Christian Living

The Tolerance Bargain

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Author Greg Koukl Published on 02/28/2013

What happens when a Christian is faced with this unspoken but very real covenant in our culture? If you’re a follower of Christ, you break that covenant. But once you do, you’re going to get the heat from the culture.

Do you realize that there are a lot of Christians in this country who, though they love Jesus, they do not see the world through God’s eyes? They should see reality as it is in itself with God as sovereign and the rest of the universe as part of His dominion. This understanding then begins to inform how one views everything in life, whether its politics, economics, law, anthropology, recreation, etc. All of these things ought to be informed by reality, i.e., the truth. Reality is accurately described in the Scriptures because God is telling us what the world is actually like. If we are careful to understand that revelation properly, then we will know what the world is actually like, we will begin to make sense out of things, and live in all areas of life informed by a Christian worldview.

I read an article recently by T.M. Moore titled “From Worldview Programs to Kingdom Movement.” It mentioned that leaders of a movement need to be crystal clear as to what they are trying to overthrow. They must identify their enemy.

Some of you might be thinking that the enemy is those people who disagree with us. You’d be wrong. You might be thinking the enemy is the devil. Well, he is an enemy. There’s no question about that. But I think the enemy, the focus of our efforts, is what the devil is trying to do to change people’s minds so that they believe a lie rather than the truth.

The evil that we are seeking to overturn can be summarized by the words “the lie.” Paul talks about it in Romans 1:21-25. They believed the lie rather than the truth. People suppressed the truth they should have been following and instead believed a lie. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Following that in Romans is an explicit statement against homosexuality and lesbianism, and a whole rogue’s gallery of vice listed there at the end of Chapter 1 of Romans. All of these come from believing the lie.

What is the truth that the lie denies? The truth is that God is king and sovereign over all His domain, which is everything and everyone, because He created everything and everyone, and therefore, all is His.

The lie says that we are our own. We belong to no one. We are masters of our own fate. We are captains of our own soul. Get out of my way. Don’t cramp my style. And when this lie is believed, what follows is the denial of this central truth that God is king and sovereign.

T.M. Moore goes on to say that the lie itself develops into a worldview where truth is relative and pragmatic. Ethics are utilitarian. The cosmos is an accident. Life is a fleeting and meaningless journey into oblivion. The lie becomes a worldview where man is a product of evolution and the principle concern of man is man. Spiritual concerns are merely private. Christianity is a pliable, changeable thing. Christ is one option among many as a way to eternal life. You see, friends, all those things that follow from believing the lie are contrary views to Christianity.

King and sovereign is just another way of saying king-dom. What’s a kingdom? What does it take to have a kingdom? You need a king and a “dom” or domain. The overarching theme of Scripture is kingdom, God as king over that which is His. He is the ruler, and the foundation of rebellion is a rejection of God’s rulership.

The word relativism might come to mind as the ploy to justify the rebellion. This is one reason why Frank Beckwith and I wrote a book entitled Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Midair. Relativism is the single most powerful ideology against the truth, the single most powerful supporter of the lie. Del Tackett from Focus on the Family said, “Relativism is a silly mind game that we play because it allows us to get our own way.” And this leads to what Tackett calls the “unholy covenant of tolerance.” I’ve written about tolerance in the Relativism book and in articles on tolerance on our STR website, most notably one called “The Intolerance of Tolerance.” But Tackett has identified in a clever way what I spend the article demonstrating. He says, “Our unholy covenant of tolerance amounts to this. It’s an agreement we have with each other. I won’t tell you what you’re doing is wrong as long as you won’t tell me that what I’m doing is wrong. We agree, in this unholy covenant of tolerance, to let everybody do what they want to do.”

What happens when a Christian is faced with this unspoken but very real covenant in our culture? If you’re a follower of Christ, you break that covenant. But once you do, you’re going to get the heat from the culture.

Keep in mind this is a one-way covenant. It’s only honored between relativists. That is, they only tolerate other relativists. They will not tolerate anyone else, which demonstrates how shallow their commitment to tolerance genuinely is. If you don’t keep the covenant, we’re going to injure you and do everything they can to keep you from saying what they’re doing is wrong.

Relativism is really at the heart of postmodernism, which is an attack on truth, and any attack on truth is an attack on the character of God. So I think we, as followers of Christ have a singular task to defeat the lie. Notice I didn’t say to get people saved, because if we think we’ve helped people getting them saved, but they do not bring their lives under the rulership of God, then we are fooling ourselves at having the kind of impact that God wants us to have. We are to make disciples, not only believers. And the fact is, most Christians still believe the lie because their lives are more informed by an ethic that is contrary to Christ rather than one that is consistent with the way Christ saw the world.

Now my question for you is: What are you doing in your life and with your life that is combating the lie? What will you do to oppose the lie? Unless you oppose the lie that God is not king and sovereign, then you’re not making much of an impact for God’s kingdom. The way to sharpen your sword and focus your impact is to go fight the battle where the battle is being fought. And right now the culture where the lie has taken hold is where that is.

My commitment and pledge to you is that Stand to Reason will continue to produce materials to help you defeat the lie wherever you encounter it. And I’m asking for your partnership to do what you can do wherever God places your feet and with whomever He’s placed in front of you. Take what you’ve learned from STR and others, and graciously and incisively, as an ambassador of Christ, go after the lie. Go after anything that denies that God is sovereign over all of His domain, which is everything and everyone.