Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Are Christians Really Intolerant?


"False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.  We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of a nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.  Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root."  J. Gresham Machen

By Alan Shlemon

I can't tell you...how many people have personally come up to me and said, "You know what, I can no longer think that homosexual behavior is wrong because now I have a daughter or a son who says that they're gay."

It's because they equate love with acceptance.  Now, I don't know where they got this from.  Because my guess is, they weren't operating on that principle when their kids were growing up. ...It's not like their kids would come up to them and say, "Hey, Dad, I'm going to start doing heroin" or something like that and the father's like, "Oh, yeah.  Sure, Johnny!  Whatever man.  I love you and therefore I accept what you do."  No, they'd probably smack them silly cause that's just ridiculous.

Listen, you can believe that homosexual behavior is wrong and still be loving, still be compassionate, still be tolerant.  There's nothing contradictory about that.  Being opposed to their behavior doesn't in any way lessen your love for them.  Every parent knows this.

...Christians are bullied into believing that they are intolerant, especially on the topic of homosexuality.  The problem with this claim that Christians are intolerant is that the word tolerance has been turned on its head in modern parlance.

In fact, tolerance is often equated with simply acceptance; meaning, if you agree with a homosexual, then you're tolerant of them and if you disagree with them, then you're intolerant.  Some people just think that's as simple as it is.

Of course that sounds really bad.  No one wants to be called intolerant.  But what's odd about this is that the real definition of tolerance turns out to be almost the opposite of that definition.  In fact, the way its classically been understood is quite different.

If you look up tolerance in the dictionary, it will say something like this, "To recognize and respect others' beliefs and practices without sharing them.  To bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked."

In other words, tolerance is disagreeing with somebody but still respecting them as a person.  We call this civility, right?  But notice an important factor here.  That is, you have to disagree with somebody before it makes any sense to tolerate them.  Right?  You're not tolerant of people who share your views.  They agree with you.  You're only tolerant of people who disagree with you.

And so based on that proper definition of tolerance, Christians turn out to be, get this, the most tolerant people I know.  Because, we have principled objections against things like abortion or homosexual behavior...yet we still respect - or at least we should respect - homosexuals and other people who are doing these things that we would say are morally impermissible.  So Christians turn out to be the tolerant ones, not the rest of the culture.  The rest of the culture that wants to simply agree with all of these things, they can't be credited with any virtue of tolerance.

And so that means, that opposition to...homosexual behavior is not intolerance toward homosexuals because we can be opposed to ideas and behaviors while still respecting these people and treating them with civility.  That's what an ambassador of Christ would do.

And my second thing that I suggest that we do...is to make the teaching of Hermeneutics - how to interpret the Bible - required for every believer. ...It's foundational and it's essential for every believer.

Think about this.  Every believer, including you and I, is going to be reading the Bible between now and probably the day we die and we are going to be basing major life decisions on what it says.  We are going to be basing our theology on what it says.  We are going to be basing our actions on what it tells us to do.  And if you don't have a good hermeneutic, if you don't have a good method of interpreting what it says, then it's quite possible that you'll be following commands that God never made or believing things that He never told you to believe.  Because you see, everyone here has a method of interpretation.

Everyone here has an approach that they come to the Bible with certain questions.  The only question is whether your method is a good one or a bad one.  Does your method help you discover what God says or distort what God says?  And unfortunately, for many Christians, they aren't taught even the basics of Biblical interpretation which is why they're so much more likely to succumb to or be seduced by alternative interpretations. ...but just basic principles in Biblical interpretation can go a long ways towards avoiding the most common errors in interpretation, especially with things like pro-gay theology.

...The fact of the matter is, when you study Biblical interpretation, you come to realize, that there's right interpretations and there's wrong interpretations.  And by the way, we can know which ones which by following basic and commonsensical rules that help us determine which interpretation is correct.  It's not just some free for all where everybody's interpretation is equally valid or plausible.  Look, the Bible isn't called the "sword of the Spirit" for nothing, right?  When it's properly understood, it can protect us from compromise.

...(we are) to make the Gospel a priority while cultivating a rigorous apologetic on all these other controversial issues.  But if we compromise on these issues, then what message do we have to offer the world if we are no different than the world?


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