Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On the Fixation with Moderation.

One of my former bishops was described, even by himself, as an extreme moderate. It would have called him a pathological moderate, but, hey, that's just terminology. He was and is a nice fellow and a good man, but he made the mistake of assuming the the middle ground was always the truth. He also made the mistake of thinking that he was always in the middle ground. (Often his positions were liberal/progressive.)

This is a common way of looking at the world. Heck, I looked at the world that way during my stupid liberal college days. You just find what you consider to be two opposite and extreme positions, create a continuum and stake out a mid-ground between them, and then you are safe. Except, that it makes a lot of false assumptions.

The first falsehood is that is assumes the things are opposites, like good and evil, male and female. Good and evil are not opposites. That view is heretical. Evil is a privation of good. It is nothing, a defect. Moderation between a thing and its privation is just less defective. Male and female are not opposites. The are complementary sexes of the same species. Neuter or androgyny aren't are virtuous middle between two extremes, but rather something else entirely.

The second falsehood is to assume that the extremes are natural opposites. Consider fascism and Marxism. They are opposites, right? Wrong, they are both versions of socialism. They differ but that doesn't make them opposites. Much of the time, the moderate will just pull two relevant things or positions out of a cocked hat and say, "Look at these two extremes. I am in the middle, so I must be right." But the secret is that there is no middle between the two positions.

Where does this come from? Ultimately, I thing from a misunderstanding of Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle framed virtue as a mean between two extremes. It works in his systems, but that does not mean that it is valid as a universal principle. From Aristotle, it passed into a cliche. "Virtue is found in the middle." Usually said by people who don't know a damned thing about Aristotle. A little philosophy is a dangerous thing.

So here we find ourselves with a bunch of well meaning folks who think that moderation is ipso facto position to take and compromise is always the thing to do. Except that they aren't!

Sorta true is false and sorta false is false. Compromised truth is always falsehood.

But, but, but, what about conversion isn't that moving along a continuum from falsehood to truth, evil to good? No. Usually, what it is is trying to live out the truth and failing a lot while doing it. Or trying to change one aspect because trying to change everything at once can be too overwhelming. Doesn't that make the sins you are not working on not sins? No. All it means is that most of us can't do everything at once.

Compromising on the Gospel in not possible. What is arrived at is something else with no power to save. To try, to present a watered down false Gospel does nothing but earn the presenter a great big millstone. Stick with the truth, wherever it is perceived to be; left, right, up, down, or dead center.

An aphorism I like to use is: the only thing you will find in the middle of the road is a dead rabbit and a yellow line.
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