Beware the Pendulum

It seems that in theology, as in the rest of life, we’re constantly riding a pendulum. The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves.

If we reject an over-emphasis on God’s love as the basis of his character, we run the the risk of focusing too much on his justice or transcendence. If we seek to reject the feminist tide of our culture and hold to biblical distinctions between male and female, we run the risk of keeping women back from the legitimate ways that they are to serve and minister in the body of Christ. The examples are endless, and for every false doctrine there is an equally-wrong opposite reaction offered in an attempt to correct it.

Tim Challies made a comment once, when reviewing a Brian McLaren book, that McLaren appears to love Jesus, but to hate God (i.e. the Father). Bruce Ware made a nearly identical statement in a theology course I took with him recently. They both made the statement because… well… it’s true. But here’s what concerns me–I wonder how far we are from being the same.

I would never suggest that anyone at GFC or in our circles hates the Father. But I do wonder how our love for him compares to our love for Christ.

For whatever reason, the tide of our Christian culture seems to be waxing strong in our love for and devotion to Christ. Perhaps because of the resurgent emphasis on biblical as opposed to systematic theology. Maybe it is the fact that we tend to focus more on the fulfilment of our salvation, rather than the promise and story leading up to it. Maybe it is our culture’s disdain of authority (and especially authority held by a male, patriarchal figure). Maybe it is just the fact of Christ’s ‘like-us-ness’ that makes it easier for us to imagine him. Regardless of the reason, it is far more common to hear a Christian these days talking about their love for Christ than it is to hear a Christian talk about their love for the Father.

Growing in our love for Christ is always a good thing. But growing in our love for Christ at the expense of our love for the Father is not a good thing. But is this a genuine problem?

Think through the songs you sing in church. Think through the Bible reading you like to do most. Think through your conversations you’ve had recently with fellow believers. How central to your conversation, your reading, or your worship is Father himself, distinct from the other members of the Trinity? Are the affections of your heart warmed the same way when you think of God the Father as when you think of Jesus?

It was the Father’s will to create. It was the Father who chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was the Father who planned in eternity past to send Christ, the Father who promised Christ, and the Father who carried out that plan. It was the Father’s will to crush Jesus to save you. It was the Father who had to withhold his wrath for thousands of years and then bear it all on his only true Son, thus breaking an eternity of perfect union and unbroken fellowship. It was the Father who looked away from Christ in anger in order to look to you with grace.

It was the Father’s plan to send his true Son to make you an adopted Son. It is the Father who gives you his Spirit. It is the Father who holds the king’s heart in his hand, who governs all this according to the counsel of his will, and who will bring about the end of all things in the fulness of time. It is the Father’s throne on which Christ sits, and to whom Christ will return the kingdom at the end of time. 

How is your love for the Father?

7 thoughts on “Beware the Pendulum

  1. Thanks for pointing out the pendulum syndrome Julian. God has been revealing this in my own life recently. After years of attending a church that taught cessation of some spiritual gifts, my family recently started attending a Sovereign Grace Church (where we are being taught a continuationist perspective.) Deep down, the continuationist view has always seemed more Biblical to me, though I could never accept or admit it because I was running far to the opposite extreme of the abuses I've seen (many on Christian television). (P.S. – I still respect many with the cessationist view, my point is that I was one because I was running from extreme doctrinal error on the other side, not because of God's Word.)

  2. Thank you so much for this post!

    I’ve always been subliminally aware of the pendulum, but I’ve never articulated it personally, nor seen it articulated as well as you have. Great exposition!

    But I have never noticed before that people may be putting too much emphasis on the 2nd person of the Trinity at the expense of the 1st. I think you’re right.

  3. Bob,

    Great example! And one I can easily identify with. I’ve swung back and forth on that issue, not really seeing a strong cessationist argument from within Scripture, and yet finding continuationist praxis ranging from anti-biblical to sub-biblical to a-biblical.

    With the emotions tied to an argument like that one, it’s easy to let the pendulum swing free.

  4. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with regard to “the pendulum”, Julian. I’ve observed that the farther to one extreme we go, the more distorted our perspectives of both the other extreme and the “center/orthodox” view become. It then becomes easy to view those who are out of whack in the other direction as heretics and those who are actually more in line with orthodoxy as weak-kneed compromisers. May God grant us the humility to see ourselves as we truly are and the grace to come back to the narrow path.

  5. Rev 2:2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
    Rev 2:3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
    Rev 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
    Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.'”

    Most times the “first love” is argued to be Christ. How can that be since he says they are “bearing up for my name’s sake”? Maybe the first love is actually God the Father. Then the point you make regarding our love of the Father is the same as Jesus’ correction in Rev. 2. Consider it.

  6. The pendulum effect is definitely real.

    I would mention: “Jesus” is the most frequently-used word in all four of the gospels. I wouldn’t want to “pendulum” away from him as our way to the Father lies *through* him, not the other direction … ;)

    Take care & God bless
    WF

  7. Pingback: The Heavenly Father « Julian Freeman