Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Pendulum

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 **

Blame the Bad Christians…?

My good friend, Jon Warner, has a post over on his blog that got me thinking. In it, Jon questions the “labels” we live under as a result of “hero worship” in the Christian faith. He argues that even those “great saints” who have gone before us have had fatal flaws in their character which are significant enough that we should distance ourselves from labelling ourselves with their names.

 

There is a good amount of truth in this. I cringe anytime someone says something like, “oh… you’re a Calvinist…” with that look on their face as if to say, “now I’ve got you all figured out.” It is good to fight labels in the sense that we don’t want to either follow or be labelled as following a person’s teachings carte blanche. If we just accept something because someone we like said it, we’re in grave danger of exalting people to places in our minds that they don’t deserve. 

That being said, I think Jon is reacting against a type of Christianity that I am unfamiliar with. For example, Michael Haykin has posted a wonderful series on Eminent Christians through history on his blog. These posts have been insightful, encouraging, edifying, and challenging. There has been no hint of hagiography; all of the sketches picture great men of the faith who, even while being great, were still men.

This seems to be symptomatic of much of the angst and rebellion in the “younger evangelicals” these days: There is reaction to what is legitimately wrong, but they are unwilling or unable to see that there are those still within evangelicalism who have not made that particular mistake. As a result, lookout below, because here comes that nasty pendulum.

It would appear that the solution here is, as with many other problems, merely a matter of reasoning things through. Do we have much to learn from great figures of our faith? Yes. Have people gone too far in the past and made idols out of Christian figures? Yes. Do we need to avoid all labels as a result? No. Are labels sometimes frustrating? Yes, absolutely.

So what do we do? Well, first we actually have to read our Bibles. Believe it or not, the Bible might have a thing or two to teach us about how to view ourselves in the light of those who have gone on before. I wonder if some would even accuse the author of Hebrews of hero worship in Hebrews 11?

Next, we need to actually read church history… in a discerning manner. Then we ask questions: Were they right? Why? How can we advance / build off of what they said? Hopefully this will lead to a more reasoned approach to progressing Christian thought.

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