Saturday, July 15, 2017

Yes, It Is Black or White: Belief and Unbelief

 In today's society, it has become unpopular to state things in absolutes: truth or falsehood, right or wrong. It seems as if nearly everyone wants the world in shades of gray. Any person who declares certainty about anything is labeled intolerant. However, have you noticed that defining intolerance as evil is the one absolute that is still acceptable? "I can't tolerate intolerance" may be nonsensical, but it is the popular theme of our age.

The funny thing is that the overwhelming majority of those same people profess to be Christians, about 90% of Americans. How does their intolerant tolerance line up with His attitude? Did Jesus not say, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6)? Of course, He did say exactly that, and it is far from a tolerant statement.

He said some other intolerant things, too. We see Him, saying (John 3:18), "Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." He also says of unbelievers (John 8:43-44), "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires." Apart from commitment to Him, a person is under judgment. That is, now, not just in the hereafter. Why does a person not believe? Because he is acting consistently with his nature as the seed of Satan (Genesis 3:15). These are black and white categories. Either/or. Jesus is an absolutist!

Another categorical statement that Jesus made is, "Whoever is not with Me is against Me" (Matthew 12:30). That is a shocking statement, even to supposed Christians! I know that it is hip to be neutral. To be for or against anything is fanaticism. Except for certitude. One must absolutely be against that. Don't forget, "I can't tolerate intolerance." However, Jesus doesn't make any effort to be hip, or tolerant, or flexible. Nor does He allow His followers to be any such thing. Rather, if you aren't for Him, then He considers you to be against Him.

"Tolerance" has become the catchword for everyone who wants to be an "individual," just like everyone else. However, the biblical Christian is the real counter-cultural radical. The culture says, "Don't conform!" But it only means "don't conform to Christ." Conformity to culture is the modern standard of nonconformity, and it cannot be an option for the Christian.

The Bible commands us to a form of nonconformity (Romans 12:2): "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." When God says, "Don't conform," He means to the very worldview that is demanding our conformity. At the same time, He also commands a certain conformity (Romans 8:29): "Those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." Therefore, in a very black and white contrast, to conform as the world demands is rejected by God. The conformity that the world condemns is the exact conformity that God commands. There is no gray, no neutral territory, no safe zone. It's a matter of faithfulness, and to deny it is an act of idolatry.

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