Last week, I offered up some quotes on balance from the traditional dispensational tradition. Today, I’d like to just offer some positive expression and interaction in this topic and explain why I find it to be a very crucial idea in developing my Biblical worldview. As you may have read in my quotes last week, the overall presentation from these voices of the past is that we must be balanced in holding our truth in both doctrine and life because to do otherwise will lead to error in our beliefs and our lifestyle.
Several years ago I was introduced to J. I. Packer’s classic Knowing God, and in it he makes a passing statement about balance while discussing the need to know God not just know about Him. He says (pg. 27, emphasis mine):
The question is not whether we are good at theology, or ‘balanced’ (horrible, self-conscious word!) in our approach to problems of Christian living. The question is, can we say…that we have known God, and that because we have known God the unpleasantness we have had, or the unpleasantness we have not had, through being Christians does not matter to us?
With reference to balance, Dr. Packer seems to be speaking strongly against a concept of “balance” as it pertains to how we live our lives. He is not the only one today. One thinks of a book titled Radical (by David Platt) expressing, in general terms, a similar sentiment. There was even a blog post a few years ago by Anthony Carver titled “Is ‘Balance’ a Four-Letter Word?” in which the author expresses the overall sentiment. He states, “I have found in my own life, and the life of many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, that balance is too often a means of covering up cowardice and even disobedience.” He concludes his post, “The more I live the Christian life, the more challenged I am not for balance but for boldness; not for safety but for courage and strength.”
Admittedly, I think that some of these authors and speakers are addressing specific concerns regarding Western Christian lifestyles but I am more speaking about the issue on a theoretical level. However, I do think some discussion of the concept is needed to better express what can be good and what can be bad about balance. First, I will discuss balance in doctrine, which I do believe we should possess. Because of the way the Bible was written, we have a progress of revelation in which later revelation builds on earlier revelation. This building can come in more than one way, by details being added to existing doctrines and also new doctrines and concepts being added to previous doctrines. Thus, to use Lewis Sperry Chafer’s example, we cannot let one thing taught in the Bible such as sanctification take anything away from justification by faith alone also taught in the Bible. This being said, it is easy at times to try to fit the middle of the road on a controversial issue just to try to not take side on an issue that we should be clear on. Perhaps as a non-Calvinist that area of doctrine is an area in which I am tempted to be guilty of this. This is not good. As always, we must be guided by the Bible, and thus when I say we should be balanced I am referring to our need to fit the Bible together properly.
What about balance in life? This is the major focus of the previously mentioned comments about balance. Some of those mentioned perceive, perhaps rightly, that some just are seeking to be balanced for the sake of being balanced rather than being faithful and Biblical. Like noted with doctrine, this is a legitimate danger. Is it ethically challenging especially with respect to the concept of an “American Dream”, and how we shape our Christian lives. However, I also would be quick to say that so much of my Christian experience has been marred by overemphasis on one part of our duty in the Christian life to another. Some of the very verses in Carver’s blog post are ones that have robbed me of a proper, Biblical spiritual life. It is true, as Carver quoted Richard Pratt, that “[b]ecause the deck of life is always shifting, balance can be nothing more than momentary synchronicity.” (Richard Pratt) However, this does not mean balance is bad. It rather illustrates the need for consistent worldview thinking in order to keep on track spiritually, rather than saying balance is an unhelpful concept or a “four-letter word.” We do though need to take seriously the calls for discipleship and radical action in our Christian experience, and seek to apply them in context to all the Bible says and also let them be guided especially by our doctrine.
In conclusion, I would say that we do need balance. As Dr. Ryrie indicated in my quote last week, a synonym for the word balance is wholesome. I don’t think we should throwaway the word balance, but it does need to be used properly and not a cover up. In our balance, we must not have in view a purposeful attempt to “meet in the middle” in our doctrinal positions or a kind of life that is more akin to the American Dream. When we think of balance in our lives, we must have in view a full picture of everything God has revealed in His Word and all He expects of us, without diminishing anything that shouldn’t be or magnifying anything that shouldn’t be. We must know, proclaim, and live all the Word of God. We must be balanced in all our doctrine and life. This is what it means to have a truly Biblical worldview.