REACTIONARIES are people
who overreact in a given situation. What they stand for, or what they oppose,
may largely be right (or at least some truth in it). They have a just grievance.
But in their obsession with their view and their opposition to the wrong,
they have become like the pendulum in the old grandfather clock. They have
gone to the extreme in the other direction. In trying to correct one evil,
they have unintentionally become responsible for the introduction of another.
This can be seen throughout history. It can be seen in modern times.
This is in evidence in religion as well as politics. It is to be found
in the form of great movements, as well as on an individual basis.
The rise of monastic orders in ancient times was of a reactionary
nature. Whether one investigates the Jewish Essenes of some 2,000 or more
years ago, or the monasteries that came into being after the church had
been here a few centuries, the truth is the same. The world, and even the
supposed church, became so corrupt that sensitive and pious souls wanted
no part of it. So they withdrew from society. A false asceticism came into
being. But Christianity is to be lived in the world. Jesus prayed, "I pray
not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest
keep them from evil" (John 17:15). They were to be Christís witnesses in
the world, but they were not to be of the world. (In reference to the rise
of this false asceticism, read Paulís prophecy in I Timothy 4:1-4).
The Protestant Reformation turned out to be a reactionary movement
in many ways. If anyone ever had a legitimate and just grievance, those
who spoke out against Roman Catholic apostasy did. In Catholicism they
found God dethroned with the pope and priests in His place, the pope claiming
to be the head of the church (and even called "Lord God the Pope") and
the whole synthetic cleric system claiming the power to absolve sins. Men
were supposedly justified by prescribed works of man as laid down by the
Catholic Church. By all means, the sovereignty of God needed to be restored
among men, the great doctrine of justification by faith needed to be heralded
forth again, along with many other things. But the proverbial pendulum
made its decided swing. Reactionary reformers began to preach the sovereignty
of Almighty God to the point of irrevocable predestination (the Calvinistic
version). Everything was so ordered that manís responsive works did not
enter in. The characteristic and hallmark doctrine of Protestantism became
"faith only." And of course, although having an element of great truth,
all of these doctrines are out of harmony with the Scriptures (II Peter
3:9; II Peter 1:10; James 2:14-26; Romans 1:5; etc.). Man most certainly
is justified by faith, but not by an inactive "faith only."
The world has been in an upheaval because of the reactionary political
philosophy introduced by Karl Marx and others. No doubt, abuses that this
man pointed out were to a large extent true at the time. No doubt, much
of the religion, masquerading as Christianity that Marx came in contact
with, needed criticizing. (It is a shame that this man was not exposed
to real New Testament Christianity). From his feelings of desperation and
hate have come what we know as Communism. It proposes, in essence, to enslave
man and his spirit (at least that has been its record) and to remake the
world after its own atheistic image. But, as it has been said, two wrongs
donít make a right. What a shame! Mankind selling its soul and birthright
for a measly mess of pottage, and in the end having neither!
Most modern religious movements are reactionary movements. This can
be said of the so-called "charismatic movement." The pendulum continues
to swing as time moves on. Division occurs, and consequently splinter group
after splinter group comes into being (even among people professing to
be the New Testament church).
To counter this, another reactionary movement comes into being. Some
being tired of division and problems that seem insolvable, seemingly have
thrown themselves open to unrestricted fellowship with almost anything
and anyone religiously. Correct doctrinal teaching is downplayed, it seems,
in trying to realize this longed for fellowship. Certainly improper attitudes
and sectarian concepts may be barriers to fellowship, but we do not want
to throw out respect for the truth to accomplish our goals. We have deep
feelings that go out to anyone and all who are genuinely concerned about
restoring the New Testament church among men. (But the problem is that
many give this lip service fail to back up their claim). If we have really
been "born again" according to the Scriptures, we have entered the kingdom
of God wherever we are (John 3:5; Acts 2:38-47). However, we must go from
there to be the Lordís church in reality and not just another denominational
faction. There are teachings that some are presenting and others are not.
There are truths that are being neglected. We practice the unity of the
faith, not by compromise of the truth, but by sincerely examining the Scriptures
and putting them into practice. Let us practice them in love and humility,
not with arrogance and a sectarian attitude. The truth is for all to enjoy
(to enjoy as truth and not as a tool for sectarianism).
Then "reactionaryism" can be a matter of individual experience. Men
have gone forth preaching the truth of God, but perhaps with the wrong
motive and attitude. Their being "strong" for the truth has been a youthful
phase they have been going through. Really, some who have been thought
to be "strong preachers" have been men with personality problemsóthey evidently
enjoyed the attention they got by making abrasive, dogmatic statements
in their flamboyancy. Then one day they grew up. They looked back over
their lives. They didnít like what they saw. So, they changed their preaching
(their message). Really, there basically had been nothing wrong with their
message (just the man). It was their attitude, their arrogance, and the
way they presented what they had to say. But the pendulum has made its
swing, and we have a reactionary, fuzzy-minded liberal who has lost his
mooring and sense of direction.
And, so we could go on pointing out different kinds of reactionaries.
But what lesson, or lessons, do we learn from reactionaries? What do reactionaries
First, reactionaries teach us that a basic truth has probably been
neglected. When we hear someone preach that we think is a little extreme
in his views, it would be wise for us to listen instead of completely discounting
and discrediting him. Almost all reactionaries have a legitimate point
(up to a point) which needs to be considered. Look for it, and learn from
Second, it behooves us to be levelheaded students of Godís Word.
Take a strong and decided (but mature) stand for the truth of God, but
donít be unchristian in the way it is presented or the way you treat other
people. (Sometimes the rebuke is in order, but not always). Otherwise someday
you may be unhappy with yourself and meet yourself coming back. You may
find that you have become a reactionary turning from the truth to become
a compromiser. God forbid!
We can learn from reactionaries, but, at the same time, let us not
be taken in by their simplistic overstatement. And let us not be reactionary
in our reaction to reactionaries.
(Adapted from Volume
26, Number 1, 1988)