LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Though contemporary voices of “tolerance” view the proclamation of Christianity as a grossly intolerant act, every believer is called to contend for the Gospel in the public square, evangelist Voddie Baucham told students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Baucham encouraged the seminarians to graciously but steadfastly contend for the faith in the face of a culture that seeks to silence them through a redefinition of tolerance.
“We are a culture that values tolerance above all else,” he said. “Some will argue that tolerance is the only virtue we have remaining upon which we agree en masse in our culture.
“When I say tolerance, don’t be confused. I’m not talking about the kind of tolerance that led Voltaire to write, ‘I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ The new tolerance argues that you can’t disagree, you must embrace. So this idea of contending for the faith does not compute. That is [seen as] intolerant. In our culture, that is the only thing that we absolutely, positively refuse to tolerate.”
Baucham has been called an “evangelist to intellectuals.” An apologist, Bible teacher and conference speaker, he is the author of “The Ever-Loving Truth: Can Faith Thrive in a Post-Christian Culture?” (2004 Broadman & Holman) and serves as an elder at Grace Community Church in Magnolia, Texas.
Preaching from Jude 1-4 to a chapel audience at the Louisville, Ky., campus in early September, Baucham pointed out that the call to contend extends to every Christian, not just those who are theologically trained or who possess a gift for personal evangelism. Contending for the faith is a primary and not a secondary issue, he said. In contending, however, he said Christians must not be contentious.
“Some might say, ‘Well that’s just for those who are trained in apologetics or who are trained in philosophy, that’s just not for me. My job is just to love on people and to live my life in such a way that they will come to me and say, ‘I’ve been watching you … so what must I do to be saved?’
“This is for all of us,” Baucham countered. “Every last one of us is called upon to plant our feet, to square our shoulders, to hold our heads high and to give an account to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is within us.”
A central requirement for contending for the faith, Baucham said, is a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Instead of contending for the Gospel, some Christians have become sidetracked, Baucham said, noting, “Often we will contend over the color of the carpet in the church, but we won’t contend for the faith.”
Believers must know the Scripture and be able to contend for the Gospel and its central truth claims, he said.
A Christian’s faithfulness to his calling in this area is of vital importance, he said, because there are myriad voices in the contemporary society who represent Christianity in the mainstream news media who are anything but genuine believers.
These representatives are akin to those in Jude who “crept in unaware” and turned the grace of God into an excuse for lawlessness and sinfulness. These false confessors like those in Jude ultimately denied the Lord Jesus Christ, he said.
Baucham pointed to a current example of those who have “crept in” as former Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, who regularly appears in the national media. As he makes evident in interviews and in numerous writings, Spong rejects every doctrine that is central to historic Christianity and seeks to radically redefine the faith to suit postmodern sensibilities.
If genuine believers do not contend for the faith and define its terms biblically in the marketplace of ideas, Baucham said, false prophets such as Spong will.
“If we do not contend, they get to represent us unhindered,” he said. “With every fiber of your being, with every breath in your body, with every moment that God grants you, stand for, contend for, represent and proclaim the authentic, unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and let the chips fall where they may. There are some things worse than being called intolerant by this culture in which we live.”