Moderation and Biblical Balance

When and when not to be an extremist:

In this brief article I want to clarify something that can easily be misconstrued. A spiritual point that I often make to other believers can be open to misunderstanding or misinterpretation, so let me explain just a bit more about what I am calling for.

I have often spoken about the need to be biblically balanced, and how we must avoid unbiblical extremes. There are many clear examples of this. As but one, we can sometimes get things wrong when it comes to Satan and demons. Some believers live as if neither one exist, while some other believers seem to see demons and the devil under every rock.

Or as C. S. Lewis had put it in the preface to his 1942 classic, The Screwtape Letters: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

So there are many areas in which believers can go to unhelpful extremes. But even this warning about avoiding extremes can be misunderstood or misused. There are various things I am NOT saying when I make this sort of caution about keeping the biblical balance.

The first thing I do not mean is this: On some doctrinal and theological issues in which there are various sides to the matter, there is a need to fully push ALL aspects of a biblical truth. Consider the old problem of how we reconcile the sovereignty of God with human responsibility.

What I am NOT saying here is that the biblical middle and biblical balance means we take 50 per cent of the one and take 50 per cent of the other. Nope, that is not how we proceed here. Instead, we are to take 100 per cent of the one and 100 per cent of the other.

BOTH must be fully affirmed, just as Scripture fully affirms each one. Sure, our fallen and finite minds will struggle with how we can hold the two together as we push each one to the max. They are not contradictory truths, but they seem paradoxical to us.

So in this case, we are not looking for a soft gooey centre, like with a caramel chocolate, but two strong, firm tines of a fork. Both are needed and both must go together. Or for a better illustration, we must fully insist on both the left wing of an airplane and the right wing.

Any ideas of lopping off half of each wing to avoid excess or extremes will just not help here. Biblical truths – even those that seem to maybe counteract each other – must be insisted upon. Thus in that sense moderation is not what we are after.

For a fuller discussion of how divine sovereignty and human responsibility go together, see this piece for example:

And a reading list on this matter:

A second and related thing I am not calling for is this: When I say we must avoid various extremes, that is not the same as saying we should simply always run with a lukewarmness about things. For example, when I recently put up a social media post about these matters, someone responded with this comment: “moderation in all things and setting scriptural boundaries go a long way”.

He was seeking to affirm what I was saying, but I had to make this reply. “Yes, although moderation is not always the same as biblical balance. For example, we should not be moderate in our love for Christ – we should love him 100%. We should not be moderately faithful to our spouse – we should be 100% faithful.”

“Moderation,” as one website puts it, is “the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance. the act of moderating.” But as I just said above, sometimes the Christian is called to be extreme. As mentioned, being fully sold out to Christ and putting him above everyone and everything else is what we are called to do.

But many people might regard that as extreme. Well, there are good and bad extremes. It is good to be extremely committed to Christ, even to be thought of as being a fool for Christ. That is a good thing. It is good to trust God 100 per cent, to seek God 100 per cent, to serve God 100 per cent, to pray to God 100 per cent, to work for God 100 per cent, and to be an ambassador for God 100 per cent. In these and other areas we do not want to be moderate. We want to be extremists, rightly understood.

So a secular notion of moderation does not always fit when we discuss biblical balance. Yes, in many areas in the Christian life there is a place for moderation and the avoidance of excess. For example, if a pastor spends all of his time at church and neglects his own family, then he clearly has things out of balance.

Or if a husband is so ‘spiritual’ that he reads his Bible 12 hours a day and does not go to work to earn some money to feed his wife and children, then he needs to get his life back into balance – he has things out of whack. Balance and moderation in some areas are needed.

But in other areas, we want to give 100 per cent. We want to simultaneously give 100 per cent to God, to family, and to looking after ourselves. We do not want to give each just 33 per cent. Sure, while in terms of priorities we usually say God first, then family, then ministry, we can still be fully committed to each area.

We get that in the two great commandments: loving God and loving others. We should seek to do each 100 per cent. Yes, even here there is an order to follow. That is, we may not really be able to love our neighbour as ourselves until we first love God. But you get my point.

So let us strive for biblical balance when and where needed. And let us use moderation in things that make sense to be moderate in, but not in all things. Some things we must not be moderate in at all. In some areas it is good to be extreme.

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2 Replies to “Moderation and Biblical Balance”

  1. Great little piece thanks Bill, that has helped clear a few things up for me, especially on the Divine sovereignty Human responsibility issue, is the answer a bit each way? But the proper way is to affirm and teach the whole counsel of God on both, maybe as humans we need to be satisfied with a bit of mystery as to how it all falls into place, and this helps keep us humble and dependant on him, blessings Bill!

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