The Problem With Extremes

A World of Extremists

The world today is filled will all sorts of extremists focused upon a singular cause, such as the environment, a particular economic system, various religious beliefs, etc. Such extremes are manifest in various ways whether benign through activism or malevolent through violence. In seeing such extremism around us, one can begin to believe the world has become a truly polarized place.

Greek Extremists

While this may be true to some degree, philosophical extremism is nothing new. The Greeks, for instance, had philosophers who held to two distinct extremes. The Stoics exemplified a philosophy of extreme self-denial, believing that through a denial of the physical one could better experience the spiritual. The Epicureans exemplified a philosophy of extreme self-indulgence, believing that by indulging the physical the spiritual would become more distinct and knowable.

It is important to note that, to some degree, both of these extremes found their way into the early church. It was a philosophy similar to the Epicureans that Paul confronted in Romans by questioning the idea “to continue in sin that grace may increase” (6:1, NASU). The later idea of monasticism (the building of monasteries to “separate from the world”) was taken from the Stoic idea of self-denial.

A Common Failure

The sad reality with each of these extremes is that neither helped one to better “experience” the spiritual. In truth, by focusing upon either denying or pleasing the physical, one missed the entire concept of knowing spiritual truth. The greater lesson to be learned from such extremism is that when man chooses to focus upon a particular aspect of philosophy or even Biblical truth, to the denigration of all others, he will not find what God has provided for him.

We Are Not Immune

The church of Christ is not immune from extremism. One can look back at the foolishness of the early church when some chose to embrace extreme philosophies with surprise. However, what extremes might we hold today? Is it possible for modern Christians to focus on a particular doctrine more so than others, to the point that we teach nothing else? Have we seen examples of Christians focusing upon a particular matter of doctrine in such extreme that they move beyond Biblical intention? Is not extremism the cause of binding where one should not bind, or loosing where one should not loose (cf. Mat. 16:19)?

With man the only thing taken to the extreme with a positive result is love. How often does man embrace such a philosophy?

comments powered by Disqus