Yin and Yang: Mutual Opposites

W.F. Bellais II

One of the aspects of the ancient Chinese philosophy called Taoism is its emphasis on mutual opposites. The concept is caught in the symbol of the yin and the yang. We cannot have yin without yang. Without opposites neither is likely to exist. We need day and night, cold and heat, and life and death. Each is a part of the other. In fact, it is not too unreasonable to think of each being a part of the other. While we are alive, we are in death, while we are cold, warmth can be had. When we are in sunlight another part of our globe is in darkness.

Twenty years ago I wrote a detailed dissertation on the influence of the Myers-Briggs Temperate Indicator (MBTI) on the cooperative behaviors of university level educators. The whole idea of this method of measuring temperament or personality is based on a theory that we have four interpersonal methods of interacting with our environment and with each other.  The four descriptors have its own opposite, for example, the opposite of extroversion is introversion. The theory also postulates that each of us has in us both introverted and extroverted temperaments.

Again, one side of our personalities cannot exist without the other. After my research was completed on this project I had less faith in the application of the MBTI, but it remained a useful tool in helping people in job conflicts and couples about to marry learn about themselves and to open a dialogue about their differences.

In fact, it was the differences that made a difference. At least that is the theory. For example, those who are different in temperament actually make better partners than a couple who are too closely alike in temperament. The reason given for this phenomenon is that each person brings a different view into the relationship; in other words, one helps the other solve problems or see the environment in a new way.

I was thinking about this as I was reviewing the Letter of James to the Church. Recall James’ words, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” Then he continues, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God.

James completes the thought with, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.”

This is basically what I mean by mutual opposites.

Recently I read a book entitled, I don’t Believe in Atheists, by Chris Hedges, in which he makes the argument that conditions that seem to be opposites are not. Hedges sees, for example, those who make a claim that human progress depends on science alone and those who look for a divine retribution or apocalypse are one in the same. They may make different arguments but they are both fanatic fundamentalists. One believes that human progress depends on science alone, and those who don’t believe in science should be eliminated. Religious fundamentalists (regardless of their religion) believe that God prefers them above all others and those who don’t agree must be eliminated.

You probably have never thought of this before, but the writer of the Letter of James and Albert Einstein are like thinkers. Einstein is reported to have said, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

Yes, I know, the two are not speaking of the same things, but their thoughts are similar. We must have one in order to have the other.

Mutual opposites give humanity balance. There is no life without the Spirit of God; there is no faith without a visible or tangible effect. Those who claim to follow Jesus and to be “saved”, in my judgment, are not telling the truth unless their lives reflect their commitment to the Risen Lord Jesus and that salvation has truly changed them.

Self-serving religion is of no value to anyone, just as self-serving dependence on reason or science does not serve humanity either. Both religion and science have produced both benefit and terror. The weapons of war and of mass destruction are the outcome of serious scientific study and application. The thousands who died on September 11, 2001 were victims of religious fundamentalism. However, we cannot put aside religion or science because of the evil practiced as a result of either. We must seek the balance of mutual opposites, the yin and yang of life.

One Comment on “Yin and Yang: Mutual Opposites”

  1. rosina
    February 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    I finally had time to read these. Very thought-provoking and like your sermons, inspiring. Keep it up!


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