Tolerant Christianity

Let’s talk about tolerance.  Being ‘open minded about other religions, specifically.  Many people take ‘open-minded’ to mean not holding fast to any one thing, so that you keep your options ‘open’.  Many people say that if you believe something and aren’t willing to abandon it, that you don’t have an ‘open mind’. If you hold something as true, they accuse you of being ‘dogmatic’ and ‘closed-minded’ and ‘extreme’.

Scripture gives the correct definition of what an ‘open mind’ should be: “Examine everything carefully; hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God doesn’t want you to swallow everything you hear. He encourages you to examine things – and then take a stand only on what’s true.

According to my critics (both Christian and non) I am intolerant because I condemn all religions other than Christianity – and therefore unloving and arrogant, especially when my writings contain what they consider to be ‘strong’ wording. The superficial question is – are they right? But the more pertinent question is – can Christians be tolerant?

A Christian and a leader of the Hari Krishna, were talking about what their beliefs said about religious tolerance. The cult leader asked “Can salvation be found within our religion?”  The Christian “refused to answer the question as it was put”! Instead, he waffled and concluded that God is not confined to any one religion but His ‘presence’ can be found in them all! The cult leader was delighted and said “That’s a marvellous Hindu statement!” and the Christian replied “I take that as a compliment”!

What should the answer have been? “NO! No-one can find salvation within Hinduism. Salvation is ONLY in and through Christ Jesus. But to say that is to invites chants of ‘bigotry’ and ‘intolerance’. Is even that statement ‘intolerant’? Yes, it is. Is such intolerance appropriate? Yes, it is. God is a jealous God (Ex 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, 5:9&6, Josh 24:19).  He will not share His Glory with the stupid ‘gods’ of so-called ‘other’ religions. On reading the word ‘stupid’, some will rise in anger and accuse me of being arrogant.  I ask them to read Romans 1. There we find that God Himself calls people stupid if they have beliefs in things that are opposed to Himself! Is God, then, ‘arrogant’?

We must never tolerate what God hates. Can Christians ever be tolerant? It depends on what on what we are referring to. The word ‘intolerant’ is mostly applied to Believers who hold fast to what the Bible says. Yet, everybody is intolerant when it comes to their own beliefs… even humanists who claim to be totally tolerant of everybody, can be amongst the greatest bigots of them all!

So, let’s propose a Biblical framework for the idea of ‘tolerance’…

  • The Bible is our only authority. There is NO other valid authority – Muslim, Hindu, humanist, etc. Thus, this first statement is intolerant and is made with God’s authority.
  • Only the Christian Gospel leads to salvation. All other claims to salvation are false. This second statement is intolerant and is made with God’s authority.
  • Only Christ can save us. No other god or belief can offer salvation. This third statement is intolerant and is made with God’s authority.
  • We must not accept the claims or beliefs of ‘other’ religions as being valid. All other claims and beliefs are ultimately of Satan. This fourth statement is intolerant and is made with God’s authority.

So, you see, if we adhere to what God says in His word, then we MUST be intolerant of all other claims and beliefs. The difficulty comes with living in what is, unfortunately, a multi-faith world. Those who are not Believers have the freedom to believe whatever they wish. This is not, however, to be mistaken for God’s approval. God is certainly not tolerant of their man-made religions. He hates them fervently and their adherents will be cast into hell by Him.

As Christians we are to be intolerant vocally, visibly and publicly, of all ‘other’ religions. Silence condones what is not acceptable.  It’s like when people stay inside while young thugs run riot outside, smashing, fighting and being abusive. If they remain indoors, they “aren’t involved” in the situation. But, they are already involved for the thugs get away with it. We condone what we do not oppose! Those thugs run riot because they are not opposed and are not dealt with.

In the realm of beliefs it is the same. If we allow false religions and beliefs to speak without opposition, then we are not being ‘tolerant’…we are being spiritual cowards – salt that has lost its savour! We must respect, and be tolerant of, people as fellow human beings. BUT WE MUST NEVER, EVER, RESPECT THEIR FALSE BELIEFS OR THEIR FALSE RELIGIONS. When it comes to ungodly beliefs we are to be INTOLERANT.

This does not mean we should hurl abuse at them or refuse to work with them, etc. In the normal course of life, there is no need to separate ourselves. We must not, though, seek close friendships with the unsaved (II John 1:9-11). We must not join with those who openly reject Christ.

When vocal Christians are attacked by others it’s often on the platform of supposed ‘tolerance’. Note that when this happens, it’s in the context of what others wish to do. That is, YOU are ‘intolerant’ because you oppose what THEY are doing. So they call you ‘intolerant’ and try to silence you.

When fellow believers attack another Christian on grounds of intolerance, it is always because they wish to carry on doing or saying what is wrong in their own Christian lives! Thus the ‘tolerance’ they require is acceptance of their sins and not for any Biblical reason. Basically, we cannot and must not accept what God Himself has declared to be unholy.

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Did this make you angry?  It might surprise you to know that I did not write this.  It was adapted from two sites – on-line Christian Doctrine site and a cyberpunk parable written by a missionary.  I combined them and edited for space… and let them do the talking.  ((wink!))  I’m gone for the day after noon, just so’s ya know.

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