How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Center is Not as Safe as You Think It Is

I've been meaning to write a short bit about this for some time, and may yet, but in the meantime, Phil Johnson offers a thought similar to the ones I've been having:
...this week they've been discovering what any highway engineer will tell you: on a freeway where heavy traffic is moving at high speed in opposing directions, there's no such thing as "common ground." Furthermore, you won't get very far pretending the yellow line is the common-ground marker. You're liable to get clobbered by traffic from both sides.
More often than not, when someone consistently tells me they're in the "center," that they're a "centrist," or a "moderate," it seems to me that what is actually going on is that they simply don't want, in taking a clear and definable position, for their ideas to be subject to attack from those who don't agree with them. They don't want to--it seems to them, anyway--spend their lives arguing, so they decide that they're going to be a centrist or moderate. Surely moderates can at least get along with everyone, right?

Not really. It's a good way to wind up roadkill. People just think you won't make up your mind.


  1. In many ways I consider myself a centrist, yet I’m not at all afraid to take a stance on the issues. I see centrists and moderate who hold somewhat conservative positions on some issues and somewhat liberal positions on other issues. I also see them as people who are willing to listen to ideas from both sides before making a decision about which way to go. How is that a bad or dangerous thing?

  2. Hmmmm.

    Dave, I do declare, there are times when I half-think that what I've written has evoked a memory of something somebody else has said to you, for your comments to me sometimes sounds as though you're responding to an argument that I, at least, don't think I've made or even suggested.

    Where, for example, did you find something in that post that sounded like I thought that one shouldn't listen to arguments from multiple points of view before deciding on one's position? I don't think I said anything that
    even remotely suggested any such thing. You must have heard it elsewhere.

    Likewise, if, as you say, you're not afraid to take a stand on the issues, then according to what I wrote, this post doesn't really apply to you.

    As to the "one from column A and one from column B" approach to the issues, I think there are three ways to look at it. In many instances, I think a person winds up with some from column A and some from column B because he doesn't really understand some of the issues well enough to realize where his positions conflict with one another. Sometimes, it just looks to others like a person holds some from column A and column B. Just for example, there are more than a few libertarian/conservative-types who would certainly say that my position on free trade isn't conservative; they have bought into the argument that capitalism, properly speaking, necessarily requires free trade. I find this more than a little amusing, for even Adam Smith said that there were times that tariffs were an appropriate measure for a government to use, and I would suggest to such people that if Adam Smith didn't know the ins and outs of capitalism, darn few people do! In other words, what those people think of as a relatively liberal position on my part really isn't. Then there is the person who chooses his positions based on more on how he feels about them than anything else--these are the people that I have previously referred to as having an inadequate basis for their thinking. These people, in fact, do often wind up intellectual roadkill. They get pushed around easily in arguments because they lack Archimede's firm place to stand.

    Not one of those is what I was talking about.

    What I am talking about is the person who, for whatever reason (though I suspect that more often than not it's so he can continually reassure himself and certain others that he's "reasonable" and not an "extremist"), is simply continually trying to straddle the fence. He's trying to have it both ways, and on more than a few issues, it simply can't be done.

    Young earth or old earth?

    Creationism or evolution?

    Abortion: murder or not?

    Homosexuality: moral aberration or genetically determined?

    Taxation: robbery by government? God-ordained means of financing a God-ordained institution? Or the cost of the social contract?

    Trying to straddle the fence, stay "moderate," "centrist" on issues like these just doesn't work. On all of them, I think you're a hundred percent better off just saying what you think and why you think it, or just flat admitting that you don't know much about it and haven't made up your mind.

    And now, having written a comment that is longer the original post, I'm going to go cook our dinner!

  3. I apologize. Since you didn’t really define your idea of a centrist or a moderate (other than someone who isn’t willing to take a clear position) I went with the most common things that I have heard thrown against centrists. More than that though, I was trying to define what I see as a centrist. I’m sorry for the confusion.

    Just for fun I’m going to try and answer your series of issues/questions.

    Young earth or old earth? Old.

    Creationism or evolution? Evolution

    Abortion: murder or not? If it is prior to the third trimester, it is not murder. It is really, really bad and should be avoided at all costs, but it is not “murder” until the fetus is developed enough to survive outside of the womb.

    Homosexuality: moral aberration or genetically determined? Genetically determined, usually. But it is not a moral aberration.

    Taxation: robbery by government? God-ordained means of financing a God-ordained institution? Or the cost of the social contract? Cost of the social contract.

    Where does that leave me?

  4. Where does that leave me?

    Dude, you already know how I'm going to answer that:

    Wrong. On every point. But not trying to straddle the fence, at least. Although I have to wonder one thing about your comment on abortion:

    If it's murder once the fetus is viable, would you be in favor of murder prosecutions for partial-birth abortionists? And for those who choose to murder their children this way? Or would you say that those murderers should go unpunished?

  5. Partial birth abortions should be illegal. If the mother, for whatever reason, decides that she cannot go through with the pregnancy and it is to the point at which the baby can survive outside of the womb, then a c-section should be performed and the baby put up for adoption.