Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Don't Be A Pendulum Swinger

A few years ago, I heard Albert N. Martin say something that has stuck with me and been very helpful in the Christian life. He said,"The pendulum never swings faster than it does through the center." The point he made is that when we see errors in our lives, in the church, and even in the world around us and try to correct them, we need to be cautious, not to over-correct them and swing past the Biblical center. It is hard to avoid unBiblical extremes, but we must. Here is what I am afraid happens all too often: we see an error in one area of the Christian life and react so strongly against it that we end up into equally dangerous error on the other side.

 John R.W. Stott said in his book, Balanced Christianity – A Call To Avoid Unnecessary Polarization
“One of the greatest weaknesses which we Christians (especially evangelical Christians) display is our tendency to extremism or imbalance. It seems that there is almost no pastime the devil enjoys more than tipping Christians off balance. My conviction is that we should love balance as much as the devil hates it, and seek to promote it as vigorously as he seeks to destroy it.”

There are a number of dangers with being a pendulum swinger instead of a balanced Christian.

Danger #1: You never know how far the pendulum is going to swing until you get there.I recently met with a man who had come to see the great truth of Christ as the Head of His church. He had previously seen domineering dictatorial forms of church leadership. When he came to see Christ's headship in the church, he grabbed the pendulum as it came his direction and rode it all the way to the extreme of denying legitimate authority vested in the elders of God's church. He swung past Biblical center into the dangerous error of the "Lone Ranger Christian" mentality.  

Danger #2: A natural tenancy to see whatever issue we swung toward as so important and precious that it becomes the litmus test of all Christianity. This is another problem with being a pendulum-swinger. Not only passing by everything in the middle, but also filtering the primary issues through the lens of secondary issues. I like the King James Bible and I hate abortion. I believe the Bible forbids remarriage after divorce and permits the cautious consumption of alcohol. But brothers and sisters, those things aren't the Gospel, they aren't the main thing. The problem with being a pendulum-swinger is that far too often we see our new-found extreme as the test of a person's profession of faith. We forget the Gospel is a message of good news, a message about the Person and work of Jesus for sinners. An individual finds their place in the family of God in Christ, not in the version of Bible they have or in how many times they have stood in front of an abortion clinic with a pro-life sign. The Gospel speaks to those things and their importance, but they are not the sole test of the genuineness of a person's confession of faith. May we never get secondary issues (although they are important) confused with the Gospel because to do so is to deny that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. May we remember the words of Stephen Covey, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

Danger #3: Once we get comfortable grabbing a passing pendulum, it becomes easier. Certainly there are times for theological paradigm shifts. There are times to change our behavior and even our doctrine. Unless we are talking about abandoning blatant heresy, those times should be done with careful Biblical study and prayer "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:14). It is the mark of a spiritual baby (a spiritually young Christian) to always shift doctrinal positions with the changing of the winds around them. A spiritually mature person will seek to grow and maintain Biblical balance at all costs.