Is Christianity Intolerant?
The above title is perhaps one of the most loaded questions of our newly revolutionized culture. The topic has been broached more recently in the last 10 years than it has for a long time. I would like to say it is for good reasons the topic has been brought up, but it’s not. In order to get to the heart of the matter we have to understand the use of the word “tolerance.”
1. Tolerance denoting Acceptance
We live in the 21st century and unfortunately living in the 21st century means we must come to terms with the reality that such facts denote a significant decline in the moral foundations of western culture. In a culture where almost everything is relative, tolerance has taken on a whole new meaning. James Warner Wallace is a retired homicide detective who has given his time to Christian Apologetics. He has written several books and runs a website under the name: coldcasechristianity.com. He uses this platform to write and defend arguments supporting Jesus’ message. On a particular blog, he defines the new, complicated and relativistic idea of tolerance this way: “The act of recognizing and accepting the equal validity and value of all views, beliefs and actions.” Many dictionaries share this same view in terms of the newly revolutionized definition. With this definition the answer to the above question is:
Christianity is Intolerant: John 10:1; 14:6; 17:3; Acts 4:12; Gal. 1:6-12.
Based on Wallace’s definition, Christianity is absolutely intolerant. Christianity simply does not teach nor imply acceptance of all beliefs, values and actions. Nothing could be more contrary to the truths of scriptures and what our Lord manifested in word and deed. Christianity is Intolerant because God is Intolerant of Sin: Psa. 34:16; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 59:1-2; Matt. 25:41-46; Rom. 1:18.
The wayward ideas and controversial values that our culture praises as morally adequate is a far cry from the morality Jesus lived and taught. If two people disagree because sin is involved and the party that seeks to correct sin is called an attacker or a bigot because he/she cares about their soul, then we have to ask ourselves what really matters in life. Is it our feelings? Our safe spaces? Do we really value these things over our soul and where we will spend eternity? Christianity is intolerant from this perspective because God is intolerant of sin and Hell exists for such a reason. We cannot add or take away to what God has already given us and established.
2. Tolerance denoting Recognition
Now, let’s turn our attention to the original definition of the word “tolerance.” The traditional definition of tolerance is: “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Implicit in this definition is recognition and respect for the other party involved in the disagreement at hand without the obligation of acceptance. So, based on this definition:
Christianity is Tolerant: Matt. 5:44; Rom. 11:14; 12:14, 17-18; 1 Cor. 9:22; 1 Thess. 5:15; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; 3:8-9.
This must not be confused with tolerating sin. Christianity is tolerant in the sense that no other worldview values the human soul as highly as Christianity does since all were made in God’s image. Christianity teaches we are to live at peace with all men while teaching the truth. No other worldview teaches forgiveness, compassion and love for others like Christianity does.
Jesus’ teachings were contrary to many of the doctrines and precepts of the religious leaders but He still prayed for them and He still held out hope for them. He was tolerant of them as far as recognizing who they were and what they thought. But He never compromised Himself to accept their values and beliefs as being on equal footing with what He conveyed from God.
Christianity is intolerant of sin and literature contrary to God’s truth but Christianity also teaches we must pursue peace with all men and teach the truth without compromise (tolerance). It is difficult to find a balance between the two at times but we have to ensure that sin is taken care of at all costs but that we also love our neighbors as ourselves.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:11-14).