There is, unfortunately, a type of mind that tends to extremes. Whether it be a distorted use of the Spirit of prophecy counsels, excessive emphasis upon certain angles of health reform, or some other burden that assumes extreme, or at least unbalanced, proportions, such a temperament overstresses certain points or phases of a truth, and thereby gives a one-sided, distorted emphasis to that truth. Such an attitude lacks the balance of well-rounded consideration, which full knowledge and perspective would give.
If the influence and effect of such extremism were confined to one's personal views and practices, it would not be so serious. Everyone has the right and privilege of holding his own concepts. But when a person takes advantage of his official capacity as a minister in this cause, with the public opportunities automatically afforded a teacher in the church and an official representative of the faith, to impose his extreme views upon his congregation or to project them upon the public, he thereby becomes instead, a misrepresentative of the faith.
Under such conditions the situation passes from purely personal to denominational concern. If persisted in, this distortion will unavoidably become subject to censure and ultimately to discipline. No denominationally accredited and church-supported worker, holding his papers from the denomination and receiving his salary and sustentation provision from the denomination, has a right to project variant personal views that misconceive and misrepresent the position of the church as a whole. He has no right to contravene its clear positions in such a way as to cause confusion or alienation of the people and involve the rest of the ministerial fraternity in embarrassment.
One of the most serious trespasses of all involves a legal aspect. When an evangelistic worker, standing before the public as an official representative of Adventism, encroaches in his public claims upon the domain of the practice of medicine and, as a layman, uses titles and makes claims and assertions concerning the cure of specific diseases, such as cancer and heart trouble, he thereby assumes the role of a medical quack and makes himself liable to the just and full weight of the law. The line between the right and the wrong might be defined thus:
We should distinguish sharply between the enunciation of sound health principles and the attempt to prescribe and treat specific ailments. It is one thing to educate for healthful living, but it is a vastly different matter to give pseudoprofessional advice as to specific organic diseases where wrong counsel or neglect of competent professional care may be inimical to health or may even prove fatal. It is one thing to teach healthful cookery, but it is an entirely different matter to prescribe a specific diet for a person with a chronic disease which may have serious consequences. It is one thing to demonstrate simple treatments and remedies, but it is wholly another matter to treat maladies that may involve the issue of life and death. It is one thing to commend remedies that are helpful, while it is another matter to prescribe or dispense medicinal herbs and formulas. Such is the more serious side to the issue, involving a moral as well as a legal aspect.
Aside from the serious and foolhardy risk of dealing ignorantly with human life, such a trespasser lowers himself in the eyes of the intelligent public by dragging the ministry of the gospel down to the level of quackery and charlatanism. He thereby brings disgrace upon the high and holy cause we represent before the world. More than that, he alienates the professionally trained, such as physicians, nurses, and scientists, and forces his ministerial brethren to bow their heads in shame and to disavow and repudiate all such encroachments. Those who follow him have to work under a serious handicap in the community for perhaps a period of years before the odium is overcome. In the very nature of the case this situation cannot be complacently tolerated by the church.
Fortunately, not many drift into these extremes, but such cases stand as glaring examples of what not to do. May God deliver us from the reproaches of the few and keep all the rest of us from following in their footsteps. Nearly every extremist brings trouble upon himself and disgrace upon the cause he is seeking to advance. Brethren, let us pray that God will give us balance and keep us from extremes.
L. E. F.