One of the idols we chase is “balance.” It is an established political fact that unless everyone else has headed off to the extremes, elections are normally won from the political centre. Opinion polls show that most voters consider themselves to be in the centre and judge the parties by where they believe they sit in relationship to them.
This desire for balance also leads us to see ourselves as essentially neutral, able to sit and hear “both sides of the story” before weighing it up and making a judgement. We also tend to be wary of those who seem to push a strong position theologically. The assumption is that somehow if we hear all sides, then we can reach a compromise in the middle and that is likely to be closest to the truth. Of course we have also been brought up to believe this through the fairy stories we have been told. Like Goldilocks, we want our porridge not too hot, not too cold but just right.
But what if porridge is better served either hot or cold, not lukewarm. Goldilocks offers us a cautionary tale not a heroic legend. I want to suggest that balance is often the enemy of truth and that the middle ground may well be furthest from it. Let’s start with a case study, the response to the Pandemic. There are two views about how to deal with the pandemic. On the one extreme is the view that we suppress it brutally even if that means that Governments have to rely on the most draconian measures to get people to stay home. At the other extreme, is the more libertarian approach, let people make their own choices, take the hit, keep the economy moving and hope that herd immunity happens quickly. Now, most Governments have in effect taken a middle ground position between the two. I think that was probably the only option truly open to them in a no win situation. Maybe they got it right but if they did, it won’t be because they found the middle ground. It is arguable that you could have plumped for either extreme and provided you followed it whole heartedly and stuck to your guns then you may well have ended up succeeding in defeating the virus.
What about Theology. Well, we know that there is objective truth and when there are two extreme positions such as Calvinism and Arminianism or Trinitarianism and Arianism, well its obvious that both cannot be right but again we are tempted to find the moderating ground. So between free will and predestination, we come up with Molanism or middle knowledge. That’s the ide that God foreknows a range of possible future options and ensures his plans can be fulfilled through any of them. That sounds great on one level but when examined rigorously the logic quickly falls apart. The middle ground is often logically inconsistent and unsustainable. When it comes to the Doctrine of God, is it possible to find a middle ground alternative to Trinitarianism and Arianism? Actually, given that Arius was responding to the Modalists who didn’t believe in three distinct persons, it is arguable that the Arians might have seen their position as the moderating one between two extremes.
Finally, what happens when we try to be the moderator, sitting neutrally to hear both sides of the story and then coming to a conclusion or a decision that will leave everybody happy. Well first of all, there is a danger of arrogance here. I like to believe that I am the clear headed one without baggage who is able to sit above the fray. Secondly, it often risks us avoiding the truth staring at us. Sometimes there are not two sides to a story. Sometimes there is just the truth and some ridiculous, heinous lies. By trying to play moderator, we are in fact giving credibility to sin and false teaching. It is not for us to moderate between truth and error. It is for us to heed the call to join the side of truth.
So enjoy your porridge piping hot so that you have to blow on it but it still bursts with flavour or eat it as a cold dish. But don’t force down some lukewarm tepid offence that will cause you to vomit. Get a hard mattress that is good for your back or a soft one that you can sink into but throw out the old mattress that is nether soft nor hard and is likely to cause a lengthy dose of sciatica. Don’t try to find a place of balance, sitting on the fence. Take the side of truth.