Christian fanaticism is defined as excessive and irrational zeal concerning issues related to the Christian faith. Although we live in modern days of advanced technology and science, the world suffers from the plague of fanaticism which is seen in varied fields especially of politics and religion. Christianity is no exception. The Bible warns against Christian fanaticism and shows the necessity of knowing the difference between rational and irrational zeal.
The Bible teaches the necessity of being zealous to the Lord. Christ Himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27). All actions should be motivated by love to God and man. There must first be love in the heart before one can, in the power and by the grace of Christ, start to obey principles of God’s law. Thus, zeal and obedience without love is as impossible as it is meaningless.
But where love is present a person will automatically and naturally conduct his life to be in harmony with the will of God (John 14:15; 15:10). It is thus, that “the righteousness of the law” is to be “fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:3, 4). He who truly “knows” God will keep “his commandments” because the “love” of God is “perfected” in him (1 John 2:4–6; Matthew 5:48).
The apostle Paul wrote, “it is good to be zealous in a good thing always” (Galatians 4:18). And he also commended the Corinthians for their rational zeal because it had encouraged others to do good works. He said, “for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority” (2 Corinthians 9:2).
The apostle Paul suffered before his conversion from irrational zeal for Judaism. This wrong zeal had led him to persecute the Christian Church. He wrote, “concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6). Paul was an enthusiastic Pharisee. He strongly fulfilled the beliefs of his sect, thinking that he did God service by persecuting those whom he thought as heretics (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1; 22:4; 26:10, 11).
The pharisees’ good deeds consisted in meticulous attention to ceremony and ritual requirements rather than to the “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 9:13; 23:23). Jesus referred to this tendency as straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24). They gave great emphasis to man-made ordinances and to the external forms of law observance (Mark 7:3–13), but forgot almost completely the true spirit of the law itself, which is “Justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).
After conversion, Paul was greatly distressed about the zeal of the Jews toward Christianity when he wrote his epistles to the churches. He explained that the zeal of Judaism and the Judaizers was not according to knowledge of the Scriptures (Romans 10:2). He taught that the new believer’s blindness was not because of a lack of opportunity to know, but because of unwillingness to apply what they had been taught (Hosea 4:6)
From his own experiences, he warned the believers in the early church who had apparently mistaken their Christian fanaticism in their new course as evidence of the genuineness of their zeal, unaware that zeal can never be a substitute for sanctified straight thinking. All religious issues must be fairly and intelligently studied. Unfairly resisting opponents and their arguments should be set aside.
The Truth Guards Against Fanaticism
The Word of God and His imparted wisdom guards believers from falling into Christian fanaticism (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 4:6). Therefore, Scriptures must be rightly interpreted so that no part of it will be set in opposition to the picture presented by the entire Bible. Each passage of Scripture must be given its true emphasis.
Christians should be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To study the Bible diligently means that every aspect of truth must receive its proper weight. Irrelevancies and secondary issues are to be regarded as less important than the truths that actually prepare people to overcome sin and empower them to live victoriously in Christ. Thus, the believer’s protection against Christian fanaticism lies in fully understanding the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19).
In His service,