What do we mean by tolerance?

So there is a response in Warnock’s response to my response (42: Me lambasted for hypocrisy) to the response (Warnock’s women) to my original post (42: When did the practice of ordaining women begin?) which was critical of More Salt in the Episcopalian Wound and The Episcopalian Issue. Meanwhile a comment by Pam (see bottom of this post – why does typepad not give a link for each comment?) has also attracted attention in Was Paul For Slavery?

Hope that is clear :-)

Before going onto the issue of tolerance, just a couple of comments.

First, sofyst = Nathaniel Adam King, nice to meet you Nathaniel.

Second, sofyst wondered why I write posts rather than comments. Three reasons.

  1. I forget to go back and read responses to comments (unless I subscribe to the comment feed).
  2. I prefer the post user interface, especially for longer comments.
  3. I can update and correct posts whereas comments cannot be edited.
  4. Many blogs require some kind of authentication for writing comments. Adrian Warnock uses that which is why I started responding with posts.
  5. I guess I think it is politer to disagree with someone on my own space rather than theirs.

Oh and by the way, I can’t count.

Now for this tolerance thing. I want to be a little careful here as I don’t want to turn this into a response to article III of the Together for the Gospel Statement (pdf) and at least in my mind claims about truth are very relevant to a discussion on tolerance.

But back to tolerance. sofyst ends with

We should just assume, keeping with Warnock’s very tolerant
position, that both views are true; the idea that women can serve as
ordained ministers (his view) and Driscoll’s opinion that women cannot
serve as ordained ministers. We should not deny either, as none of us
are in possession of complete truth. And to deny the other position is
to have the total unwillingness to recognize that we do not have a
complete monopoly on truth.

We wouldn’t want that would we? We should all hug.

Giving each other a hug sounds a fantastic idea. What a good way to celebrate and live the commandment to love our neighbour as ourself. What a good way to recognise God in each other, to celebrate our common humanity, our common failing to live up to the challenges of our Lord and Saviour. Sofyst, please consider this a virtual hug.

It must be pointed out that the idea that I am very tolerant would be met with hoots or derision in this house.

Let us consider this matter of the ordination of women. For the record I trained as a minister in an institution that has women as permanent staff, women as lecturers, has a majority of women as ordinands and trains for three denominations (CoE, URC and Methodist) all of which ordain women. Yet some of those being trained belong to churches affiliated with the "Forward in Faith" movement in the Church of England which is against the ordination of women.

Here we have an issue (and there have been many over the centuries) where the worldwide Church cannot agree. In the future this impasse may be resolved, but for the moment we have to live with the fact that there is a significant difference in understanding the truth. Obviously it is tempting to launch into a discussion on the nature of truth (and in earlier drafts I kept doing that), but that is really a side issue here.

If we do not agree and cannot come to an agreement on an issue then we have a spectrum of possible responses. These range from total and aggressive denial of the other position (this can and has included denial of the authenticity of their faith) to being totally accepting of the difference.

I see nothing in the life of my Lord and Saviour, in his teaching or elsewhere in scripture that says the Kingdom of God will be helped by my denying the faith of those who do not believe in the ordination of women. However, that in no way means I do not believe the truth of my own position or that I am willing to give it up for them. So I believe that they are wrong. I will argue against them. I will pick holes in their arguments – especially when they misquote history :-) But I will not deny that they believe this to be the truth.

Lets take some of sofyst’s comments one by one.

I would begin to argue against Warnock’s rebuttal, but I cannot.

For a moment I thought that sofyst’s post was going to be very short ;-)

we would be safe in assuming that Warnock does not view himself as having the complete truth

Absolutely. I am not God. There are many things that I do not understand. There are many issues on which I have changed my understanding over the years. I guess there will be more.

and Warnock would NEVER deny other view points.

I suppose I have to add some caveats here. For example I have denied the view that scripture supports the British National Party, I have clearly stated  that I do not believe a Christian can support them in an election. However, I do believe that I have to allow someone else to support the BNP even though I detest all that they stand for.

Within the much narrower debate that we were talking about I do tolerate that other Christians will not accept the ordination of women. I do accept that this is the historical position of the Church and that many interpret scripture to support this.

However, I find the lack of reciprocity a big problem. For example the claim that those of us, who do our best to faithfully interpret scripture but disagree on this issue, are damaging the witness to the gospel is not loving and in my opinion is not what Jesus would do, it is not worthy of name Christian. The denial of the ministry of women is frequently done in a very unloving and unchristian way.

Therefore, the other view point of women not being allowed to be
ordained would be a position that Warnock would not deny.

Absolutely, for example I attended the ordination of a friend in a Forward in Faith Church in order that he would have some support from someone from the course we were both on. He is wrong on this issue, but I believe God has called him to the ministry and I will support him in that, even while telling him he is wrong on this issue.

Afterall,
Warnock does not claim to have possession of the whole truth.

Absolutely.

So, it
may be that this other viewpoint is correct.

Clearly I do not believe that to be the case. But I do not see that the gospel gives me any other choice but to show love and respect to others.

We should just assume, keeping with Warnock’s very tolerant position,
that both views are true; the idea that women can serve as ordained
ministers (his view) and Driscoll’s opinion that women cannot serve as
ordained ministers. We should not deny either, as none of us are in
possession of complete truth. And to deny the other position is to have
the total unwillingness to recognize that we do not have a complete
monopoly on truth.

We could just as well assume both views are false. I am saying that truth is not the key issue here. The issue is how we respond to those that we disagree with. The T4G leaders disagree on Baptism but they can work together, that would not have been possible a few years ago. I give thanks for that. In my own ministry I work closely with a Baptist Pastor and we have a shared Baptism/Methodist Church. That is great and we benefit greatly from each others gifts, experience and calling.

In the same way we should be able to work together across the different understandings on issues such as gender and sexuality. Compared to all that Jesus did for us these are as nothing. Simply shouting "I am right, you are wrong" or "I have the truth and you do not" does nothing for the Gospel.

In conclusion.

  1. I will still argue against the complementarian position.
  2. I will still pick holes when complementarians get their facts wrong or resort to logical fallacies.
  3. I will still argue that complementarianism is an invalid interpretation of scripture.
  4. I will respect those whose interpretatiojn of scripture leads them to a complementarian view
  5. I will demand that complementarists respect those who disagree with them and in particular I will expect them to respect women who have a calling to ministry and who exercise that within a Church that accepts them.

H’mm after all that I can see why intolerance is so popular, it must be just so much easier to say "nah, nah, you suck, I’m right, you are wrong, go to hell" pity Jesus didn’t teach that don’t you think.

12 thoughts on “What do we mean by tolerance?

  1. Pam

    Why do I always suspect these guys are 28 years old and have never been truly helpless in their lives? I think this is what the Principal of my former college would have termed “muscular Christianity”.
    By the way, I find it hard to explain, but I’m fairly certain your alleged hypocricy is in having an opinion. As a ‘liberal’ (and they would certainly see you as liberal), I believe you are not meant to have an opinion because liberalism is all about ‘everything is relative’. You couldn’t support women in ministry unless you had dropped any pretence to Truth.
    It’s the religious version of that political tactic of ‘You are for freedom of speech, so if you speak out against me attempting to limit someone’s freedom of speech, you are a hypocrite.’
    I don’t know if this comment is necessarily any clearer than your post!

    Reply
  2. sofyst

    I’m 22 years old actually madam. And I’m quite confused as to why I need to be ‘helpless’ to accept your beliefs? Is that some manner of prerequisite that you have found within Scripture? First become helpless and then you can accept that women are to be ordained. Hmmm…pretty sure I hadn’t seen that passage. Do share the reference.

    Reply
  3. DaveW

    Sofyst,
    It is called life experience and we hope it leads to understanding of the importance and value of grace. For an example of it in action see Pam’s latest post then seek similar grace for yourself.
    Note that I am not accusing you of anything specific, but my version of what Pam said is simple:
    Keep your mouth shut on the ordination of women until you have life experiences that allow you to empathise with the submissive role you say scripture gives women. At 22 it is likely you have many years to go.
    I may regret writing this comment in anger. But I am angry at again seeing again how men hurt women in the Church. I may be unfair in directing some of this to you, but right now I have a friend who is hurting thanks to people who believe as you do. Your comment has put you in the firing line.
    Go and follow Jesus, go to the hurting, wounded and rejected in society as he did, eat with them, listen to them and then come back and we can have a better conversation.

    Reply
  4. Luke Britt

    I saw another comment of yours about young = arrogance. I’m sorry, but that’s uncalled for. It is true that Josh’s tone was out of line. But you and I also are capable and have been out line before. You may be 72 and be arrogant. Sometimes the most experienced at life are the ones who still make the same mistakes.
    Also, what do you mean by ‘life experience’? Is that equal with ‘oppression’ or ‘opposition’? It seems like that would fit the argument. Jesus did come and liberate women from oppression. The fact that he even spoke to the Samaritan woman was an incredible thing! But that doesn’t give us the liberty to look over Paul’s instructions for the church by taking verses out of context. Liberation theology starts in a good place but veers from some of the basics of the gospel.
    Sorry, I rambled a little bit.
    From one brother to another, watch out with ‘despising the youth’.

    Reply
  5. sofyst

    Dave, no hard feelings? eh?
    I will give you time to think about what you are saying. You are saying that one of youth cannot hold to the same truths that one older can. I won’t even begin to quote the tired verse of, ‘despise not your youth’. I won’t either point to Jesus in the temple at a very young age (good thing those men didn’t treat him as y’all are me). It is quite foolish (forgive my bluntness) to assume that one needs to be ‘oppressed’ or have ‘life experiences’ to accept specific truths.
    But I’ll keep my mouth shut for a while. Do tell though, when can I open it? Should I come back when I’m thirty? Forty? Perhaps I will not be ready until I reach fifty. Do you think then God will allow me to speak what I believe to be truth? Or will He wait more until I am seventy or ninety to use me.
    Damn my youth!! If only I’d been born an old man!

    Reply
  6. Pam

    My remark was uncalled for and ill-judged and I apologise for saying it. I should have been more diplomatic.
    I do think that I understand why people who hold the ‘complementarian’ position hold the position because I grew up with that view and have had more than 22 years of exposure to it. I think that the complementarian position and my position are derived from different biblical hermeneutics which is why I don’t think that the issue can be discussed fruitfully in most instances – the current atmosphere being a good example.
    I accept the complementarian view as a legitimate Christian view and I accept that complementarians would not see me as a real Christian. I ‘should’ stop getting upset about this and, with God’s grace, I am trying.
    Biblical references about God caring about the weak would include:
    * Mark 10:15 “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Also Luke 18:17)
    * Luke 9:48 “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
    * Luke 6:20-21 “Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.’”
    * Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
    * Amos 8:4-10: “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.”

    Reply
  7. sofyst

    Pam, if you accept that complementarians would not see you as a real Christian, then you are accepting falsehood. Perhaps you have had a dealings with complementarians that have dismissed your Christianity, but I am not one. Please don’t color me according to your past experiences. Perhaps this would be an instance where experience is actually a bad thing.
    BEING COMPLEMENTARIAN DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO DENY THE CHRISTIANITY OF OPPOSING VIEWS.
    Not yelling, just hoping you don’t miss that point.
    One more point that needs to be made, being complementarian does not deny that women are equal to men. We just believe that women serve in different roles than men. Women have children, men do not. Men serve as elders, women do not. God made us different. Men have penises, women do not. Complementarians accept the differences that God created us with, and do not try to blend the genders in effort to create equal genders.
    The verses you quoted about God caring for the weak would be VERY relavent if complementarian forced women into a weaker subclass. We do not, we just recognize the different class that God has placed them within.
    You two have screamed and hollared claiming that I need to get some experience under my belt. But what saddens me is that you, Pam, have had some bad experience (by your own admission) with the abuse of complementarians and therefore you have cast aside the view completely because of this experience.
    If experience would do that, I am happy being 22 without any.

    Reply
  8. Pam

    Pam, if you accept that complementarians would not see you as a real Christian, then you are accepting falsehood. Perhaps you have had a dealings with complementarians that have dismissed your Christianity, but I am not one. Please don’t color me according to your past experiences. Perhaps this would be an instance where experience is actually a bad thing.
    OK, I have heard that you think I can be a real Christian and not be a complementarian. Thank you.
    You two have screamed and hollared claiming that I need to get some experience under my belt.
    Can you please cite where I have screamed and hollered at you?
    Pam, have had some bad experience (by your own admission) with the abuse of complementarians and therefore you have cast aside the view completely because of this experience.
    You’ve asked me to not make assumptions about your thinking, so please don’t make assumptions about mine. My view of biblical hermeneutic has changed, not solely because of my experience of men and women, but also because of having studied biblical theology over a number of years (1st theology degree in 1979 and subsequent reading between now and then). You are perfectly entitled to disagree with my views, but if you insist that my views have no substance other than being a reaction to an experience, you would be incorrect. Also, as I said on another thread, I didn’t suffer particularly bad experiences. But I did see that there were absolutely no checks and balances for those women who did suffer bad experiences.
    I believe that any system that grants one group absolute power over another group is inherently prone to abuse no matter how good the people with power are. Human beings are sinners and power is seductive and power is one of Evil’s most potent tools. Which is why I believe that an important Christian formational experience is to find oneself utterly powerless and totally at God’s mercy – in a very literal way.
    The verses you quoted about God caring for the weak would be VERY relavent if complementarian forced women into a weaker subclass. We do not, we just recognize the different class that God has placed them within.
    I do understand that argument. What I’m saying is that I don’t buy it. It’s the old ‘Animal Farm’ argument of ‘Some animals are more equal than others.’
    I know that good and sincere people hold this view. I know that good and sincere men in this tradition treat their wives and daughters with respect; I am not slurring those men. I am not advocating women holding power over men. I simply do not buy the idea that there can be equality whilst one category of person is barred from having self-determination. It’s even potentially more dangerous when one says that God forbids this category of person from having self-determination.

    Reply
  9. DaveW

    Sofyst,
    I apologise for my lack of grace and my anger in my comment last night.
    However, please note that I did not say (and do not think) that
    “You are saying that one of youth cannot hold to the same truths that one older can.”
    What I am saying is that youth tends to lead to arrogance. But that I mean a hard edged view of truth. When we are young (and yes although my kids may not believe it, I was once young) there can be a tendency to view things simplistically, in black and white if you prefer. I know I did. Now you are quite correct that this may not change in later life, some people sadly do not learn or grow with passing time.
    However, it is my personal experience that the events of life can allow us to get a wider perspective, that wider perspective can help us to empathise with people, to see through their eyes. In doing that I for one have changed, my own views of truth have changed and my attitudes to others who do not believe exactly as I believe have changed. No doubt you will understand that as becoming compromised, possibly I would have seen it that way when I was younger.
    Now some of the experiences that have caused this change in me I would not want to wish on you ever, they are terrible and involve a great deal of pain (losing both my Mum and Dad, plus my father-in-law to cancer within 7 months is one of those).
    Others are amazing experiences of God at work. Working with Christians who stayed in Lebanon throughout the war faithfully serving the Bible Society at great personal cost is one of those. Touching a Bible published in a language for the first time and knowing that I helped in that process, in just a tiny way, is another. I was fortunate enough to work for the United Bible Societies for nearly 10 years, in that time I spent time with Christians in over 30 countries – that changed me, my view of my own culture and tradition as I became aware of the richness and depth in other churches.
    More recently, as a minister, accompanying members of the Church through death and walking alongside their families at that time is a tremendous privilege that changes me.
    Do you see what I mean? My ministry is completely different now to what it could have been in the past because of the experiences. The truth I hold may not have changed, but the way I hold it, the confidence with which I hold it, the way I can share it are all quite different.
    So I continue to challenge you as a confident and aggressive (or would you prefer assertive?) person with fixed and hard edged views on truth and church discipline to find ways to walk alongside people who are helpless, who are downtrodden, who are hurting and to show them the grace that we also need and are shown by God.

    Reply
  10. Bene Diction

    Luke and sofyt:
    I’ve been following this as much as possible.
    When Paul addressed Timothy, he addressed him directly, openly and clearly for who he was, a gifted young man.
    Paul saves words for older believers elsewhere.
    I looked I Tim 4:12 up in more than one version. This strikes to the core tone of this discussion and you brought it up:
    Be careful don’t let anyone dismiss you, be an ideal to them in words…
    Why words first?
    Timothy taught,ministered to those older than himself, no different than any time through the ages. He had the smarts and the gifts. What he didn’t have was life experience under his belt that many he served did.His IQ was fine, his EQ and SQ probably cool for his age, but it doesn’t take a university degree to know those develop through experiences.
    Paul is pretty clear. Timothy. Be prudent. In words. In conversation. In love, in spirit, faith and purity.
    For those of us who have grown up in cultures that do not believe your viewpoint, or practice it, we commend you for taking on the discussion.
    I think you’ve been shown grace and patience for all your 22 years and cross cultural differences. If you chose to think otherwise, walk away.
    Did you know your brain is just finishing growing, and processing sometimes up to a trillion things in a few seconds?
    Did you know that if you did not see the world with the utter surety – black/white/either/or that you express you wouldn’t have made it to adulthood?
    Do you understand absolutism, peer acceptance and self focus were essentials to getting to 22?
    Did you know that Paul is telling Timothy there is a difference between a healthy sense of self versus the insecurity in facing all the challenges every human being entering adulthood deals with? Paul admonishs, but he also encourages.
    And did you know at 22 when someone disagrees with your ideas your brain is coming out of the wiring/reaction that sees that disagreement as a personal affront, despite prostrations to the contrary?
    Have the discussion you’ve had here with an intelligent well educated 15 year old and see how long you can be prudent. Just don’t dispise their youth, okay?

    Reply

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