Principles vs. Method

Posted on July 3, 2013 by


“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever wondered how the ladies at Traditional Christianity manage to get along so well, even though we have radically different ideologies? Simple. Every one of us loves the Lord our God, and strives to obey Him and bring Him glory. That’s our first principle. Our methods for getting there vary – most of the editrixes are Catholic, and yet they put up with my hands-in-the-air, Bapticostal self. Why? Because they know I love God, and that I’m serious about it.

I’ve seen a lot of feathers getting ruffled in the blogosphere recently when people’s methods get questioned. Of course, we all have our pet methods for everything from child raising to marriage to weight loss. We can discuss methods until the end of time… but principles? Principles don’t change much if at all. When the principles change, then you have what they refer to as paradigm shift.

Let’s take child-rearing for example. My principles for child rearing are fairly simple – I’m trying to raise godly children, first. I’m trying to educate them well. I expect them to act in an acceptable fashion – and I have no problem punishing them in order to maintain discipline. You could refer to this as the “authoritarian model”. Take another parent – who thinks their child will be better off raising themselves, and imposes no discipline other than to maintain life and limb … our principles of child-rearing are different. But if I sent my child over to Elspeth or Alte’s houses, since they have the same principle in force, the children would have to get used to different methods… but no major paradigm shift. Both of them raise their children with authority and love. My methods, in specific, for child-rearing change according to my children’s ages (yay, the chemicals live under the kitchen sink again!) and characters and needs, as well as my goals for them.

How about weight-loss? Simple enough. 1) Don’t eat fake (define as loosely as you like) food. Get good nutrition. 2) More calories burned than taken in. Method? I have a friend who lost a ton of weight going vegan while she was walking 5 miles+/day. My mom lost a ton of weight hitting primal (I didn’t, but I feel healthier). I’m *finally* getting some results doing 5:2… but only if I don’t go nuts on the 5 days. The method can’t violate the principle. This *method* works for me… because it allows me to get to the principle without driving myself bonkers.

When we’re tempted to get our feathers ruffled because someone disagrees with our way of doing things – can we differentiate between the principle and the method? I think we can get into some serious arguments over methodology that just don’t matter much because we’re operating under the same principles.

Just something I’d like to have us think about. 🙂