OceanSide church of Christ
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POSTMODERN THINKING (4)
Victor M. Eskew
In this series of articles, we have been examining a system of thought that has invaded the United States. It is referred to as postmodernism or postmodern thought. There are many elements of this system of thought that have manifested themselves in our society. Many people see things that are happening, are troubled by these things, but do not understand why they are happening. This series is designed to give some understanding of what is happening in our nation and in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Postmodernism has five foundational elements. We have examined two of them: pluralism and relativism. In this article, we will be looking at the third pillar. It is called tolerance. Tolerance is defined as: “an interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, and practices that differ from one’s own.” Because we live in a pluralistic society, some tolerance is needed by all. There is a galaxy of ideas, opinions, and practices that differ widely from person to person, culture to culture, and group to group in our nation. If we did not have respect and tolerance for these differing views, we would be at war constantly.
The idea of tolerance, however, has changed dramatically in recent times. It used to be acceptable to converse and debate, sometimes vigorously, about the differences that exist between individuals. Each person could say what needed to be said about another’s beliefs. Weaknesses could be exposed. Errors could be pointed out. Contradictions could be documented. Once the debate was over, both sides would still tolerate each other. Tolerance today has eliminated all debate of the issues. Everyone is supposed to go along to get along without anything being said. We have opposing viewpoints, but we cannot discuss them. If anyone speaks out against another, he is viewed as being intolerant, mean, and unloving. He is viewed as a person who causes division. It appears that some do not understand the definition of unity. Unity comes through agreement and likemindedness. The prophet of old asked: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Just because people are not allowed to discuss their differences does not mean that people are united. Unity comes from having the same mind and the same judgment (I Cor. 1:10).
If a person believes the Word of God contains absolute truth, he is put in a dilemma when things surface that oppose the truth. The apostle Paul said that God’s children must be set for the defense of the gospel (Phil. 1:17). We cannot allow error to prevail over truth. We cannot allow immorality to triumph over holy living. Because truth exists, Christians are obligated to oppose falsehood. The attitude of the psalmist must permeate the attitude of God’s people today. He wrote: “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104).
Remember, any form of opposition to other is believed to be intolerant, unloving, unkind, mean, and divisive. Let’s look at a couple of illustrations. The Bible plainly condemns the LGTBQ lifestyles. The actions of this community involve fornication and uncleanness. Their sexual acts are works of the flesh that will keep one out of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). Romans 1:26-27 tells us that homosexual acts involve “vile affections” and that they oppose the natural use of both men and women. Christians cannot tolerate these actions to the point of never saying anything. They must speak about against them. If they do not, these actions will invade our society like a cancer. But, when we do, we will be accused of being intolerant. Condemnation is not tolerated in a tolerant society. Note that! The tolerant cannot tolerate the intolerant.
Another example of something Christians cannot tolerate is the religion of Islam. This religion is in direct opposition to Christianity. It does not believe that Jesus is divine. It denies the crucifixion and resurrection of the Christ. It does not believe that Jesus is God’s final prophet to humanity. It does not believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Thus, Christians must stand in opposition to it. Again, when we do, our tolerant society will label us as Islamophobics. They will call us haters. Many in our society believe that Islam should be allowed to exist without anyone saying anything in opposition to them.
As we study our Bible, do we see a Christ who was tolerant of anything and everything? Absolutely not! In John 4, Jesus came into contact with a woman of Samaria. Their conversation involved several topics. As they spoke, the woman was convinced that Jesus was a prophet. This led her to bring up a very controversial topic. “The woman said unto him, Sir, I perceive thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:19-20). The woman brought up two conflicting views about the place of worship. She wanted to know what Jesus’ thoughts were. If Jesus had been tolerant, He would have said: “Both groups believe in God. Both groups are sincere. Both are trying to worship the same God. Both have some similarities. Thus, we need to be tolerant and accept both.” Or, He could have said: “I have my beliefs and you have your beliefs. Let’s not argue about them. Let’s just tolerate and love each other.” This, however, was not the response of our Lord. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:21-22). The Samaritans were worshipping incorrectly and Jesus told the woman so. He plainly declared that salvation is of the Jews. My friends, Jesus was not tolerant when it came to the defense of the truth. If Jesus were living today, He would be accused of being intolerant, unloving, and very mean.
Tolerance is a foundational element of our society. It has caused us to be very weak. It has enabled all kinds of evil ideologies and behaviors to leaven our society. It has filled the hearts of God’s people with fear. It has brought persecution to those who refuse to tolerate false doctrine and ungodly living. Again, our tolerant society will tolerate anything except those who are intolerant.