Tolerance: Locating the Boundaries

In The Nick of TimeSome societies have perished because of anarchy, and some have perished because of tyranny. A just society must avoid both. It must escape anarchy by refusing to tolerate at least some activities in which at least some people would like to engage. It must avoid tyranny by tolerating at least some ideas and activities that at least some people find objectionable.

How is a society to determine what ought to be tolerated? Some Christians have been tempted to answer this question by using biblical morality as a shortcut around reasoned discourse. They have presented the view that no violation of divine law ought to be tolerated. If their theory could be implemented, it would result in a theocracy. Short of Messiah’s presence, however, it cannot be implemented. Nor should it be. Christians are nowhere authorized to use coercion in order to impose biblical morality upon their societies. A society cannot establish the boundaries of tolerance simply by appealing to divine law. Theonomy is a dead end.
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I Play the Radio

How Modern Gizmos Changed Church Music

Our grandparents survived the revolution–the Second Industrial Revolution. While today some of them might be temporarily mystified when configuring their laptop for wireless Internet, most have happily discovered this is no harder than configuring the antenna for an Atwater Kent. In a similar way, our grandparents are also familiar with the dire predictions of social upheaval supposedly caused by the Internet, cable broadcasting, and MP3 players–because they first heard these warnings in relation to radio, phonographs, moving pictures, and eventually TV. The arguments have not changed; neither has the essential problem. All that’s different is the technology. In light of this, I’ve been happy to discover our senior saints have great sympathy for the discernment problems that plague our current generation of parents. After all, our grandparents lived through these same issues as the firstborn children of the media age.

This recent history has been the subject of much recent comment on SharperIron. In fact, some conservative church musicians have blamed the 1920s for most of our current ills, suggesting that commercialism began with the Gospel hymns of Moody and Sankey, continued unabated through the Gospel songs of Rodeheaver, and reached its nadir with today’s CCM styles. While I agree with some of these concerns, this approach occasionally smacks of a conspiracy theory that conveniently overlooks conflicting evidence in order to prove a particular philosophical point.
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A Separatist's First Stroll Through Grace Community Church

Traveling from the firecrackers and firewater of mountain man country in Wyoming (and Red Cliff Bible Camp), through the white steeples and dark sanctuaries of Mormon country in Utah, and then on through the slot machines and strip joints of gambler’s country in Nevada, my family finally arrived in the L.A. area, the mecca for Christian and “so-called evangelical” movements in the West. You see, Robert Schuller leads the way for the Self-Esteem Movement; Rick Warren leads the way for the Purpose-Driven Movement, Jack Hayford [1] leads the way for the Foursquare Movement, Chuck Smith leads the way for the Calvary Chapel Movement, Paul Chappell leads the way for the Independent Baptist Movement, and John MacArthur leads the way for the Nondenominational/Cessationist/Conservative Evangelical/Expository/Dispensational/Sufficiency of Scripture/Doctrines of Grace/Community Church Movement. I am smiling toward any of the guys from Grace Community Church (GCC), but is that not a fair assessment and not a jaundiced eye? [2]
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The Price of a Christian Education

When we speak of the price of a Christian education, many think only of dollar signs. True, expenses have risen, and one can no longer attend a Christian college for approximately $1,000 a year as I did when I began my freshman year of college! However, we must distinguish between the “price” of a Christian education and its mere “cost.” We may have to expend precious dollars in order to manage the “cost” of the training of our children–the precious ones for whom we have been accounted stewards by our heavenly Master–but we can never measure the true “price” of that training in light of eternity. Moreover, the spiritual, moral, emotional, and sociological costs; as well as other expenses of substituting a secular education for a Christian one can be high indeed.
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Beauty and the Best (Part 2 of 2)

Toward the Development of Christian Aesthetics in Music

While the Bible never specifically connects music with beauty, it does connect worship with beauty in several Old Testament passages. Consider these verses (with emphasis added):

1 Chronicles 16:29–Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

2 Chronicles 20:21–And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 27:4–One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

Psalm 29:2–Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 96:6–Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 96:9–O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

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Tolerance and Self‐Preservation

In The Nick of TimeEvery society, voluntary or not, must achieve some balance between tolerance and intolerance. Without this balance a society either sinks into tyranny or spins into anarchy. In order to preserve itself every society must find the requisite combination of a tolerance and intolerance.

For voluntary societies, this balance is essentially a matter of articulating a reason for being. At the point of its purpose, a voluntary society cannot tolerate divergence. A different purpose necessarily creates a different society.

Involuntary societies such as civil orders do not exist for the same purpose as voluntary societies. The main purpose of a civil society is to preserve order by providing protection against enemies outside and miscreants inside the society. Other functions may be assumed over time, but if this basic purpose is not fulfilled, the involuntary society will soon unravel or be overthrown.

The function of a civil society, and more particularly, a government, is to maintain order. Yet we have already seen that civil societies, in order to be just, must grant the maximum allowable degree of tolerance. Order must not be maintained at the expense of oppressing a people.
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Beauty and the Best (Part 1 of 2)

Toward the Development of Christian Aesthetics in Music

For centuries, economists struggled to answer the seeming disparity between the value of diamonds and the value of water. This paradox was discussed by great thinkers such as Copernicus, Locke, and Smith. Water is essential for life and has many purposes but is far less valuable than diamonds which are mostly appreciated for their beauty alone. Shouldn’t water carry the greater value?

In time, two theories developed in an attempt to answer this elusive question. The first dealt with the intrinsic value of the two items. Diamonds are more valuable then because they require great labor in mining and refining and cutting and polishing. Water can simply be brought to the surface of a well through a single bucket. The second theory, proposed by Englishman William Jevons and Austrian Carl Menger, became known as marginal utility and answered the question subjectively. If a man in a desert is dying of dehydration and is offered either water or diamonds, which do you imagine he will choose?

Suppose the rich hymns of Isaac Watts, one of my favorite composers, were represented by the diamond while the water was reflective of the music of Chris Tomlin, a prominent Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artist. Could there indeed be a time when one type of music is more valuable than the other? Is musical discernment largely a subjective, utilitarian pursuit, or are there inherent qualities built into music that render a composition valuable or valueless?
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