Are Christians Intolerant? (1)

bible2.jpg Are Christians intolerant? The answers are both yes and no, depending on the intent of the accuser. The prism through which they are framing the question will depend on their own particular philosophies. For the most part, if the question is asked against a backdrop of post-modernism, as is so often the case, then the question is a minefield for the Christian. Yet, the nimble of faith can maneuver safely.
In the post-modern disdain of absolutes, words have assumed new definitions. Tolerance is one example. The word traditionally meant that one would make room for differing perspectives, even if they found them patently false. The key issue was whether we could respect that other people were entitled to their own opinions.
“But the word has changed in meaning in recent years (along with ‘inclusion’ and others). Tolerance now means something like, ‘agreeing with, affirming or celebrating the validity of a viewpoint or practice other than my own.’ In the previous sense of the word, I could ‘tolerate’ an idea that I personally found ridiculous. I could tolerate and make space for someone who had deep disagreements with me. I worry that this option is being taken off the table.”/1
This insightful quote illustrates the problems Christians face in these discussions. Christians, under this evolving definition cannot possibly be anything but intolerant. Yet, if the traditional definition of the word were still valid, Christians could indeed be tolerant of varying opinions.
Scripture teaches that we all have free will. Ezekiel 18 describes free will in great detail. Jesus said, “Come unto Me” (Matthew 11:28). Everyone has the choice of taking their own path and accepting their own truth (John 6:66). Christians do not deny this. Under the traditional definition, Christians are tolerant of everyone’s freedom to be right or wrong.
The new definition of “tolerance,” though, is a far different matter. If tolerating alternative beliefs is the equivalent to giving validation to opposing views, then Christians must stand boldly intolerant. We cannot give credence to beliefs that violate God’s will. We can accept that opposing views do exist, but if by this acceptance we are seen as endorsing them, then we must be intolerant.
“Increasingly, to disagree with someone or to hold ‘exclusive views’ is by definition intolerant, no matter how passionately I believe in and affirm another person’s ‘right’ (to use another devalued word) to believe or practice otherwise without fear of persecution. The only options, so it seems, are inclusion or bigotry. There is no middle ground for compassionate, yet fervent disagreement. In a new twist on the old saying, ‘If you are not for me you are against me,’ we now have, ‘If you do not agree with me, you hate me.'”/2
Far too often, people wrap their beliefs and emotions into the same package and thrust them upon people. People will disagree with our beliefs. That does not make them evil, per se. Disagreeing with our beliefs isn’t the criterion for truth. Yet, if we see opposition to our beliefs as a denunciation of our self worth, then we will find great unhappiness.
Tolerance or intolerance are based on these same emotional barriers. The ideas we possess are separate from our own beings. We must be able to step back and honestly assess our own beliefs, as well as those of others.
Removed from emotional chains, ideas are worthy or unworthy based on an objective standard. God’s Word is that standard. Beliefs are right or wrong based on Scripture, not on our own subjective wishes (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
2. Ibid.

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