Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's Extreme, What's Balanced, or What's True?

"That's extreme!" seems to be the end-all phrase to combat any idea or practice we don't really want to think through. If we label it as "extreme" then we can move on and go about our merry lives. But I would argue that Christians should never say that something is extreme as a way to combat an idea. I say this because I think that the practice of doing this is unChristian in itself. It assumes a non-Christian worldview. The opposite of "extreme," of course, is "balanced." We say that people should be "balanced" as a way of skirting out of having to think through a position as well. It's an acceptance of what is without thinking about, or having the ability to think about, what should be.

Michael Horton states:

Anti-intellectualism is also arrogant in its plea for balance. People often cry for balance whenever they do not want to take the time to think through their own point of view. Holding a so-called middle position saves us the hassle of having to actually employ critical skills. Circumventing thought processes, it is a mere act of will that attempts to pick up the slack of our lazy thinking. This plea for balance does not, however, keep us from claiming moral superiority for having the grace, moderation, and sophisticated detachment to stand above and outside the debate. (We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostle's Creed, 12)

I think the problem is more than lazy thinking, however, as people are often lazy thinkers when it benefits them to be so. Hence, lazy thinking is willful.

We live in a world where the presupposition of atheism/agnosticism is everywhere. We have shunned the idea that divine revelation exists to speak into our thoughts and lives. This has caused us to redirect our worship from God to ourselves. Our god is the self, and we worship it through whatever brings most satisfaction to it in the moment. Our pursuits are our idols through which the cult to self is realized. We have turned away from the Creator's words, that we are created to be God's image, and have instead embraced the serpent's words that we are to be "as God."

This is why it is so interesting to hear people condemn or praise anything in our culture. Since there is no revelation to give us a standard of right and wrong, good and evil, we are left with the only standard we have: ourselves. Hence, if I don't like something, or something is outside of my normal experience, it's extreme. If I do like something, and it accords to that with which I am accustomed, it's balanced. Why? Because I'm balanced. I'm the standard of the norm.

Now, in reality, it's the culture that is the standard, since it dominates the self, and keeps it under control by allowing it to believe that it is autonomously evaluating all things, all the while existing as but a marionette of its philosophies of life. This is how the serpent gets the world he wants. His followers are not told to worship him. They are told to exalt themselves as gods. Thus, devil-worship isn't about setting up a shrine to a goat's head and sacrificing virgins to the almighty Satan. It's sacrificing our humanity to him by becoming like him, self-willed and self-exalting.

So extremes are subjective to me. I decide what is normal, and what is normal is what everyone else has decided for me. I am unique, just like everybody else. And that's the thing. When you are the standard, you cannot stand against culture, because you are the sum total of that culture. A "revelationaless" life is an enslaved life, not one of freedom. So whatever my cultural philosophy considers balanced, I consider balanced. Whatever it says is within the bounds of normal, I say is normal.

This is no different in the church today. Much of Christianity has become balanced according to cultural norms. If it hasn't, then it's an extreme form to be avoided. Those people are crazy. They're weird. Why don't they live according to our rules? Why are they always so combatitive toward our way of life? They're so unbalanced.

This is why Christianity has such conflict in the world. A life directed, not by the self and a culture of selves, but by divine revelation will forever be in conflict with culture, even if that culture is Christianized. That's why one will hear these same objections within the church as much as outside of it. Culture moves, but God's Word is immovable. The heavens and the earth will pass away before His words pass away. We can translate His revelation from one culture to the next, but the messages themselves should never be conformed to culture, lest we end up with a "revelationless" religion like everyone else. And that is a danger. The devil is not just moving to draw all of secular culture under him, but to capture the religious culture as well. If the Bible can be judged by the standards of the culture, it will lose it's ability to stand against it. Hence, he, as the god he always wanted to be, can now dictate reality to his subjects. He can have the world as he wants it by convincing us that we want it too. We'll simply have nothing to counter it. It will just seem normal to us. It will seem like the right way to go. It will become the most desirable. The deception will be complete.

Instead, what we need to do is hold up God's Word and ask, What is true? What is good? rather than, What is normal? What is balanced?

More often than not, what people mean by the words "extreme" and "balanced" is misguided anyway. What is extreme is just the logical conclusion of a belief. It's really just the level of commitment one makes to the idea or practice. What is balanced is really just a compromise between positions and practices. Instead, therefore, we need to ask, What is true? and What is good? in order to ascertain what is a wholehearted commitment to truth and what is good, and what is merely an abberation of that truth or practice. But abberation assumes that one knows the truth, and this is something that a self directed person and culture cannot know, since the self has no transcendence, and is left with only preferences given to it by its environment.

So in the end, a "revelationless" person cannot even judge what is abberant, as it cannot comment about what is true and good. It only has preferences. It only has the self as the standard. Hence, it can only judge something to be extreme or balanced in relation to itself. One simply goes too far, not enough, or is in the sphere of what I consider normal (i.e., depending upon how close it is to my preferences). In a world of preferences, good and truth are subjective terms that I apply objectively to everyone. I am the god of my own religion. "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." But this makes me the captain of everyone else's as well, as I will be judging their ideas with my own (which is why atheism/agnosticism often leads to totalitarianism when it takes power).

If something is good and extreme, then it is extremely good. If something is true and extreme, then it is extremely true. Extreme is good as long as you know what good is. Abberation from truth and good are evil, so abberations must be judged according to those standards. The person with divine revelation is capable to comment on the truth of this post. The person who doesn't have it can only comment on whether they like it, whether it resonates with them, whether it's extreme to their own standards, but they cannot say it's true or false, as they have no ability to do so. The sun is unchained. Seven billion of Nietzche's mad men are released into the world.

We will not survive it unless God does exist, and knowing that the world would end in chaos for all to whom He has not given revelation, He has given it to His people. So we savor it night and day. We can now stand against the tide. We can now know what is good and what is true. God is not a cruel deity who leaves His people to destruction. He is a God of love who provides for them the revelation they need to survive a world of wayward gods, false humanity, so that we can still function as His images in the world. And that's a God worth being extreme for.

And You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your being, and everything you've got. (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30)


  1. "What's Extreme, What's Balanced, or What's True?

    Excellent article. Simply excellent.

    BTW, do you think the following statement is untrue:

    Abortion is murder for hire.

  2. Hi Truth,

    Thanks. I think it's certainly true for those who pay and get paid to do it.