1. DEFINITION OF TERMS
a. What is extremism? Ecclesiastes 7:16–18.
“Those who advocate unpopular truth should be most consistent in their lives, and should be extremely careful to shun everything like extremes. They should not labor to see how far they can take their position from other men; but, otherwise, to see how near they can come to those whom they wish to reform, that they may help them to the position which they themselves so highly prize.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 377, 378.
“We would also caution those that are extremists not to raise a false standard and then endeavor to bring everybody to it.”—Ibid., p.375.
b. What are some of the characteristics of fanatics? Matthew 23:25.
“There are some who will not hear. So long have they chosen to follow their own way and their own wisdom, so long have they cherished hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong, that they are blind and cannot see afar off. By them, principles are perverted; false standards are raised; tests are made that bear not the signature of heaven. They are assimilating worldly ideas and forming characters that will exclude them from heaven. And yet some of these very ones make their boasts in the Lord as a people who do righteousness and forsake not the ordinances of their God!”—The Signs of the Times, June 24, 1903.
2. DEALING WITH FANATICISM
a. How can we be wise and avoid fanaticism? Romans 12:3; Hosea 14:9.
“Those who realize their weakness trust in a power higher than self. And while they look to God, Satan has no power against them. But those who trust in self are easily defeated.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1102.
“Those who have but a partial understanding of the principles of reform are often the most rigid, not only in carrying out their views themselves, but in urging them on their families and their neighbors. The effect of their mistaken reforms, as seen in their own ill-health, and their efforts to force their views upon others, give many a false idea of dietetic reform, and lead them to reject it altogether. . . .
“No one should criticize others because their practice is not, in all things, in harmony with his own. It is impossible to make an unvarying rule to regulate every one’s habits, and no one should think himself a criterion for all. Not all can eat the same things. Foods that are palatable and wholesome to one person may be distasteful, and even harmful, to another.”—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 198.
b. How else can we respond to fanaticism? Mark 6:45, 46.
c. How can we avoid falling into extremes? Deuteronomy 30:16, 19; Isaiah 8:20.
“Those who elevate the standard as nearly as they can to the order of God, according to the light God has given them through His word and the testimonies of His Spirit, will not change their course of action to meet the wishes of their friends or relatives, be they one or two or a host, who are living contrary to God’s wise arrangement. If we move from principle in these things, if we observe strict rules of diet, if as Christians we educate our tastes after God’s plan, we shall exert an influence which will meet the mind of God. The question is, ‘Are we willing to be true health reformers?’ ”—Ibid., pp.35, 36.
3. TWO CLASSES OF HEALTH REFORMERS
a. What should be the fundamental guiding principle in matters of health reform? Philippians 4:5.
“Those who understand the laws of health, and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restrictions. Their diet is chosen, not for the mere gratification of appetite, but for the upbuilding of the body. They seek to preserve every power in the best condition for the highest service to God and man. The appetite is under the control of reason and conscience, and they are rewarded with health of body and mind. While they do not urge their views offensively upon others, their example is a testimony in favor of right principles.”—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 198.
b. Describe the two classes of professed health reformers, and tell where each will end up. Zephaniah 2:15; Proverbs 14:12.
“Two classes have been presented before me: first, those who are not living up to the light which God has given them; secondly, those who are too rigid in carrying out their one-sided ideas of reform, and enforcing them on others. When they take a position, they stand to it stubbornly, and carry nearly everything over the mark.
“The first class adopted the reform because some one else did. They did not obtain a clear understanding of its principles for themselves. Many of those who profess the truth have received it because some one else did, and for their life they could not give the reason of their faith. This is why they are so unstable. Instead of weighing their motives in the light of eternity, instead of obtaining a practical knowledge of the principles underlying all their actions, instead of digging down to the bottom and building upon a right foundation for themselves, they are walking in the light of another’s torch, and will surely fail.
“The other class take wrong views of the reform. They adopt too meager a diet. They subsist upon a poor quality of food, prepared without reference to the nourishment of the system. It is important that food be prepared with care, so that the appetite, when not perverted, can relish it.”—Ibid., p.196.
c. How then should we choose our food? 1 Corinthians 10:31.
4. PROGRESSIVE ADVANCEMENT
a. What should faithful leaders consider when instructing the people about health reform? Genesis 33:14; Proverbs 4:18.
“If you err, let it not be in getting as far from the people as possible, for then you cut the thread of your influence and can do them no good. Better err on the side of the people than altogether away from them, for there is hope in that case that you can carry the people with you, but there is no need of error on either side.
“You need not go into the water, or into the fire, but take the middle path, avoiding all extremes.”—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 211.
“If we come to persons who have not been enlightened in regard to health reform and present our strongest positions at first, there is danger of their becoming discouraged as they see how much they have to give up, so that they will make no effort to reform. We must lead the people along patiently and gradually, remembering the hole of the pit from which we were digged.”—Healthful Living, p. 35.
b. How does a true shepherd lead his flock? John 10:2–4, 11.
c. How do false shepherds behave? John 10:10 (first part), 12, 13; Ezekiel 34:2–4.
“The lack of stability in regard to the principles of health reform is a true index of [the] character [of those at the heart of the work] and their spiritual strength.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 487.
“I saw that some who have formerly run deep into fanaticism would be the first now to run before God sends them, before they are purified from their past errors; having error mixed with the truth, they would feed the flock of God with it, and if they were suffered to go on, the flock would become sickly, and distraction and death would follow.”—Early Writings, p. 62.
“Instead of being guided by reason and sound judgment, [among our people] some allowed their feelings to take the lead.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 356, 357.
“[Some individuals professing to believe a part of present truth] are not responsible to anyone. They have an independent faith of their own.”—Ibid., p.326.
5. REAPING WHAT YOU SOW
a. What will result from extremes in health reform? Isaiah 1:5, 6.
“Narrow ideas, and overstraining of small points, have been a great injury to the cause of hygiene. There may be such an effort at economy in the preparation of food, that, instead of a healthful diet, it becomes a poverty-stricken diet. What is the result?—Poverty of the blood. I have seen several cases of disease most difficult to cure, which were due to impoverished diet. The persons thus afflicted were not compelled by poverty to adopt a meager diet, but did so in order to follow out their own erroneous ideas of what constitutes health reform. Day after day, meal after meal, the same articles of food were prepared without variation, until dyspepsia and general debility resulted. . . .
“Another class, in their desire to set a right example, go to the opposite extreme. Some are unable to obtain the most desirable foods, and instead of using such things as would best supply the lack, they adopt an impoverished diet. Their food does not supply the elements needed to make good blood. Their health suffers, their usefulness is impaired, and their example tells against rather than in favor of reform in diet.”—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 197.
b. What will happen when we follow God’s methods? Isaiah 58:8. How do we know God’s way is not difficult? Deuteronomy 30:11–14.
“A careful conformity to the laws God has implanted in our being will ensure health, and there will not be a breaking down of the constitution.”—Ibid., p.20.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How do extremists often labor, and what would be a better approach?
2. Describe the two classes of false health reformers.
3. What is to be the guiding principle in matters of health reform?
4. How are we to progress in health reform?
5. What are the consequences of extremism? What will be the results of following God’s way?