Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

The Pendulum Drives Everything

A pendulum

The pendulum drives everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but most things.

What we perceive to be an excess in one direction drives us to correct the balance by moving in the other direction. Over and over and over. I’ve seen this in other people and I’ve seen it in myself.

The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves. An over-the-top notion of male headship leads to the rise of feminism. An over-emphasis on the sovereignty of God leads to open theism. A preacher who makes a huge deal out of minor issues will eventually find that people stop listening to the things which actually are important. If my friends discipline their kids too much, I want to bring balance to the universe by letting my kids run wild.

For every wrong over-emphasis there is an equal and opposite corresponding over-emphasis in the other direction. More often than not when I have made a theological move it has been as much about moving away from something I perceived to be wrong as it is moving toward something I perceived to be right. That’s not entirely wrong, but I think it does warrant caution.

It has made me want to move slower and ask more questions.

  • Is the content of the position really erroneous or has it just been given inappropriate weight?
  • If I am moving from an extreme position, am I moving to an extreme position? Is there a middle-ground?
  • What is good in the position I’m rejecting that I stand to lose?
  • If I’m rejecting something because I feel like I don’t like it, why do I feel like that?
  • Who am I following? Are they prone to unnecessary extremes?
  • Does the measure of my passion for this issue reflect the Bible’s passion for and clarity on this issue?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old and mellow. But it seems to me that if we’re always moving between extremes, we’re probably passing the truth somewhere in the middle every time. And if I’m just always stuck on the same extreme, I’m probably always just as far away from the truth as I was before.

The trick, I think, is to be pulled to truth like a magnet to its pole rather than to be pulled away from extremes to opposite extremes. Easy to say, harder to live.

I pray that God, by his grace, would allow me to cultivate a deep enough longing for truth in my heart that I would pursue truth out of an ever-increasingly-pure and purified mind that is willing to be wrong, willing to change, willing to believe what I may not like at first, and willing to stay put even when it seems like it would be nicer to change camps.

And I also pray that he would give me friends who observe me carefully and tell me when I’m just over-reacting.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

7 Comments

  1. On your first point, "Is the content of the position really erroneous or has it just been given inappropriate weight?" I think we can easily add in: "or do I object to the presentation of that position?" That's probably covered a bit by your fourth point, but I though it worth drawing out more.

    Knowing my own heart, I'm just as likely to shy away from a position based on *who* is promoting the position, or the method or style of the presentation. If I object to the personal or style I can justify avoiding the position, whether or not it's accurate.

  2. Great thoughts Julian, very helpful. Your last point struck home with me. Really thankful for the gospel when I'm "swinging". I echo your prayer for watchful friends.

    Trevor.

  3. I also have been reflecting on 30, and have felt the need to do that rigorous self research.

    I love those questions Jules. Keep up the asking!

    A thought I’ve been having is: can we be imbalanced about about being balanced? In the journey to watch out for extremes, by the same principles, end up being extremely balanced on everything, and passionate about nothing?

    I think back to condescending mentors that laughed at my youthful zeal. “When you get to my age, you won’t be as extreme” was the underlying tone.

    There is definite truth there; but I can’t help but wonder if there is some things I need to be extreme about, and age only climatizes our passions into mediocrity.

    So maybe the balance is understanding what to be extreme about, and where to find a balanced approach, as you say: What does Scripture passionately emphasize?…or what does God get extreme about? This brings imbalance when extremes are needed, and balance when our own passions for extremes rule us.

    Thanks for sharing your thought bro.

    30 is a milestone, not a millstone. 🙂

    • Julian

      13 July, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Milestone, not millstone… I gotta keep preaching that to my heart! 🙂

      Rielly, your comment is spot on. That was the thought I immediately had after writing the post. I wanted to make the point, but I definitely don't want to sound wishy-washy either.

      I guess it goes back to being gospel-centred. As cheesy as it sounds, I think if we focus on the main thing of the Bible, which is the revelation of God, which reaches its ultimate point in the gospel of Jesus who is the revelation of God, then our hearts will be conformed to his and our passions will become like his. Slowly. Imperfectly. Over long periods of time.

      But you're right. I want to be passionate about what he is; I want to hate what he hates and love what he loves. I want to be extreme where God is extreme.

      I think I've just learned that being extreme is only fitting when there's a level of certainty that I just don't have about a lot of issues. I'm certain about the gospel, though, so I'll cling to that with everything I've got.

  4. Julian

    14 July, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Great stuff, Louis!

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