yin-yang theology and the emerging church

November 19, 2007

I remember a Sunday school class as a kid when we discussed whether the yin-yang sign was “from the devil” or not. The yin-yang is the circle where the one half is white, and the other black, with some white in the black part, and some black in the white part. Our own popular interpretation of this sign was “there is good in all evil, and evil in all good”. What our conclusion was, I cannot remember, but I don’t think we were that positive of the sign.

So when a lecturer for whom I have the greatest respect gave us the article titled The Yin-Yang Way of Thinking to read in a module for Third World Theologies about two years ago, I had some weird feelings at first:-) But it turned out to be one of the greatest modules I had in my 5 years of study. And this article stuck with me for some time. I started thinking about it again a while ago, but since I’m not very good at filing papers, I didn’t have my notes from that module. Then I came upon a little book called Mission Trends no. 3; Third World Theologies, which contained a number of the articles we had to read in that module, in a second hand bookshop, I love second hand bookshops, and bought it.

I had a conversation with a friend tonight, and this made me think of the article, plus I’m reading The web of life by Fritjof Capra at the moment, so here is some thoughts I’m having. Remember that this article was written in 1976, part of what makes it significant, I think:

Einstein said that “the same kind of thinking that caused a problem will not fix it”. I’ve been thinking a lot about what this would have to say to modern philosophy and worldview. And the implication I find quite obvious is that we would have to look wider that Western society when looking for answers. So, how about China? Yin-Yang?

The case Lee try to make is that Western society was built upon an either/or philosophy, coming from Aristotle onwards. Eastern society, however, was built upon an both/and philosophy, of which the Yin-Yang is one Chinese example (you’ll find others in India as well). The kind of things he says is that Yin is everything that is not Yang, and together they represent wholeness.

According to Lee the either/or idea in western society is causing some mayor problems. Most coming down to the fact that either the one must win, or the other. Eastern philosophy, and the yin-yang idea, make room for saying that: no, it’s not either man or nature, and if man don’t win over nature, nature will win over man, but man and nature can exist in harmony.

Now, I don’t think that eastern philosophy is only good, the eastern countries had their fair share of problems and wars, of either/or stuff. And I think Capra gives a better overview of the development of Western worldview, and the fact that everything was not always either/or, although that idea did win out. But maybe we can learn something from this kind of thinking.

At the end Lee see theology as having a creative tension between either/or and both/and approaches. Adopting a both/and view for dialog, to make our theology an universal theology. But a both/and view which make room for an either/or view, otherwise theology would lose its significance.

When we are constructing a new worldview, I think we would do well to learn from African and Eastern worldviews. To learn from third world theologies; from how they contextualized theology in their worlds; from totally different ways of looking at the world and theology.

Any thoughts?


2 Responses to “yin-yang theology and the emerging church”

  1. syoong kim Says:

    it’s my web about yin and yang

    come in

  2. RMacD Says:

    Amos Yong has two books that might add to thinking on this issue. “Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions,” (Paternoster Press, UK. 2003) and “The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology.” (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI. 2006)

    He is Evangelical, although a few were squirming at a recent Book Fair!;-)

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