Radical application of the Scriptures does not consist of taking one set of verses and applying them like crazy, while leaving another set of verses entirely neglected . It can look radical, but that is because we tend to associate the words extreme and radical. Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, chop it off. For some the key word here is chop, when actually it is if. Those who absolutize one set of verses over the rest of Scripture may certainly look dedicated, but they are actually dedicated to their own ideas, with the illusion of biblicity provided by a Bible, scissors, and library paste.
One man is a pacifist and absolutizes “Thou shalt not kill.” Another wants to smite the Amalekite hip and thigh, and he can find his verses. But the right kind of biblical absolutist knows that he must deal with it all. Tota et sola Scriptura. Only Scripture, but also all of Scripture.
So what does this have to do with our response to the local attempts at diversity cleansing? As Christians we need to think through this business carefully. Some Christians think that we are not to resist evil, period. Go the second mile. Turn the other cheek. Overcome evil with good. As we respond to this, we cannot simply appeal to other verses that, for all intents and purposes, negate the practical application of these verses — because these verses are in the Bible for a reason, and as Christians we ought to be pursuing opportunities to apply them genuinely, which is quite different from explaining them away. But we also hold them in balance with what the Bible teaches elsewhere. To set one part of Scripture against another part of Scripture is to think like a pagan.
That said, the apostle Paul was not shy about exercising his civic prerogatives. He appealed to Caesar when it became apparent that he was not going to get a fair trial in Palestine. If he appealed to Caesar, and the decision went in his favor, then the Christian faith would enjoy the same exemptions that the other Jews did, under the umbrella of Judaism. A good protective precedent for the church would be set. On another occasion, when St. Paul was thrown in the slammer unjustly (despite his Roman citizenship), he actually refused to leave that jail until the magistrates came down and escorted him out personally. He knew how to defer anger with a soft answer, as Proverbs put it, but he also knew how to play legal hardball.
Now by the very nature of the case, if we do not respond in kind to various assaults of various kinds, nobody sees us “not responding.” That is because “not responding” is harder to see. But when we respond, as we have now begun to do in earnest, the resultant conflict is both visible and interesting. And because of this, people see what you are doing. But both “responses” (forbearance and hearty defense) are scriptural in their place.
The reason for making this distinction is that we have been exercising a great deal of that (less visible) forbearance for several years now. But we have come to the point where we recognize that this is obviously not enough. Because of this, we have moved from a debate to a conflict. In a debate, the people come, the debaters engage, and everyone goes home to make up their own mind. In a conflict, one group of people declare their intention to make another group of people conform. In our case, the Intoleristas have determined that we Trinitarian Christians must conform to their cookie cutter ideas of diversity, which we have thus far declined to do. Because we declined, they determined to make us conform to their monolithic diversity.
We responded, for a long time, by engaging with the ideas. After all, we thought, this is a university town. But they continued to step it up until we now have multiple legal actions of various kinds aimed at us, with the perpetrators looking off into the middle distance acting as though the whole thing has nothing to do with how we worship, what we believe, and how we live. “Honest!” Right.
Okay, so conflict it is. But what we want to make them do is very different from what they want to make us do. They want to make us conform to their jackbooted ideas of diversity. We want to make them leave us alone. Which, by the grace of God, we trust we will be able to do.
In that spirit, our Mayflower van has arrived, and we have only just begun to unload the truck. We have boxes for everybody, and intend to be generous. But we are not being petty, vindictive, or vengeful in any of this. We would be happy to stop the whole thing at any time, and go back to that great Pauline principle of minding our own business. But whether that happens or not is entirely up to our Intoleristas. We shall see. For all their vaunted relativism, they really aren’t that flexible.