Tolerance – MYC Musing #3

Lawrence Krauss is one of the biggest-name atheists out there, up with Dawkins and Hitchens. He’s of that school of thought branded “New Atheism”, which sets up science and faith against one another, and casts religious belief as both objectively and morally wrong.

In my opinion, there are a lot of holes, inconsistencies and problems with New Atheism. And there may be a post coming along those lines  – the initial draft of this blog turned much more in that direction than intended. If you want to look a little bit into the insufficiency of the New Atheism, look for books, debates etc by John Lennox.

Krauss is in Australia for several discussions about faith and science with William Lane Craig, who is out to be involved with the Your God mission. A quick plug: Lane Craig is speaking at Macquarie Uni on Monday (1pm, Drysdale Room), and several times at other campuses around Sydney. Google will help you out. See if you can get along to one of them.

Anyhow, we were talking at MYC about tolerance and love. Something that Krauss has said came to mind. He said that teaching creationism is child abuse, The episode of QandA with Krauss and Dickson featured some discussion around this point.

To be sure: Krauss is talking about creationism in the sense of 6-day creationism, new-earth creationism etc., which I don’t believe are the best way to understand the bible’s teaching on creation.

In what he says about education, I agree with him: education is about information, not misinformation.  Education is to overcome, not validate ignorance. From reading more of Krauss, Dawkins, and others of this tradition of New Atheism consider all of Christianity to fall in this category of ignorant, objectively wrong ideas. To teach them, then, is to put a child (or anyone) at a disadvantage. If Christianity is true, however, it is not so simple. Krauss can make bold statements about young earth creationism, yet it is going far beyond the reach of science to say that God cannot exist. Really, what is right and wrong to teach hinges on what is true. You are bound to teach what you hold to be true. That doesn’t mean shunning education or ignoring arguments against you. It means grappling with challenges, working out what is true, and then teaching it. Keep this in mind: it is our responsibility to overcome ignorance. More people in ignorance requires better teaching.

I work in childcare, and I have recently completed a child protection course, which looks a lot at how to recognise and manage signs of child abuse. One idea that came up repeatedly is that culture is no excuse for abuse. For example: the eastern traditional healing method of “cupping” may be an accepted practice in some cultures, but it is still causing physical harm to a child, and is abusive. Few people would deny this idea. It basically states that the welfare  of a child trumps any cultural claim upon them.

Dan’s second talk on MYC is what prompted these thoughts, as he argued that Christians cannot believe the lie that culture is sacred. None of us would falter in responding to the kind of abuse mentioned above. Yet what about spiritual welfare? There is far more at stake, friends, in someone’s spiritual state, than their physical state. We would not hesitate to prevent someone coming to physical grief, yet in the name of tolerance and respect, we are persuaded to withhold our concerns for their eternal destiny.

Tolerance is a big thing in our society. Letting someone remain in their misguided or ignorant beliefs about God is tolerant. It is also unspeakably cruel. Christians are called to love their neighbour, and the best way to love someone is not to let relativism silence us. We can love people in many ways, but the most significant and important way to love a neighbour is to bring them to Christ.  It isn’t a matter of either-or: do both material good and spiritual good. Yet their spiritual welfare is more important than any cultural claim.

Our mission is one to proclaim Christ and make disciples of every nation. We cannot do this if we allow tolerance of other beliefs to restrict our mission. Yes, we have to be loving and respectful. But we need to be absolutely clear that loving someone is not the same as accepting their belief. It is eminently unloving to withhold knowledge that could affect someone’s eternal salvation.

In the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26), Jesus prays:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 

What this means is that there is no other way. Christians know this in theory, but often we do not act like it. Jesus took the wrath that we deserved (that’s the cup imagery, see Isaiah 51 and Revelation 14), because it was the only way that the wrath could be removed from us. That means that there is no chance for people unless we tell them. It means that be it polytheistic religion, broader forms of spiritualism, atheism or relativism, we cannot allow these ideas to restrict our evangelism. Love does not lead us to tolerance, but to mission into these ideas.

A Krauss said, more people in ignorance means we need to get better at teaching. Once we know what is true, we have to not just sit with it, but overcome ignorance.

As we do our mission, then, we need to recognise the peril that people are in. There is so much at stake, and people could be only a breath away from death. The only way for wrath to pass from them is for them to know Christ. Don’t believe the lie that to love them is to leave them in ignorance of our great God.

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2 comments on “Tolerance – MYC Musing #3

  1. Gordon says:

    A good read. My problem with tolerance is the way it is used as a PC cop out. To tolerate denotes a begrudging allowance of a behaviour, It is not a loving thing to do. its the “lets sweep our mess under the carpet and hope no-one notices” approach. Jesus, by grace frees us from this, challenging us to minister in the mess of post-fall creation. For Christians to do this effectively there is no place for tolerance of ignorance, oppression and tolerance. There is only time for grace, compassion, and fortitude.

    in all, I am not entirely sure that this is an adequate response to your post, however I felt compelled to write it.

    • amacdonald56 says:

      Definitely an adequate response. I think that you’re 100% right about it being “used as a PC cop out.” Thanks for reading.

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