HELL OF A THING TO BELIEVE!

You will, I’m sure, be aware of Caroline Petrie; the teacher disciplined for her solicitation of prayerful assistance for her young daughter – herself punished for her evangelistic efforts in the playground. Well, Terry Sanderson has now written on the Guardian website, condemning the sympathy she has received, and suggesting that her daughter was the persecutor rather than the persecuted. His reason? Well apparently this little girl had been ‘scaring’ her classmates by informing them they were destined for Hell unless they believed in Jesus. I know! How very dare she?! (Btw I know I haven’t linked here to the article. Do look it up. However, I’m very keen that the atheistic crumb-trail not lead to this site. This is where I report on my apologetics attempts, not where they take place!)

Well there are a couple of issues here. One is certainly the unpalatable nature, to the unbeliever, of them being considered worthy of judgement and punishment for the life they have led. However, I’m fairly convinced that this is above all yet another manifestation of everyone’s current favourite viewpoint – that all beliefs are ‘equally valid’ and that it is arrogant, nay wrong, for anyone to ‘force’ their views upon another, thus deeming them better in any way. I heard this very argument just last week from a colleague at work – he was perfectly okay with the faith of me and other Christians, just so long as we didn’t see fit to bother anyone who disagreed. He was, after all, a ‘very spiritual’ person himself, as denoted by the fact he had at one time pursued an interest in yoga…

This is, of course, an utter sham. This politically correct version of ‘tolerance’ is in fact the very opposite of what it purports to be. It is, as Phillip Jensen has noted, utter intolerance for any strongly held view – for any profession of truth. Indeed, it is itself a big and bullying supposition – that no one view is true, and therefore that all religious views are equally false. After all, the very existence of truth blows the idea wide apart, as it instantly renders all else false, and therefore not valid at all! To these people, all faiths and worldviews are the equivalent of having drawn ‘a card, any card’ from a deck – no one holds any greater intrinsic worth than another – it’s ‘whatever works for you’. In fact, for the believer it is more like a sum. There is a right answer. A true answer. After all, 1+1=4 may indeed “work for you”… but it’s wrong! And you’ll fail the exam!

So then, no Christian should have any part of this construct. If you are willing to claim that Hinduism and Christianity are equally valid, then you can’t believe that Jesus is indeed the way the truth and the life, or that no-one comes to the Father except by Him. The fact many liberal Christians DO play that game gives us sufficient reason to question their faith. Viewed in the light of this assumption of truth, Caroline Petrie’s daughter becomes, not a bully, but a bastion of compassion. She presumably believes, in all good conscience, that Hell is a real and urgent threat; one endangering her friends’ very eternal lives. What sort of person would she be then – what sort of person are any of us – if she and we don’t warn those we care about?? The person who sees the precipice and tells the person about to step over is not an abuser for upsetting them. And even if you don’t believe the cliff exists… well, you can still respect their good motives. If they are deserving of punishment then so too was Jesus – he, after all, was most indiscrete when speaking of ‘hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9) Many at the time indeed thought him so. They therefore put Him on a cross.

I am going on a bit. But my point is this. As hospitals, schools and workplaces in general begin to view evangelism as an offence, on the grounds that it denigrates the competing views of others, I wish to say that Christian views are NOT just opinions to be kept to ourselves. They are, in our eyes, a matter of truth, expressed necessarily for the sake of those mired in error. You may not agree. But if we truly believe that to be the case, then it is a denial of our freedom of speech, our freedom of conscience and of our very self-respect to tell us we must always keep it to ourselves.

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