September 18, 2014

The Receiving End of Tolerance

In the face of increasing opposition to Jesus Christ and His servants, the Christian’s call is to patient obedience to God and His Word. 

The title of Don Carson’s fairly recent contribution on culture is telling: The Intolerance of Tolerance (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012).  Some of the erstwhile culture vultures of the mid-twentieth century used the phrase ‘repressive tolerance’ to indicate the revolutionary agenda behind the new tolerance.   This word has been manipulated and arrested from its original common meaning of ‘a willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not agree with,’ and has come to imply the virtue of endorsing a radical social and politicized inclusivity that permits no serious rivals.  Thus to be ‘tolerant’ now essentially means championing progressivism and repressing Christian truth claims and values wherever possible.  As a result the modern Western virtue of tolerance has become a de-facto justification for the harassment, marginalisation and abuse of Christian people and their views – hence the revolutionary character of repressive tolerance.  It is used as a transitional posture as a precursor to a more radical censure or persecution.  What is disturbing is that so many do not seem to notice the profound irony of their doctrine.

It is interesting to be on the receiving end of today’s tolerance.  I was having lunch with a Christian friend a few days ago in a nice restaurant on the West side of Toronto, and we were about to order our food after enjoying a lemonade when a well-turned out man got up from his table to leave and paused to hurl profanity, abuse and obscenity at me for being a fu***** Christian and, by extension of course, a homophobe, having seen me speaking about the Christian faith on television.  He stormed out in a rage, swearing and cursing violently and abusively.  There was no desire for discussion, no willingness for debate, no opportunity to respond, only the loud declamatory noise of ‘tolerance.’  Apart from the stunned waitress who apologetically said she had never seen anything like that before, explaining the man was normally a quiet regular, no one batted an eyelid at this outburst, despite the fact that what he did was an indictable offence according to section 175 Canada’s criminal code.  Yet these types of incidents are becoming increasingly common.  There is a growing atmosphere of hostility and contempt for the Christian faith justified in the name of ‘tolerance.’  

It is a time in our history to remember that Christ promised we would be reviled, hated and rejected for the simple reason that he was; if the world hated him, it would hate us also!  We are not being beheaded like our long-suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq or Syria but we are being belittled and besmirched in a manner unthinkable even 30 years ago in our social order.  By faith we are exiles and sojourners in the rebel city of man, with passports from the Kingdom of God.  We are thus ambassadors in hostile territory to be won for our king.  Our response to reviling must be one of faith, hope and courage.   Edmund Clowney in his commentary on 1 Peter has stated it well:

The pilgrim must know his calling.  It is not to pursue the mirage of humanistic hope.  Neither is it to bow down to worship the imperial images of totalitarian power.  It is to obey Jesus Christ until the day of his appearing.    

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