“Via Media” – the middle way. It is a term used by John Wesley. Between two extremes, there lies a middle way. Not a compromise, per se – but an intentional meeting of the minds – a reconciliation of ideas.

In his time, the via media was a way to seek restoration between the status quo and a reactionary revolution called “The Reformation”. Catholicism was, at one time, the only game in Jesus Town. But, as people used the gospel as a hammer to exploit people and pursue a political agenda, Martin Luther stood up in reaction to these corruptions and birthed “The Reformation”. The reformation was a reaction to the corruption of Catholicism. The problem is that it threw the baby out with the bath water. By the time John Wesley came around the battle lines were strongly drawn – and quite polarized. He wanted Anglicanism, the primary reformists haven of the time, to pursue a “via media”.

The “via media” is not compromise. It is a synergistic approach that requires honest reflection on the polar positions. It says, “hey, I sill believe what I believe, but perhaps I’ve been too hyperbolic.” To pursue a judgment on the question of who is right and who is wrong is, well, the wrong way to go about things. It will debase the conversation, turning it into a match of proof quoting prowess – the one who can quote the most wins. The real pursuit should be, “We both have incredible scriptural support, so how can we learn from each perspective and arrive at what must be the truth” – encompassing both viewpoints in beautiful harmony. “Via media” is not compromise because the result is greater than its former parts.

If Wesley were alive today, where would his pursuit of “via media” be?

Would it be between compassionate ministries and social justice? The latter is a reaction to perceived inadequacies of the former.

Would it be between the traditional church and the emergent church? The latter is a reaction to perceived inadequacies of the former.

I think it would be both. He would seek “via media” in all that divides the church. While he was dealing with the issues between Catholicism and the Reformists, he was also dealing with his doctrine of Holiness and his allegiance to Anglicanism.

Every revolution begins with a status quo, resulting in a reaction. Eventually the dust settles and we discover “via media”. The via media is not a war between two ideas, but a convergence into a greater idea from both.

What would happen if we, who call ourselves the Bride of Christ, chose to pursue a life of “via media” rather than seeking a pole to which we can chain ourselves?

2 thoughts on “the.middle.way”

  1. Herb I agree with you on not being so dogmatic about everything we believe. Maybe no change will be found neccessary, but that doesn't mean we should stop exploring and asking questions. Maybe the Emergent church IS way out there, but does that mean we can't learn a little about ourselves and our weaknesses by asking what caused such a radical reaction to our traditional ways? I find I'm most effective when I'm asking more questions than I'm trying to answer. Every tradition today was once a radical idea to someone, yet when the "dust" settled it became accepted as the next right thing to do. I think if we remain open in the areas that don't compromise biblical truth, we will be used by God to establish new "traditions" that will further God's Kingdom. If we do not ask questions and seek the middle way, we will eventually be left behind as relics without any power or influence.

    1. I agree – to me “via media” is a pursuit of growth. It remains steadfastly grounded on the good foundation of “where we are”, but hungers for the expanded understanding of exploring “where to next?”.

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