Thursday, December 04, 2008

Truth Trumps Nice

Revised here:  Kept here for historical purposes as this blog is an ongoing journal of my personal quest in discovering truth.

In our post-modern culture of moral relativism, we've elevated the doctrine of tolerance above all others and redefined the unforgivable sin as being the "sin" of intolerance. I know I've committed this new unforgivable "sin" when someone accuses me of "shoving my morality down their throat" or when I'm labeled a "bible thumper" or a "legalist" or a "fundamentalist." These are clues that the other person (who is generally advocating tolerance) has become intolerant of my viewpoint or religion. This is thick with irony because it proves the doctrine of tolerance is itself intolerant of other viewpoints. It is at best a logical conundrum and at worst hypocrisy.

Personally, I don't care if someone calls me any of those intolerant names or hangs a label on me as long as I am not being a hypocrite. My highest value in life is truth, and I abhor being a hypocrite. If I'm shown to be a hypocrite, I hope I have the humility to repent. Jesus had harsh words for hypocrites. Jesus was also intolerant of violations of God's Truth. He called people to repentance so they could be forgiven for their sin and receive grace.

Tolerance is good to a point, but the doctrine of tolerance becomes problematic when it is elevated above the doctrine of Truth. Jesus made an extremely exclusivist statement when he said, "I am the way and the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (emphasis mine) If you are a professing Christian, you are under the obligation to submit yourself to the Truth, otherwise your profession of faith is meaningless. Jesus elevates Truth (himself) over tolerance, and all real Christians should do as Jesus did.

In our world of post-modern political correctness, the doctrine of tolerance is exemplified in the avoidance of civil confrontation and rational dialog on issues of substance. People believe it is "not nice" to discuss sex, politics, or religion in polite company. Why? Probably because you might have a disagreement that highlights the hypocritical doctrine of tolerance, and that's not "nice." In the event of a disagreement, parties in conflict often choose to "agree to disagree" rather than seeking unity in the Truth. They mistakenly believe this is the nice way to behave. It is not.  It is dishonest.

Nice is often a euphemism for tolerance. Christians think they are supposed to be nice, and they even justify their hypocrisy by it. That is wrong and unbiblical. Christians need to stop being hypocrites (especially me!) and stop elevating nice (i.e. tolerance) over truth. God is not "nice" and neither was Jesus, the Apostles, or the Prophets. They all preferred telling the truth about wrongdoing, even (or maybe especially) when it hurt. Read your Bible if you don't believe me. It is the truth. We need more Christians who can think critically and rationally and politely articulate those beliefs even if they don't sound "nice" to the ears in our politically correct culture of tolerance. This will help the rest of the church grow in grace and unity in the Truth.

Tolerance is a virtue to a point, but not beyond the point of Truth. Truth trumps tolerance, and sometimes there is no way to be nice about it. Some people are wrong, evil, and immoral. They make sinful choices and need to repent. If we are merely nice to these people and afraid to tell them the truth, they will never find the forgiveness offered by Truth himself, Jesus Christ. Telling the truth is the only loving way for Christians to behave, and sometimes this tough love is not very nice.

Credits: My observations and many of the ideas contained in this blog entry were developed through extensive email discussions with my friend Dr. Tom Pittman. For more information along these lines, check out his evolving online book: God of Truth: Reforming the Feminized American Church

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