The Third Way..."avoid all extremes".
16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
It is very good to grasp firmly to the one without letting go of the other.
But this, for some reason, is demonized in our culture. The third party never gets traction. The Tea Party, though making a go of it, is battling a system of thought that is etched into our very souls. This thought is quite simply "either/or" thinking. We are programmed from birth to whittle every possible scenario into two categories. The capacity to dwell in between crying and vying extremes is the weakest, most atrophied, muscle in the modern human spirit. To many, it is unconscionable to "halt between two opinions", "ride the fence", or live in the "happy medium". These terms are generated to scare you out of the middle and into one or the other. It makes you feel stupid and juvenile to refuse to espouse either completely or both incompletely. This is sad.
I find the most intellectually engaged are "quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry". If I could tamper with this little piece of wisdom from James 1 it would be this, "Quick to listen to the whole story, slow to form premature opinions, slow to get ticked when people don't see things your way."
Another one of my favorite texts in the Scripture says, "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." Simply put, "Stupid people think they have a corner on the truth." Arrogance and the need for control leads us to prematurely and immaturely form belief systems that are air tight and impregnable by clearly unfolding truth as it presents itself to us each and every day. I look back on about every season of my life apologetically humbled that God put up with my arrogant and myopic vantage points along the way allowing me the grace to confidently presume infallible world-views and God-views. In hindsight, I was foolishly imposing my flawed hermeneutic on those I was leading...and that with little humility and less maturity.
Again, I'm not talking about things that are clear in the Scriptures. I'm talking about things that get read into the Scriptures that need not become the focal point. The squabbling over "jots and tittles" making mountains out of molehills and, worse yet, molehills out of mountains. Sin is sin and we need not tamper with ways to make it less so. But issues, soapboxes, theological positions pieced together by, no doubt, bright and well-meaining minds should be put through the "car wash" of Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 before being deified and enshrined as God's Gospel Truth, once and for all.
This notion of calling people who want to "grasp the one without letting go of the other" a liberal group of viral vagrants is rubbish.
"The man who fears the Lord avoids ALL extremes." I think there is a way of being radical without being an extremist. But I'm not sure either word describes what God is really going after ultimately. I think when we get caught up "trying to be" something quite impressive we forget who we are in the trying. You forget "to be" when you're "trying to be". And it is in "being" that God emerges most beautifully from a human soul.
All this pressure to perform on the fringes of fanaticism hasn't gotten us anywhere in Christianity and it certainly doesn't impress God so far as I can tell.
But I'll go into that another time...