In previous posts it has been pointed out that, small as we are, the only group able truly to resist the onslaught on Christian values are biblical Christians. In the next few posts I wish to outline how biblical Christians can exist and be useful in the conditions of the soft intolerance we shall increasingly face.
Realise the Importance of Christian Distinctiveness
We must first grasp the significance, personally and socially, of not going with the progressive flow. To allow our Christian faith to be increasingly diluted to accommodate unbelieving standards is to turn our backs on Christ. Only consistent Christians are able to maintain the standards upon which our society is built; if we are not clear the West as we know it is lost.
Mainstream Christians are prepared to adjust their faith in the belief that if they are more accommodating to the world, the world will be more accommodating to them; the increasing pointlessness of mainstream churches shows how that has worked out. There are bishops whose opposition to Brexit is crystal clear but whose interpretation of the Virgin Birth or Resurrection is somewhat ambivalent, and so the mainstream church sinks into irrelevance. Meanwhile the Emergent Church sees itself as the spiritual arm of the progressive movement.
This leaves biblical Christians not only as the sole bulwark defending Christian values but as the sole body able to begin the recovery of those values in broader society. We are a very small minority, but the history of the church demonstrates that when a Christian minority are dedicated to the cause they can change the world.
Decide To Be A Christian Dissenter
If we recognise the importance of maintaining the faith, what should we do? Before anything else we have to decide that we are going to follow Christ whatever the cost. Holding fast to Christian truth in an unbelieving world is not something to be undertaken lightly.
None of us wants to be like the seed on rocky ground which springs up but when trouble or persecution comes withers and falls away (Matthew 13:20-22). This means that we have to be firmly settled in our faith position. We don’t have to be perfect Christians living exemplary lives, although that is what we aim for. Rather we determine that we are heading in the right direction and we are going to keep on in that direction whatever befalls us.
Count the Cost
We all like to be liked, but if we wish to live as consistent Christians and resist the progressive onslaught on the virtues and values of the Christian faith, we must stop being wimps and rise to the challenge God has placed before us. This will not be easy and will entail increasing opposition. We should engage in the struggle only if we are prepared to pay the price (Luke 14:25-34).
If we are to be Christian dissenters, we must count the cost and read the signs of the times (Luke 14:27-28). In today’s world we do not live in a post-Christian society: we live in a post-Christendom society. The privileged position which the church once had in the Western world now exists only symbolically, and those consistent Christians who do not conform to the world’s way will encounter opposition.
This will range from rolled eyes and ridicule, to loss of friends, to loss of employment and even to broken relationships. We are moving into a society where biblical views are censored and biblical Christians increasingly shunned. When compared with what our brothers and sisters endure elsewhere we have it easy. During the last few centuries Western Christians have lived in a privileged position; we have not had to face the trials that most of the church has had to face in most of its lifetime. Opposition to biblical Christianity is the norm.
Accept the Reality of Intolerance
There is a spectrum of intolerance towards Christian beliefs, and it is growing. We have already seen Christian business owners being targeted by progressives with the intent of forcing them to deny their faith or close down their bakery or B&B or florist. This is not the same as imprisonment, torture or having your children taken away. But it can be emotionally draining and bankrupt a business which has taken years to build up through court cases costing thousands of pounds.
Even in our own small everyday lives we will encounter opposition. It will not be easy, but nowhere in Scripture does God promise us that being His follower will be easy; in fact He does the opposite. In the Lucan Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-23) Jesus tells us our blessings are poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, exclusion, insults and rejection. These are the inevitable result of taking up our cross which Jesus says is a mark of discipleship (Luke 14:27), not something to be done when convenient (Luke 9:23-36). As Martin Luther put it, ‘If our Lord wore a crown of thorns, why should His followers expect a crown of roses?’
We have to ask ourselves what really matters to us. Christians in the West have lived so long in a privileged position that we have become effete. We have to learn once again to hold loosely to the things of this world and stop seeking the acceptance of the world. This means trusting in God and prioritising Him in our lives and considering seriously just what we value most (Matthew 6:19-21).
We are a very long way from the outright persecution our brothers and sisters elsewhere know in daily experience, but we are going to find out just how intolerant progressive tolerance can be. Speaking on any moral issue from a biblical perspective when in conversation with neighbours already encounters opposition and rejection. In days to come such opposition is only going to get worse. Unless we have clarity about who we are and what we truly value we could be swamped.