We love to simplify complex ideas, to make big thing small and sum things up as neatly as possible. It is the easiest way to keep thoughts organized and make sense out of the complicated. We try to take entire ideologies or theologies and sum them up in tight paradigmic phrases. We especially do this with quotes pulled from deep thinkers. Rather than do the work of learning absorbing the entirety of their arguments we lift the one or two phrases that seem to sum up the ideas nicely and just run with those.
Martin Luther King Jr. – “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
C.S. Lewis – All sin stems from Pride.
Mother Teresa – “If you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Tim Keller – “All sin is idolatry.”
Gandhi – “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
John Piper – “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Winston Churchill – “You have enemies? Good; that means you’ve stood up for something in your life.”
William Shakespeare – “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
Truth is easily apparent in each of these quotes or ideas. So the problem isn’t finding the wrong paradigms, it is settling for too few and doing so too readily. When we adopt a single paradigm, or maybe two, as our inspiration and guidance they easily become mantras – phrases repeated endlessly with little thought in the hopes it will transform. Mantras are meaningless. Christians can even do this with “life verses.” Jeremiah 29:11 becomes the quick fix for all problems and Romans 8:28 is the comfort for all troubles, an band aid for our spiritual and emotional boo boos.
Three main problems present themselves when we settle for such simplistic, mantra-like wisdom.
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