This life is like a pendulum (or you can look at it as a balancing scale, if you like). We are always swinging from one extreme of a pendulum to another. As many theologians will perceptively point out, we are always either in the danger of trusting in our own ability to keep the law (pelagianism) or becoming complacent in the name of surrendering to grace (antinomianism). Some people will react to complacency by urging us to be radical for Christ. Others will react to radical Christianity by urging us to be ordinary. But what if life is not really like a pendulum? What if the location of true holiness is not midway between two sinful extremes? What if we are describing logically what can only be perceived and understood spiritually? I believe that while this call to Christian balance is full of good intentions, it is often rooted in an unbiblical understanding of sin and righteousness.
BLAME IT ON ARISTOTLE
In Nicomachean Ethics, this is how Aristotle describes virtue:
“Virtue is a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us and determined by a rational principle, by that which a prudent man would use to determine it.”
In other words, “Because practical circumstances vary a great deal, there are no absolute rules of conduct to follow. Instead, we can only observe that right conduct consists of some sort of mean between the extremes of deficiency and excess. For instance, courage consists in finding a mean between the extremes of cowardice and rashness, though the appropriate amount of courage varies from one situation to another.” Continue reading