The Rise of Extreme Tolerance
- Tuesday, April 08, 2008
At the "Emergent Convention" in 2004, a gathering of some eleven hundred leaders in the Emerging Church movement, Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon's Porch (an Emergent community in Minneapolis), told the gathering, "Preaching is broken." He suggests that a completely open conversation where all participants are seen as equals is better suited to a postmodern culture. "Why do I get to speak for 30 minutes and you don't?" he asked. "A sermon is often a violent act," he declared. "It's violence toward the will of the people who have to sit there and take it."2
Rudy Carrasco, a Pasadena-based Emergent pastor, agreed that preaching is simply too one-sided, too authoritative, and too rigid for postmodern times. "Every day, every week, there's stuff that pops up in life, and it's not resolved, just crazy and confusing and painful. When people come across with three answers, and they know everything, and they have this iron sheen about them, I'm turned off. Period. I'm just turned off. And I think that's not unique to me."3
Many in the church, caught up in the spirit of the age, think Christians should never take an uncompromising stand, should never argue about anything. We're not supposed to engage in polemics. I hear this frequently: "Why don't you just state the truth in positive terms and ignore the view you disagree with? Why not steer clear of controversy, forget the negatives, and present everything affirmatively?"
That ethos is why it is no longer permissible to deal with biblical issues in a straightforward and uncompromising fashion. Those who dare to take an unpopular stand, declare truth in a definitive way-or worst of all, express disagreement with someone else's teaching-will inevitably be marked as troublesome. Compromise has become a virtue while devotion to truth has become offensive.
But many of the issues being compromised within the evangelical movement today are not questionable. Scripture speaks very clearly against homosexuality, for example. The Christian position on adultery is not at all vague. The question of whether a believer ought to marry an unbeliever is spelled out with perfect clarity. Scripture quite plainly forbids any Christian to take another Christian to court. Selfishness and pride are explicitly identified as sins. These are not gray areas. There is no room for compromise here.
Nevertheless, I constantly hear every one of those issues treated as a gray area-on Christian radio, on Christian television, and in Christian literature. People want all such matters to be negotiable. And too many Christian leaders willingly oblige. They hesitate to speak with authority on matters where Scripture is plain. The lines of distinction between truth and error, wisdom and foolishness, church and world are being systematically obliterated by such means.
The world needs Christians who embrace an antithetical worldview, a biblical mindset that answers questions of truth and morality in terms of black and white. Why? Because there is no salvation without absolute, unshakeable truth. Compromising, changing, tolerant opinions don't provide answers for the "crazy and confusing and painful" issues that confront pastor Carrasco every day. Only truth saves and sanctifies and gives hope.
What's needed today is a generation of men and women who will take a stand on biblical truth. People like that fear the Lord, not men, and will find power and courage from the Lord to uphold His truth in an age of extreme tolerance.
Adapted from The Truth War, © 2007 by John MacArthur.
1 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 15-16.
2 Tom Allen, "Postmoderns Value Authenticity, Not Authority," The Baptist Standard, July 8, 2004.
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