Should Christians Be Tolerant?

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Today tolerance is being redefined to mean that all views are equally valid and all lifestyles equally appropriate. Learn why this view of tolerance is incompatible with Christianity

Today tolerance is being redefined to mean that all views are equally valid and all lifestyles equally appropriate. As such, the notion that Jesus is the only way is vilified as the epitome of intolerance. Rather than capitulating to culture, Christians must be equipped to expose the flaws of today’s tolerance, while simultaneously exemplifying true tolerance.

First, to say all views are equally valid sounds tolerant, but in reality is a contradiction in terms. If indeed all views are equally valid then the Christian view must be valid. The Christian view, however, holds that not all views are equally valid. Thus, the redefinition of tolerance in our culture is a self-refuting proposition. Moreover, we do not tolerate people with whom we agree; we tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid, there would be no need for tolerance.

Furthermore, today’s redefinition of tolerance leaves no room for objective moral judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a Mother Teresa. With no enduring reference point, societal norms are being reduced to mere matters of preference. As such, the moral basis for resolving international disputes and condemning such intuitively evil practices as genocide, oppression of women, and child prostitution is being seriously compromised.

Finally, in light of its philosophically fatal features, Christians must reject today’s tolerance and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that, despite our differences, we treat every person we meet with the dignity and respect due them as those created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming the truth, but it does mandate that we do so with gentleness and with respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16). In a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity, Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (Jude 1:22-23).
For further study, see Paul Copan, True for You, But Not for Me”: Deflating the Slogans That Leave Christians Speechless (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1998); see also Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The New Tolerance (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998).

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