I recently tweeted a line inspired by a sermon I was listening to at church: “Unity without robust diversity is just uniformity.” Elton Trueblood, a philosopher and spiritual writer from the last century, had this to say on the subject:
“There is a conceivable kind of unity which is based on the meager uniformity of the least common denominator. This would be dull, indeed, and, moreover, it would be lacking in power. It would be hard to become enthusiastic or excited about such a prospect. There is, however, another ideal and that is the pooling of rich resources. The result is not the dull monotone, but the brilliance of the patchwork quilt or the beauty of the mosaic.” (Trueblood, Elton. Signs of Hope. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950, p. 45-46.)
Are we seeking “least common denominator” unity in the sense that we want everyone to think exactly like we do on every count? Do we not believe that unity can come to those with different perspectives? Is true unity more an orchestral harmony or is it just singing in unison? Will I resist anyone with a voice different than mine, or will I learn to sing in harmony with that difference?
Now, a voice that is singing against God will find dischord with a voice singing for God. That’s an unholy sort of diversity. But this is different than two voices, both singing for God, finding a way to harmonize with one another.
Later, in the same Trueblood book, I was struck by this simple little insight:
“Sin, from the first, instead of being cured by knowledge is intrinsically linked with knowledge.” (Trueblood, Elton. Signs of Hope. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950, p. 59.)
Yikes. Consider the implications of such a statement in a culture that believes education is always the answer to everything. In the church, for example, we seem to think that growing in biblical knowledge, doctrinal knowledge or theological knowledge is an automatic preventative to sin. Is it? First-century Jewish leaders managed to couple deep biblical knowledge with deep sins of the heart.
There is a loving knowledge that runs deeper than mere idea knowledge or conceptual knowledge. Some will react to this for the very reason that they know, intuitively perhaps, that they do not have much of this sort of knowledge. Perhaps they determine that their failure to have it is evidence that is unavailable in our time.
I think that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a symbol for our tendency to overvalue our own knowledge and undervalue the loving knowledge of God.