Truth Between Extremes of Error: An Introduction
Ralph D. Gentry
I strongly suspect that the very sight of the title to this article will raise some eyebrows and perhaps provoke some hasty conclusions and remarks. Some will think, "ah ha-- another 'middle-of-the road fence straddler' is among us and pleading for recognition." Others might say, "He has come half way-- now if he'll just come over all the way to our side." I trust there will be many fair minded readers who will establish their conclusions only after having honestly considered all the facts hereafter set forth.
I, too, look with disapproval upon anybody who will attempt to seek the favor of both opposing sides -- to "play both ends against the middle." Such persons seek personal gain and glory rather than divine approval, as Paul said he would be doing should he seek to please men (Gal. 1:10). I do not, therefore, advocate compromise as a safe position in current issues among brethren. Certainly there is no middle ground of truth and error. When Moses asked, "Who is on the Lord's side" (Exo. 32:26), there was no middle position to accept. There were only two sides from which to choose.
While truth is extreme from error, it is also sometimes between extremes of error-- that is, when one position of error is extreme from and in opposition to another position of error. While every "middle of the road" position among current problems in the church will not be truth, truth will sometimes be found in the middle of two such extremes of error. Two positions may be extremely Opposite to each other and neither of them be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Pharisees and the Saducees were opposite to each other, and yet both of them opposed Christ. At times they ignored their differences and united in opposition to Christ. And because we disagree with one of these factions does not necessitate our being identified with the other. Some in their fight against error have allowed themselves to be so diametrically opposed to their opponent as to leave the line of truth in the opposite direction. Hence, two extremes of error are created. While each opponent primarily seeks victory for party's sake, the battle progresses and the breech widens. Each extreme attempts to justify itself by the errors of the other. Also, this middle position of truth is misunderstood and misrepresented by those in each extreme, though opposite, position.
Much has been said and written against any compromising "middle-of-the road" attitude. This has been good. But I fear this may lead to a detrimental effect, if not advanced with words of caution. Some may be influenced to believe every issue is an "either-or" proposition--that one must accept and align oneself to one or the other opposing groups. Such could hinder man in thinking for himself and in daring to be a non-conformist, if need be, in standing for truth and conviction: Or one might be led to choose what he regards as the "lesser of the two evils." Then too, the fear of being accused of compromise via the "middle-road" could lead one to compromise by silence.
It is comparatively easy to suggest that there are two extremes of error to every issue of long debated consequence. It requires but little serious thought to declare all others are extremists and consign them to hell in their present course of conviction and practice. But it is quite different when one attempts to discern what truths belong in the middle road of truth. Just to say others are extremists and that the truth (what I believe-- though it is often not so stated) is between these extremes makes me appear wise and my counsel reliable. But I have not contributed much to edification until I am willing to point out in unmistakable terms what that truth is.
I readily concede myself to be fallible (Jer. 10:23), and capable of many errors in judgment. I do not profess to have all the answers to multiple problems and disputes daily arising among brethren. However, this much I know: Christian unity is a requirement of our Lord (John. 17:20, 21; 1 Cor. 1:10); Division weakens the body of Christ (Matt. 12:25); Peace and harmony can only come as a result of a limited and concentrated effort by all-concerned. To effect unity we must thoroughly acquaint ourselves with existing problems by learning and understanding the points of agreement and the points of disagreement.
Therefore, I among others, do set about to the task of contributing to a better understanding of positions occupied in the hope a mutual agreement may result with the truth as the standard of all reconciliation. In articles to follow, I shall attempt to illustrate TRUTH BETWEEN EXTREMES OF ERROR by considering several religious matters of dispute, both past and present, in and out of the true church.
Truth Magazine VII: 4, pp. 19-20