Friday, September 11, 2015

A Challenge to Christians in a Culture of Intolerant Tolerance

A profound change in attitude has taken place in our culture and it seems Christians have largely been unable or unwilling to responded to it. This change in attitude is a change in how our culture views Christian ideas and values. Christian values were accepted in the past without question in most cases. When the validity of a principle or idea was up for debate, it was assumed that the Christian value system would be the measuring rod. A great example of this is seen in the history of the founding of our nation. Generally, it was assumed that the fundamental principles upon which this great nation would be built were to be the laws of the Jewish/Christian God. Even those individuals who were not professing Christians assumed it to be the best and wisest plan. The point is that it was an assumption. Nobody had to argue that the Judaeo Christian value system was the "right" model on which to build a society.

But today this is certainly not the case! Modern culture no longer assumes that the Judaeo Christian value system is right or true. In fact contemporary culture now assumes that it is not correct in most cases. American culture has relegated religious faith to the strictly personal and private arena. Many even become angry when one attempts to make ones' faith something more than a privately held personal opinion. So, many other philosophies have attempted to claim the place of objective, universal standard that the Judaeo Christian value system once enjoyed. As a result there are so many competing "value systems" in our modern society, and American culture is so complex, that it's well beyond the scope of this article to even review them. Suffice it to say that in large part our American culture honors plurality and a perverted idea of freedom of choice. Cloaked in ideas such as "plurality" (which also goes by the term "tolerance") and "personal freedom" (actually a deficient view of personal freedom without responsibility), all manner of societal ills now beset us.

As a result of these various value systems that exalt plurality (or tolerance) and personal freedom , reaction to the traditional Judaeo Christian value system is one of antagonism. The Christian value system contradicts the modern interpretation of plurality and personal freedom. Contemporary reaction to Christian values goes something like this, "What do you mean homosexuality is wrong? How can it be wrong if it is something in which two consenting adults engage and nobody else gets harmed. Some people are heterosexual and some are homosexual its just personal preference -- an alternate life style (plurality). And anyway, who are you to be telling someone else what's right or wrong. They have the right to do whatever (Personal freedom). In fact, you're the one who is wrong and have a problem! Your problem is homophobia and some psychologists say it's a mental illness!"

In the face of this ever growing antagonism what is the Christian to do? Well unfortunately, the response from Christians has often been one of simply reasserting the Christian message or worse to shut up and pull back! Christians should indeed continue to proclaim the truth. God's word is "sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb 4:12 NIV). We must continue to proclaim his word and truth. But we must do more. Continuing to only proclaim the word is a one dimensional response. We must also defend the truth. It's rightly said “we will never argue anyone into heaven” however, " not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (I Pet. 3:14-15 NIV). We have clear and powerful examples from God's word to follow. John the Baptist preached and debated the religious and civic leaders of his time. Jesus debated and reasoned with the Pharisees explaining the truths of the Kingdom. Acts 17 states that Paul's custom was to reason with the Jews in the synagogue, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ. Later in that chapter we see that Paul reasoned in the synagogue and the marketplace every day. He even used literature and arguments from the Greek's own philosophers to prove to them the truth of his message.

We have a reasonable faith. Christianity is not someone's personal private opinion or fantasy. Faith is not a blind leap. We have nothing to be embarrassed about! No, we have evidence, fact, proofs that what we believe is real and true. There is more historical evidence and proofs for the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than for nearly any other event in antiquity. So, our response to a culture that wants to setup other standards of conduct must be bold and confident! There is no other standard that has fact and truth for its basis. Then we must be willing to defend and prove what we say with rational argument yet with a loving attitude. When we say "prayer should be in school and the ten commandments back on the walls of our schools" we must be willing to explain why. When we say "abortion is wrong" we must be able to explain why. We must be able to defend our belief that the theory of evolution is inadequate. It should be taught only as a theory along side creation in our schools. Our culture asks "why should sex only take place in a heterosexual marriage relationship?". We must be able to give a reasoned explanation and at all times it must be tempered with love. If we cannot answer these questions and issues with reasoned, logical explanations our generation will turn us off. The Church will enter a whole new era of irrelevance. We must step up without fear and say to our generation and culture "Jesus has the answers and they make sense and they work." Do we really believe it? I do!

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