Defining Tolerance

From a recent front page article in USA Today, we learn that evangelical Christians are leaving evangelical Christianity en masse, particularly children—70% of them leaving the Christian faith, no longer believing that the Bible is the infallible repository of redemptive revelation or that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

 

Today, tolerance is being redefined to mean that all views are equally valid and all lifestyles equally appropriate. As such, the notion that Jesus is the only way is vilified as the epitome of intolerance.

 

Rather than capitulating to the culture, however, Christians must be equipped to expose the flaws of today’s tolerance, while simultaneously exemplifying true tolerance. To say all views are equally valid sounds tolerant but in reality is a contradiction in terms. If indeed all views are equally valid, then the Christian view must be valid. The Christian view, however, holds that not all views are equally valid. Thus, the redefinition of tolerance is a self-refuting proposition.

 

We do not tolerate people with whom we agree. We tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid, there would be no need for tolerance.

 

Today’s redefinition of tolerance leaves no room for objective moral judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a “Mother Teresa.” With no enduring reference point, societal norms reduce to mere matters of preference; and, as such, the moral basis for resolving international disputes and for condemning such intuitively evil practices as genocide, oppression of women, and child prostitution is seriously compromised.

 

In light of its philosophically fatal features, Christians must reject today’s tolerance, and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that, despite our differences, we treat every person we meet with dignity and respect due them as those created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming truth, but it does mandate that we do so with gentleness and respect.

 

In a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity, Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty. As Jude puts it, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (vv. 22–23).

 

We should not be microcosms of the world—but change-agents within the world…because Truth matters.


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