We live in a world where it is an unforgivable sin is to be intolerant of others. What is often shocking is that those same people who are quick to point out that someone is being “intolerant” are themselves incredibly intolerant of others. They seem to be tolerant of almost anything except Christian values or someone who disagrees with them. As soon as someone disagrees with their opinions or says they are a Christian they’re instantly labeled as intolerant, bigoted, racist, or legalistic.
I think we need to define this word tolerance. The worldly definition of tolerance seems to be “accepting all views as true.”[i] Whereas, Oxford’s dictionary says “showing tolerance (of a plant, animal, or machine), able to endure specified conditions or treatment.”[ii] Webster’s defines tolerance as “tolerating or being tolerant, especially of the beliefs and customs of others, even though these are not like your own.” Therefore, to tolerate means to allow, permit, or recognize and respect others’ beliefs and customs without sharing them.[iii]
Is tolerance really about just accepting all viewpoints as correct? Does God really expect me to just accept someone’s view as true, just because they believe it to be true? Honestly, I can hold to all kinds of ideas about all kinds of things, but just because they are my views does not make them right. Obviously if I hold a certain view, I believe it to be right but am I really, correct?
I think this gets to the real problem most have with tolerance. We live in a world that does not want anyone to tell them they are wrong. Friends, the Bible I read says that I cannot just accept everything as true. God expects His followers to question all things (1 Thess. 5:21) and hold to the good. The very words good and bad or right and wrong imply that some things are right and others wrong.
To make matters worse, the way most people throw around the accusation of intolerance violates a simple principle of logic. The principle states that if you are presented with two contradictory statements there can only be three logical options. One is right and the other is wrong or both statements are wrong. We cannot accept that all contradictory views are correct. We can speculate all day about what we think or even what we want to be true but there is only one truth. For example, if Jesus is not the only way to heaven (John 14:6) then what is the right way?
So, are you intolerant of other’s beliefs simply because they differ from yours? I don’t think so. Excuse me but I thought we lived in a country where having an opinion was ok or even desirable. I’m afraid we’re inching closer and closer to a society where the majority rules and if you disagree you will be censored, silenced, or discredited until no one listens to you any longer.
For the Christian, the Bible is very clear on this. I must differentiate between what is good and what is bad. But in the process, I cannot forget that the same Bible tells me to treat people fairly, to love them, and to try to help them find the truth about God and salvation. True tolerance does not require you to be ignorant and blind to the truth.
[i] Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, J.P. Moreland and Doug Powell, The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007). 1882.
[ii] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
[iii] Hindson, E., & Caner, E. (2008). The popular encyclopedia of apologetics: surveying the evidence for the truth of christianity. Harvest House Publishers.