Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Triangulation Approach to Theology & Other Issues

I have been applying a “triangulation approach” to a lot of my thinking about theology and ministry. This approach has been very helpful to clarify my thoughts - both to myself and to my students. When considered in the light of the Trinitarian God, this “triangulation approach” seems very complementary to our fundamental conception of God. In fact, it seems almost like a corollary drawn from Ultimate Reality - to help us understand all reality.

Triangulation is used in both physical and social sciences. I was first introduced to it when I was working in a contracting firm as an accountant. Part of my responsibility was to check the calculations in tender documents. The quantity survey technicians explained to me how the quantities were arrived at by on-site land surveyors. They used triangulation to measure distances – both horizontal and vertical. This technique to measure distances has been in use since ancient times. The term is now used also in social science research where a third dimension is introduced into a two-dimensional spectrum. For example, in politics we can talk about a “third” position that is neither “left” nor “right.”

We often think that Asians, with their thinking patterns conditioned by their monistic worldview, are more suited to deal with issues using a “triangulation approach.” While that may be so, I think we tend to think of ONLY TWO worldviews: monistic and dualistic. The slide on this blog entry is taken from my lectures. It shows that we can take a third "triangulating" position: holistic. We will be talking some more about this slide. I will also demonstrate how I have used this “triangulation approach” on specific areas of theology and ministry.