McDonalds now has more than a score of its restaurants in Israel. But they are getting mixed reviews. It all has to do with whether or not cheeseburgers are permissible for Jews to eat. The more orthodox Israelis, against seething a kid in its own milk (Deut. 14:21), hold strong taboos against eating cheese and beef together. More liberal Israelis love cheeseburgers. So a war of intolerance is being waged just underneath the Golden arches, not far from the Dome of the Rock.
Intolerance takes many forms, and I'm prone to agree with George Bernard Shaw that tolerance is the flabbiest of virtues. But American Christians have their own cheeseburger wars to reckon with. I only say that because it doesn't take a genius to see the growing division in America's former monolith of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has managed a mighty front because evangelicals themselves have been willing to stick together on the big things in order to present a united front to the world. I like the let's-get-together spirit of evangelicalism. It is not organic ecumenism — the various churches and denominations within it have never sought to merge their statements of faith. It's just that we know we had a lot to gain by agreeing that we all held some great things in common. But now, it seems to me that we are seeing the first evidences of splintering.
Premillennialists are sometimes reluctant to forgive posts.
Calvinists have sometimes been severe with Arminians, and vice-versa.
Many point out the functional distance between Moody magazine and Christianity Today. There are many who bemoan the divide between Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton.
Recently, the impious Wittenburg Door gave James Dobson the Green Weenie, their spurious slur, apparently for no other reason than being an incontrovertible icon. James Dobson probably didn't weep over this since they had just drubbed Mother Theresa in a previous issue. The point is, the Wittenburg Door is supposed to be on the same side of good and evil as James Dobson.
Some evangelicals so dislike Christianity Today, they wouldn't want to be caught reading it when Jesus comes again, which He will do — premillennially, of course. What is causing all of this division? Why can't we tolerate each other since we believe in such basic things as "Jesus saves" and "hell is forever?"
I wouldn't bring all of this up except that our entire age is riddled with unyielding, opinionated people. Everybody is out looking for those wonderful people who believe exactly what they do about everything. The key word here is the adjective exactly. It isn't enough that they believe close to the same things. They must be perfectly alike. People like that are hard to find and when you do think you've located one, they'll later disappoint you with some trivial deviance.
In spite of the new interdenominational respect fostered by Promise Keepers, this division and intolerance seems to be growing. The intolerance sometimes focuses on evangelicalism's various leaders and thinkers. Those who serve any particular hero to the extent that it leads them to be critical of others need to reread I Corinthians. Baals of all sorts come dressed in clothes rather like our own.
Hero worship — since Bible times — has been a kind of cultism that puts scales over the eyes. Remember, the Corinthians were saying, "I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos (I Cor. 3:4)." They were becoming so divisive, that Paul uses some of his letter to plead for tolerance.
Zeal is good, said the Apostle, as long as it's according to knowledge. But fervent views do tend to narrow the periphery and before long, we find ourselves isolated because we can't find anyone who agrees with every point of our own private agenda. These little differences are forming fissures in evangelical solidarity.
Is evangelicalism fraying? Will we soon have two evangelicalisms, or three? I am not a prophet, only a trend extender, but it looks to me like there are already those who have adopted MacArthur to the extent they feel they must reject Swindoll. Maybe it's time we called a great big meeting and read I Corinthians all the way through, pausing for a little prayer in the third chapter.