We live in an overlap of ages
One of the most common logical fallacies is also one of the oldest. The “either/or” fallacy was identified in the 4th century B.C. by Plato and Aristotle.
It works like this: whatever you’re thinking about or arguing about, someone reduces the options to only two. “Either it’s _______ OR it’s ________.” And admittedly, there are many instances where the discussion really can be reduced to only one of two options — like pregnancy, citizenship, or having a pulse. Either you are or are not; you do or do not.
But in the wide majority of discussions, there are often many MANY options, not merely two. And that’s why the either/or fallacy is a logical trap. It’s like going to Publix and concluding you can only buy bread or cereal.
What does this have to do with seeking to faithfully follow Jesus?
Theologians have noticed from God’s Word that we live in a sort of overlap of Ages. They call it “The Now AND The Not Yet.” There is a way in which, after Jesus’ atoning death, His resurrection, and His outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we live a new age of redemption. The promises of the Old Testament have, in large measure, been fulfilled. This is what is already true, or Now.
And yet… there are also many aspects of God’s promises that are out ahead of us still. Evil still rages. Satan storms around, wreaking havoc with his selfish tantrums. People still suffer and die every day — even believers. And the promises of final judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth are still, as yet, unfulfilled. This is the Not Yet.
Our fallacy comes into play when people want to insist only on one or the other. By denying the Already or the Now of redemption, we will live a very bleak life. It will leave us concluding that because evil is still active, that NO hope is reasonable or even possible. But by denying the Not Yet of God’s promises, we get overconfident or lack compassion for people who are suffering. By forgetting that much of God’s work to finally redeem us is out ahead of us in the future, we can be naive about evil’s power in the world or even in our own hearts.
So, how comfortable are you in tension?
The theologian J.I. Packer once observed that it’s hard to walk a mountain ridge. Gravity wants to pull us down one side or the other, and if we’re not vigilant, we can subtly begin to give way to the resolute pull toward one side. But the gift of the Now and the Not Yet is that it describes reality. It is really true that both of these aspects of God’s work are in play. There is no either/or.
Now, I can trust and rejoice even that Jesus said, “It is finished,” as He died for me. It is now true that what had to be done has been done to atone for all of my failures and sin. It is also just as true that “He is risen!” Jesus succeeded where Adam failed! Death has been shattered by GOD! And He has guaranteed that as we trust Him, He seals that victory to us forever. I now have access to the Father, in Christ, as His own adopted child. His Spirit lives in me, both now and forever.
And yet, I can humbly wait for Jesus’ return. I can trust that as He kept His promises to atone for me and be raised from the dead, that He will also keep His promises to return. While it rages (at times apparently un-diminished), evil will not win. It cannot. And so we wait with a hopeful perspective.