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Thriving at the Edges of the World

Written by Ed Stetzer on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

E. Stanley Jones calls us to radical conservatism and a conservative radicalism.

The edges of the world capture our attention. Think of frontiers such as the frozen mountains of Antarctica, the Australian outback, or the Amazon jungle. They are places of great opportunity and, at the same time, filled with unknown threats.

As Americans, we have long been cast in the mold of the pioneer, thriving at the edges. Think of Benjamin Franklin creating the first public library, the Wright brothers taking flight, or innovators such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs bringing us into the digital age. The interesting thing about the pioneering spirit is that it is equally conservative and progressive in its outlook. “How so?” you say.

Well, first let’s define these terms (as delivered by Google):

Progressive: a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Conservative: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.

With these definitions in mind, think about pioneers in innumerable fields who innovated in creative ways. Their drive to come up with new solutions required innovation and progressive approaches. Yet, at the same time, they innovated to conserve their independence, values, and the opportunity to determine their own destiny.

I am sure that not every pioneer felt drawn to each perspective equally, but they both needed to be present to thrive on the edges of the world. It was not possible to affirm only one way of thinking. It was the combination of these two perspectives that made thriving possible. The progressive perspective kept them moving forward into new possibilities, and the conservative perspective kept them grounded in their values. Together, both of these perspectives made these innovators a ...

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