Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Persecution and Tolerance

Over at his unassuming Wordpress blog, Tim Stafford talks about the disconnect between the constant persecution of the book of Revelation (and indeed, the entire New Testament) and the "skeptical tolerance" of our modern era.
This is the dilemma that Lesslie Newbigin wrote about so searchingly almost thirty years ago. The west, inoculated with its Christian heritage, has become the toughest missionary challenge we face. It resists God not by violence or threats, but by scorn and the substitution of other gods, such as pleasure. Revelation’s sounding trumpets and rivers of blood and monsters rising up out of the deep seem oddly out of touch and unhelpful, as far as I can see.

The only passage in the New Testament that seems to speak to western, tolerant skepticism is Acts 17, which records Paul’s brief sojourn in Athens. There he was treated cordially, listened to with curiosity, and (in the end) scoffed at. But not stoned.

The New Testament doesn’t seem to directly advise those whose neighbors, like the Athenians, treat us politely but with heavy skepticism. Perhaps historically speaking this era of tolerant western skepticism is only a momentary break in the unrelieved hostility that Revelation foresees. To me it seems like something else: a challenge for which we have few directions.
A fantastic read by a fantastic writer. By a curious coincidence, I preached on Acts 17 this past weekend. If you're interested, you can get a copy here.