Hell, Hate, and the Peril of Christian Witness


A few years ago, a friend of mine got in trouble. This time, my friend got in trouble for doing the right thing.

In solidarity with his union brothers, my friend was walking a picket line because the company he was working for had been taking advantage of employees. My friend was enjoying conversation with his colleagues talking about a number of items in the news, talking about the weather, about fishing, and traffic.

Death Life Christian Witness Card My friend cared for his colleagues, and so he explained to them the gospel. To make his explanation clear, he used a simple, two-sided tract called Life or Death. The tract was the size of a business card and had the word “Death” written in such an ornate and elaborate way that any calligrapher would have coveted the skill of its artist.

Death” was the beginning point—and the bad news. The card was designed in such a way that all my friend had to do was flip it around and the word which had looked like “Death” now appeared to say “Life.” From the simple flip from death to life, he shared the gospel message of John 3:16.

The workers hearing the gospel message gave it little merit. They held their tongues and kept their death, but not without recourse. They quietly filed a grievance with the union and filed charges against my friend for making “Death” threats against them.

At the time, I thought the entire affair was ludicrous. As it turns out, it was portentous, an ominous sign of things to come. Earlier this week, another

Baptist hate crime hell norfolk attleborough

Source: Steynonline

harbinger of hate crimes to come arose from Great Britain. Mark Steyn tells the story of one Robert Gladwin, a twenty-year old peace-loving, uber-tolerant Brit who simply could not tolerate the sign posted by the Attleborough Baptist Church.

The church sign featured an 8.5 x 11 color flyer with flames coming up from the bottom. The words of the sign read: “If you think there is no God, you’d better be right.” Death, judgment, and hell were not mentioned, but certainly implied. Steyn’s piece makes the excellent contrast between this rather benign flyer and the often seen (and protected) signs of Muslims in London: “Behead those who insult Islam.”

Still, the twenty year-old Gladwin was offended enough to report the crime to the police, who quickly launched a hate crimes investigation against the church. The pastor of the church, John Rose, removed the sign as a result of the investigation and replaced it (unfortunately) with a sign featuring the message “God loves you” with a meerkat saying “Simples” in a floating speech bubble overhead.

Christians must be clear on the gospel message as never before. Any number of issues—Hell perhaps preeminently—will become intolerable hate speech in the days to come. The simple message of eternal life in Christ for those who believe may easily be reinterpreted as a death threat by those who reject the Lord.

None of this is new, really. Christ told His followers from the beginning,

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

What Is the New Tolerance (and why does it matter)?


D. A. Carson is a great blessing to the Christian church! He recently published another very important book titled The Intolerance of Tolerance.[1]

Carson Intolerance new tolerance  persecutionIn this significant work, Carson details the shift in meaning the word tolerance has undergone over the last century. Building from the work of S. D. Gaede, Carson distinguishes between the “Old tolerance” and “New tolerance.”  Understanding the New tolerance is simpler if one understands how it departs from the Old tolerance.

The primary distinction between New and Old tolerance is the foundation (or lack thereof) for determining what ought to be tolerated. No one is purely tolerant. Even if there were someone whose laissez-faire approach to life would convince him to tolerate such evils as child abuse, wife-beating, airport bombing, and terrorist beheading—chances are, that same person would almost certainly not tolerate such behavior against himself. It may be okay to tolerate stealing in the culture at large, but it surely is inappropriate to steal from me. What’s the old saying? There’s honor even among thieves.

No one is purely tolerant (thank God!).  Yet, tolerance as a theme permeates our culture. Carson shows how damaging the New tolerance definition is. As I said, the main distinction between the New tolerance and the Old tolerance is that the foundation of the Old tolerance appealed to truth obtained through reason and rationality.  The New tolerance is based solely on its opposition to intolerance. Listen to Carson,

…The old tolerance draws its limits on the basis of substantive arguments about truth, goodness, doing harm, and protecting society and its victims, while the new tolerance draws its limits on the basis of what it judges to be intolerant, which has become the supreme vice.”

If Carson is right (and I do believe he is), then the new tolerance is nothing short of a thought police force. Those in power have the force to enforce what is tolerable and what is not. Carson goes on to explain how the New tolerance operates as a “defeater belief.”[2]  The New tolerance assumes that Carson Intolerance new tolerance persecutionits definition of tolerance is good and right and, thus, superior to lesser beliefs about tolerance. If the New tolerance judges acceptance of gay marriage as the essence of tolerance, then any belief in opposition of gay marriage is automatically defeated as inferior. There is no appeal to truth and no reasoned argument necessary. The “superior” New tolerance by definition defeats the “inferior” (and thus intolerant) opposition.

The result is obviously a loss of harmony, a loss of community, a loss of dialog, and—ominously—a loss of the freedom to speak and even to think in ways contrary to the New tolerance. As Carson notes, the New tolerance tends to avoid serious engagement over difficult moral issues and simply excludes those moral opinions contrary to its own as non-virtuous and intolerant.

One need not think long about such an approach to see the danger lurking for Christians. The exclusivity of the way of Jesus Christ and the exacting nature of Christ’s commands for sexual purity will undoubtedly be expected to bow before the throne in allegiance to the New tolerance.

 

[1] D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012).

 

[2] Carson gives credit to Tim Keller for his use of the term defeater belief.

Fairness Is Not Justice: Three Simple Reasons to Reject Fairness


Justice not FairnessOnce upon a time, our laws were based on justice: “With liberty and justice for all.”  Now, it seems there is a sense of “fairness” encroaching upon our liberty and overtaking justice for all.  Many folks equate one term with the other, thinking that fairness and justice are equally compelling concepts of liberty, but they are not. Here are three important reasons to seek justice in our laws, not fairness.

First, fairness is not a fixed concept. Justice is. Fairness rises and falls with the political fortunes of special interests. Instead of being one fixed, eternal truth to which all attain, fairness is a roaming gnome of special rights given to certain classes of individuals.

Fairness grabs rights for Hispanics (but not Asians?).  Fairness snatches rights for Muslims (but not Hindus?)—for gays and lesbians (but not the celibate or the polygamists?).  Fairness is not fixed in anything eternal.  Think of it in terms of a family.

One child has a birthday party and gets gifts from mom and dad. Another child in the family screams “That’s not fair!” Well, in a sense it is not fair for two equal siblings to be treated differently.  Yet, when the matter is considered from a broader perspective—that of justice—it becomes plain that the parents are perfectly just to give gifts to their children when and how they desire.  No injustice has occurred, even though one child believes his fairness has been violated. Justice fixes truth in institutions and in eternal reality. Fairness fluctuates with the feelings and infatuations of child-like adults. It is not fixed.

Second, fairness is not blind; justice is. As stated above, fairness singles out sub-classes of humanity for particular justice not fairness attention.  By definition, it is not blind. It sees color. It sees sexual preference. It sees—and envies—what others possess.  Fairness cannot maintain unity because it sees too much; it offers preferences too conveniently.

When the United States Supreme Court building was completed in 1935, it featured a prominent engraving to justice across its façade: “Equal Justice Under Law.”  And so, America has historically been a place which sought to call all people equally to the one eternal standard of Justice. Fairness was nowhere etched in Supreme Court stones (and for good reason). Justice is blind; fairness is not.

Finally, Fairness is just not just. I know this sounds circular, but the point must not be missed. Justice is real; it is rooted in an eternal God whose ways are right.  Just as moral law comes from the moral lawgiver, so, too, justice ultimately abides in the one who Himself is just.  Justice is an eternal, divine order to which we all should attain.

Fairness, on the other hand, is a very petulant human standard which we must all exceed. We must be willing to forego our own peevish demands of personal affluence and, instead, call our fellow Americans to uphold justice.

Justice is discovered from within reality.  Fairness is imposed by force on humanity.  Fairness must be imposed by might, not by what is right. It is a political power play, not an eternal truth display.  So, please, let us return to equal justice for all under the law. Exchanging justice for fairness is more foolish than a child offering to trade his family for a shiny, new penny. It’s a sad exchange.

More Burning Anger


Today, the President admonished Pastor Jones, encouraging him to “listen to those better angels” who recommend not burning the Quran.  There is a united consensus among leaders in America that Pastor Jones should not burn the Muslim books.  Political leaders, religious leaders, media elites have uniformly condemned the act.  I heard this morning that some–including Franklin Graham–have called to plead with the pastor to stop the burning plan.  With these leaders, I agree.  The burning is an unnecessary offense.

But we must not lose perspective.  If he burns a thousand copies of the Quran, he will not have conducted an offense as egregious as a single murder.  Murder is what Muslims are proposing in response.  I hope our outrage will produce strong condemnation for those who murder in the name of Islam.  If murders do unfold–which President Obama seems to think they will–they should be condemned by the same religious, political, and media leaders who have so roundly condemned Pastor Jones.  Indeed, let us hope there will be outrage by Muslim leaders, too, since the murders will be committed in the name of their religion.

The truth of the matter is that no one is outraged when Bibles are burned.  It is settled policy in Saudi Arabia that Bibles are confiscated and burned (or shredded).  Bibles were burned earlier this year in Iran.  I don’t remember the religious tolerance outrage in those instances, and I cannot believe any leader would have considered Christian violence an acceptable response to the Bible burnings.  So, why give Islam a pass?

When cartoons of Mohamed ended with Muslim rioting and people killed, we were expected to apologize and not do that any more.  When Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany concerning the reasonableness of not murdering in the name of religion, Muslims shot a nurse in Africa in protest.  Another news story today reports that Muslims are threatening to kill a woman in Tennessee because she is opposed to the building of a mosque there.  At what point do we say to Islam, you may not like our liberty, but you better not kill our people?

I am not bothered by those who condemn Pastor Jones.  He is being given way too much attention for his publicity stunt.  I pray that Christians in other countries will not suffer because of his foolishness (though they likely will).  What I am bothered by (besides the threats of murder) is an acquiescence to violence if it is done in the name of Islam.  Those who murder in the name of Islam ought to be condemned much more severely than Pastor Jones is being condemned for burning the Quran.

Isn’t the murder of 6 Christian doctors in Afghanistan more horrendous than burning the Quran?  Why so little outrage about that?

Officially Insane


You will not believe this story.  We have officially embraced insanity in an effort to be tolerant of Islam.  The Apostle Paul speaks of the foolish heart being darkened by sin and thus unable to recognize any longer realities which once were patently obvious.  This story is an illustration of just such a mental and moral debacle among European elites.  The story is about a female journalist writing a sympathetic piece on Jihadists in Afghanistan.  It turns out, she was raped repeatedly over an extended period of time.  However, she insists the Jihadists respected her.  She is angry at the government for not paying their ransom.  The government is angry at Geert Wilders for implying [?] that the Jihadists are violent monsters.  Read the entire crazy affair here.

To keep up with Geert Wilders, see here.

It’s Good for Young Women to Be Beaten


Sharia law spreads as Islam increases.  In Europe, the call for Sharia is increasing.  The pressure to accept Islam has now forced an Italian judge to rule that it was ok for a father, brother, and mother to beat a young woman.  The judge ruled that it was “for her own good” to be beaten by her Muslim relatives.  I have linked a news article here, and it shows just how fluid a concept “tolerance” can be.  Tolerance demands that we accept Muslims who beat women in the name of Muhammad.  Yet, tolerance is offended if a Christian prays publicly in the name of Jesus Christ.  Europe is heading down a dismal path, and I hope America will understand that we do not want to follow their lead.

Significance of Wilders


Yesterday, I posted on the significance of Geert Wilders.  If you haven’t seen that blog, check it out because it links to a prior blog which speaks of how important this case is for all of us who value free speech.  Today, there is another great article concerning this story.  I have it linked here so that you are completely up to date on the significance of wilders.

Geert Wilders Again


I posted a warning on my blog not too long ago, telling you to pay attention to Geert Wilders.  His story is portentous.  It is a warning signal to us all about the direction our “tolerance” is taking us.  Tolerance is taking us to a loss of freedom.  Geert Wilders is no longer allowed in the U.K. because he might offend Muslims.  This article from Belgium includes a copy of the letter that Wilders was issued.  You have to read the letter; it is remarkable, and it attests to the fact that the U.K. has abandoned freedom for appeasing Islam.  The real scary thing for us, however, is the fact that the Obama administration is more liberal on this sort of political correctness than even the Labour party in London.

 

Our Canary in the Cave


In days gone by, miners would send canaries into the shafts of mines if there were a question about whether the mines were safe.  Often, mine shafts would be dangerously low on oxygen.  So before fancy “sniffing” equipment was available, canaries were the sniffers.  If they died, the mine was not safe.

I read a reference by Mark Steyn in which Salman Rushdie was referred to as Europe’s canary in the coal mine.  Rushdie’s situation should have alerted Europe to the unreasonable violence of Islam.  Europe has not heard her warning cry, but, perhaps, we will. 

This story calls for us to wake up and realize another canary has not come out of the coal mine of Islamic tolerance.  Geert Wilders–get to know the name–has been convicted under “hate crimes” legislation by the Dutch parliament.  His story is a clear warning to us, if we will listen.  Pay attention.  Freedom is fading fast.

Typical


Here is yet another example of irresponsible reporting (at least the headline).  In this report, however, the writers are forced to admit the obvious.  The “immigrants” mentioned in the headline are Muslim terrorists, no doubt about it.  Their intention was to kill American soldiers.  Calling them “immigrants,” though I suppose it is technically true, is actually irresponsible.  They aren’t poor immigrants looking for work to feed their families or coming to America to better their lives.  They came to kill Americans.  To call them immigrants is to insult immigrants and all Americans at the same time.  I suppose it makes the reporters feel better.

Irony of Tolerance


So, in last week’s conversation, we ran into a possible impasse concerning tolerance.  The issue surrounded Rick Warren and his invitation to pray at Obama’s Inauguration.  Yesterday, the AP ran this story, which demonstrates precisely what I was saying in last week’s posts (and comments).  Rick Warren is actually viewed as a model for tolerance, even though he is against gay marriage.  For some, these categories are inherently contradictory.  But that contradiction does not spring from any reasonable foundation; it springs from a predetermined notion about the definition of tolerance, namely, that it must include the approval of gay relationships. 

Thus, this story illustrates, once again, the point I have been making.  Tolerance is an unworkable idea because it does not depend either on reason or revelation; it is grounded in preference only.  Tolerance can be imposed, but it cannot be just.  It is merely a political power play which confuses more than it helps.

Tolerance Defined


So, in the blog yesterday, I was asked for my definition of tolerance.  Here it is. Tolerance is a warmed up crock of cow dung, in my opinion. It stinks and provides nothing that satisfies.  It is a specious, anti-Christian attempt to redefine issues of truth and justice under the auspices of political power, which is to say, that tolerance is a tool which is used by those whose desire is to coerce moral strictures on others without having to defend their moral views against the traditional safeguards of reason or revelation or even majority opinion.

 

Tolerance is an inherently contradictory concept, as was pointed out yesterday in the blog post and revealed in the comments which followed.  No one is able to tolerate everyone or everything. It is impossible.  Thus, tolerance becomes an aristocratic imposition of the personal preferences of those in power upon those who are not.  It becomes a matter of arbitrary imposition which does not answer to the higher authority of reason.  It is more akin to the manner in which 3rd world dictatorships impose morality than it is related to the historical, Judeo-Christian models of morality which prevailed in the West for the past 5 centuries.

 

Here is another of many examples of how hopelessly contradictory the concept of tolerance is in America.  Folks want to kill Mormons and burn down their temples because of how intolerant the Mormons are!