The reaction to what I said about this (debate) was mixed. Some evangelicals responded thoughtfully and theologically, others with inflexible dogmatism – I find myself increasingly out of sympathy with excessive evangelical dogmatism – and a third group, especially in the US, was positively hysterical in its denunciation…It’s a very distressing thing about evangelicalism that we are not good at responsible domestic debate. But the hallmark of an authentic evangelical is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh biblical scrutiny, and, if necessary, reform.
– John Stott, Balanced Christianity
How often we find ourselves similarly distressed debating over certain paradoxical doctrine. And we often confused debate on balanced Christian living with balanced view of doctrine. Let me explain so that we can have a clear understanding of the difference.
The Bible is full of exhortation to stay balanced in our Christian living. For example in Prov 30:8-9, the psalmist asked not of poverty nor riches for either extreme would be dishonoring the name of God or disowning Him altogether. We must not also be so generous as to be financially irresponsible towards providing for our own family, while at the same time not to be so miserly in not giving anything to anybody at all.
Concerning certain paradoxical doctrine (not including all other clear biblical truth but only referring to paradoxical ones), truth is accepting the biblical truth in both extremes, even mutually exclusive ones. For example, Jesus our Lord is 100% God and 100% man though they are mutually exclusive. In real life, we find light to have both the properties of particle and wave which has confounded scientists eversince, yet it does not deter scientists to continue their research and invention based on acceptance of both properties. Why must a scientist be so dogmatic on just one property of light and miss the whole picture ?
We find this paradox running across so many debates :
1. Faith alone and Works.
2. Predestination and Free Will.
3. Love and Suffering.
We must bear in mind that God’s ways are definitely higher than ours, so what is impossible for us with our limited understanding may be possible for Him. I have come to believe truth may be found in the biblical part of both extremes. Standing on one extreme may be unbiblical as it will definitely include an unbiblical part arguing against the other extreme.
An example is the existence of both poverty and prosperity gospels. What the prosperity gospel disagree with the poverty gospel insisting that Christians must be materially poor is biblically correct, but that does not make the prosperity gospel a true biblical gospel with some truth in it. The true gospel is the balanced view in the stewardship gospel.