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The Irony of Intolerant Christians

Discussion of Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God, Part 2

July, 2010

Many who are leaving the church have found that they cannot tolerate an institutional culture which comes off as "judgmental, exclusive, homophobic, too political and hypocritical" (Kinnaman, 2007). Unfortunately, the church has not reflected well the teachings of its Lord, Jesus Christ, in this regard. In fact, Jesus taught and lived (and died) a life that reflected just the opposite. Keller writes: One of the paradoxes of history is the relationship between the beliefs and the practices of the early Christians as compared to those of the culture around them. The Greco-Roman world’s religious views were open and seemingly tolerant—everyone had his or her own God. The practices of the culture were quite brutal, however. The Greco-Roman world was highly stratified economically, with a huge distance between the rich and poor. By contract, Christians insisted that there was only one true God, the dying Savior Jesus Christ. Their lives and practices were, however, remarkably welcoming to those that the culture marginalized. The early Christians mixed people from different races and classes in ways that seemed scandalous to those around them. The Greco-Roman world tended to despise the poor, but Christians gave generously not only to their own poor but to those of other faiths. Why would such an exclusive belief system lead to behavior that was so open to others? It was because Christians had within their belief system the strongest possible resources for practicing sacrificial service, generosity, and peace-making. At the very heart of their view of reality was a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflection on this could only lead to a radically different way of dealing with those who were different from them. It meant they could not act in violence and oppression toward their opponents. If this sounds refreshing to you… welcome to the Christian faith, and to the Jesus who established this New Life and turned upside down the established norms of human culture. If this sounds foreign to you, or even objectionable… let me suggest reading the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. There, and throughout the New Testament, you’ll discover the roots the Christian faith. What you think?

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