Posts Tagged ‘intolerance’

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There’s Nothing Tolerant About The New “Tolerance”

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

            Over the next few posts I want to look at some issues that came up recently in an article published in the editorial section of a local high school campus newspaper.  I’ve mentioned before that I have the privilege of working with the high school students at my church.  Because of my interactions with them, they will often mention to me some of the issues, topics, and discussions that have come up during the week on their various campuses.  Two of our students recently brought me a copy of their school’s paper which had an editorial written by one of the students on the newspaper’s staff.  The title of the article reads, “If God Is Real, Why Won’t He Reveal Himself?”  The article is by no means limited to that question.  In it, the author raises several thought-provoking questions that range anywhere from the problem of evil, to the areas of science such as the fossil record.  Later, he goes on to raise doubts about God’s fairness and questions God’s apparent unwillingness to reveal himself openly to us today as he did in the Bible.

           Even though the title is rather vague, suggesting that it is critiquing religion in general, there is no doubt that the writer had Christianity specifically in mind as he makes several references to “the Bible”, “Jesus”, and “Christians”.  As one reads the article, it’s hard to miss the author’s cynicism as he openly challenges the Christian students on campus to come up with the goods.  For example, he says, “Have you ever been sitting by yourself, contemplating His existence, and then you ask yourself, ‘Jesus, if you are real will you appear?’  Let me guess, Jesus was a no-show.”  By the way, this is not the first time that this same paper carried an editorial written by a student on the paper’s staff which openly and unashamedly challenged the Christian students. 

              As I read the article, I kept wondering what would have happened if this student had written an editorial that was just as critical toward any other religion, group, or lifestyle on campus.  Based on the cultural trend that I’ve witnessed over the past several years, it’s a pretty safe bet that such an article would have never been allowed to go to print.  Even if it had, it would have drawn a tremendous amount of attention from local organizations and, perhaps, even from the local media who would have immediately condemned such an article as “intolerance”, “bigotry”, and “hate speech”.  There’s no doubt that the “tolerance police” would have been all over that one.

              This brings me to my main thought.  In case you haven’t noticed, there is a big emphasis on tolerance these days not only in our public schools but in the media as well.  Unfortunately, what’s being promoted  today as “tolerance” turns out to be nothing more than a counterfeit of the real thing.  This is why it is imperative that we clearly understand the difference between true tolerance and the distorted version which so many people have come to accept.  Let’s begin with a proper understanding of what it means to be tolerant.  Simply put, true tolerance means that we can agree to disagree.  It’s important to understand that tolerance, by definition, actually requires disagreement.  Why is that?  Because if you’re in agreement with the other person, there’s nothing to tolerate-  you agree with them!  The whole point of genuine tolerance is that it allows us to freely and openly express our disagreement with someone else’s views or lifestyle while still maintaining a sense of respect and civility toward them.

            Now compare this to the distorted version of tolerance being promoted today which says:  1)  “All views are equal”  2) “Everyone has their own truth”  and  3) “You cannot say that another person’s views or lifestyle is wrong.”  While that may sound  like good advice, a closer examination tells us that such a definition of tolerance is not only unreasonable, it’s impossible for anyone to live that way consistently.  Even the writer of the editorial cannot live by that definition.  Even though he doesn’t come out and say it in so many words, his criticisms of Christianity imply that:  1) All views are not equal (Atheism is more true than Christianity)  2)  Christians do not have the truth (Christians have sincere beliefs that are false) and  3)  It’s okay to say that another person’s views are wrong (Christians are wrong).

            Please understand that I am NOT criticizing the author for writing his article or for disagreeing with Christians.  In fact, I respect (tolerate) his right to disagree with us and to openly express that disagreement.  I am simply drawing our attention to the fact that there is an obvious disparity which exists when it comes to which groups are allowed to express their views publicly and which groups are not allowed to do so.  The lesson in all of this is that we need to be careful not to buy into today’s counterfeit version of “tolerance”, because in doing so we surrender our right to speak openly and freely.  As a result, we will no longer have a voice in the arena of discussion and it will become impossible for us to engage anyone in open, honest dialogue.

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Are Christians Narrow-Minded?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I want to begin by stating unambiguously that I am convinced that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and that there is salvation in no one else.  I’m fully aware of the fact that for me to say something like that is to invite accusations of everything from “hate” to “intolerance”, “bigotry”, “narrow-mindedness”, and “arrogance.”  I suppose that one of the reasons that people react this way is because so many people have bought into the idea that truth is “relative”- that everyone “has their own truth.”  Another reason has to do with the fact that in today’s world, the term “tolerance” has been radically redefined to suggest that everyone’s view is correct and that no one can ever say that someone else’s view is wrong.  As a result of such confusion, whenever someone comes along and suggests that some views are wrong and that some ideas are more true than others, that person is immediately labeled as narrow-minded.  Given that such misguided views of truth and tolerance are so pervasive in our culture today, how do we, as Christians, respond to such charges without compromising the truth of the Gospel?

I believe that there are at least three points that need to be made when addressing this accusation of narrow-mindedness.  First of all, it’s important to point out that we are not the ones who came up with the idea that Jesus is the only way.  Jesus is the one who made that claim.  So, whenever someone asks me if I believe that Jesus is the only way to God, I often tell them that I am convinced, after looking at the evidence, that Jesus was telling the truth when he made the claim that he is the only way to God.  Stating it this way makes it clear that their struggle is not really with us, it’s with him. If they feel that such a claim is arrogant, narrow-minded, and intolerant, then they’re going to have to take that up with him, since he is the one making the claim.

Secondly, when someone accuses us of being narrow-minded on this issue, it’s important for us to point out that if they are not willing to give an open, honest, unbiased examination of the evidence supporting Jesus’ claim, then they are being closed-minded themselves.  Interestingly enough, it is often those who are the most vocal about open-mindedness and tolerance who turn out to be the most intolerant and closed-minded people of all!

Thirdly, it is extremely important for us to understand and to point out to our critics that truth, by definition, is narrow and exclusive. It always is.  For example, suppose that I make the truth claim that my keys are in my right front pocket.  If that really is the case, then that statement is absolutely true.  And not only is it true, but that truth is also narrow and exclusive.  Think for a moment about just how narrow that truth really is.  Out of all of the infinite possible locations in the entire universe where they could have been or may have been, we have narrowed it down to only ONE location that is true.  Furthermore, not only is that truth extremely narrow, it’s exclusive as well, because in telling you where the keys are, it’s also telling you where the keys are not. It is excluding all of the other locations as false. As I said, truth, by definition, is always narrow and exclusive.

One final point.  If anyone is going to accuse Christianity of being exclusive, it’s only “exclusive” in the sense that it’s making a truth claim.  But, as we’ve just seen, this is the case with any truth claim.  On the other hand, Christianity is NOT exclusive with regard to the extent of its invitation and to whom it is offered. This becomes clear as we consider a few of the passages of Scripture referring to God’s offer of salvation.  Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).  “(God is) not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9b).  “(God) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Tim. 2:4).

The message of the Gospel is clear.  God is offering his salvation to anyone and everyone who is willing to come to him.  Our refusal to do so and our insistence that God should have come up with a plan that meets our approval, only goes to show that we are the ones who are being narrow-minded, not God.

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.