Against Radicalization

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I support good traditions. I stand by the best in the old ways. When Jeremiah urges us to follow the old ways, he is urging us to keep the old ways of inspiration open, but he does not suggest we follow bad ways in their application. (Jeremiah 6:16)

Do not think that standing pat on all things is a good thing to do. The status quo often needs positive changing. To keep things the way they are may give people security but it misleads them as well into a false smugness. It takes grace to see the need for a affirmative change and do it graciously.

Change is a word that must be considered. There is good change and bad change. Because something is new does not necessarily make it better or good. Serious change must be considered in prayer and with intelligence. I have seen bad changes in my time, things changed that should not have been changed but shallow minded people are easily sold by a novelty.

And likewise because it is old does not mean it is good. Many wrong things wrongly done are well established. But we should be able to see the need for change and change intelligently and with graciousness.  But we should change within the bounds of reason and the intentions of scripture.

The inspiration of God’s unchanging grace never goes away or fades.  If our inspiration remains the same, our applications of it may need to differ from whatever may be. We should be able to revise, change, reform, filter and purify the applications of grace. Sometimes it is our moral duty to do so. But the unmerited favor of God that is shown in the creation and sharing of life, His coming to earth to redeem our errors, His grace, changeth not.

To reform is acceptable and perhaps good, but to radicalize is not. I plead for an ongoing reformation of things as needed but without radicalization.

If faith is spiritually balanced living (what I believe from defining scripture that righteousness is,) then there is no room for radicalization in spiritually balanced living. The reason ought to be obvious: radicalization skews spiritually balanced living and makes it an ungracious thing.

The purpose of religion is to get mankind into spiritual harmony and balanced living with an enjoyment of the flesh and an awareness of a spiritual realm that orders but does not deny being fully human.

A spiritually balanced life is what the superior person considers. It is being loyal to traditions that fill man’s needs, but being open to change, revision, reform, purification and the filtering of grace by time when needs are not being met as well as they might be. This is the Protestant Way, to be in the tradition but to revise the tradition, to bring it nearer to what is perceived as scriptural values.

Is this not what Luther did? He did not leave the Christian tradition, but he attempted to purify the tradition according to evidentiary evidence and scripture.

Is this not what the Puritans founding America did? Is this not what Old Testament Prophets, the Great Reformers did? We have good traditions to support. Do not leave them. Reform them, revise them, re-orient them, let their grace be filtered by time. Buttress them.

To radicalize is not an acceptable option. It distorts. Grace does not radicalize people to change them into haters filled with contempt. Grace does not make people monomaniacs. It does not encourage smugness. Grace does not advocate violence. It explores other ways. Grace does not slam the doors of the mind shut. It leaves the doors open for prodigal ideas. Grace does not say, ”My way or the highway.” Grace pioneers for understanding. Grace tries to keep communication open. Grace is spiritual and balanced. It urges others to be the same.

To radicalize, to advocate violence, to say there is only one way, is not right to a spiritually balanced person. In a spiritually weighing faith one listens to the lion roar, but considers the problems of the lambs. But so many have been radicalized, skewed and ruined. Their values are bad and worse.

Such was the trouble of the French Revolution. The “philosophes” and makers of new ideas had some acceptable ideas for the “improvement of mankind. But the good views were wrongly applied. People literally became intoxicated on idealism; they got drunk on words. They did violence and a lot of evil. They tried to justify violence by a need for harmony. Grace does not do unacceptable things.

The end was a Reign of Terror, the guillotine, and finally Napoleon, a demagogue, came to order the disaster that began with idealism. The same thing often happens in religion. People get drunk on self-righteousness and butcher others. All this would not have been done had they seen that faith emphasizes a spiritually balanced mind and a benevolent life.

In radicalization people get drunk on instant idealism. Their methods are not Christian. Their fantastical hopes are not justified by the nature of man. Their minds are sick.

Like the French Revolution, many of the tragedies of life in the 20th century were caused by reactionary traditionalism opposed by an intoxicated idealism. Now in the twenty first century, is it not time we ended the blind opposition of unthinking tradition versus the insanity of intoxicated amoral and instant idealism?

Is it not time we in Christianity rediscovered the true scriptural meaning of ‘‘a righteous life’’ which is that living a life of faith means living a spiritually balanced life? That is the meaning of faith. That is the essence of righteous living.

Should we not then listen to the Apostle. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-4)


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.