in weak and decadent cultures, which have lost their spiritual and therefore moral foundations, it becomes common to operate through such compromises, in spite of the fact that a clear cut choice of right, and not wrong, is the solution.

Having said this, it must also be said that we are sometimes unable to resolve dilemmas, until we have more information. In such situations, it would in fact be a mistake to come to a decision without the additional facts we need to make the right decision. Thus, sometimes it is better to leave a letter unanswered; the dilemma contained in the letter may resolve itself of its own accord. We should never make a choice until we have the maximum of facts at our disposal. Though even then our choice may in fact be ‘the lesser of two evils’.

In other cases, of two choices on offer, both may be correct. It is not a question of one or the other solution, but of both solutions complementing each other, together. Such cases are false problems.

In yet other cases, the solution is neither clear cut, nor to find some mid-way compromise or balance, nor to choose the complement of both solutions. Instead, the truth lies elsewhere, beyond, in a spiritual solution to the problem. Indeed, there are many dilemmas where the solutions suggested are both wrong, the choices offered are both incorrect. Here, it takes understanding and vision to see the right way ahead, for the solution is not on offer in the question.

1. False Problems and Christian Revelation

Thus, in finding solutions to the dilemmas such as

Collective / Personal
Universal / Local
International / National
Society / Individual

we find the solution in the Holy Trinity, as revealed by Christ (Matt 28, 19 or the Gospel of St John). In this, Three Persons (individuals) are united in One Essence (a collective society). Thus the collective and the individual, the universal and the local, the international and the national, society and the individual, are reconciled. We note that the reconciliation of such opposites is only possible through Love, which is at the heart of the Revelation of the Holy Trinity. Moreover, when the Trinitarian model is denied, then battles break out between the universal and the local, and struggles, even wars, ensue between the collective and the individual. These are dilemmas without solutions, because the answers lack all Trinitarian perspective.

Another set of false questions and oppositions finds its solution through yet another Christian Revelation, the teaching on the Person of Christ, Who has Two Natures, Divine and Human:

God / Man
Vertical / Horizontal
Church / State
Clergy / People

In Christ there is no opposition. God and Man, the Vertical and the Horizontal, the Church and the State, the Clergy and the People are united in Christ. Thus, the Church is not called on to destroy the State, but to convert it, just as Christ in His Divinity did not destroy His Humanity, but raised it up to sinlessness. Such reconciliation of opposites fails only when the secular takes over from Christ. Thus, if the Church becomes secular like the State, it fails in its mission and is no longer the Church, but an integral part of the State, as has so often happened in history. And there are many cases when the People are more pious than the Clergy. In such cases the Horizontal remains largely flat, with little of the Vertical dimension.

2. False Problems and Human Nature

Man / Woman
Reason / Emotion
Mind / Body
Activism / Passivism

Human-beings are divided in their own humanity. Human nature is divided into masculine and feminine. However, both need each other; the two are indivisible. One cannot live without the other. (Here we pass over in silence the futility of the secularist question, ‘Is God male or female?’ The Creator is above all such primitive concepts imagined by the created). Rightly or wrongly, man is further associated with reason, the mind and activism, woman with emotion, the body and passivism. In reality, these aspects of human nature are complementary. Reason cannot understand everything, humanity also needs to understand intuitively, with feeling; the mind cannot live without the body and vice versa, but both need to submit to the primacy of the Spirit. And in the principle of the Spirit alone we find unity. Similarly, at times we need to be active, at other times, when we cannot affect the course of events, we need to accept passively.

3. False Problems and Human Society

Human society is divided both geographically and ideologically:

East / West
Muslim / Western
North / South
Protestant / Roman Catholic

The division into East and West, today symbolized by the continuing strife between Judeo-Christian Western religions and Islam, strife which began with the eleventh century Crusades, can be overcome only by the search for Truth. Thus, if the West were to search for values deeper than the inherent secularism on which it has fed for nearly a thousand years, and the East could see through the violent and primitive myths of Mohammed, the conflict between them could be overcome. However, that would require a revolution in human cultural attachment. There also exists a division between north and south. In Western Europe, this is represented by the division between the largely Protestant north-west corner of Europe and the largely Roman Catholic south-west corner of Europe. There is no solution to this opposition until both sides revert to the early Christian mindset of the Church and abandon ideological positions taken up later in the second millennium of Christianity.

Human societies universally are also divided socially, economically and politically:

Old / Young
Rich / Poor
Conservative / Liberal
Right / Left

There is no need for such divisions to be conflictual. As natural and inevitable as they are, they can all be complementary. Thus, the old and the young need one another. Thus, if the rich understand that God allows them money to do good and the poor understand that, as they are poor, they do not have the cares of riches and can concentrate on their salvation, all will find some benefit. As for political passions, these do little good; only the passionless passion, to do God’s Will, does good.

4. False Problems and Human Individuality

Objective / Subjective
Science / Art
Law / Philosophy
Real / Symbolic

Some people are ruthlessly objective or rational and want to get all the facts before making a decision. Others come very quickly and irrationally to a subjective decision and yet are still right. We need our objective decisions to be confirmed subjectively and vice versa. Science and Art are in the same way complementary, as are Law and Philosophy. Thus, the real and the symbolic may be identical, complementing one another.

Aristotle / Plato
Jew / Greek
Montanists/ Gnostics
Monophysites / Nestorians

In human history the same tendencies are represented by the realism of Aristotle and the idealism of Plato, the attitudes of the Jew and the Greek. Both were wrong because both were Christless. In Church history there were similar situations between fanatical Montanists and liberal Gnostics and later between Monophysites and Nestorians. As always, these were merely 'isms', human inventions and nobody could be right, because both were less than Christ.

5. False Problems and the Church

Monasticism / Marriage
Contemplative / Active
Asceticism / Sacraments
Prayer / Fasting

Many find opposition between the above. There should not be. Many couples are formed through meeting in monasteries, monks and nuns come from families; monasticism and marriage are both contemplative and active; the ascetic life and the sacramental life feed off one another; prayer and fasting only have sense and depth when practised together.

Faith / Works
Letter / Spirit
Canons / Love
Akrivia / Economy

In terms of the application of Christianity to life, there need be no opposition between any of the above either. Thus, living faith always leads to works; the letter and the spirit should go hand in hand; the canons and love are complementary, the one feeding off the other; the strict application of the Faith, ‘Akrivia’, and the dispensations of ‘Economy’ go together.

6. Contemporary False Problems

Religion / Knowledge
Creation and Evolution
Heredity / Environment
Beginning / End

Of modern false questions, some of the most violent disputes have been between Science (the Latin word for Knowledge) and Religion. In the nineteenth century this developed into the Darwinian and anti-Darwinian disputes between Creation and Evolution, mirrored in the twentieth century conflict between those who believe in Heredity and those who believe in Environment as the agent responsible for the human character. In reality, all these factors are complementary and there is no need for any conflict between them. Thus, the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, are united only by the Person of Christ.

Conclusion: False Problems and Human Understanding

Ultimately, all dilemmas, all false problems, arise because of a lack of human understanding of Christ, the lack of human acceptance of Christ. Only the Cross unites opposites, as the vertical and the horizontal bars of the Cross join in Christ. All are reconciled in Christ. As it is written: For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5, 10).

Fr Andrew

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