Black and White

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Ian
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Black and White

Post by Ian »

i’m told that life isn't black and white. life consists of infinite shades of gray. only a naive or simplistic mind would attempt to draw a line between black and white. black-and-white thinking is a mental disorder, or a cognitive distortion, that harms our health and breeds contention in our relationships. it closes the mind and generates unrealistic expectations.

in reality, i'm told, life is complicated. good and evil are within each of us. truth is mixed with error. as one grows older and wiser, one learns to embrace the grayness of life. we learn to accept people for who they are. we don't make a big deal out of little things. everyone makes little mistakes. we should be tolerant. we don't want to offend anyone. we don't want to be controversial. we just try to think positively. we see the goodness in all people. we broaden our minds. we aren't afraid to sift through the world's philosophies in search of truth. we sympathize with those who may disagree with us on some issues. how else are we to maintain respectability in society? no one has a monopoly on truth. no one is perfect. each of us has an individual way of doing things. who among us can judge that one way is black, or another way is white? each way is a unique shade of gray.

yet the scriptures paint a black-and-white picture. "Who is on the Lord's side?" (Exodus 32:26). "Choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Joshua 24:15). "How long halt ye between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21) "I set before you the way of life, and the way of death" (Jeremiah 21:8). "Hate the evil, and love the good" (Amos 5:15). "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:18). "He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30). "He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left" (Matthew 25:33). "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light" (John 3:20). "A friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15). "We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19). "Follow not that which is evil, but that which is good" (3 John 1:11). "There are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church" (1 Nephi 14:10). "They who are not for me are against me, saith our God" (2 Nephi 10:16). "Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil" (2 Nephi 15:20). "Refuse the evil and choose the good" (2 Nephi 17:16). "The natural man is an enemy to God" (Mosiah 3:19). "If ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye?" (Alma 5:39). "Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil" (Alma 5:40). "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). "A man being evil cannot do that which is good" (Moroni 7:6, 10). "Do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil" (Moroni 7:14). "All things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them" (Moroni 7:24). "I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31). "Seek not for riches but for wisdom" (Doctrine and Covenants 6:7). "That which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness" (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23). "Whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:51). "If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67).

is the world black and white, or is it gray? if the scriptures are to be believed, then the world is black, sprinkled with white. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15). "The whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:53). But "ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13) and "the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not" (John 1:5 (Joseph Smith Translation)).

our vision is grayed. our natural eyes blur the blackness and the whiteness. only our spiritual eyes can see "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13). God's servants "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen" (2 Corinthians 4:18). our modern-day seer sees "a wide chasm" between the church and the world (President Thomas S. Monson, Priesthood Power, April 2011). this chasm exists whether we see it or not. there's no middle ground. the ways of God are diametrically opposed to the ways of the world. the line between good and evil is bright and absolute.

"It is given unto unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night" (Moroni 7:15). the prophet beseeches us to "search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil" (Moroni 7:19). our spiritual vision cannot improve without diligent effort. if our vision doesn't improve, then we'll end up on the bad side of the chasm. we can't make it to the good side without total committment: "Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind" (Matthew 22:37).

in the pre-existence, the consequence of our decision to follow God was all-or-nothing. that hasn't changed. two opposing powers exert influence on the earth today. we can't escape these two influences. we're susceptible to both. we're led by one or the other. we can't be neutral. there is no gray. we have to pick a side. as in the early days of the church, our motto is "The Kingdom of God or Nothing!"

"There is a line of demarkation, well defined, between the Lord's territory and the devil's. If you will stay on the Lord's side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil's side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter's power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord." (President George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel With Others, Deseret Book 1948, 42-43)
so let it be written... so let it be done.
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Tuly
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Re: Black and White

Post by Tuly »

Thank you for this post Ian. I believe one can only agree or disagree with this. I for one agree with this. I will admit it is easier to live a gray life.There is no real commitment in a gray life. And sacrifice is minimal in a gray life and you will be loved and admired by many in this world. Truly there is a 'wide chasm' in a gray life. I'm afraid the world feels like it is gray in these latter days.
"Condemn me not because of mine imperfection,... but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." Mormon 9:31
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Re: Black and White

Post by King Noah »

Yes, I'm sure most, if not all, of the family will agree with your rubbish about black and white. And yet, from this gilded throne (from the throne mind you, not even from that magnificent tower I had built), I can plainly see all the colors of the rainbow. Perhaps you're all simply lacking perspective?

You all seem to think that marriage, priesthood authority, and motion pictures are all so clearly defined that we may judge good and evil. But I ask you: if they are so cut and dry, why are we even having this conversation? I would think we would be chatting about my exotic pets or bronze gauntlets. Instead, we are in here trying to convince ourselves that something is wrong because a "prophet" speaks out about it. Can 50 million people be wrong?

Guards! Roll me off this throne and into that vat of grapes. I'm thirsty just thinking about these ridiculous issues.
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Re: Black and White

Post by John »

In 1940 this was the face given to evil. It was a generally acknowledged reality that evil is evil.
wicked-witch-of-the-west-election.jpg
In 2014 our culture wants to deny that evil is evil, so we give evil a pretty face:
1.162904.jpg
And the context into which this pretty face is placed tries to convince us that evil is a matter of opinion.

That is a lie no matter how vociferously Satan's minions deny it, or how alluringly, compellingly they promote it.
Last edited by John on Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Black and White

Post by James »

As I see it the black/white/gray image is so broad in analogs and meanings that saying that life should be black and white dangerously risks oversimplifying the world/creating a simplified version of reality that misses parts of reality that other versions of reality would not miss, thereby causing misunderstandings of the self, the other, and the material world.

To what degree is spectral thinking bad? What of the fallacy of false dilemma?
That post is too controversial, that post is too vanilla, this post is just right.

I really enjoyed the “black world sprinkled with white” image. Many, of the scriptures presented refer to one issue, namely the issue of choosing God or the opposite of that. In the scriptures if light is truth and light is white and darkness is falsehood and darkness is black then sure, it would be foolish to be gray in that way.

Anything can be thought about by pairing opposites, but that does not mean that everything should always be thought of in that way all the time. Take the dichotomy of health and sickness. Right now my vital signs are within normal limits, and my cholesterol profile is stellar. But I have a runny nose and a mild ache in the back. I don’t see my health as a black or white thing, but as gray. Some people may gravitate more towards black and white thinking (My atheist friend at work told me today that he feels life is usually black and white, and almost always should be black and white. yes, i've been polling people) while some may be more gray (even though they may have chosen “the Lord’s side”).
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Re: Black and White

Post by Ian »

i wouldn't say that life should be black and white. who am i to say what life "should be?" i'm talking about what life "really is." black-and-white thinking, and spectral thinking, are just that -- ways of thinking. everyone has a natural way of thinking. the goal is to abandon that way of thinking, to adopt God's way of thinking.

we want truth. truth is knowledge of things as they really were, are, and will become. in other words, truth is knowledge of reality. where does truth come from? God possesses all truth, and imparts some of it to us. everything that is true comes from Jesus Christ, the "God of truth." everything that is false comes from the devil, the "father of all lies." that's real.

some truths matter more than others. God is real. God's law and commandments are real. God placed us on the earth, to judge whether we choose right or wrong. these are truths that matter to us. these truths are absolute and will never change.

some truths don't matter so much. these are better described as "facts." these are the world's concerns. some of these facts are useful, but many are not useful at all. the truth is that we won't live in this world for very long. in reality, the facts of this world will be of little or of no use to us in the better world to come.

it was said that i presented scriptures referring to one issue, namely the issue of choosing God or not. i wouldn't call it "one" issue, i would call it "the" issue. what matters more than that? that's why we're here. we're here to choose right or wrong, truth or error, reality or artificiality. white or black. let's be realistic, shall we?
so let it be written... so let it be done.
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Re: Black and White

Post by Tuly »

In Elder Gong's talk - Becoming Perfect in Christ - https://www.lds.org/liahona/2014/07/you ... 4&lang=eng

He says -
Fully accepting our Savior’s Atonement can increase our faith and give us courage to let go of constraining expectations that we are somehow required to be or to make things perfect. Black-and-white thinking says everything is either absolutely perfect or hopelessly flawed. But we can gratefully accept, as God’s sons and daughters, that we are His greatest handiwork (see Psalm 8:3–6; Hebrews 2:7), even though we are still a work in progress.
I believe that is why we might fear choosing black or white we fear that "black-and-white thinking says everything is either absolutely perfect or hopelessly flawed". I do believe God's way of thinking does simplify my choices and hence my life.
"Condemn me not because of mine imperfection,... but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." Mormon 9:31
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Re: Black and White

Post by Ian »

elder gong describes an unrealistic way of thinking. "incorrect and unrealistic expectations" may cause depression and anxiety. instead of imposing expectations on ourselves, we try to submit to God's will for us. this means coming to grips with reality, rather than turning away from reality. one reality is that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. another reality is that God foresees human errors and does not allow them to frustrate His overall plans. we can trust God's plans even though we make mistakes. acknowledging these realities helps us to "live by faith and not by fear."
so let it be written... so let it be done.
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Re: Black and White

Post by Tuly »

This comes from a blog - http://middleagedmormonman.com/home/?s=frozen - that makes a point of the song "Let It Go". Even though he still likes the movie the song brought concerns to him. This song to me very clearly makes a case of black and white. "Let It Go" - to me is black, not gray.

I have a couple of problems with Frozen. Now don’t start composing hate mail until you’ve heard me out. Like I said, I enjoyed the movie, but there were a couple of things that made me flinch. Hard.

The parts I wrestle with are serious enough to me that I felt they warranted some discussion with my family – which I have done. So, as you are all part of my digital family, I figured I would share my thoughts with you as well.

— Spoiler alert: If you are one of the few people on the planet who have not seen the movie – stop reading!

(We return to the movie, already in progress..)

Elsa has fled the castle, and escaped into the mountains. She begins singing the song “Let It Go,” which has become the “big” song from the film, and will definitely feel right at home on Broadway.

The song builds as she discovers what power she has to create marvelous things, she defiantly justifies her isolation, and flexes her newfound desire to “let it go.”

And then she sings…

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

*Flinch* Excuse me? What did she just say?

No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

That’s what I thought she said. That is just so wrong I hardly know what to say! Thankfully the Lord’s prophets have already explained it quite well:

“I wish to raise a warning voice. In today’s society, the difference between right and wrong is being obscured by loud, seductive voices calling for no restraints in human conduct. They advocate absolute freedom without regard to consequences. I state unequivocally that such behavior is the high road to personal destruction.” Elder James E. Faust “Obedience: The Path to Freedom.” - https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... m?lang=eng

Right and wrong exist, whether we acknowledge it or not.


“It is well to worry about our moral foundation. We live in a world where more and more persons of influence are teaching and acting out a belief that there is no absolute right and wrong—that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made choices that can prevail over the commandments of God.” Elder Dallin A. Oaks, “Balancing Truth and Tolerance.” - https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/02/bala ... e?lang=eng

Elder Oaks refers to this “No right, no wrong, no rules for me” attitude as “Moral Relativism.: The consequences of this attitude is “Persuaded by this philosophy, many of the rising generation are caught up in self-serving pleasures, pornography, dishonesty, foul language, revealing attire, pagan painting and piercing of body parts, and degrading sexual indulgence.”

One of the great proponents of this philosophy was Korihor, in the Book of Mormon. (Alma 30:6) Embracing it is not empowering, it is just the opposite.

Defenders will begin shouting, “C’mon, MMM, it’s just a few lines of a song.”

True. It is just a few lines of a song – a song that your six-year-old is probably walking around the house singing.

As a parent, I can’t imagine the sick feeling I would get it one of my children sat down and explained to me that they have decided that as far as he/she was conceded, there is “No right, no wrong, no rules for me – I’m free!”

We need to counter this philosophy. We need to teach our children that freedom does not come from the absence of rules. It comes from adherence to them. Ask any addict or man in prison what their “freedom” is like.

On to the other item…

Did you notice that as Elsa was singing, as she became more confident in her abilities, she also presented herself less “wholesome” manner?

Do you think I’m overreacting? Here’s what Idina Menzel (The voice of Elsa) had to say about it”:

‘She finds herself and accepts who she is and she’s very vampy,’ says Idina. ‘She’s quite sexy for Disney, I have to say – they’re pushing the limits there a little bit! But there’s a gleam in her eye and a supermodel walk that goes with it…” (link here)

That is an unsettling statement: “She finds herself and accepts who she is and she’s very vampy.”

As our girls discover the wonderful power and abilities they have within, hopefully they will find a better way to show it to the world than slinking around in too tight clothes with a sultry gaze.

Part of finding out who we “really are” should not lead us towards the world, but rather away from it. Every young woman who watches Elsa’s ‘transformation” needs to be reminded about “Divine Nature” and what it really means. Sexuality shouldn’t be confused with empowerment. (Funny thought – my EC just mentioned Olivia Newton-John’s transformation in Grease. Some things never change!)
"Condemn me not because of mine imperfection,... but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." Mormon 9:31
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Re: Black and White

Post by Ian »

i was just thinking that a few scriptural passages might appear to blur the line between right and wrong. for example, we read that abraham deceived the egyptians by claiming sarah as his sister. wouldn't that break a commandment to be honest? we also read that nephi killed laban. wouldn't that break a commandment to not kill? did abraham and nephi discover gray areas of God's law?

the simple answer is no. there is no gray area between right and wrong. abraham did the right thing, and nephi did the right thing. they both followed God's law. how can we know this for sure? we know this, because the scriptures make it clear that they both did exactly what God told them to do.

joseph smith taught this principle very plainly:
That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, "Thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted--by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256
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Re: Black and White

Post by Steve »

I think some may confuse "gray" with the concepts of "scales," "levels," or "rankings." We know that some sins are considered more serious than others. Though all sin is sin, some are considered more "abominable" than others (Alma 39:5). I think this sense of relative gravity gives us the perception that good and evil are variable, that one sin may be pitch black and another a light gray. We get in trouble with this focus, though, because we think we can "sin a little" (2 Nephi 28:8) and it doesn't make any difference. However, the truth of the matter is, we are commanded to "be perfect" (3 Nephi 12:48) and "deny ourselves of all ungodliness" (Moroni 10:32). Even David testified regarding the qualities of those "who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord," clearly pointing to "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart" (Psalms 24:3-4).

Though we all "come short" every day (Romans 3:23) and all need the Savior to wash ourselves clean, we need to understand that our choices sometimes "crucify him unto ourselves" (D&C 76:35) when we seek to rationalize, justify, or minimalize our sins as simply "gray."
When God can do what he will with a man, the man may do what he will with the world.     ~George MacDonald
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Re: Black and White

Post by John »

Amen (Ian)
and Amen (Steve)
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Re: Black and White

Post by James »

A few months ago I went for a Px. They have those heath conditions and symptoms checklists, which include anxiety and depression. I checked both. The dr. asked about it to determine if I need treatment or not. The conclusion was that circumstance probably explains it, but maybe there is more going on. He said for patients who do not necessarily require professional treatment he always recommends a book called Feeling Good by David D. Burns.
The book is basically a course in cognitive therapy, first published when cognitive therapy was somewhat of a new thing 30 years ago. Burns cites studies documenting the incredible effectiveness of cognitive therapy, which has since become the bread and butter of modern professional counseling. In chapter 3 he introduces many cognitive distortions that cause our depressed moods. Cognitive distortion 1 is quoted below

1. all –or-nothing thinking. This refers to your tendency to evaluate your personal qualities in extreme, black-or-white categories. For example, a prominent politician told me, “because I lost the race for governor, I’m a zero.” A straight A student who received a B on an exam concluded, “Now I’m a total failure.” All or nothing thinking forms the basis for perfectionism. It causes you to fear any mistake or imperfection because you will then see yourself as a complete lose, and you will feel inadequate and worthless. This was of evaluating things is unrealistic because life is rarely completely either one way or the other. For example, no one is absolutely brilliant or totally stupid. Similarly, no one is either completely attractive or totally ugly. Look at the floor of the room you are sitting in now. Is it perfectly clean? Is every inch piled high with dust and dirt? or is it partially clean? Absolutes do not exist in this universe. If you try to force your experiences into absolute categories, you will be constantly depressed because your perceptions will not conform to reality. You will set yourself up for discrediting yourself endlessly because whatever you do will never measure up to your exaggerated expectations. The technical name for this type of perceptual error is “dichotomous thinking.” You see everything as black or white—shades of gray do not exist.

My immediate reaction to reading this was “family website!” Next, I remembered that I spent half my time at UVU as a psychology major where I didn’t stop hearing about two things. 1. Freud. “He was wrong about a lot of things, but really influential.” Then we would spend half the semester talking about him. 2. People from Utah are frequently depressed and the number one issue in LDS people is perfectionism.

So Ian claims that the world is black and white, that deity uses black and white thinking, and that we, although we will often fall short of it, should try to be as black and white as we can. And that when we fall short in this life we should remember that we don’t have to be perfect right now as long as we are trying. He also claims that spectral thinking is just that, a way of thinking. That our goal should be to think the way God thinks.

Many LDS people try to be black and white, (realize they are not perfect because we are told that in church every week) but still end up depressed.

I personally do not think the world is black and white. I also think that God may think in a variety of ways always based on contextual correctness, or truth. I think that when God writes to us he gives us things that will help us on our mortal journey, and that the personalities and experiences of the oracles and Sybils find their ways into the scriptures they write.
Ian mentioned mental health at the beginning of this conversation. Mental health professionals have found through research, theory and practice that black and white thinking does not lead to happiness. And the invitation is extended: if you are unhappy, and think in black and white, try changing the way you think and see what happens. Time and time again people are cured of their mental ills.
“Absolutes do not exist in this universe. If you try to force your experiences into absolute categories, you will be constantly depressed because your perceptions will not conform to reality.”

What is the reality? Is black and white thinking ever correct? Perhaps sometimes it is. I do not here take the time to address every scripture Ian posted, but at least say that many of them referred to loyalty to God. When rallying people to a cause and enlisting loyal, faithful servants, it is good to ask, “Who is on the Lords side?” This does not mean that the universe is black and white or that always being black or white will lead to truth and happiness.

Are we either going to heaven or hell? Or are there degrees of glory? Is it possible, even with these degrees, to create dichotomous thinking? Either you are going to the celestial kingdom or you aren’t. You are going to the terrestrial kingdom or you aren’t. But they are presented to us as a spectrum, within which there are infinite degrees, many mansions.

Stephen Jay Gould wrote on dichotomy in his famous book on time. He communicates that any careful thinker will tell you that the complexity of any question/problem cannot be fully appreciated when thought of in terms of dichotomy but that humans have always had this tendency to create dichotomies. He grants that it may have some utility. I think that dichotomous thinking is like a model. It provides a way for us to conceptualize something that may otherwise be either very disconnected from us or tiringly complicated to the point that it would be difficult to make it meaningful and communicable.

Sometimes (to varying degrees depending on the person) black and white thinking may seem natural. It may carry occasional utility and benefit. But I am certain that it does not represent some grand function of the universe, or our world. Perhaps those who are more black and white in their orientation would do well to stretch their minds into thinking in new, gray ways on occasion. Perhaps those who are flailing around the spectrum of grays would do well to find times when a more black and white thinking method may be temporarily helpful.
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Re: Black and White

Post by John »

apples and oranges. It seems to me that Ian is not discussing the description of "things" being black or white. Of course no one is "either completely attractive or totally ugly, or "absolutely brilliant or totally stupid." Ian is not discussing personal qualities or people's characters. He's talking about choices.

He speaks - the scriptures quoted refer - to choices being either right or wrong, not people or things or floors or the world. Choices.

And our eternal degree of glory will reflect our varying degrees of adherence to eternal laws. But the laws are immutable. "There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we receive any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

I consider it a great blessing that God is so clear that a choice is either a right one or a wrong one. Of course, there may be a multiplicity of good choices and there are often as well a number of bad choices in a given circumstance. But the confusion arises from the influence of the world (Satan) who is so anxious to confuse us with the idea that wrong is in the eye (or inclination) of the beholder. No. God is not so wishy washy. A behavioral choice is either right or wrong. I'm not talking about the choice of wallpaper or paint color, the choice of a college major or my perception of self (although I think I could make a case that my perceptions are choices as well. Micah might have something to say to me on that one?). I'm talking about behaviors...actions...obediences or disobediences to laws which God makes abundantly clear to those who humbly seek to follow him and consistently respond appropriately to the light of Christ given to every man.

Self judgement or the judgement of others is an entirely different subject than what is being discussed.
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Re: Black and White

Post by micah »

Ian wrote:i’m told that life isn't black and white. life consists of infinite shades of gray. only a naive or simplistic mind would attempt to draw a line between black and white. black-and-white thinking is a mental disorder, or a cognitive distortion, that harms our health and breeds contention in our relationships. it closes the mind and generates unrealistic expectations.

in reality, i'm told, life is complicated. good and evil are within each of us. truth is mixed with error. as one grows older and wiser, one learns to embrace the grayness of life. we learn to accept people for who they are. we don't make a big deal out of little things. everyone makes little mistakes. we should be tolerant. we don't want to offend anyone. we don't want to be controversial. we just try to think positively. we see the goodness in all people. we broaden our minds. we aren't afraid to sift through the world's philosophies in search of truth. we sympathize with those who may disagree with us on some issues. how else are we to maintain respectability in society? no one has a monopoly on truth. no one is perfect. each of us has an individual way of doing things. who among us can judge that one way is black, or another way is white? each way is a unique shade of gray.
So, Ian, what exactly of the above do you disagree with? Do you disagree with it all (ie life is not complicated, good and evil are not within each of use... we should not sympathize with those who may disagree with us... etc.), or just parts.
John wrote:It seems to me that Ian is not discussing the description of "things" being black or white. Of course no one is "either completely attractive or totally ugly, or "absolutely brilliant or totally stupid." Ian is not discussing personal qualities or people's characters. He's talking about choices.
I actually am not sure that this is what Ian is saying. Is it just about choices? Are you saying that every choice is either "black or white," that is, completely good or completely bad? Or is this broader, saying that every thing (person, object, thought, movie, book, rock, etc) can be categorized as good or bad? Or is it something else entirely?

I personally believe that this life is about character making.

I believe that the "black and white" philosophy is inherently flawed.

For instance, If I point out the famous Seattle World Fair Landmark to Pippa and ask her what it is, she will say, "The Space Noodle." Is this answer correct? The "black and white" response would be, "no!" as what she said is literally not correct. However, her answer is a whole lot more correct than if she said, "a kiwi!" If Pippa says, "the Space Noodle," I get what she is saying and I would say, "right, the space NEEDLE!" If she says, "Kiwi" I am just confused, and I say, "no, it's the space needle!" When she approximates the "correct" answer, I accept her best efforts and continue to encourage her growth.

I believe we all hope to achieve perfection. However, aren't we all like Pippa in our attempts? We are in a fallen state, with imperfect information, character flaws, weakness, "the natural man." And because of this, we often make approximation of God-like behavior, but fail. "Black and white" thinking tells us, "well, your behavior or choice isn't completely God-like, so it is evil, it is black." I firmly believe that God is like the father that encourages, accepts our approximation (which he is able to do because of the atonement), and continues to model (through the example of Jesus Christ.)

I do agree with the black and white philosophy that it is possible to categorize every choice, every behavior or action, as either good or bad--completely God-like or not. However, what is the point? On some level, we all come out short. Sure I can pay my tithing exactly (even on gross income like the truly righteous do), but I am certainly not at the level of the widow's mite. I can't think of one thing I do where I am indistinguishable from Christ in HOW I do it, and most of the time, even in WHAT I do.

I believe that the appeal in the black and white philosophy is that it makes salvation by our works look so attainable. You can categorize every decision as right or wrong, and then simply pick the right one--easy peasey lemon squeezy. If I could just somehow get a list of all the commandments (with all the exceptions included, of course), I would be set! And I can also judge everyone else who I see failing to be less then me--instant ego boost! I can convince myself of my righteousness by remembering all the commandments I keeping to the letter. But then I would read the New Testament, and realize that what God wants is not someone who just ACTS a certain way, but someone who IS a certain way. You can certainly keep a long list of commandments and be damned.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that this life is about character making. We make closer and closer approximations to God-like character. The atonement allows this approximations to be accepted by a perfect God. But you better believe that along the way those approximations are grey. Eventually, however, the grey starts to look whiter and whiter until somehow, in some distant time (or eternity), we achieve complete whiteness.
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