Complementary truths


Daily Reading for August 18 • William Porcher DuBose, Priest, 1918

My own firm conviction is that the variant conceptions of the Gospel in the New Testament, so far from being different gospels, are consistent and mutually completive aspects of the one and only Gospel. In proportion as we conceive the Gospel of God in its entirety and in its immensity, in just that degree do all scriptural, as well as all truly Christian and catholic, statements of it, no matter how partial and seemingly contradictory in themselves, fall into their proper places and serve to magnify the greatness and harmony of the whole. If the Gospel is divine at all, it is the divinest fact of the universe, the final cause of creation, the end for which all else exists. Mistake any one fragment or aspect of it for the whole, and all the other fragments and aspects will be involved in confused and hopeless contention with it for the usurped position. Let the whole stand out for itself in its complete proportions, and every part falls of itself into its proper place, and is confirmed and supported in it by every other part. . . .

I have recognized the fact that even within the narrower limits of the Gospels which give us our record of the Gospel, there are not only possible but actual diverse impressions of what the Gospel is; and that not only is full justice due to each such impression, taken by itself and for its own sake, but that the very fullest justice to each is the only way of arriving at the truth of all, or at the truth of the whole of which they are the complementary and necessary parts. The one great lesson that must forerun and make ready the Christian unity of the future is this: that contraries do not necessarily contradict, nor need opposites always oppose. What we want is not to surrender or abolish our differences, but to unite and compose them. We need the truth of every variant opinion and the light from every opposite point of view. The least fragment is right in so far as it stands for a part of the truth. It is wrong only when, as so often, it elevates into a ground of division from the other fragments just that which in reality fits it to unite with and supplement them. . . .

So let us agree to disagree, if conscientiously we must, in all our manifold differences; and, bringing all our differences together, let us see if they are not wiser than we, and if they cannot and will not of themselves find agreement in a unity that is higher and vaster than we.

From the preface to The Gospel in the Gospels by William Porcher Du Bose (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908).

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