“The devil always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse…He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”
Earth has two poles, but generally speaking, no one lives long on either of them. Life is somewhere in between. Views on everything from morality to politics, to childrearing, to the existence of God follow the same pattern. You don’t have to look far in our society to find polarization.
We sometimes find the same polarized type of battleground in the interpretation of scripture: faith or works, knowledge or experience, to partake or to abstain. None of these is ever truly presented in the scripture as a case of this or that. The truth lies in a moderate blending of the two, worked out in each Christian’s heart through the use of reason and experience.
The truth arrived at by this method is not ambiguous. The truth, as personified in Christ, is given to us as broad principles and worked into specifics through the partnership of the individual and the Holy Spirit as that relationship actively moves through life.
That is not to say that there are many truths, but rather that there are many ways to apply our understanding to one sound principle. Some of those applications may be closer to the spirit of the principle than others but rarely are any, thoughtfully arrived at, without merit.
The ministry of Jesus has been called “radical” by some. I agree but probably not in the way such people suppose. Jesus was radical because he rebuked the legalism of the rabbis and the Council as soundly as he rebuked the abandoning of the faith by publicans and sinners (he socialized with both groups by the way). As famously told in the matter of paying taxes to Caesar, it was not a matter of paying or not paying but paying the proper authority in the proper medium of exchange. That is, the things that belonged to Caesar to him, the things of God to Him.
Isn’t it ironic that the world which criticizes Christians for being too black and white in both thinking and practice, views the scripture in the same polarized fashion and so never honestly investigates its validity through experimentation? Well, maybe not. When you live in one extreme end of the spectrum, it’s very difficult to see the other side.
Of course, the world need not go so far afield as Christian thought to find a warning against extremism. The classical philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle will tell you the same thing.
Christians are admonished by scripture to work out the practical applications of salvation in such a manner that their moderation is known to all. However, in all honesty, moderation comes with maturity—and so few in modern society, Christian and non-Christian, aspire to maturity.