Culture of Tolerance
I had a professor at NYU who spoke this truism: “God created man in His image, and man has been returning the favor ever since.”
Much of the content of this blog deals with how evangelicals, falling under the influence of secular culture, have cast God into the image of Carl Rogers, not to mention Mr. Rogers, as an unconditionally accepting grandfather.
Meanwhile, secular society has done the same, perhaps by means of their own creation or borrowing from the contemporary evangelical representation of God.
I would encourage you to watch the video portion of this article, “UK Supreme Court Will Hear Persecuted B&B Owners’ ‘Gay Discrimination’ Case,” and especially note how the secular interviewer presses the issue that our God is a God of toleration. The Christian lady who is the target of these challenges does a fine job of responding.
The Fact of God’s Intolerance
However, this interview underscores the misconception of the nature of God both by the secular world and many believers.
It is of interest that of all the attributes of God, these people would highlight toleration as a prominent characteristic of His personality. In reality the God described in Scripture is highly intolerant in most cases. In a previous post I highlighted many instances of God’s severe judgment, which reveal His intolerance.
We have been making the point that contemporary evangelicals tend to interpret grace to mean that God tolerates our sin. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Scriptural Manifestations of God’s Intolerance
Viewing redemption through Christ as an expression of God’s tolerance entails a gross misunderstanding. When we recognize the demand of God that our sin could only be forgiven through payment by the suffering of His Son, we understand that God cannot and does not tolerate sin.
At the outset of the establishment of the Old Covenant, the Law was given, the Tabernacle was built, the priests dressed in their garments, and the sacrifices were offered. Then God demarcated the official commencement of the covenant by sending fire, which consumed the sacrifice on the altar. The very next event recorded entails Nadab and Abihu entering the Holy of Holies in defiance to God’s instructions to offer incense. In response God smote them dead. (Leviticus 10)
At the outset of the New Covenant, we find Christ ascending into heaven, the church waiting in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and their baptism by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, demarcating the outset of the New Covenant. Very shortly after that we read about Ananias and Sapphira lying to the church, telling them that they had contributed all of the proceeds from the sale of their property when in fact they had kept a part back for themselves. God smites them dead also. (Acts 5)
These two events, both occurring almost immediately after the establishment of the two major covenants in Scripture, seem to convey that though God will not always deal with our wickedness in this way, it nonetheless represents His intolerance of sin even within the purview of these covenants.
In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 we find God’s dealing in a somewhat similar way with those taking lightly the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul warns, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Apparently God took the lives of some of those displaying a frivolous attitude toward the Lord’s Table, and on others He inflicted sickness.
There is also that disturbing passage in Hebrews 10 in which the writer asserts:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
And these represent just a sampling of the scriptural teaching regarding God’s toleration of sin.
Escape from God’s Intolerance
Yes, God does provide grace through Christ. Yet these passages and others warn us of God’s intolerance even with recipients of grace who, as Jude expresses it, “turn the grace of our God into lewdness.”
Apparently the woman doing the interview cited above who continued talking about the tolerance of God either never read the New Testament or did not take it seriously. Maybe she gleaned her perspective of God from contemporary evangelicals.
I trust that before time runs out for her she will learn about the intolerance of God and flee to the only refuge from that intolerance, which is the cross of Jesus Christ.