‘Extremist!’ This is a label nearly as bad as the Scarlet Letter in many American Christian minds hostile unbelievers cast this insult like the first ‘without sin’ stone on anyone who dares to take an uncompromising stand on issues. The blackballing of ‘extremist!’ has been so effective that tepid Christian leaders in pastorates, seminaries, and ministry leadership positions have joined Christianity’s enemies and launched their own quiet, thoughtful, reasoned attack on ‘extremism.’ The result is that battalions of young ‘Davids’ sit fidgeting on the sideline, while the ‘Sauls’ of the church explain to them why it’s not God’s will to fight Goliath.
However, the charge of extremism, rather than an accusation to be ashamed of, may be an accolade to relish and revel in. In many ways Christianity is the ultimate paradigm of extremes. No other religion, no other faith, no other deity even comes close. The war on extremism from inside or outside Christianity is ultimately a war on Christianity itself. Consider the extremes of Christ’s attributes and offices. He is the Lamb of God He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the Prince of Peace He is the Man of War. A bruised reed He will not break He shatters the nations with a rod of iron. Jesus weeps He has eyes of fire. He does not lift up His voice out of His mouth goes a two edged sword. Christ is the Savior Christ is the Judge.
He made Himself a servant He is Master and Lord of all. His kingdom is not of this world He is the King of kings and all kings will bow at His feet. He wore a crown of thorns He offers a crown of life.
He is fully God He is fully man. These ‘extremes’ nearly tore the church apart.
Consider God the Father. God is love God is a consuming fire. God is light God dwells in the thick darkness. Jacob He loves Esau He hates. Consider how extreme Christianity is in our lives and relationships. The Bible demands we love our enemies the Psalmist boasts of his perfect hatred for God’s enemies. Christ promised to leave His peace with us He declared He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Christ brings unity to Gentile and Jew He divides a mother-in-law from her daughter-in-law. He commands us to rejoice ever more He adjures us to let our joy be turned to sorrow, our laughter to weeping. God’s dealings with men and nations are equally extreme.
He will save the city for the sake of ten righteous men He destroys tens of thousands for the sin of one man. One errant son loses paradise by one act one obedient Son redeems the world by one act. God forgives the woman taken in adultery He kills the man for steadying the Ark of the Covenant. He sends blistering drought in Elijah’s day He drowns the world in Noah’s. God brought the first son of David and Bathsheba to the grave He brought their next son to the throne. The angels rejoice when sinners are converted converted sinners will judge the angels.
Consider Biblical heroes-they pulse in extremes.
David is the sweet Psalmist of Israel writing poetry David is the fierce warrior who presents Goliath’s head to the king. Elijah stands and conquers four hundred prophets of Baal he flees in terror at the word of one woman. Abraham begs God for a son he then willingly offers him as a sacrifice until God intervenes. Peter declares he will die for Jesus within hours he denies he even knows Him. Timid Gideon begs God for a sign brave Gideon slays two kings on a stone. Saul seeks to kill Christians he is finally killed for being one. The extremes of Christianity may startle us, they may make us uncomfortable, but they are not contradictions. The tightrope walker that balances his act with a long pole holds but one pole. It is the extremes of the pole that keep him in balance. Should he favor one side of the pole and lop off the other, he could not maintain his balance-he would fall. This is the plight of modern divines and Christian leaders. Having accepted the false notion of Christianity’s enemies that certain aspects of our God and faith are extreme (and therefore extremely embarrassing), they have lopped off the extremities that preserve them on precarious heights-and they have fallen fallen into the safety net of fallen man’s opinions, and they have found it a snare.
Having turned from the Harsh Master who reaps what He did not sow, they have enslaved themselves to harsher masters who sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Our modern, sophisticated, would-be ‘heroes of the faith’ slay no tyrants, conquer no kingdoms, and risk no martyrdom. Instead, they get photos with tyrants, protect the status quo of kingdoms, and martyr the reputations of their extremist brethren.
By trying to blend the heat of God’s mercy, and the coldness of His judgment, the ‘bal- anced’ have exchanged their Glory for the similitude of a politically correct ox they have bowed before a luke warm, false deity to be spewed out of Christianity’s mouth. By forced blending of God’s unapproachable light and the thick darkness in which He dwells, the so called ‘moderates’ have created the drab-gray-God who neither inspires wonder nor invokes dread. They have ‘balance’-the ‘balance’ of the fixed lifeless statue. One achieves healthy balance by remembering both the goodness and severity of God not by blending them into divine indifference. One maintains balance by embracing the extremes of black and white, not by creating a bland, gray divinity. What Christianity’s detractors inside and outside the church must accept is that Christianity is extreme-extreme to the wildest degree.
Perhaps nothing reveals this extremism more than the final state of man. The righteous live in nightless light the wicked are cast into outer darkness. The redeemed dwell in perpetual joy the rebels weep and gnash their teeth forever. Those who have Jesus have eternal life those who don’t have Jesus have eternal damnation. It doesn’t get any more extreme than this. Those who reject extremism must inevitability reject Christ and Christianity. By rejecting the extremes of male and female our seminaries have created religious eunuchs ? barren heralds-neuters that cannot reproduce their kind. By castigating Christianity’s extremities, they have castrated its vitality.
Unveil the ‘balanced moderate’ who has done anything great in history. They have won no great battles they have no tragic defeats. They have no boast they have no denial. They offer no heads of giants. Their songs are trite, predictable, and uninspiring. When ‘moderates’ in the church call for balance, they really want to lop off the em- barrassing extremes of Christ, His Church, and His history. But by doing so they make Christianity an embarrassment.
It is no longer, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down, have come here also!’, but ‘these men who want a place at the table have come for a meeting.’ Past enemies of the gospel feared extremist Christians. ‘Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned men, ignorant men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.’ Our modern leaders are learned, but not bold. Our enemies marvel that current Christian leaders won’t fight for Christianity they take note that they have been with Balaam.
These new ‘champions’-pitiful eunuchs- inspire neither dread nor ecstasy, neither joy nor weeping. They inspire nothing because only extremes inspire people. Mediocrity, gray and blandness, inspire no one. They cannot advance and conquer for Christianity, because they cannot even defend her. They are safe, and they are irrelevant. Or worst yet – ? they are relevant only as religious hostages to be paraded before our enemies like trophies from a conquered kingdom. By the waters of Babylon they have sung skillfully. Unlike the three Hebrew children, they have bowed . . . deeply.
Conquered brothers, captured sisters, be loosed of the chains of your safe, gray, lukewarm, mediocrity. Cease giving succor to the enemy. Your war on extremism is a war on Christianity itself, and you cannot win. Come battle demons with us. Relish the exhiliration of triumphs curse the hapless defeats. You can only achieve great victories by risking great disasters. Stop trying to give God a facelift. He doesn’t need your help. Stop trying to amputate the extremes of Christianity you find so embarrassing.
And now a word to unbelieving rebels: Behold the goodness and severity of God. If you repent and believe the gospel, you will receive forgiveness and mercy from the God who made you, and sent His Son to die for you. But if you continue to rebel, you will be judged. If you spurn His mercy, you shall drink the terrifying cup of His wrath forever. Your accusations of Christianity’s extremes will taunt you for all eternity.
And finally, to young believers, take this advice: flee these barren doctors of divinity. They will deliver you from extremes, but they will rob you of your strength to deliver. They will inoculate you from the pain and anguish of childbirth because they will sterilize you. Better to be in anguished labor for Jesus, than to be a quiet gelding for Jesus.
Rejoice in the boundaries of extremism. Rejoice in the God of extremes. Stand, therefore, and arm yourself with the extremes of Christianity.
Randall A. Terry
PO Box 600
Windsor, NY 13865
607.655.1900 Fax 607.655.1920
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