Tag Archives: tolerance

The New Definition of Tolerance and The Christian

A predominant word used in today’s politics and legal circles is “tolerance.” Tolerance is defined as:

“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

What does it mean to”tolerate something?” It means to:

allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.”

To tolerate different opinions should be in the heart of every American who understands that this country arose from the ashes of religious and civil intolerance in Europe.  The desire of the settlers of America was to create a nation of tolerance and acceptance because of their experience with intolerance in the “old country”.

During the Reformation era, as the Bible became more and more the source of faith for individual believers. it conflicted with the teachings of the powerful church in Europe and persecution soon followed. The followers of Jesus and the Bible during these tough times desired freedom of conscience and to worship without being claimed a heretic and facing death.   But, the ruling class and the powerful Roman Catholic church forbid any thoughts different than its own dogma and tradition.  Throughout, its history, the papacy leveraged the state to enforce its will upon the masses.  Millions died who were not “tolerated” by the church/state.  These people were not “allowed to exist” because of their Biblical views.  The history of persecution and death from the papacy over the controversy of who should be the final source of truth (Jesus or the Pope) is the classic definition of intolerance.  Millions of dissenters from the church were destroyed because the Pope did not want them to exist.

“From the birth of Popery in 606 AD to the present time, it is estimated by careful and credible historians, that more than fifty millions of the human family, have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy by popish persecutors, an average of more than forty thousand religious murders for every year of the existence of popery.”

— “History of Romanism,” pp. 541, 542. New York: 1871.

The founders of America wanted a nation without a pope or a king.  Why?  Because they desired all views to be tolerated or allowed to exist, particularly Christian Biblical views.  

Of course, to have a nation like this, the Christians would have to live by their own words and “tolerate” other worldviews they did not agree with and allow their existence and practice in this new nation.


Does Disagreement With Someone’s Religion or World View Necessarily Mean They are Intolerant?

If we understand the word “intolerant” and the history of “intolerance” we know the answer to this question to be “No.” The deciding factor to turning the answer into a “Yes” is the actions taken by those with the power to force the dissenter to either not exist or to persecute them in some way.

The Christian who believes that Jesus is the only truth and does not accept a different view is not intolerant in their beliefs any more than the Muslim who feels the same way about Mohammed, but it becomes intolerance when one of the groups persecutes the other.

The apostle Paul expressed the concept of “tolerance” in the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 when he said,

“Love suffers long and is kind….endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4,7

To disagree with someone’s religion or political views is not intolerance unless they persecute. Without a doubt, a follower of Christ must be tolerant, but at the same time, there is put within the heart of the Christian to make known the truth as found in Christ.

“♦…today a new definition of tolerance is systematically being foisted upon the minds of all people.  As an example, Thomas A Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, states, ‘The definition of new tolerance is that every individual’s beliefs, lifestyle, and perception of truth claims are equal…Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal, and all truth is relative.”

So the modern historically uninformed college student who is encouraged to erase and rewrite “bad history,”  seeks to adopt an exaggerated form of tolerance where all philosophies and word views are equal. I can’t help but think of the words of a classic rock song,

“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”-Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth.”

It the context of an equal and relative truth these lyrics could also read,

Nobody’s wrong if everybody’s right.

But, here is the immediate danger in this new definition of tolerance….the real truth, becomes lost or eliminated if we obtain truth by our feelings and whatever we desire it to be.  Under this thinking of relative truth, everybody is right!

♦The misconception about relative truth assumes that truth is inclusive, that it gathers under its wings claims that oppose each other. The fact, however, is that all truth is exclusive---at least to some degree---for it must exclude as false that which is not true.

For instance, it is true that Washington D.C. is the capital city of the United State of America. This means that no other city in the United States is that country's capital. In fact, no other city on planet Earth or anywhere in the universe can lay legitimate claim to being the capital city of the United States. One city and one only fits the bill and that's Washington D.C.

Simply because just one city is the United States' capital does not mean that the people who affirm this truth are therefore intolerant.  They may like scores of other cities and even live in different cities themselves.  They may even live in different countries and prefer their country to America.  Accepting the exclusive truth claim about Washington D.C. does not make a person tolerant or intolerant---it simply makes him or her correct about what the capital city of the United States is.

The same is true about Christianity.  If the claims of the Christian faith are true---and many people accept them as true---these people are no more intolerant for their belief than those people who accept Washington D.C. as the United States capital. They are either correct or mistaken about how God has revealed Himself in the world.

The main problem with the all-inclusive view of truth is that it also stifles the follower of this philosophy to seek the truth. The Christian will tell you that the source of truth is found in God’s word and in the life of Jesus.  To test this or any other claimant of truth must have a starting place.  That origin of entry for truth must be historical with eyewitnesses accounts and proof that the truth works on a practical plain.

For more information, the study of different philosophical claims of different religions, click here: Will the Real God Please Stand Up?-An Overview

Jesus claimed,

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 14:6

He made many other claims. He clearly stated  that the Tanakh (Old Testament) was about Him:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

John 5:39

He explained to the uninformed and misunderstanding disciples how the Tanakh “testified of Him.”

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

Luke 24: 44, 45

But many people are afraid to “Search the Scripture” to see if what He claims is true or not.  Why?  The only reason can be FEAR.

Fear of being wrong. Because of pride, people resist admission of having the wrong idea, philosophy, or worldview.

Fear of Change or lifestyle.  They reason their life won’t be as fun and enjoyable.

Fear of Accountability.  Things they practice may have consequences.

Fear of Losing Friends.  Accepting truth may push away friends and family.

It was these types of fears and misconceptions about tolerance that kept the people of Noah’s time from getting on the boat and saving their lives.  In the end, failing to pursue truth regardless of what one might think to be truth will keep many from eternal life as promised by God and Jesus Christ.

Nothing has changed since the days of Noah.  People continue to avoid pursuit of truth because of fear.

And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

Luke 17:6

To conclude this short discussion on tolerance and its relationship to truth, an appropriate story (from the book, Great Controversy) about the pursuit of truth comes from a man called Gaussen who was influenced by the prevailing truth of the day (18th and 19th century) i.e. rationalism.  It is defined as:

a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.

But, he studied about Jesus and the prophecies…then his life changed.  He wanted to tell the adults in his part of the world about what he discovered in the Bible but found them resistant, so he taught the children to see if they could understand the information.  The results were unexpected.

Many today claim to be tolerant and have an open mind.  There is no human with a mind more open than a child.  Jesus knew this when he said,

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3

♦As he (Gaussen) pursued his investigation of the prophecies he arrived at the belief that the coming of the Lord was at hand.  Impressed with the solemnity and importance of this great truth, he desired to bring it before the people; but the popular belief that the prophecies of Daniel are mysteries and cannot be understood was a serious obstacle in his way.  He finally determined—as Farel—had done before him in evangelizing Geneva—to begin with the children, through whom he hoped to interest the parents.

“I desire this to be understood,” he afterward said, speaking of his object in this undertaking.  “it is not because of its small importance, but on the contrary because of its great value, that I wished to present it in this familiar form, and that I addressed it to the children. I desired to be heard, and I feared that I would not be if I addressed myself to the grown people first.”  “I determined, therefore, to go to the youngest, I gather an audience of children; if the group enlarges, if it is seen that they listen, are pleased, interested, that they understand and explain the subject, I am sure to have a second circle soon, and in their turn, grown people will see that it is worth their while to sit down and study.  When this is done, the cause is gained,” I. Gaussen, Daniel The Prophet, vol. 2, Preface

The effort was successful.  As he addressed the children, older persons came to listen.  The galleries of his church were filled with attentive hearers. Among them were men of rank and learning, and strangers and foreigners visiting Geneva, and thus the message was carried to other parts.

The understanding of God’s word is simple— provided the person is willing to pursue truth no matter where it leads and with an open mind free of preconceived ideas.  Fear will be replaced with joy and confidence.  But a person will never know unless they start…they will never receive from God if they desire their own pleasures.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

James 4:3

The new definition of tolerance (all ideas are equal and true and therefore should be accepted) is false.  To believe the truth found in God’s word and the exclusive claims of Christianity is not intolerance.   A true follower of Christ will demonstrate acceptance of the person in love but reject what they know to be false and dangerous to that person.  They will encourage the pursuit of truth out of love and no other reason.

In modern America, the country of religious freedom, it is the founders of tolerance (Followers of Jesus) who are now being forced through legal actions to accept the beliefs of people they know to be in error.  The courts want to control the beliefs of Christians regarding sex and their worldview. This is persecution. No other religion is being sued and harassed as are Christians.  So, I end with this question.  Who are the people who are intolerant?  Who hates those who don’t accept their beliefs? Who desires for the other group to not exist?

Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

Luke 6:22

The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil

John 7:7

The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell