Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 21, PAGE 4,13b

"Middle Ground"


It is a common device with speakers and writers to claim to occupy "middle ground." A man points to those who hold what he calls "extreme views" on one side, and then to those whom he charges with holding "extreme views" on the other side, adding, "I go to neither extreme, I take middle ground." Immediately many people forget that he has advanced no argument in support of his position, and imagine that he is a "safe" man, going to "neither extreme," and so they fancy he must be about right. There is a curious fascination about this "middle ground" business, and speakers and writers are quick to take advantage of it. And the scarcer one is of arguments, the readier he is to pose as occupying "middle ground," going to "neither extreme."

This is a very cheap and very common trick, which deserves to be exposed. No matter what a man's position may be he can always claim, and nearly always does claim, to occupy "middle ground." Many people somehow persuade themselves that the middle ground is about right, and the fact that a man claims to stand there predisposes them in favor of his views.

It is evident on a moment's reflection that a man who is careful to go to "neither extreme," but to keep ever in the middle, must drift with the current, and must make every turn and twist the stream makes. He is sure to go wrong. The true position in no way depends on how many men there are on either side of it, nor on how far they stand to the right or left. An extreme position may be the true one, and very often it is so. Our Lord advocated what the Pharisees thought were very "extreme views" on many questions. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies." "Before Abraham was, I am " "Go thou and do likewise" — as the good Samaritan did. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." These and many other words of Christ were not at all on "middle ground," but were very extreme.

Gamaliel occupied middle ground as to whether the religion of Christ was of God or man. One side claimed it was of man. If they were right, it would come to naught, as did the affairs of Theudas and of Judas of Galilee. The other side claimed that it was of God. If they were right, it could not be overthrown, and the effort to destroy it would be fighting against God. But prudent Gamaliel would not take either extreme. There was something to be said, to be sure, on both Sides, but it was best to occupy "middle ground," and let the whole matter alone.

Fiery Saul of Tarsus, however, believed that this Religion of Christ was of men, that Jesus was a blasphemer, and his disciples idolaters, deserving to be put to death according to the law of Israel. He thus took an "extreme view," and threw his whole soul into carrying out that view And while Gamaliel was calmly and complacently occupying his "middle ground," Paul was persecuting Christians "even unto strange cities." Yet it was Saul of Tarsus who was converted, and who, under God, brought things to pass. True, Gamaliel never was a persecutor of Christians, but he never became an apostle either!

The men who do the great work of the world are not those who seek to occupy "middle ground," but those who want to be right, and to push the right with all their force. To keep middle ground one must be governed by the position of others, and must keep shifting as others move. To be right a man must ask what God says, and must be willing to be on either extreme, or in the middle, as the truth may determine.

But we doubt not men will go on claiming to "occupy middle ground " and people will go on thinking, in the absence of argument or reason, that such men are "safe," and "wise," and — amen!

— (Author not given, via G. A., Jan. 17, 1895)

(Editor's note: The foregoing excellent statement appeared first in the Western Recorder, and was picked up by the Gospel Advocate in the issue of January 17, 1895. We think it says so perfectly what needs to be said (and needs saying with great emphasis these last few years!) that we are happy to bring it to light again and tangs it on to our readers.

In any question of "right" or "wrong" the middle-of-the-roader is certain to be wrong. Less wrong, perhaps, than the man who is completely wrong, but any time one deviates, ever so slightly from the "right" he is moving toward the "wrong."

These matters are worth serious study.