The Middle Way is really a winding trail leading to the Left: Part 4 of Pluralism, Inclusivism and Exclusivism are they all equally Christian?
I would propose that there are five main problems with middle way thinking in areas that Christians have traditionally consider to be essential beliefs to the faith and ethical imperatives. No problem exists in areas that are non-essential. Should the pulpit be in the middle, at the side, or no pulpit at all? While that can be a vexing and concerning issue, I know of no one who considers this an essential of the faith.
Problem #1: By their very nature those aspects of the faith that people consider essential or imperative are not open to compromise, otherwise they would not be considered essential.
Do you believe in the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? The vast majority of Christians throughout history and in all parts of the world would consider this to be at the heart of the Christian faith and an absolute essential. Is there an acceptable “middle way” option on this? I would boldly affirm – absolutely NOT!
Problem #2: Essentials ðical imperatives are gleaned from rigorous biblical exegesis examined and tested over centuries. “Middle way” options tend to give higher priority to modern critical thought and political correctness (what the Bible often refers to as worldliness).
Problem #3: In a connected church system like the PCUSA there is a requirement of all involved to affirm at least on some level the “middle way” option. Therefore, in this issue, all active members would be obliged on some level to affirm serial unrepentant sexual immorality as acceptable for church leaders.
Problem #4: The major point of using the analogy of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) is to show that the “middle way” option always purposely and by design leads toward the liberal viewpoint. In the inclusivist position, the objection to pluralism is softened by offering a philosophical twist to include “Jesus only” language. If I can still hold that people are still saved only by Jesus Christ, I can then “feel good” about the position. When in effect, the position does violence to the Reformed positions of conversion and regeneration, either by completely destroying the need for them or completely reinterpreting them, thereby doing further violence to the biblical texts. The final effect of the middle way option is still a form of pluralism with an overlay of exclusivist language. Theologically you completely undermine the need for evangelism in the process.
In the current debate over the ordination of unrepentant self-affirming practicing homosexuals you have the same dynamic going on. For instance in Dr. Robert Gagnon’s excellent review of Jack Rogers’ influential, but error-ridden book, Jesus the Bible and Homosexuality, he writes this:
Rogers isn’t really interested in finding out what Scripture says. He is interested in pacifying Scripture so that it does not oppose his desire to support homosexual practice reached on grounds other than Scripture. Any argument will do for disabling Scripture’s statements that appear to speak absolutely against homosexual practice. Consistency of argumentation is secondary to this overall goal.
This is the major damage that is caused by the “middle way” attempts where there is no ambiguity and clear unequivocal biblical witness. You do violence to the biblical witness by pacifying it (as Gagnon rightly puts it) and you force an accommodation of sin (doing even greater damage to those caught in the trap of this sinful lifestyle).
Problem #5: The middle way option never turns out to be an end-point. In a theologically broad denomination, you have those who will always see this as a justice issue since they are convinced that there is nothing inherently sinful about homosexual acts, but rather view this as an identity issue – despite the fact that there is no scientific or biblical witness to that effect. Therefore, they will continue to pull the issue further toward the liberal side of the aisle until they are victorious, at which point the line will move even further to the left.
My conclusion is that “middle way” options, while well intentioned, ultimately leads in the liberationist direction. If we truly believe that scripture is our final authority on these issues, then there can be no “middle way” on issues about which Bible speaks so strongly. Fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman and chastity in singleness is just as clear a biblical requirement for followers of Christ now as it has been for 2000 years (how much more so for Christian leaders). The biblical witness has not changed. Exclusivism remains the clear biblical position when it comes to soteriology, despite the best efforts by many. These are essentials to our faith just as much now (maybe even more so because of the attacks on them) as they were in past centuries.
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