As we enter another month of June proudly dazzled with rainbow glitter and glitter, I can’t help but think of Carl Trueman’s prescient words from a decade ago:
“…the beautiful young things of the reformed revival have a tough choice to make over the next decade. You’re really only fooling yourself if you think you can be an Orthodox Christian and at the same time be cool enough and hip enough to cut it around the world. Frankly, in a few years it doesn’t matter how much urban ink you wear, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft beers you can name, how much urban gibberish you produce, how many movies of art and test that you can find. the figure of the redeemer and how much money you divert from preaching the gospel to social justice: upholding biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist. »
It’s been interesting to say the least to see how many Reformed revival darlings have made their picks over the past ten years. Some have abandoned the faith altogether, others have joined the social justice movement, and some still seem to be trying to retain some semblance of historic faith while integrating various philosophical and theological systems that are at odds with the faith they profess. .
In a way, I wonder how much proverbial ink can be poured into Twitter wars before people simply move to their respective camps. On the other hand, I know you have to have a good smear campaign on conservative Christianity before the dust settles, because the goal is not just to get the whole world to see people as fundamentalists in narrow-minded. It’s quite easy to do in a culture like ours and if we pay attention to the times, we see that a lot has already been accomplished.
What Trueman meant here is at the heart of what Christ said when He told His disciples to count the cost. In many ways, this has already reached the ivory tower of academia. Professors have lost their jobs for refusing to bend the knee to their favorite pronouns, Bible scholars have been slandered by their peers if they are seen as too strict about things like gender roles within the church, and many seminary institutions are expanding their appeal to make up for low enrollment by doing almost anything but returning to faithfulness to God’s Word. And yet, as always, what crosses the seminaries trickles down to the pulpits and onto the pews.
While we still have small “pockets of resistance,” so to speak, I believe the true test of faithfulness to things like biblical sexual ethics will be in the days ahead. The cost of Social Credit is pretty low right now – but what will you and I do with it if and when the choice between maintaining a biblical sexual ethic and putting food on the table for the little ones comes up? We are very comfortable creatures, after all, and nothing limits the pressure on you so much as the very real potential of losing your job because your beliefs in Scripture limit your ability to affirm “diversity.” Notice that I say “affirm” rather than “accept”. This is where I truly believe the line has already been drawn in the sand.
In another work well ahead of its time, Don Carson speaks of the intolerance of tolerance. First, regarding what would be called “traditional tolerance”, Carson said:
“This older view of tolerance rests on three assumptions: (1) there is objective truth, and it is our duty to seek that truth; (2) the different parties to a dispute think they know the truth about the issue, even if they strongly disagree, with each party believing the other to be wrong; (3) nevertheless, they argue that the best chance of discovering the truth of the matter, or the best chance of persuading most people by reason and not by coercion, is through the unfettered exchange of ideas, too misguided as some of these ideas seem. This third assumption requires that all parties insist that their adversaries are not silenced or crushed. A free inquiry may eventually reveal the truth; it is likely to convince the greatest number.
Carson goes on to say of the “new” tolerance:
“…contemporary tolerance is inherently intolerant. He is blind to his own faults because he mistakenly thinks he holds the highest moral standard; it cannot be questioned because it is now part of the plausibility structure of the West.
To reduce his point to its simplest form: traditional tolerance allowed people to “put up with” each other because they shared the commonality of seeking ultimate and objective truth based on reality, whereas the new form of tolerance is not based on the concept of objective truth, but what is supposed to be worthy of acceptance, approval and applause. It must not simply be “accepted” as a contrary idea; he is to be praised as the true and just ideal.
More clearly still: the “new” tolerance demanded in our current political and social environment is not that which is concerned the truth, but your truth. If a person’s beliefs run counter to what you think is worthy of praise, it’s an attack on your identity and personality, at least if what you think is worthy is in line with dominant cultural dogma. . It is decidedly not something that can be tolerated, and free inquiry and exchange of ideas cannot take place on such matters either. If you disagree, you’re bigoted, racist, homophobic and all the other insults one could throw around to try to make it stick.
If you are in tune with what the wider culture considers good and right, you will, of course, find yourself tolerated even if you name the name Jesus, largely because the “Jesus” you are positing is everything quite like the god of this age. The world loves the name of Christ when attached to its favorite social agendas, domestic sins and idols – what it hates is the real biblical Christ, who will not share allegiance to the dominant cultural gods of this world.
That’s why you see such outrage at basic biblical teachings on things like abortion, homosexuality, gender, and more. Once you stray into a subject that the Bible unflinchingly covers in a way contrary to the ideals of the culture, you quickly find yourself in the crosshairs of those who, as Trueman said, would compare you to a supremacist. White. This has happened before on the three aforementioned issues of abortion, homosexuality and gender, by the way, even from some who claim to be Christians. It seems that many are still asking to be accepted in a world that has rapidly become post-Christian.
That’s why Trueman’s quote is still relevant this year. The point is relatively simple, and I believe faithful ministers of the gospel have been doing it for years: count the cost, Christian. It will cost you to follow Jesus, no matter what cultural climate you find yourself in. It will cost you to be found faithful. It will cost you to defend the truth. The question has never been “if”, but simply “when”. When it comes time to pay the Pied Piper, and trust me, it will, no amount of “cool” will stop debt collectors. Some may lose their jobs, have their homes confiscated, have loved ones dissociate themselves from them, and perhaps even suffer even greater hardship. I might even be bold enough to bet someone from the “new” tolerance will comment, “Good. You have what you deserve.” Yet if Christ and His Word are cherished above all else, we will hold out to the end, knowing that the position of Scripture on all issues will outlast the progressive ideals of a culture still wavering.
If I can remember another prescient word, it would be from the author of Hebrews who warned against apostasy – something that I believe the wider Christian church is currently in great danger of. :
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay it.” And again: “The Lord will judge his people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But remember the days of old when, having been enlightened, you endured a great conflict of suffering, partly by being put on public display by insults and anguish, and partly by becoming companions to those who were so treated . For you have shown sympathy to the prisoners and gladly accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you have for yourself a better and lasting possession of it. Therefore, do not throw away your trust, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what was promised.
For in a little while yet, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous shall live by faith; and if he backs down, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not those who shrink back to destruction, but those who have faith to save the soul (Heb. 10:32-39).