The Intolerance of Tolerance

What is tolerance????

Am I “intolerant” because I claim that my belief in Jesus Christ as God is true, and any other belief that denies this is wrong? Does this mean that I am a bigot?

This note is in response to the prevalence of a postmodern understanding and celebration of “tolerance” on TCU’s campus. What is tolerance? Has it’s meaning changed in recent decades? How does this affect the lives and actions of believers (born-again believers) living in the 21st century?

Webster’s definition of tolerance: “Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own,” the second definition listed being this: “the act of allowing something.”

Wait, so according to this definition of tolerance, I–a conservative evangelical– AM absolutely tolerant of a LOT of belief systems, even though I may think they are dead wrong…In other words, of course I’m going to allow my Hindu friend to be Hindu, or my homosexual friend to homosexual. I have no control to be able to not allow them to be what they wish to be. So I allow it (by default), but I do not condone of it whatsoever…So by this definition of tolerance, I–a conservative evangelical Christian who believes in the ABSOLUTE TRUTH that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, am a very “tolerant” person.

So why is it that conservative Christians are called intolerant by so many?

The reason is because people have changed their understanding of the meaning of “tolerance.” This new meaning–in most of its manifestations– has much more to do with embracing and even celebrating others’ views as opposed to simply “allowing” others’ views. In other words, in order to considered a “tolerant” Christian, we must celebrate our Muslim friend’s faith as equal to our own! It’s not allowing it, it’s embracing and celebrating it! But wait…as a Bible-following Christian, by doing this, you don’t just celebrate someone else’s views, you give up your own.

2 reasons why celebrating everyone elses’ views means that you by default give up your own:

1st: Jesus claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6). By celebrating a different view as equal, you’re saying that their way is just as valid (or true), and so denying Christ’s own claim!

2nd: by doing this, you inherently deny that anyone is capable of having any sort of absolute truth that would oppose others’ views. In other words, there is a presupposition to celebrating all views as equal to your own, and that presupposition is this: That there is no way of knowing for sure if your belief is absolutely true! <— this is NOT the case…

So the question then comes up, how do we come to know what we know, and how can we (if we can) know it for sure? The assumed answer to this question in the above understanding of tolerance (which I DISAGREE with) is that there is no way to know anything as absolute truth when it comes to religion.

But I need to make a very strong and clear point: THIS VIEW IN AND OF ITSELF IS AN ABSOLUTE CLAIM ABOUT THE NATURE OF RELIGION. Does no one else see the irony of “tolerant” activists picketing a Southern Baptist Convention conference with signs that say “SOUTHERN BAPTISTS ARE INTOLERANT!!!” For people who believe so strongly in their understanding of “tolerance,” it is quite hypocritical for them to be expressing so strongly their opposition to another’s beliefs.

Almost everyone on TCU’s campus is “intolerant” whether they know it and will admit or not. The most “tolerant” person I’ve ever known expressed strong opposition to Hitler’s anti-semitism and his actions as leader of Germany in the 40’s, which I would sure hope he would… No one would dare say that we should embrace or celebrate the beliefs of the suicide bombers of 9-11 as equal to one’s own beliefs??

The question is not at all whether or not someone is intolerant, the question is WHAT are they intolerant of. Inevitably, every human being is intolerant (by the new meaning of the word), and this is not a bad thing at all. For someone to believe something as true, they by implication believe other beliefs are not true. You can’t get around it.


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