Have you ever asked yourself what is behind all of this that we are seeing in our culture today, namely the push for homosexuality, abortion, evolution, and atheism? Genuine Bible-believing Christians understand that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the big picture of existence in the universe. We understand that there are influential forces of evil, not seen with the naked eye, that bring their influences to bear upon society. Paul wrote:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12, NIV).
We also know that there are particular evil forces who reside over certain geographical areas, wrecking havoc where allowed to:
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. 2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come (Daniel 10:1-14, NIV).”
We are not ignorant of the devil’s tactics which are from of old:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3: 1-5, NIV).”
I also believe that we have an accounting of Satan’s fall from heaven:
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” 15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit (Isaiah 14).
12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more (Ezekiel 28).’ ”
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10).”1
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down (Revelation 12).
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day (Jude).
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment (2 Peter 4);
From these passages, we can get an idea of Satan and how he works. So, back to the original question: What is behind all of this that we are seeing in our culture today, namely the push for homosexuality, abortion, evolution, and atheism? Satan has foisted onto man the most heinous and debauched behaviors and concepts and convinced him that such things a re a celebration of life!
Satan hates God’s finest creation, mankind. He has therefore devised diabolical ways in which he can destroy it, using man as his helper as he does it.
Satan perverts God’s creation and leads them into deviancy through homosexuality, sullying the sanctity of marriage and convinces man that it is normal and healthy, gets society to celebrate it as the triumph of a free society, even finds a way to sanctify it through Scripture.
Satan finds a way to get women and men to kill their children while still in the womb, even after they emerge from the womb, while only thinking of themselves and their hardships and their own freedom to choose. He turns the deaths of untold billions of babies into a celebration of choice. (1.3 billion worldwide since 1980; almost 57 million in the United States since 1970.)
Satan convinces man that he has no more significance than an animal; that he is a random accident. In the mouth of Richard Dawkins evolution is celebrated as the greatest show on earth and in Carl Sagan a celebration of the cosmos. In River out of Eden, Dawkins writes: “
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
Satan tells man that he is alone. There is no creator. There is no God. Man is god! Satan turns man into the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” Satan convinces man that life is nothing more than a hedonistic celebration of himself.
1 This passage is for me a “lynchpin” of sorts, whether seen from a redaction critical perspective or a strict literal perspective. It seems beyond coincidental that within the pericope not only do we hear Jesus say, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (echoed throughout the various passages listed in this article), but we also hear references to both the Ezekiel and the Isaiah passages. The Ezekiel passage is sandwiched between a lament against Tyre and a prophecy against Sidon, both mentioned in the Luke passage, and the reference to Capernaum “going down to Hades” rather than being “lifted up to the heavens” is a strong echo of Isaiah 14 passage. To say that either Luke or Jesus were unaware of the implications or connections of their words to the respective Old Testament passages, therefore suggesting that the references were unintentional or worse coincidental, would be a decision not to allow either of them the full communication of their words. For the redaction critic particularly it is unreasonable to view Luke as an intentional, creative author and yet not give him credit for such a connection.
There is a growing tide of heresy, not to mention a culture that is turning. Hanging in the balance, and in danger, are weak Christians who, for various reasons, may not safely be able to critically reflect on all the information coming to them from the culture, from re-energized cultural Christians (as per Niebuhr), and from “new” heretics and their heresies midwifed, incubated, and suckled by those who reject the church as it has come to them and Christian scholars and leaders desperate to be seen as intellectual by their secular colleagues and peers.
Also hanging in the balance are those in the culture who, as George Bailey put it so well in It’s A Wonderful Life, “do most of the working and paying and living and dying” in our culture and who are being victimized by an entrenched post modern, relativistic philosophy that is now coming home to roost in the form of foolish philosophies and approaches to daily living that make no sense but that can be seen every day in our culture, and which comes to them prepackaged by the liberal and at times the conservative media and always from our institutions of higher learning, in the form of defeater beliefs which ultimately become the fodder for implausibility structures that so insulate the average person that he or she is not given a fair chance at hearing the gospel which is the only hope there is!
Disillusionment happens when the image or picture that you had of a person, an organization, or of life in general turns out to be false; the shattering or de-authenticating of the picture by which you were ordering your life, thereby leaving you with a picture of reality. At least three roads appear at this crossroads: the road of denial, the road of depression, the road of progress. For Christians, regardless of our circumstances, we are called to order our lives by the picture that we see in the Bible, trusting its depiction of reality.
Something I have encountered lately is reality fatigue. It manifests itself as lack of interest, impatience, even negatively as rejection–that is if it registers at all.
There are those in the Church today who don’t want to be bothered by the near-daily evidences of the changing tide both in and outside of the Church.
There are those who are willing to listen for a while but then discount the message as a novelty and an interruption.
Then there are those who refuse to accept the premise and who react negatively, clinging to reality as they have known it. Perhaps this reaction comes because the disillusionment is too much for them.
Then there are those who simply have no stated response or interest (ever been on a farm or ranch and come across a cow in the road?)
I can imagine that there were many people close to Noah over the 100 years it took to build the ark who simply got irritated at his claims of a coming destruction. It seems that there are those who pay lip service to the realities of end times prophecies but somehow expect to avoid all of those realities. What will the great falling away look like? Hear Matthew 24:3-14:
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Regardless of your particular end times view (pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pan-trib) can we really expect the days we are living in to get better and better? For this reason, I describe what we will experience in the following way:
I believe that the true body of Christ will flourish, be joyful, be full of power, even be in revival while at the same time existing in a culture that seems to be “waxing worse and worse”:
3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. 10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:3-13, KJV).
It is frustrating to me when we don’t make the effort to hold a tighter grip on the real picture of things. But please hear this: God has always had a people and that will not change. The Church will be victorious. But neither of those two truths changes the fact that we are in the last days and that our culture is looking more and more like the scenario both Jesus and Paul described. The danger of our not hearing this message is that while the Church moves into revival and the culture identifies more and more with the anti-Christ’s agenda, there are two groups in the middle who are in danger: Weak, immature Christians who can lose their way, and the unsaved who need tho hear the gospel in the midst of a culture that is desperately trying to insulate them from hearing the truth of the gospel.
A Closer Look at the Old Tolerance
Under the older view of tolerance, a person might be judged tolerant if, while holding strong views, he or she insisted that others had the right to dissent from those views and argue their own cases. This view of tolerance is in line with the famous utterance often (if erroneously) assigned to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This older view of tolerance makes three assumptions: (1) there is objective truth out there, and it is our duty to pursue that truth; (2) the various parties in a dispute think that they know what the truth of the matter is, even though they disagree sharply, each party thinking the other is wrong; (3) nevertheless they hold that the best chance of uncovering the truth of the matter, or the best chance of persuading most people with reason and not with coercion, is by the unhindered exchange of ideas, no matter how wrongheaded some of those ideas seem. This third assumption demands that all sides insist that their opponents must not be silenced or crushed. Free inquiry may eventually bring the truth out; it is likely to convince the greatest number of people.
The “Defeater Belief”
The fact that the new tolerance is most prone to label all of its opponents intolerant leads to a second reflection. The charge of intolerance has come to wield enormous power in much of Western culture – at least as much as the charge of “communist” during the McCarthy years. It functions as a “defeater belief.” A defeater belief is a belief that defeats other beliefs – i.e., if you hold a defeater belief to be true (whether it is true or not is irrelevant), you cannot possibly hold certain other beliefs to be true: the defeater belief rules certain other beliefs out of court and thus defeats them. For instance, if you believe that there is no one way to salvation and that those who think there is only one way to salvation are ignorant and intolerant, then voices that insist Islam is the only way, or that Jesus is the only way, will not be credible to you: you will dismiss their beliefs as ignorant and intolerant, nicely defeated by your own belief that there cannot possibly be only one way to salvation. Your belief has defeated theirs.
So if a Christian articulates a well-thought-out exposition of who Jesus is and what he has done, including how his cross and resurrection constitute the only way by which human beings can be reconciled to God, the person who holds the defeater belief I’ve just described may listen with some intellectual interest but readily dismiss everything you say without much thought. Put together several such defeater beliefs and make them widely popular, and you have created an implausibility structure: opposing beliefs are thought so implausible as to be scarcely worth listening to, let alone compelling or convincing. Put these last two reflections together and the scope of the challenge becomes daunting and alarming. The new tolerance tends to avoid serious engagement over difficult moral issues, analyzing almost every issue on the one axis tolerant/intolerant, excluding all others from the pantheon of the virtuous who do not align with this axis.
D. A. Carson. The Intolerance of Tolerance, 6-7, 15.
By Scott Fowler
What Webster Thought
What is tolerance? In 1828 it meant “the power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring”1 as it still does today. For the sake of clarity, let’s call that kind of tolerance personal. That is, the act of enduring some undesirable hardship, etc. But in 1828 it also meant,
The allowance of that which is not wholly approved; to suffer to be or to be done without prohibition or hinderance [sic]; to allow or permit negatively, by not preventing; not to restrain; as, to tolerate opinions or practices.2
Let’s call this kind of tolerance social tolerance. Interestingly, the concept of social tolerance carried with it the idea that the one being tolerant had a right to do otherwise but had deigned to allow that which was “not wholly approved.”3 For example, we have all heard of Kings or Queens in the past who did not tolerate religions other than his or her own. We are also aware of nations today where religious plurality is outlawed. These are situations where, because of political power, a sovereign or a government has the power to enforce an intolerant stance against the freedom of religion. Imagine then, where such power exists, if the King or Queen or ruling party decided to tolerate other religions even though they themselves oppose those religions. That’s old-style social tolerance that “does not prevent.”
According to the 1828 Noah Webster dictionary, where there is the absence of such a power like an opposing sovereign state, etc., ,
. . . there can be no tolerance, in the strict sense of the word, for one religious denomination has as good a right as another to the free enjoyment of its creed and worship.
So, in Noah Webster’s day, tolerance only made sense in a scenario where the acceptable standard was being challenged by some other standard or viewpoint,4 and the exercise of tolerance meant to allow and not prevent.
Looking at it from the negative, the definition of intolerance in Webster’s time meant,
Not enduring difference of opinion or worship; refusing to tolerate others in the enjoyment of their opinions, rights and worship. . . . Want of toleration; the not enduring at all or not suffering to exist without persecution; . . .5
The refusal to be tolerant meant you ultimately chose to prevent the undesired act or opinion. If tolerate meant to allow, or at the very least, not to prevent, then obviously if you were intolerant you did something to prevent or to disallow the abhorrent or disagreeable act or opinion, possibly even to the point of persecution.
Taken together, the old view of social tolerance and intolerance simply meant that you either graciously allowed an opposing opinion or you tried to prevent it. If you allowed it you were exercising tolerance. If you did not allow it, but sought to prevent it through force, etc., you were intolerant. But there was no sense that those who were being tolerant were relinquishing their standards or their beliefs. They were simply refraining from forcing others to comply with their viewpoints.
Modern Tolerance and Intolerance
Today, the concepts of social tolerance and intolerance are politically, socially, and emotionally charged. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines tolerance in the following way,
The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others; leeway for variation from a standard; the capacity to endure hardship or pain; to allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit; to recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others); to put up with; tolerance with respect to the actions and beliefs of others; official recognition of the rights of individuals and groups to hold dissenting opinions, especially on religion.6
The negative, intolerant, means,
Not tolerant, especially: unwilling to tolerate differences in opinions, practices, or beliefs, especially religious beliefs; opposed to the inclusion or participation of those different from oneself, especially those of a different racial, ethnic, or social background; unable or unwilling to endure or support.7
So, in general, to be socially tolerant is to allow other opinions and behaviors to exist at the very least by not preventing them. To be socially intolerant is to not be able to tolerate those same things. While the two different eras have many similarities, there is a decidedly different tone in the language used to communicate the meanings. In the 1828 Webster’s, the language suggests a restraining from acting badly to those who hold opinions that stray from the norm. The modern language nuances the meaning to reflect an acceptance or inclusiveness in those who are tolerant and a bias or prejudice in those who are not.
Revisioning Social Tolerance
D.A. Carson, in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, finds the distinction to be even more emphatic:
When we turn to Encarta’s treatment of the corresponding noun “tolerance,” however, a subtle change appears:
“1. ACCEPTANCE OF DIFFERENT VIEWS the accepting of the differing views of other people, e.g., in religious or political matters, and fairness toward the people who hold these different views.
This shift from “accepting the existence of different views” to “acceptance of different views,” from recognizing other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices to accepting the differing views of other people, is subtle in form, but massive in substance.8
At present, those who speak the loudest on behalf of the culture are asking for wholesale acceptance of its views on homosexuality, abortion, evolution, etc. Not simply an agreed upon restraint, but an embrace and celebration of its deviant views. Further, it regards any dissenting voice as bigotry and hate speech!
What Christianity demonstrates (when not being hijacked by groups like Westboro Baptist church or others who use the gospel to bludgeon the lost) is a willingness to restrain itself from persecuting those who hold deviating beliefs (which we have no right to do), but not a willingness to remain silent about them.9 For this reason, the believing Church can never satisfy the culture’s cry for tolerance. To do so would mean to deny the truth of God in Christ Jesus.
So, the culture is asking for what we cannot deliver and for something the culture itself does not understand.
The New Tolerance
Social tolerance for the Church has everything to do with truth. Social tolerance for modern-day culture is not about truth but about acceptance. For that reason the following statement about tolerance would be completely unacceptable.
Social tolerance should allow, even create, a safe zone where all claims to truth can be safely and fairly considered in an atmosphere of intellectual honesty until such a time that the truth becomes clear. Once that happens, all other claims to truth that contradict revealed truth become intolerable or at least fall into the category of things that are tolerated in the personal sense of the word.
1 Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828).
2 Ibid., see tolerate, tolerated, tolerating, and toleration.
3 Ibid., see entry under the word toleration.
4 This is a significant point. Whereas during the time of Christendom the Church would have been the norm, offering tolerance to those who did not agree with it, I think we now see the culture with its postmodern “values” with the upper hand in position of deciding what to tolerate.
5 Ibid., see intolerance, intolerant.
6 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2006, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
8 D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids: Eeerdman’s, 2012), 3.
9 Of course, when we disagree with the culture it is perceived as persecution because our present society views any dissenting view or negative report to be hate and persecution.